What the Hell Is the Ally Tally?

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If you’ve listened to most of our episodes you’ll know one of our favourite features is ‘The Ally Tally’. We were looking for a name for our section that rounded up the cool and interesting gear that appears in many of the films we discuss. But a frequent question is ‘what does ally mean?’

Put simply Ally [pronounced ah-lee]is an old British Army slang term for something cool and non-standard issue. While some purists may disagree with our use of the term as we are often quite broad and use it to discuss items that were standard issue but still look cool or are interesting. During the Ally Tally we often discuss (but aren’t limited to) weapons, uniforms, kit and vehicles.

Toting a Vickers K Gun? Definitely Ally. (from Theirs Is The Glory)

Let’s look at some definitions:

UK Forces News describe Ally as:

“A word which describes how cool someone or their equipment looks, usually their battlefield fashion. Those serving in the special forces have automatic ‘ally’ status.”

The BBC describes it in a 2014 article as:

“Term for a battlefield fashionista – desirables include having a beard, using a different rifle, carrying vast amounts of ammunition, being dusty and having obscene amounts of tattoos and hair. Special forces are automatically Ally.”

Wiktionary has a similar definition:

“Used to describe items of kit or clothing that are not issued (potentially against regulations) but function better than issued equipment, but also used as a word meaning a combination of “cool/against the rules”.

A vehicle-mounted Vickers Gun riding to the rescue in Siege of Jadotville? Ally

CharlieCharlieOne has a good article exploring the etymology and historical origins of the term back to the 1960s and British Paratroops reshaping their berets to keep the sun out of their eyes while on operations in Yemen. The article goes on to explain how the term expanded and became used across the British armed forces:

“Over time, the word “Ally” gradually started being used by the Paras to describe other items of kit or clothing that had been modified from their “as issued” state, to better perform their task according to the requirements of the individual paratrooper.”

ARRSE not only attempts to define ‘allyness’ but also has a list of historic examples of what might be considered ally, such as Chest rigs with a pistol holster attached, a variety of smocks and privately purchased kit, and of course moustaches.

“‘Allyness’ is best described as military fashion sense, i.e. wearing various non-issue items, or modifying issue clothing or equipment in order to look subtly different from one’s peers.”

Big Bren Energy during A Hill In Korea – this many Brens in action at one time in a film? Ally.

While it can be said that we have appropriated some Para culture by borrowing the term Ally we think we’re within the spirit of the term when we discuss the various cool things that appear in the films we cover.

Now for ‘Tally’ it’s a lot easier to explain, think of a ‘tally chart’, which is probably British for a simple frequency chart. We chose it as it rhymes with ‘ally’ and represents our efforts to catalogue and quantify the cool and interesting things that appear in the films we examine!

So there we have it, we hope that explains just what the Ally Tally is and where the name came from!

Matthew Moss

Matthew Moss

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