Die hard (phrase)

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Original military use[edit]

The phrase die hard was first used during the Battle of Albuera (1811) in the Peninsular War. During the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel William Inglis of the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot was wounded by canister shot. Despite his injuries, Inglis refused to retire from the battle but remained with the regimental colours, encouraging his men with the words "Die hard 57th, die hard!" as they came under intense pressure from a French attack.[1] The 'Die Hards' subsequently became the West Middlesex’s regimental nickname.[1]

The term was later used to deride several senior officers of the Army who sought to maintain the system bequeathed to them by the Duke of Wellington and who strenuously resisted military reforms enacted by Parliament starting in the late 1860s.

British political uses[edit]

In British politics the adjective "die-hard" (best written with a hyphen) was first used to describe those who, during the crisis caused by the Lords' rejection of David Lloyd George's "People's Budget" of 1909, refused to accept the diminution of the House of Lords' powers by the Parliament Act 1911, and who generally held right wing views, most notably Richard Verney, 19th Baron Willoughby de Broke.[2]

It was subsequently used to describe right-wing critics of Lloyd George's Coalition Government 1918-1922, several of whom had been die-hards before the War such as Leopold Maxse. There was at this time a "higher proportion of Irishmen in the Diehard group than in the rest of the parliamentary Conservative Party"[3].

It was later revived to describe a grouping of members of the Conservative Party in the 1930s, including Henry Page Croft who had been prominent among both the earlier die-hards, who amongst other things refused to accept any moves towards Indian independence. But this time it also included some who "did not necessarily share the general views of the right on other matters"[4], such as Winston Churchill who had been a bête noire of the original die-hards. Some of the die-hards, though not Churchill, flirted with Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and/or supported Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement.

Other usage[edit]

The term is now commonly used to describe any person who will not be swayed from a belief, and was used as the title of the popular action movie series Die Hard, all starring Bruce Willis as police officer John McClane.


  1. ^ a b "Lieutenant-Colonel William Inglis (1764-1835)". National Army Museum. 2009. Archived from the original on 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  2. ^ see Gregory D. Phillips, The diehards : aristocratic society and politics in Edwardian England Harvard University Press (1979)
  3. ^ Kinnear, Michael The Fall of Lloyd George: The Political Crisis of 1922 Macmillan Press (1973) p79
  4. ^ Stuart Ball, Portrait of a Party: The Conservative Party in Britain 1918-1945 Oxford University Press (2013) p343