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Stiff Upper Lip

"Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way."

Bullets are whistling, shells are exploding, panicked soldiers dash here and there splattered with mud and blood, the air is thick with shouted commands and the rich stench of death! And yet our hero is smoking a pipe, sipping his tea, and doing the Times Crossword Puzzle, for he is an Imperturbable Englishman.

He is like The Stoic, but an Imperturbable Englishman adds style to his stoicism by his exaggerated disregard for danger and hardship. Not only does he cope with them: he cheerily dismisses them. No matter the disaster, he always keeps his rationality and composure.

This is known as having a Stiff Upper Lip: "Keep a stiff upper lip, chaps!", "Buck up! Stiff upper lip and all that!", etcetera. Ironically, the term "stiff upper lip" is actually American in origin. In Britain today, the phrase is only used ironically to invoke the trope, but the concept is very real: witness the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster, a more laconic version of the picture on this page which adorns many British office walls.

In terms of Dialogue, Understatement is key; this is why the RAF Ace Pilot is the poster child for Major Injury Underreaction. Stress is met with Dissonant Serenity, grief with Angst? What Angst?, and unbridled joy with a curt "Jolly good".

Compare Gentleman Snarker, Trying Not to Cry, This Is No Time to Panic, Quintessential British Gentleman, The Jeeves and the Japanese cultural concept of "It Can't Be Helped". This is what someone who has or pretends to have Nerves of Steel would supposedly look like from the outside. Often crosses over with A Spot Of Tea, as stopping everything to make a cup of tea and consider the situation when faced by danger is both Funny, Badass, and, as seen below happens surprisingly often in real life. Not to be confused with While Rome Burns, when the response is denial instead of steely resolve.

See British Stuffiness for more negative portrayals of this British trope. Lie Back and Think of England arises when this trait gets in the way of a relationship. One of the Stock British Phrases.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • General (or Admiral) Johann Abraham Revil, from the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Made the "Zeon is Exhausted!" speech that bolstered the Earth Federation's morale and caused them to reject the terms of surrender they were presented (prior to the beginning of the main series). He was looked to as a source of inspiration and confidence by many in the military, and was one of the few who never gave up on the White Base. Side-materials confirm that he had British ancestry, invoking this trope.
  • Played for Laughs in Hellsing Ultimate, after the protagonist freaks out to discover that she's now a vampire:
    Integra: You’re too loud, Police Girl. I don’t care if you are a vampire. You’re still English; have some manners.

    Comic Books 
  • The Britons in Astérix in Britain would stop fighting for five o'clock tea. Except tea hadn't been introduced yet, so they just sipped hot water.
    • And their reaction to Caesar applying his tactical genius and attacking at five o'clock? "I say. They really aren't gentlemen!"
    • Anticlimax even asks Asterix to "Be brave and keep a stiff upper lip" when the Romans capture Obelix.
  • In the Lucky Luke album The Tenderfoot, British gentleman Waldo Badminton inherits a Western farm. Keeping a Stiff Upper Lip through the various tribulations the locals put him through, the story ends with a duel. The Big Bad shoots first... but seems to miss, and when Waldo calmly stands still, not so much as reacting to being shot at, he gives up in terror. Then it is revealed Waldo was hit in the arm, and is in not only in great pain, but also unable to lift his weapon. He just didn't want to show it and make a fuss.
  • In the Judge Dredd storyline, Judgement Day, when the various megacities around the world are being overrun with zombies, the British judges report in as "surrounded but defiant." The Irish chief judge, upon hearing this states, "Typical Brit. They're having the Bejaysus knocked out of them like the rest of us."
  • Paul Cornell's Captain Britain and MI13. For instance his Crowning Moment Of Awesome when Britain is invaded by Skrulls:
    Skrull: You think that is bravery? Tiny things! Within the Skrull Empire you will know grandeur. You will know pride and determination and...
    Captain Britain: I think you'll find we know already. We just don't like to make a fuss.
  • But taken to the point of Deconstructive Parody with the Knight in Cornell's Knight and Squire. In #4, his costume becomes sentient and starts acting out his subconscious feelings. American superheroes with this problem typically solve it by acknowledging these feelings and getting them into the open where they can be dealt with. The Knight solves it by repressing them even further.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen deconstructs this; at one point during the Martian invasion Nemo comments that he has to admire the stoic bravery of the British in the face of invasion. Quatermain contemptuously counters that it's nothing of the sort, it's just everyone is denying the gravity of the situation until it's too late.

    Film 
  • Force 10 From Navarone Film of the Book. The team has detonated explosives inside a dam in attempt to breach it. The situation is desperate: if they fail, thousands of Partisans will be slaughtered by the Nazis. Sergeant Miller (British) and Sergeant Weaver (American) are waiting to see what happens.
    Weaver: Nothing! We've been through all this, and nothing!
    Miller: You can't expect an enormous volcano with three tiny bags of explosives. You have to let nature take her course. Give it time, it'll work.
  • Truth in Television - The character modeled after Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter in A Bridge Too Far always carries an umbrella because, as Tatham-Warter said after the war, he "could never remember the bally password and had to think of some way to let everyone know I was English!" The character is actually less an example than the real man. He refused to show fear in front of his men, including never running between cover. The actor Anthony Hopkins couldn't force himself to walk while fake explosions were all around him and couldn't fathom how the real man could do so in the face of real bombs.
    • He also has among the greatest responses to a surrender request: "We haven't the proper facilities to take you all prisoner! Sorry! We'd like to, but we can't accept your surrender! Was there anything else?" After this Colonel Frost comments: "Well, that's that."
  • Carry On Up The Khyber features renowned archetypes. The British characters are constantly speaking in dry witticisms, going about their usual routines and having downplayed reactions to lifethreatening situations. While having dinner during a bombardment, they discover that their 'meat course' is actually the Fakir's severed head. One Brit deadpans, "Well that's dashed unsporting. It's the closed season for Fakirs."
    • The trope is specifically lampshaded then mocked when the gallant heroes are tossed into an Afghan prison, awaiting torture and execution. The captain tries to rally their spirit.
    Brother Belcher: Here we go. He's going to tell us to keep a stiff upper lip!
    Captain Keene: Actually I was going to say "Remember we're British".
    (Everyone looks embarrassed and mumbles agreement)
    Keene: And then I was going to say "Keep a stiff upper lip".
    Belcher: Well I'm not waiting in here for my lips to stiffen!
  • Virtually everyone in Battle of the River Plate. Royal Navy sangfroid at its very finest.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: You can see Douglas Adams' mother sitting outside a cafe reading a paper even as the world ends. This was not in the script; she simply had not been told what to do, and chose that.
    • Much like other incarnations, Arthur Dent is this. "I'm British; I know how to queue."
  • Jasper in Children of Men "Pull my finger."
  • Alec Guinness in The Bridge on the River Kwai, though subverted at the end.
  • Shaun's mother in Shaun of the Dead gets bitten by a zombie but doesn't mention it because she doesn't want to be any trouble. It's a total Tear Jerker.
  • A British soldier in the film Sergeant York was this to a tee. All the while Alvin is on his nerves' edge trying to keep cool, this Brit is calmly explaining that you can tell where an artillery - *duck* - shell will hit because - *duck* - the varying pitch indicates - don't worry 'bout that one - whether it will miss you. Even when one of his partners is killed by shrapnel from a nearby blast, he calmly assesses the situation. Alvin appears a bit alarmed by this, naturally.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life parodying the British Empire has plenty of this, naturally:
    • The redcoats are in fierce hand-to-hand combat with Zulus, while inside a tent their officers drinking tea and having a gentlemanly discussion, oblivious to the chaos. They go on to walk straight through the battle, still oblivious. A spear does hit the mirror of the officer who was John Cleese while he was shaving, but he uses a broken part of the mirror to finish up with no complaint.
    • Subverted when another officer is lounging in his tent and does not seem the slightest bit upset that his leg has been eaten by a tiger. It turns out that he expects that it will grow back.
    • In another scene, British soldiers in the trenches of World War One insist on giving their commanding officer several presents, including a large clock and a cake, and become very offended when he suggests that perhaps this isn't the time.
  • The Colour Sergeant in the film Zulu was a serious version, rigidly doing his duty and sticking to the regulation way of doing things at all times, tempered with good leadership, in an admirable display of professionalism. His response to one young private nearly breaking down at why it had to be them in the upcoming fight was a stoic and matter of fact 'Because we're here, lad. No one else'.
  • Parodied/subverted in The Mummy:
    Jonathan: Americans. And did I panic? *tosses and catches MacGuffin* I think not. *flare-up from flaming ship* Aah! (as he jumps into the river)
  • Definitely used with Lieutenant Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds. Even when he's about to die: he prefers to "go out speaking the King's".
  • Sergeant Wells in Dog Soldiers is a modern sweary version.
    "Now you just shut up like a good gentleman, you are scaring my lads."
  • In The King's Speech, this was expected of royalty, so when Edward broke down upon his father's death and was told that he would become king, everyone treated it very seriously and it was a sign that he wasn't fit to rule.
    • This trope forms the central conflict of The Queen, featuring Edward's neice, HM The Queen. After the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the press stirs up a furor because the Queen is insistent upon mourning in a dignified and private manner as opposed to publicly displaying the grief. The resolution of the film is all about finding an appropriate balance between the two and, on a larger scale, about the modernization of the monarchy.
  • Casino Royale (1967) features a scene were the Cosmopolitan Council believes that bombs are being dropped. The American representative rushes to the phone yelling "Get me the President!" while the British representative merely calls his wife and calmly explains that he won't be home for dinner because "it seems a war has broken out."
  • Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall: Spike Milligan's war memoirs feature several (presumably real-life) examples of these, the most memorable being the Major addressing his men at the side of the road when a Messerschmitt flies over at rooftop level. The entire Battery dive into a convenient ditch and as they drag themselves out see the Major still standing, lighting a cigarette, and continuing his speech with the words ""Now of course you realise in this situation that you did the right thing, and I the wrong..."
  • General Allenby in Lawrence of Arabia qualifies, especially when Damascus dissolves into chaos late in the film:
    Brighton: Look sir, we can't just do nothing.
    Allenby: Why not? It's usually best.
  • The British characters in The Great Muppet Caper, who aknowledge the movie's weirdness, but refuse to make a big deal out of it, such as Robert Morley being unflappable as a frog falls from the sky and asks for directions, or John Cleese being only mildly perplexed by finding a pig in his closet who wants the name of a restaurant. Lady Holiday herself only slips slightly when she learns her brother is the villain.
  • In An American Werewolf in London, Sister Hobbes describes a werewolf going on rampage, causing a car accident, and killing several people as "some sort of disturbance in Piccadilly Circus".
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Dennis Quaid begs his kindly professor friend (Ian Holm) to gather his team and get to safety while they still have a chance to avoid the icy apocalypse. Holm gives a sad little smile and without the slightest hint of fear or self pity replies "I'm afraid that time has come and gone, my friend." He then indignantly forbids his colleagues from using a bottle of single malt to keep the generator going, and the three of them raise a glass as the superstorm descends and the power goes out. It's the only emotionally affecting moment in the whole movie.
    • Which also manages to be funny, because while the first two toast to things one would expect from a man about to die, the third toasts Manchester United.
      • NEVER question a proper Englishman's devotion to his club.
  • Breaking the Code (1996). Alan Turing is called before Dilly Knox, manager of Bletchley Park, because his overt homosexuality is upsetting his co-workers. Knox tries to convince Turing that discretion is not only appropriate, but kinder to his friends.
    Knox: Supposing I said that I'm mortally ill, and that I've only a year or so to live. Supposing I'd broken down and wept. Supposing I'd opened my heart to you, and said that I have no wish to die; that I am frightened and in despair. (laughs) Well I can't believe that you'd welcome such a disclosure, finding it distressing, and embarrassing — somewhat inconsiderate. And so, having regard for your feelings as well as my own, it would seem to be both correct and appropriate to...moderate my response.
    Turing: (quietly) Are you dying? (Knox ignores the questionnote )
  • Naturally displayed in Into The Storm, the Churchill biopic. None of the main cast seems particularly shocked at the prospect of the blitz, and Churchill even watches the battle unfold.

    Literature 
  • Phileas Fogg of Around the World in Eighty Days is one of the best examples of this.
  • Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an interesting case. Not sure if it's Subversion or Inversion. For mildly "out there" situations he's as freaked out as an American would be, but there are times when it's so bizarre he can actually act somewhat normally.
  • In Alistair MacLean's South by Java Head, a merchant ship escaping the fall of Singapore is strafed by Japanese fighters. The first mate checks to see if any of the passengers are hurt ... and there's Miss Plenderleith, calmly knitting in a cabin with bulletholes through the walls. The mate mutters something about "One lump or two, Vicar?" and decides if the Japanese found out about this, they'd demand an immediate armistice.
  • Lord Wellington in the Sharpe series has this to a tee (Truth in Television, see Real Life below). At one point, he and another man are calmly assessing the defences of a town, when the French begin firing at them:
    Leaves scattered as the shot whipped the branches to and fro. "Their guns are too cold, Hogan,' the General said. "They're under firing.'
    "Not by a great deal, my lord,' Hogan said fervently, 'and the barrels will warm quickly.'
    Wellington chuckled. "Value your life, do you? Well, ride on.'
    • He gets dazed in Sharpe's Triumph and has to be rescued but the Maharatta's had hit him on the head, which was dashed unsporting of them.
  • In Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, Carl Hollywood and an old British military man get caught in a rioting city. As they fight their way to freedom, they have an unspoken understanding to keep up a line of nonchalant banter, which preserves their courage.
  • The Redwall hares are all like this, wot wot? They're based on RAF pilots during WWII.
  • In Harry Turtledove's World War series, several sections involve British RAF members attempting to out-understate each other.
  • A stiff upper lip is expected at Greyfriars School. For example, after Vernon-Smith goes into an aggressive, surly temper upon receiving troubling news from home, the narration informs us:
    "Whatever might be his private troubles, a fellow was expected to carry on without advertising it to all and sundry. A fellow was expected to keep a stiff upper lip. Vernon Smith's way was not really the Greyfriars way. It showed there was somewhere a streak of inferior quality in Smithy."
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Psmith takes this practically to Fearless Fool levels. Notably, he's unfazed when a gangster kidnaps him, holds a gun against his back, and directs the taxi they're in towards a quiet spot to finish the job. He's just upset that his waistcoat gets creased.
  • Nightingale and Grant frequently display this quality in Rivers of London thus demonstrating the distinction between the Upper Class and Working Class versions of this trope. Well distinct if you're British anyway.
  • Horatio Hornblower makes a great show of having one for the benefit of his crew, and in fact he does have one—when a bomb fell at his feet, he grimaced, plucked out the fuse, and looked up to see that everyone else on deck had dived behind something heavy. However, he considers the pose to be an act because before and after the danger he's imagining the horrific consequences of getting shot or blown up or otherwise mutilated in battle. Bush plays the trope completely straight since he can carry on an academic debate on the enemy ship's gunnery while they're firing on his ship.
  • Subverted in Lord of the Flies, and the naval officer who rescues the surviving boys at the end scolds them without remotely realizing the full extent of what's happened.
    "I should have thought that a pack of British boys — you're all British, aren't you? — would have been able to put up a better show than that — I mean —"
    "It was like that at first," said Ralph, "before things —"
    He stopped.
    "We were together then —"
    The officer nodded helpfully.
    "I know. Jolly good show. Like the Coral Island."

    Live Action TV 
  • Cambridge Spies gives us this:
    King George VI: [After the London Blitz has leveled the East End] "I and the Queen walked down East End today. Trying to boost morale. I saw a man walking his dog. Just an ordinary man. It was the most beautiful thing I have seen in my entire life."
  • The noble Grantham family of Downton Abbey are kings of this. However, many of the servants are just as good at it (Messrs Bates and Carson and Mrs Hughes being particular exemplars).
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has the sketch about "The Dull Life of a City Stockbroker", where a man is apparently oblivious to the weird things that happen during his morning commute to work.
  • In an episode of the Brit Com My Hero, the world was ending and all the patients at the Northolt Health Centre acted like it was just another day, causing Mrs. Raven to comment "peculiar race, the British".
  • Doctor Who:
    • How many times has the Doctor responded to universal apocalypse by offering the bad guys a jelly baby??
    • And of course The Brigadier, and his classic line: "Chap with wings — Five Rounds Rapid."
    • His companion Fitz, in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, invokes this trope, although he's not very good at it and ordinarily a Cowardly Lion. See, being half-German, growing up in London during World War II was not very fun for him. This exchange ensues:
      'Sure it did. I remember it well. VE day was lovingly commuted into VF day. Victimise Fitz. The kids on my street celebrated by kicking me down the road.' His face softened as he looked at her, apparently realising she was feeling uncomfortable. 'I'm sorry. That was meant to be a joke.'
      'Was it?'
      Fitz put on a Churchill accent. 'In war, you gets your jollies where you can.'
    • From the "The Unicorn and the Wasp":
      The Doctor: A terrible day for all of us. The professor struck down, Miss Chandrakala cruelly taken from us. And yet we still take dinner.
      Lady Eddison: We are British, Doctor. What else must we do?
  • When Top Gear went to South America, James May managed to be cool and collected despite being terrified of heights and driving on the deadliest mountain road in the world. So much so that the other presenters didn't realize just how tired he was of them bumping into his car until he expressed himself rather less delicately with the help of a machete.
  • Bear "Badass" Grylls in his series Man vs. Wild definitely qualifies — he eats weird stuff in every episode, has climbed down a waterfall using a vine, can build anything ranging from traps to a hut designed to help him save water like if he was Angus MacGyver, climbs like the fucking Spiderman, has gotten out of quicksand, gave himself an enema to prevent potential poisoning from dirty water (whilst amusingly and stoically proclaiming he would Lie Back and Think of England as he administered it) and every once in a while, he decides to do some push-ups like a man instead of reserving the energy for something else.....all this whilst maintaining a ludicrous degree of equanimous composure. And his past is pretty amazing too.
    • In case you're wondering about that past, Bear Grylls is a former SAS Reserve trooper, who not only passed Selection with flying colors, but apparently did extremely well in the survival training course (he can't talk about it too much, since Selection is a very secretive process).
    • In 1996, he partially crushed three vertebrae after a parachuting accident in Zambia. Due to a combination of badassery and stiff upper lipped-ness, Bear spends the next year recovering. Approximately six months after being given a clean bill of health, Bear then proceeds to climb Mount Everest. Becoming the youngest Brit (at the time) to conquer the mountain. At the age of 23.
  • An episode of M*A*S*H has the 4077th treat a group of wounded British soldiers. Hawkeye is offended by their commanding officer's callous attitude towards their injuries and his seeming eagerness to send them back off into battle. He later learns that the officer does care for them and he only acts that way to not let them know how bad off they are and to keep their morale up. This is further evidenced that when Hawkeye tells him that his unit's custom of providing tea to troops with abdominal wounds is causing dangerous medical complications, he is deeply troubled at the mistake and immediately agrees to follow the doctor's advice (although he does comment that it would be a lot easier with anything other than tea).
    • An earlier episode had the doctors collecting an artery for an experimental transplant from a British unit; the British commander expressed no surprise at the request and cracked a joke about it.
  • In The Nanny, Fran encouraged Jocelyn to call off her upcoming wedding to an upper-class gentleman in favour of her poor but loving chauffeur. When the groom finds out and barely reacts, Fran comments on how well he's taking it, to which he responds in a slightly raised voice: "What's the matter with you? Can't you see I'm heartbroken?"
  • DCS Foyle and his staff.
  • In Sherlock, a bomb goes off just outside Sherlock and John's home, 221b Baker Street, blowing out the windows of the house, and badly damaging it. John, arriving home, sees the badly damaged street and house, rushes inside, terrified that Sherlock might be hurt, and finds Sherlock and Mycroft calmly sitting amongst the debris, drinking tea and having a conversation.
    • When Moriarty - a highly dangerous criminal mastermind with a seething hatred of his foe - visits his arch-enemy Sherlock at the latter's flat, the two chat (read: exchange veiled threats) over tea and biscuits.
  • Red Dwarf's Ace Rimmer upon being shot in the chest, looks simply annoyed, stating "This is my best top, damn it!"
  • Lane Pryce of Mad Men is completely imperturbable, even when his dad abuses him.
    • Or when he's beating the crap out of Pete Campbell. It's probably one of the most dignified beatdowns ever shown on TV.
    • Or when he commits suicide. His reaction when his first choice of suicide method (carbon monoxide poisoning by breathing car exhaust) fails because the electrical system of his new Jaguar fails is exasperation. When he goes and hangs himself, he leaves a note:
    Roger: It's a resignation letter. It's boilerplate.
  • Helen Magnus of Sanctuary. In season 3, her helicopter is hit by an EM pulse and takes a nosedive into the ocean. Her response? "Oh, dear."
    • John Druitt displays his own Stiff Upper Lip in "End of Nights, Part 2" when he delivers a stoic pre-battle speech to Nikola Tesla. Tesla angrily replies that he's not British, therefore "that tally-ho crap" doesn't work on him.
    • Declan MacRae was the acting head of the UK Sanctuary during the super-Abnormal attack at the beginning of Season 2, and thus the primary human target. Does he give any indication that he is at all bothered by this? Not in the slightest.
  • Lennier in Babylon 5 is sometimes a Minbari version of this
    • Marcus Cole can act a little like this at times, and he is British, but his personality isn't as dry as Lennier's.
  • William Adama of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica isn't British, but when his ship is under fire from multiple Cylon basestars and almost certain to go down with all hands his only comment to his crew in the CIC is "It's been an honour".
    • this isn't the only time in the series that Adama says it : in Season 4's "The Oath", he tells Saul Tigh the same thing right before their execution by firing squad.
  • Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) in the adaptation of Parade's End is considered an extreme example even by his fellow Edwardians — he personally sees himself as the last bastion of an earlier era of Englishness. The wordless Reaction Shot to his hearing of his mother's death is a masterclass in the trope.
  • The midwives of Call the Midwife have gotten very good at this, mainly because of the strange situations they find themselves in while delivering children.
    • Chummy seems to be the master of it. In the first season, she: delivered a breeched birth, while keeping calm and explaining everything so the mother didn't panic; Quickly agreed to help deliver a piglet born to the handyman's pig, even though it meant ruining her nice outfit and she was expecting her boyfriend for a date; Delivered a child (which turn out to be triplets) to a woman, in an apartment with no electricity, while using the light on her bicycle to see by. When she has no more cloth to wrap the last baby in, she uses her own nurse's uniform, without batting an eye.
    • This is Sister Julienne's modus operandi. It doesn't matter what gets thrown at her, she keeps calm and carries on while barely blinking an eye. Upon encountering a day which consists of a prenatal clinic, a community tuberculosis X-ray screening, a Birth-Death Juxtaposition, and her own Sister Bernadette being diagnosed with tuberculosis, while she's visibly fraying at the edges, she holds it together, manages with cool competence, and merely has this to say:
      Sister Julienne: Oh, Lord, you have had a very, very busy day.
  • Played for Laughs in a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch about Captain Scott on his eventually fatal Antarctic expedition. Starving and freezing to death, Scott forbids his men from eating the Christmas rations out-of-season since it would be improper.
  • Referenced throughout the series but ultimately averted in the Drama Bomb Finale of Blackadder Goes Forth. Upon finally realising that he's afraid of going over the top, George finally admits that he's scared. In an earlier episode, he had the following classic line:
    George: Permission for lip to wobble, sir.

     Pinball 

     Poetry 
  • This poem, originally invented in World War One:
    A soldier never worries.
    You can either be in a dangerous place or a safe place.
    If you are in a safe place then don't worry.
    If you are in a dangerous place, you can be one of two things.
    One is to be hit and one is not to be hit.
    If you are not hit then don't worry.
    If you are hit it is one of two things.
    It is either dangerous or slight. If it is slight don't worry.
    If it is dangerous you can be two things.
    You will recover or you won't.
    If you recover don't worry.
    If you don't, you can't worry.
    In all these circumstances a soldier never worries.
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem "If—" expresses this view:
    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss:
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    Radio 
  • Bleak Expectations: In a series 5 chapter set in India, the main characters find several British soldiers all passed out from the heat, save one who happens to be wearing a bathing suit. Over his normal uniform. Why?
    Soldier: One must keep up standards. This may not be Britain, but it's still British.
  • Conversational Troping in one episode of The News Quiz during the banking crisis, when Mark Steel points out it's total nonsense; as soon as there was the slightest hint Northern Rock might be in trouble, the British public became completely hysterical.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40000, we have the Death Korps of Krieg, with an absolute disregard for their own lives, who are born and raised for the sole purpose of repenting for the sins of their ancestors who engaged in a terrible rebellion, thousands of years ago. They march into battle proudly fighting the most terrible foes without flinching or having the slightest sense of fear. However, it's not like you're going to see their faces; they all wear gas masks, their appearance being a homage to the soldiers of World War I.
  • There's a GURPS Advantage called Unfazeable that fits this trope exactly.
  • In White Wolf's Adventure! (a homage to the Pulp genre) the Badass Normal class can take a feat called Perfect Poise, which is this trope and so much more. Not only are you unphaseable in combat, but you can walk through a swamp without getting your clothes dirty, and you can sip your martini during an earthquake and not spill a drop. You're just that refined.
  • In Forgotten Realms one of the knight orders of Ravens Bluff is the Golden Roosters. They are usually viewed as a stepping stone to other orders for adventurers without titles, though many prefer the Roosters' more relaxed attitude. One of their knightly honors is The Golden Cane; it's given for "refusing to let the danger get in the way of traditions". An example is "having tea in the usual time even if the goblins are preparing to attack".
  • One action that players in Twilight Struggle have is to launch coups against countries with the opposing player's influence in them. They are resolved by (ops value of card + 6-sided die roll - 2 * stability of country = change in influence). The UK is the only country on the board whose stability rating is 5. This means that coup attempts in the UK are completely pointless, as they will never have an effect - four is the highest ops value in the decknote .

    Theatre 
  • The play No Sex Please, We're British.
  • In the musical Crazy For You, the British tourists, Eugene and Patricia Fodor, sing a song titled Stiff Upper Lip to the depressed residents of Deadrock, imploring them to continue their efforts to save the theater. The Fodors fail, but everyone eventually comes around after the real Bela Zangler takes over the show.

    Video Games 
  • Colonel Windsor of the Anglo Isles of Battalion Wars 2 is like this (you'd never have guessed from the name, would you?), casually waiting till tea time is over to retaliate against or even react to an bombing run that is going on around him as he eats.
  • Professor Layton seems to have a bit of this going on, given how many things seem to go pear-shaped unexpectedly.
    • But in Unwound Future, this collapses spectacularly — we see him get angry and weep.
    • At the beginning of Last Spectre, Layton receives a letter from an old acquaintance named Clark who speaks properly of a mysterious giant that has been destroying his village and earnestly seeks the professor's help. The first puzzle of the game is to find the secret message in the letter, found in the initial letters of each line: "HELP SOS". A bit more matter of fact, wouldn't you say?
  • Captain "We run when I bloody say we run!" Price from the Call of Duty series.
  • The chat from the British infantry in Napoleon: Total War is full of this kind of thing.
  • In Sonny, one of the passive abilities for the second game's Hydraulic class is titled "Stiff Upper Lip". This improves health and healing received.
  • Browser-based RPG Fallen London has the premise of Victorian London having been dragged Beneath the Earth by bats and restructured to hold the Echo Bazaar, ruled by strange, cloaked, humanoid beings known as the Masters. Devils, Clay Men and tentacle-faced "Rubbery Men" are commonplace. You may well be eaten if you take the wrong way home. Most of the population aren't too bothered by the situation. "Londoners can get used to anything."
  • Major Coats from Mass Effect 3, a member of the Resistance and apparent second-in-command to Anderson during the Reaper invasion of Earth. As shown in the teaser trailer, at one point he spent several days holed up in Big Ben, scopin'-and-droppin' husks, all the while grumbling that Shepard had better show up with The Cavalry soon.
  • Haytham Kenway in Assassin's Creed III. For the most part, he's cool, calm, witty and Badass — a James Bond figure in a mid-1700's setting.
    • On top of that, in the German version, he has the same voice actor as Daniel Craig's Bond.
    • Also a notable contrast to his Hot-Blooded father Edward and his highly sensitive son, Connor. Fridge Brilliance as the tight-laced, straight-edge Templar Black Sheep of an Assassin family, he'd have to be in control to uphold the cause he adopts.
  • In the Battleblock Theater intro video when the friends are on a ship struck by a powerful storm.
    Narrator : "...and the floor boards were buckling and creaking and breaking and pieces of their ship were raining down like shards of broken dreams. And then Reginald comes upstairs and he's all like "I say, gentlemen, I do believe we're quite in a spot of bother.", and everyone else was like "REALLY?! WHAT TIPPED YOU OFF, GENIUS?!"

    Web Comics 
  • Airman Higgs from Girl Genius. Notable in that while Higgs' nationality isn't stated in the comic, a sizable chunk of the fandom decided he must be British or of British descent at the very least.
    • Ardsley Wooster (who is definitely British) usually also counts as this (except for that one time with Gil...).
  • Lampshaded in this Dork Tower comic strip.
  • Officer Monk in Space Kid

    Web Original 
  • The Flying Cloud: "They were most certainly going to die, but they were Englishmen, so he saw no need to whine about it."
  • Ultra Fast Pony's version of Gilda. She has a posh British accent, and does her best to maintain composure while she's suffering from severe burns and a malfunctioning pacemaker.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Simpsons which re-told the story of Joan of Arc had her British enemies sitting on their side of the battlefield, sipping tea.
    Soldier 2: I thought we had a truce.
    Soldier 1: Just because you keep saying that doesn't make it so.
  • In Star Wars: Clone Wars, Chancellor Palpatine is a Brit (IN SPACE!) who insists on drinking tea in his office while Coruscant is under attack, and whose response to General Grievous' entry is "How dare you barge into my office!" This was all show; Palpatine had arranged for Grievous to kidnap him.
  • A Droopy cartoon built around fox hunting features an English fox who never loses his composure while being pursued - even sipping tea while running. He breaks character with an excited take for just a moment when Droopy tells him a steak dinner is a reward for a fox - which he shares with all his relatives and Droopy at cartoon's end.
  • Spiked milk causes Danger Mouse to lose his strength in "Beware Of Mexicans Delivering Milk," leaving him limp and weak and forcing the usually cowardly Penfold to take the initiative. When Colonel K notices this:
    Colonel K: Good heavens, DM, whatever's the matter? Where's that stiff upper lip?
    DM: It's gone off floppy, Colonel...and so have I!
  • In the Green Lantern: The Animated Series episode, "Steam Lantern," the heroes of an alternate universe's world seem doomed and resolve simply to help Green Lantern Hal Jordan escape while they face their deaths. However, Hal tells him to stop the stiff upper lip attitude and vows to save everyone, and does.

    Real Life 
  • The greatest example of this must be the Charge Of The Light Brigade, immortalized in verse by Alfred Tennyson. The Other Wiki explains how the Real Life brigade was slaughtered. Particularly relevant to this trope was the behavior of the commander, Lord Cardigan:
    "Cardigan survived the battle. Although stories circulated afterwards that he was not actually present, he led the charge from the front and, never looking back, did not see what was happening to the troops behind him. He reached the Russian guns, took part in the fight and then returned alone up the valley without bothering to rally or even find out what had happened to the survivors. He afterwards said all he could think about was his rage against Captain Nolan, who he thought had tried to take over the leadership of the charge from him. After cantering back up the valley he considered he had done all that he could and then, with astonishing sang-froid, left the field and went on board his yacht in Balaclava harbour, where he ate a champagne dinner."
  • Interesting Truth in Television example: Harold Macmillan, later British Prime Minister, was reading Ancient Greek poetry while lying wounded in no-man's land for a whole day until he was rescued during World War One.
  • The Duke of Wellington, by all accounts. Ian Hislop has presented a documentary on the concept of the Stiff Upper Lip, and credits him as being something of a Trope Maker, as it wasn't really recognised as a national trait pre-Napoleonic Wars and he became such a national hero after them.
    • A madman escaped from an asylum and broke into the Duke of Wellington's office. He (the madman) announced that he had to kill the Duke. "Does it have to be right now?" Wellington asked. The madman hesitated, and Wellington told him to come back later.
    • Directly after the Earl of Uxbridge lost his leg - to a cannonball, no less - at Waterloo, the following exchange happened between him and Wellington:
      Uxbridge: By God, sir, I've lost my leg!
      Wellington: By God, sir, so you have!
      • Uxbridge was then taken to an aid post and had the remains of the smashed limb amputated. His sole comment during the procedure was "The knives appear somewhat blunt."
  • The battle of Trafalgar involved "crossing the T", sailing straight towards the flanks of the French and Spanish line in full view of their broadside, in order to get close enough to break up their formation and bring superior British gunnery skill and firepower to bear at close range in a pell-mell battle. During the approach the wind faltered briefly and the 100 gun HMS Royal Sovereign became motionless in front of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet. Legend has it that as his ship was being fired upon by several enemy ships, Collingwood, the Captain turned to his First Officer and said "Hopefully the fair wind will resume, or this may well take all day." And this is after his already CMOA speech "Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter." And Lord Nelson's England expects that every man will do his duty message. Wooden Ships and Iron Men indeed!
    • Indeed, a freakish coincidence occurred here - Collingwood, as the Royal Sovereign went into action (and thus, as shrapnel, musket balls, chain and bar shot and cannon fire was whipping around him) said: "What wouldn't Nelson give to be here?" At almost exactly the same moment, Nelson, completely unconcerned with the perilous position of Royal Sovereign said: "See how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action!"
  • When Finnish national hero Marshal Mannerheim was caught in Russia during the Civil War other officers disguised themselves to avoid being lynched by mutineers. He got himself up in a Czarist uniform dripping with gold lace, hired a relay of batmen to serve his needs and rode the train home daring every Bolshevik in Russia to shoot him. It takes more than the collapse of society to make a man of his station carry his own luggage.
  • Another outstanding Real Life example: When British Airways 747 Flight 9 flew through a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia, all four engines failed; the pilot's comment has gone down in the history of understatement: "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress." Amazingly enough, they later restarted and the aircraft landed safely. That is, after several attempts during a crash dive, they restarted three engines, and landed safely despite the cockpit windows having been sandblasted by ash and rendered opaque.
  • Another incident, this time from the Korean War: a British force was eventually forced to retreat, having received no reinforcements and been reduced to throwing tinned rations at the enemy. The commanding officer's report to his American superiors stated that they were in "a bit of a sticky situation". The Americans, failing to recognise a textbook bit of British Understatement, did not send the necessary support until after they died practically to the last man.
    • Just to expand on the above: The British troops numbered 600 and were facing a Chinese force numbering around 30,000. The Chinese lost 10,000 men while the British suffered only 59 KIA, though only 39 evaded capture.
  • After the British ship HMS Coventry was hit by an Argentinian missile during the Falklands War of 1982 and was sinking, the crew awaiting rescue figured they might as well pass the time and started singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".
  • Keep Buggering On, Mister Churchill, Keep Buggering On.
  • The page image and "Keep Calm and Carry On" were both posters created during World War II, though "Keep Calm and Carry On" was never actually displayed during the war because the government never thought the situation had gotten bad enough to warrant its use. It became a symbol of British character only after it was rediscovered in a second-hand bookshop in 2000.
  • After the 7/7 London bombings, the website We're Not Afraid popped up, with thousands of images sent in of various Brits displaying the message in various creative and simple ways. Reinforced by people queueing at the bus stop for the route which had been attacked the very next day. Very 'Keep Calm And Carry On'
    • On that note, graphic novellist Alan Moore described the bombings as 'that little bit of bother on the 7th July'.
  • Noted by comedian Dara Ó Briain. On the 6th of July we learnt we were getting The Olympics in 2012 and the next day was the bombing - apparently everybody in London reacted the same to both pieces of news: "Oh... but how am I going to get home?"
    Dara Ó Briain: Oh my god, there's a bomb on the Picadilly Line. *beat* Well, I can take the Victoria line.
  • The 80s British prank show Beadle's About once staged an elaborate hoax alien invasion in a woman's back garden. How did she respond to a strange alien figure emerging from the wreckage of a UFO in the middle of her flowerbeds? Naturally, she asked the 'alien' whether it would like a cup of tea.
  • A fire bomb went off in a cinema in Liverpool during WWII. Naturally, everyone assumed is was the Germans, and ran to the door. One man stood up and said, "Don't worry, it's only the Irish," who were fighting for independence. Everyone waited for the bomb to fizzle out, and continued watching the film
  • The entire life of Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Daniel Wintle embodied this trope.
    • In his first action in WWI, aged 16, he found himself frozen with fear under heavy machine-gun fire. Not knowing what else to do, he stood up, saluted, and sang the national anthem.
    • In a later action he was helping guide a horse puling a gun when he suffered a near-direct hit from a German shell that destroyed his knee, blew off several of his fingers, and blinded him in one eye. His first words on waking in a military hospital? "Is the horse alright?" (It wasn't).
    • He received the Military Cross for almost-single-handedly capturing a village from the Germans and holding it for several hours until relieved. He later claimed to have no recollection of the action but admitted "It does sound the sort of thing I'd do". While in the hospital he saw a young trooper of his regiment dying of Scarlet Fever. He pushed past the doctors to bellow at the unconscious man "Now look here. It's against Kings Regulations for a Dragoon to die in bed. Now I order you to stop dying AT ONCE! And when you do get up, get your bloody hair cut!". The man went on to make a full recovery and indeed outlived Wintle.
    • In WWII he was arrested for attempting to steal a plane (in order to meet the leader of the French Air Force to arrange their defection to Britain in the event of a surrender, and having been refused the official loan of one despite threatening the Squadron Commander - and himself with his service revolver). The poor NCO assigned to escort him to prison (in the Tower of London no less) somehow managed to lose the arrest warrant. Ordering the NCO to wait for him at the station, Wintle returned to HQ to acquire a new warrant. Finding no more senior officer than himself there, he signed his own arrest warrant.
    • After a short spell in the Tower he was assigned to SOE and dropped behind the lines in France, where he was promptly betrayed by his contact and arrested by the Vichy French. In the French military prison he routinely berated his guards for their slovenly appearance and went on hunger strike in protest at it, refusing to eat for 9 days until they paraded in their best uniforms. When he eventually escaped, half of the garrison promptly deserted, presumably out of worry of what he would do if he ever came back.
    • In civilian life, as well as always carrying a furled umbrella with a note inside saying "This umbrella stolen from AD Wintle" because while he believed no gentleman would ever leave home without an umbrella, no gentleman would ever actually unfurl one either, he became the only person ever to successfully represent himself in a case before the Law Lords. The case in question, which involved a crooked solicitor, an inheritance, and for which he had spent six months in Prison for ambushing said solicitor and forcing him to remove his trousers, which Wintle flew from his private flagpole is actually now enshrined in precedent in England, to the effect that a solicitor may not be a beneficiary of a will he helped to draw up.
  • Vice Admiral David Beatty was in command of the Royal Navy's battlecruiser squadron at the Battle of Jutland in World War I. During this engagement, his squadron lost two battlecruisers, with his own ship very nearly following due to an ammunition fire below deck. His comment after watching two of his ships catastrophically explode was "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today". He topped that with his next line: "Steer two points closer to the enemy."
  • Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy was commander of the armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi, which was essentially a passenger liner armed with guns. Such ships were good at fulfilling auxiliary duties that would otherwise tie up regular warships, but were otherwise no match for anything that wasn't a small vessel like a frigate or a submarine. On November 23 1939, the ship accidentally ran into the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which at the time were the two most powerful warships in the entire German navy and so dangerous that over the course of the war, the Royal Navy devoted considerable resources to destroy them. Hopelessly outgunned and unable to run away, the good captain rejected offers of surrender and decided to fight. His last wireless dispatch back to the base? "We'll fight them both, they'll sink us, and that will be that. Good bye."
  • Another story from the Royal Navy, this one from World War I. During both world wars, Royal Navy deployed armed vessels disguised as merchant ships—known as Q-ships—to lure and attack German submarines. One of these, HMS Dunraven, was under attack by a submarine in 1917, and a fire broke out in a magazine just under a hidden gun which was standing by to open fire on the submarine if it got closer. After the gun blew up, the chief of the gun crew reported to the captain: "I am sorry, sir, for leaving my gun without orders. I think I must have been blown up."
  • After the riots in 2011, many people's first response was to organize city-wide cleanups on facebook and twitter, then wake up at 8am the next day to meet and tidy up the affected areas.
  • During the Battle of Britain, the Richmond Golf Club enacted temporary rules concerning the onslaught. The first of these: "Players are asked to collect Bomb and Shrapnel splinters to save these causing damage to the Mowing Machines."
  • There is a several-hundred years-old tradition at the Tower of London, concerning the locking of the gates. It is known as the Ceremony of the Keys, and has been carried out at the exact same time every day, in any and all weather, since at least the 14th Century. The only time it wasn't carried out on time was during World War II, when a stick of bombs hit very close to the Tower. The ceremony was delayed by a few minutes, and the chief warder wrote a letter of apology for the delay to King George VI, who in turn wrote back saying, essentially, "not to worry, not your fault."
  • Captain Edward John Smith of the RMS Titanic. Famous mostly for his (now considered apocryphal line "Be British" and for going down with his ship.
  • Queen Elizabeth II, naturally, as an archetypal British person, embodies this trope. In 1982 when an intruder (Michael Fagan) broke into Buckingham Palace, she engaged him in conversation until a maid walked in and said (allegedly) "Bloody hell, ma'am, what's he doing here!?" He was then escorted off the premises. The Queen was unharmed.
  • Last radio message from the British Parachute Battalion at the Battle of Arnhem "Out of ammunition. God save the King".
  • The British were so confident in this trope that they even applied it to their nuclear doctrine. In the US, the commander of a nuclear missile equipped vessel has to go through "permissive action links", which means the support of his XO, the key weapons officers, and the president. Their launch keys, without which the missiles cannot be launched, are kept in safes which can only be unlocked via a combination which nobody aboard knows, and which comes with the President's launch order, which again must be confirmed by key personnel. In the UK, however, the Ministry of Defence didn't bother with this, because "it would be invidious to suggest...that Senior Service offices would act in defiance of their stated orders." British captains disobey orders? Preposterous!
    • This is because unlike America, the UK is close enough for there to be very little warning should Russia fire nuclear missiles. Hence, there would be no time for the Prime Minister to be properly briefed and issue orders.
    • It was later revealed that the US Permissive Action Locks were all set to zero anyway, because the people involved were already happy with their security and didn't want another layer getting in the way.
  • Princess Anne was almost kidnapped & killed when a man forced himself into her car and said he was going to hold her hostage. Her response to this was to sock him in the face and shout "Not bloody likely!"
  • Even Noël Coward got in on the action: while his hotel was being bombed by Nazis, he entertained the guests with a night-long impromptu cabaret. When asked about the night afterwards, he joked that it was every entertainer's dream to have a literally captive audience.
  • A Royal Navy officer undergoing "Perisher" (so called because failing it ends your submarine career there and then) - the prolonged series of tests to assess his fitness to command a submarine, in which one single slip means "goodbye" - was subjected to three days worth of gruelling mock attacks in an escape and evasion exercise. A routine signal from the exercise controller at the end of this phase of the test asked him his opinion of his taste of command. He signalled back "Hebrews 13:8". Baffled, they looked it up in a Bible and found the text read: "Jesus Christ. The same yesterday, the same today, and the same tomorrow." Slightly re-arrange the punctuation and it neatly expresses the feelings of a browned-off submarine commander who has been evading sub-powered depth charges and other training weaponry for three days straight. Apparently they can't kill or damage a sub, but they still go off with a bit of a loud bang.
  • Hugh Laurie lampooned this tendency when he appeared on Inside The Actors' Studio. After an enthusiastic reception, the first words out of Laurie's mouth were, "Good Lord, American audiences are fantastic. An English audience wouldn't make that amount of noise if the building was on fire."


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alternative title(s): Imperturbable Englishman
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