In the world of special forces when someone mentions latin phrase De oppresso liber it immediately becomes clear that he is referring to the U.S. Army Special Forces or publicly known also as Green Berets. The publicly known is because of their distinctive service headgear which through history has become their sign and also the nom de guerre – an assumed name under which a unit engages in combat.
De oppresso liber is the official motto of the United States Army Special Forces which can be found on the unit’s insignia. Motto itself represents a short sentence or phrase chosen as encapsulating the beliefs or ideals of an individual, family, or institution or in this particular case the beliefs of members of a military unit.
In U.S. Army and United Stats military in overall, the phrase stands for “[to free from oppression]” or “[to liberate the oppressed]” despite its translation isn’t so accurate. In actuality,it means literally “[from a caught man, a free man]”. It comes from the word liber which is an adjective ‘free’ that could be translated ‘a free man’, and ‘de oppresso’ would be more an overwhelmed man.
Are These The Best Regimental Mottos Ever?
The hit British sitcom Only Fools And Horses – but here we take a look at Who Dares Wins and some of the other inspiring military maxims across our services.
Wheeler-dealer Del Boy, played by David Jason in the BBC sitcom, might make light comedy of the British Special Air Service’s motto but its origins are no laughing matter – rather the stuff of true heroics for which the British Armed Forces are renowned around the world.
The service earns its motto from the daring nature of its missions behind enemy lines, and was coined by the regiment’s founder Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling DSO OBE who came up with the idea of a highly trained special force that could wreak havoc on enemy supply lines, bases and morale and hit key targets right at the heart of enemy-held territory.
Other regimental mottos are no less inspiring, or pride instilling, with a selection of some that stand out examined here.
- The Royal Gurkha Rifles: कांथर हुनु भन्दा मर्नु राम्रो which translates roughly into “Better To Die Than Live A Coward”.
Brave, honorable and utterly fearless, just a few of the words often used to describe the Gurkhas. The bravery of Gurkhas is well documented but where does their motto come from? Well, consider this…
Lance Corporal Tuljung Gurung was shot, stunned by a grenade, and ambushed by two Taliban attackers. Despite all this and armed with nothing but his Kukri in the close confines of his guard tower, he successfully fought off two Taliban insurgents almost twice his size.
“When I saw them I thought, I don’t want to die, I want to live. If I am alive I can save my colleagues. I have to do something. So, like a madman, I did everything.”
- The Rifles: “Celer et audax” which is Latin for “Swift And Bold”.
A letter written in 1824 to the regiment’s commanding officers from the Deputy Adjutant General at Horse Guards states:
“His Majesty has been pleased to permit the 60th Regiment, ‘The Duke of York’s Own Rifle Corps’, to resume the motto ‘Celer et Audax’, which was formerly worn by the Regiment in commemoration of its distinguished bravery whilst employed with the British Army in North America, under Major-General Wolfe, in the year 1759.”
The translation Swift And Bold officially became the motto of The Royal Green Jackets in 1966 and in 2007 was taken by The Rifles who were formed in the same year.
- Parachute Regiment: “Utrinque paratus” which is Latin for “Ready For Anything”.
The motto means what is says in times of war. Formed in 1940 the Parachute Regiment are known for their courage, fortitude and ability to fight even when hungry, exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. In a forward written for the book ‘The PARAs: From The Falklands to Afghanistan In Their Own Words’ His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales commented on just how ready the PARAs are.
“The officers and soldiers of The Parachute Regiment have always been at the forefront of the action, or at the point where the toughest decisions have to be made.”
The Gloucestershire Regiment
- The Gloucestershire Regiment: (The Glorious Glosters): “By Our Deeds We Are Known”.
Forces Radio BFBS’ broadcaster Hal Stewart interviewed Gloucestershire Regiment veteran Sam Mercer about his memories of the Korean War. In the heat of the battle, Sam was defending a strategic route to Seoul.
“I think the Chinese had expected to just simply carve a way straight through us. They hadn’t expected us to resist… as long as we did. Yes, we upset their timetable.”
The Korean War lasted three years, and it was intense and bloody. Hal asked Sam about his reflections on the conflict.
“My feelings are it was a job that had to be done… Alright we upset the Russians, we probably upset the Chinese too but we had a job to do and we did it. And I think personally that we did it rather well.”
The Royal Lancers
- The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own): “Death Or Glory”
The skull and crossed bones above ‘or glory’ on one of the most recognizable cap-badges in Britain’s armed forces, is responsible for the Regimental Motto, ‘Death or Glory’. The Royal Lancers were honored by Her Majesty The Queen in April 2017 by renaming them The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeths’ Own) for their “loyalty and devotion to duty”.
- Special Boat Service (SBS): “By Strength And Guile”
The SBS’ original motto, Not By Strength, By Guile, was shortened to just By Strength and Guile to compete with the SAS motto Who Dares Wins.
The Special Boat Service was created during the Second World War in 1940 and was initially named the Folboat Troop, after the type of folding canoe employed in raiding operations.
The primary role of the SBS is to carry out daring surprise raids with small, highly-trained teams.
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