Batman (military)

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A batman (or batwoman) is a soldier or airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant.

The term is derived from the obsolete bat, "packsaddle" (from French bât, from Old French bast, from Late Latin bastum) + man.

Contents

Duties

A batman's duties often include:

  • acting as a "runner" to convey orders from the officer to subordinates
  • maintaining the officer's uniform and personal equipment as a valet
  • driving the officer's vehicle, sometimes under combat conditions
  • acting as the officer's bodyguard in combat
  • other miscellaneous tasks the officer does not have time or inclination to do

The action of serving as a batman was referred to as "batting". In armies where officers typically came from the upper class, it was not unusual for a former batman to follow the officer into later civilian life as a domestic servant.

By country

France

In the French Army the term for batman was ordonnance. Batmen were abolished after World War II.

Germany

In the German Army the batman was known as Ordonnanz ("orderly") from the French "ordonnance", or colloquially as Putzer ("cleaner") or as Bursche ("boy" or "valet").

The main character Švejk of the antimilitarist, satirical novel The Good Soldier Švejk by the Czech author J. Hašek is the most famous portrayal of a batman drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. (The 1967 German song "Ich war der Putzer vom Kaiser" is actually based on the British instrumental hit "I was Kaiser Bill's Batman" of the same year, with original German lyrics.)[1][2]

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