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Meanderings of a Working Travel Agent

Were We All Brats?

If your father (or mother) was in the army or the navy then you were referred to as an Army Brat or a Navy Brat.  I am not sure where this expression came from because certainly we were not pampered at all and in fact it was rather difficult constantly moving and starting one new school after another.

But why the name BRAT? 

Seems I am not the only one who has pondered this.  I came across a very interesting article looking into the origin of this term.  There are a number of different theories – as you can see 


Is it an acronym for British Regiment Attached Traveller?  Maybe.  Or perhaps it is just a short form of Barrack Rat – as cited in the article –

“Barrack rat” also surfaced in “A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.” It cited the book “Old Soldier Sahib” written in 1936 by Frank Richards, a British soldier who detailed his experiences while stationed in India and Burma during the early 20th century. In that book, Richards said “children born in barracks were referred to as ‘barrack-rats:’ It was a wonder to me how the poor kids survived the heat, and they were washed-out little things.” 

I have lost count of the number of times I have stood up at the front of a new classroom with the teacher introducing me and so I send out greetings to my fellow Army or Navy Brats – I know what it was like.  My dad used to be away at sea for months at a time – sometimes 9 months.  He was in the navy from a young age and as a kid I remember sitting on the beach with him and tracing scars running down his back.  I asked him what happened.  He just smiled and shrugged and said “Oh Daddy was a naughty boy sometimes in the navy.”  Wow.  I think that flogging was banned in the Royal Navy – but I guess now I will never know.  As a child I just sat quietly and pondered.

One benefit of being a Navy Brat – the urge to travel.  So as I plan for my next trip to Europe (first stop Paris) in a week I am thankful for a childhood filled with packing and unpacking.


8 Responses

  1. My husband and myself are Air Force Brats. We were all over Canada and Europe. We meet in Cold Lake when we were 10 years old and somehow both our parents went overseas about a year apart. We lived in Marville France then moved to Lahr and my husbands folks were in Zweibrucken

  2. The worst part was being the new kid every year, with a funny accent! Then having to make new friends then leaving to start over. Every school district had a different curriculum and i was switched back and forth between grades, being too young for some grades and repeating a grade then missing a full grade at the next school. It was certainly a very mixed up education. university.

  3. Yes I am a brat as well..my father was posted to Germany and we followed along 🇨🇦😃
    With his summer vacations and long weekend trips we visited a lot of Europe when I was younger.
    Started my interest in travelling which ultimately let to a 35 year career at 3 different Canadian airlines…WD CP finally AC..
    Wouldn’t change it for the world 🌍

  4. As an Army Brat we were posted to Germany twice (1958 & 1968), then known as West Germany. On our second tour we took the opportunity to visit and do as much as we could. Picnics in France to see old bunkers and abandoned tanks, tulips in Holland and so many wonderful places in Germany. I forget how much I love to travel and I am sure it’s all because of being an Army Brat. 🙂 I have recently visited Italy (2023) and Portugal (2024) all through the Travel Lady.

    1. Wow what an interesting childhood you had. And thank you for allowing us to enable your travel dreams. 🙂

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The Travel Lady Blog

The Travel Lady

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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