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Camp Follower

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"Well, our fathers fought the Second World War
Spent their weekends on the Jersey Shore
Met our mothers at the USO
Asked them to dance, danced with them slow"
Billy Joel, "Allentown"

In most wars, you have a bunch of men far from home, who are scared for their lives every day. Camp followers are those people who go with these men, and they originally consisted of the soldiers' wives or mistresses, merchants, and others who serviced and supplied the combatants. Up through the mid-19th century, the vast majority of female camp followers were soldiers' wives, and women of every socioeconomic class accompanied armies, creating a military community. They nursed, sewed, washed, and acted as merchants. Outright prostitution was often restricted or, in some cases, banned — sometimes to maintain good military order and discipline or to maintain the dignity of more "legitimate" camp followers.

In later wars, camp followers more often consisted of wartime prostitutes — women who provided companionship to soldiers or sailors.

Not to be confused with a Groupie, a Fangirl, or a follower who is Camp.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Red River (1995), Yuri and her friends visit a palace where the ruler, in a fit of apathy, brought in a ton of prostitutes and had his soldiers have an orgy, ignoring the fact that Egyptian forces were on their way and everyone needed to get ready to fight. While Yuri initially orders all the prostitutes out, she's told that their presence in places like that are actually common and it's good to have some around for stress relief for the soldiers. This has her reconsider and say that any prostitutes who want to stay can.
  • Possibly in Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, as the resistance base in Heartland doubles as a refugee camp, with at least one crying infant living alongside rebel soldiers. Since the camp is made up of tents and given the nature of the war, it's pretty likely that the resistance moves around.
    • It's later confirmed that some refugees began living wherever the resistance forms a base for their own protection, but after most of them were carded people just started making shelters wherever they could.

    Fan Works 
  • Inverted in both Welcome To The Brothel and Relax by Kalash93. Inverted because the soldiers take leave to visit the prostitutes, who work in establishments far away from the front lines.
  • She's not a prostitute, but in some pornographic Fan Art, Miss Buxley from Beetle Bailey is portrayed as being sexually liberated and she has sexual encounters with the men and women who are stationed at Camp Swampy. In these works, Miss Buxley's shown having sex with Beetle and General Halftrack, as well as the other male soldiers. She's also shown having mfm and mmf threesomes with other male soldiers and a lesbian encounter with PVT Blips.

  • Not quite the same thing, but some Playboy playmates turn up to entertain the troops in Apocalypse Now. Based on an actual visit.
    • Gets a bit closer to the trope in the Redux version; the playmates' transport breaks down and the characters in the main party offer to fix it... in exchange for some private time with the playmates.
    • Charlie didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat.
  • Live for Life: Robert, a war correspondent, makes his way to a mercenary training camp deep in the African wilderness. He is surprised to learn from the commanding officer that there are two women in the camp. He asks if they go into combat too and is told no, they have "other duties." It soon becomes clear that they're the camp prostitutes.
  • In Mediterraneo, a troop of Italian soldiers is sent to a Greek island during World War II. While most of the locals are hiding, a prostitute (played by Vana Barba) stays to offer her services. She later marries one of the soldiers.
  • LTJG Deborah Solomon (Cheryl Ladd) in Purple Hearts wasn't a prostitute, but a Navy nurse. She provided the romantic interest and motivation to LTCDR Don Jaridan (Ken Wahl), which led him to volunteer for some dangerous missions just so he could see her.

  • The Aubrey-Maturin series is rife with whores. Stephen blames this on the land rather than the sailors.
    • In a Real Life parallel to the situation described in the Honor Harrington series (see below), officers' wives who wanted to be close to their husbands could request passage aboard Royal Navy vessels headed for the port closest to their husbands' operating stations. In The Mauritius Command Lady Clonfert, the wife of one of the captains in Jack Aubrey's new squadron, shows up at his home to beg passage to the Cape. Jack is somewhat miffed by the rather peremptory way in which the request is made (Lord Clonfert is an English aristocrat with an Irish title), but also is aware that refusing her wouldn't look good. He manages to avoid having her on his ship through a bit of Loophole Abuse mixed with Exact Words where he strictly specifies that she has to be at the dock, ready to go, by a certain date, and when she gets delayed by a bit, off he goes. (While Lord Clonfert is irritated, Jack has ironclad cover in that the Royal Navy does impose very strict requirements for ships to raise anchor and get underway - to "miss one's tide" is a Very Bad Thing. (On a different occasion, when one of Jack's commands is unavoidably delayed getting out of port, he and his officers have a few bad moments when they wonder if they will be called back ashore to explain to the Port Admiral why they didn't put out to sea at the specified time.)
  • In the Belisarius Series, after Belisarius recaptures a Persian city his army is crowded with Persian civilians clinging to the Romans for protection. This is Truth in Television; many camp followers in history were simply seeking protection from the other army or from the opportunistic banditry that always comes when war breaks down law and order. Belisarius is also experienced enough that, when one of his subordinates suggests forbidding the camp followers, he knows that will just result in the camp followers still following, but at a larger distance; instead, he starts to bring the camp followers under at least some of the army discipline.
  • Nately has a favorite hooker in Catch-22 with whom he has fallen in love. She is referred to as "Nately's Whore" throughout.
  • Codex Alera:
    • A brothel owned by one of these shows up in the third book, Captain's Fury. Tavi tends to use it just for the bath (due to his immediate superior placing him on indefinite latrine duty for thwarting his embezzlement scheme, Tavi was seriously in need of a bath regularly). After most of the command structure of his Legion is blown up by Canim sorcery, he hires the madam, who's shown to be a keen businesswoman and good with people, as his Tribune Logistica—basically, supply officer.
    • Because of how crafting works, the prostitutes themselves are relatively strong earthcrafters (because you can inspire lust with earthcraft ... we don't know either but that's how it works). When Tavi needs to build large defensive emplacements, he drafts the prostitutes.
    • A large portion of the camp followers are actually young women serving a tour of duty with the legions (all young people are required to serve in the legions, men as soldiers, women as camp followers). Their primary purpose is to provide housekeeping services for the soldiers such as cooking and cleaning. While they are not prostitutes it's not uncommon for them to end up marrying a soldier (and often pregnant) and the books hint that this is actually the main purpose of the program.
    • The Alerans have camp followers to thank for their civilization, as they are descended from a Lost Roman Legion that crossed into Another Dimension long ago. Had the soldiers been alone, they would have died out, but enough female camp followers and Germanic local people came along to establish a viable breeding population, which eventually grew into the vast Aleran empire.
  • James Jones' From Here to Eternity has Alma, Prewitt's love interest.
  • The regiments of the Sabbat Crusade in Gaunt's Ghosts are shown to be accompanied on their travels by various wives, lovers, children, and assorted men and women of both business and pleasure. They're even assigned their own decks on the leviathan troop transports. The number of camp followers is said to match or even exceed the actual regiment in size.
  • Gone with the Wind includes a description of the prostitutes that have come pouring into Atlanta with the army, including a wry observation by the town's #1 Bad Woman that she was turned away from volunteering at the hospital because they "didn't want [her] kind of nursing".
  • Mollie Bean in The Guns of the South combines this with Sweet Polly Oliver. Note she's based on a real person. (The Real Life model was wounded at Gettysburg, her true gender identity discovered, and she was sent home; in the book, Mollie is also wounded at that battle but her injury was apparently not serious enough to lead to her secret being discovered by the attending doctor.)
  • In the Honor Harrington series, the Royal Manticoran Navy will, providing the destination area isn't in a state of active combat, transport the spouses of officers and ratings aboard ships proceeding to the region in question on a space-available basis, and sometimes even allocates transport ships for the purpose. After Sir Aivars Terekhov is rotated back to the Talbott Quadrant, his wife Sinead requests passage aboard a friend's ship. There are a few awkward moments once she arrives in Talbott because the space in which Sir Aivars and his squadron are currently operating is an active combat zone (Admiral Khumalo, commanding RMN forces in the Quadrant, is unwilling to provide her with further assistance to reach her destination for that reason), but Sinead won't let that get in her way, and makes her own way to Montana, her husband's most recently reported port of call.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, the soldiers visit a camp brothel in order to steal women's clothes for the purposes of an Operation Washerwomen. Ironically, the soldiers are all Sweet Polly Olivers anyway, but left most of their clothes at home.
    • They also get advised that if they don't visit the "Soiled Doves", people might get suspicious. Sgt Jackrum always brought a book to read.
  • At the beginning of Sharpe's Rifles, a bunch of drunken redcoats are seen sleeping with some local women who have turned to prostitution. Later in the book, Sharpe has an argument with the Spanish officer he's teamed up with while fondling a prostitute. He doesn't sleep with her.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion Lannister enlists the services of one such camp follower called Shae and later smuggles her into the city to be his concubine.
    • Camp followers or washerwomen (most of whom do very little washing) are often mentioned in ASOIAF, they can be seen following the Freys, the Boltons, and the Lannisters (and, presumably, every other army).
    Reek(Theon): Washerwomen. That was the polite way of saying camp follower, which was the polite way of saying whore.
    • Pretty Pia when Castle Harrenhall is occupied by the Lannister armies. Unfortunately this leaves her open to abuse, and Jaime Lannister ends up taking her with him to protect her and, ironically, to do his washing (a task his squires think is beneath them).
  • The short story "Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong" by Tim O'Brien deals with a Vietnam soldier bringing his girlfriend to 'Nam.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Nobel's army in The Baron of Maleperduys is accompanied by several stripes of these. Some are the highly respected priestesses of Sphinx, while others are clearly sex slaves. The majority of them appear to be run of the mill prostitutes.
  • Nicholette in Seven Men of Gascony. In some ways, she is a subversion as she is not only a wine seller rather than a prostitute but she is almost prudish for the circumstances, being married to every one of the soldiers she serviced(one at a time of course until he was killed). The only irregularity was that her first husband was married in a French Old Soldier ritual rather than legally.
  • Gretchen Richter, one of the major characters in the 1632 series is a former camp follower who was rescued and promptly married by one of the time-displaced Americans. Also she's badass. Later on in the series (particularly in several of the "Grantville Gazette" short stories), the army of the United States of Europe (i.e., Germany) regularizes the status of camp followers, organizing them under military authority and discipline - in fact, some of the women devise and wear uniforms of their own - and tasking them with providing support services (cooking, cleaning, nursing, etc.) to the troops as described above.
  • The Stormlight Archive: It's repeatedly mentioned that the bulk of any army actually consists of the workers and support staff. In fact, noble officers are expected to bring their wives to war with them; the husbands fight on the battlefield, while the wives keep track of logistics back in camp. By the time the story starts, the armies of the ten Alethi princedoms have been camped at the edge of the Shattered Plains for six years, so they've turned from "armies with camp followers" to "ten small cities with their own armies."
  • In the Sword of Truth, camp followers of all kinds are portrayed as very bad people. The D'Harans target the Imperial Order camp whenever they can, not having any qualms about having denied the Imperial Order any service they can, whether it's that kind of service, or blacksmithing or cleaning or anything else that could give the Imperial Order any advantage.
  • Camp followers are absent from the titular mercenary company of the The Black Company, and the only mention they get is a sentence-long aside to explain why they’re absent: the Black Company’s captain doesn’t tolerate any and drives them off. New recruits must leave their old lives behind and be ready to uproot from their latest garrison at a moment’s notice, so they also have no families to tow.
  • The ironically-named Chastity eventually becomes one of these in Vile Bodies.
  • Wagons West: in Illinois!, during their first meeting the Baroness warns Henry about the camp followers along the Prussian lines; Henry assures her he avoids them entirely.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Band of Brothers: One episode shows the men liberating a Dutch city - where the people are taking the opportunity to shave and humiliate the women who slept with Germans.
  • Marg Helgenberger's character on China Beach.
  • In Enemy at the Door, set in German-occupied Guernsey during World War II, the episode "The Prussian Officer" revolves around an establishment of French prostitutes imported to the island for the use of the German soldiers.
  • Game of Thrones: Shae begins as this before stepping up to be The Mistress.
  • On Generation Kill, the Marines are approached by two Iraqi gay male prostitutes.
  • What with M*A*S*H being a show about how a military unit deals with war, these tend to show up fairly frequently.
  • On Sharpe, women and children are frequently seen following British and French troops on campaign. The women provide laundry services and aid to the wounded while the children run errands. Sharpe also has a tendency to pick up women who end up tagging along for an adventure or two.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: During the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, Bajoran women were taken to be used as comfort women for Cardassian soldiers.

  • The song "1917" by David Onley describes a French Hooker with a Heart of Gold consoling shell-shocked young soldiers:
    He speaks to me in schoolboy French
    Of a soldiers life inside a trench
    Of the look of death and the ghastly stench
    I do my best to please him
  • Elton John's song "Sweet Painted Lady" from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road depicts prostitutes "getting paid for being laid" by sailors on leave, who never even care or think of their conquests once they go back to sea.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one Beetle Bailey strip, Rolf, the civilian tennis instructor is recognized as a Rare Male Example by General Halftrack and that the actual tennis lessons that he gives the women are really foreplay when Miss Buxley tells him "I have a tennis lesson on my lunch hour.". General Halftrack then says to Major Greenbrass, "What gets me is that she pays him.".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition includes Camp Follower as a basic Career that trains a broad range of practical skills. Flavor Text describes them as a versatile, surprisingly well-organized group who do lots of odd jobs around the camp, as well as scavenging and "personal companionship".

    Video Games 

  • Schlock Mercenary: Invoked by name. Liz is explaining to Ch'vorthq that when her boyfriend rejoined the Toughs, she came along too, and...
    LIZ: Oh no... I'm a camp follower!
    CH'VORTHQ: Shhh! You are my assistant, and we shall pretend those other two words were never spoken.

    Real Life 
  • Throughout history, "camp followers" would follow armies to sell goods and provide services to the soldiers, which included prostitution.
  • Occurred a lot in Vietnam, where it was called "Rest and Recreation" and generally occurred in Bangkok or Hong Kong. Hence the redirect title — Rest And Procreation.
  • An Urban Legend claims that the term "hooker" for "prostitute" comes from the "soiled doves" that would follow Union General Joseph Hooker's division during the Civil War. Evidence dates the word to earlier, but Hooker's apparent fondness for hookers may have popularized it.
  • Before the king trusted her, French and English soldiers initially thought Joan of Arc was a prostitute. Why else would she be following the army? Joan herself later drove off camp followers who were prostitutes.
  • When British Soldiers were Cloistered in Boston during the Revolutionary War, they often had relations with the local women (and by the time Americans took back the city, a VERY back-end enhancing dress was quite popular).
  • Perhaps the darkest Real-Life example would be the Japanese military's "Comfort Women", during World War II. Some were recruited by choice, but most were undisputably Sex Slaves, tricked into thinking they'd be nurses or cooks, or outright held against their will. Most comfort women were drawn from Japanese-occupied or controlled territories, such as Korea, Okinawa, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, essentially kidnapped to be gang-raped by dozens of soldiers a day. As many as 200,000 women (some historians estimate even higher figures) suffered these atrocities. Most were just teenagers and some as young as 12. Those women who survived were rejected in their own societies for being seen as whores and lived difficult, lonely lives. Or they would keep it secret from their own families for decades out of shame. Movements demanding justice for the comfort women only began gaining steam in the 1990s, around 50 years after World War II, as the now senior and elderly victims were persuaded by local historians and advocacy groups to finally come forward because even some Western historians had started to doubt comfort women even existed. Some of them would die a few years after coming forward. Up to today, the Japanese government is slow to acknowledge any of this despite pressure from other nations.
  • Ancient Greeks being equal-opportunity lovers, there are several instances of armies being delayed on the march because an officer (and in one case, a King of Sparta) had fallen in love with a local boy and refused to leave him behind.
  • To prevent this trope, when Clara Barton formed a nursing service during The American Civil War (which eventually became the American Red Cross), she specified that all the women who applied as nurses be "at least 30 and plain-looking."
  • In a subversion, most of the shipboard stowaway women in the Royal Navy seem to have been legitimate wives. Love might make a woman endure the life but prostitution did not pay well enough to go to sea just to find jobs, and most prostitutes waited at shore near naval bases.
  • Although these women provided sex and then resulting STDs could decimate an army, many commanders tolerated them since the men needed companionship and more importantly many of the prostitutes would assist in providing medical care to the wounded. Yes, medical care. Really.
  • In North Africa in WW2, the initial British offensive so massively overwhelmed the Italians that not only 300,000 Italian soldiers ended up prisoners, the best part of 150,000 Italian civilians ended up behind British lines. There were too many to intern, so they were allowed to go about their daily lives, albeit with some restrictions. What seriously embarrassed British military authorities was that these included quite a few brothels, including field bordellos which had been attached to the Italian Army and which, in an even-handed spirit which did not in any way contravene the Geneva Convention, were just as happy to carry on providing a service to British and Commonwealth forces. Moral Guardians back home in Britain, who did not object to British service personnel risking their lives in action, offered strong vocal opposition to their going to brothels for recreation.
    • This was not a concern to Field-Marshal Montgomery, who was appalled to realise that at any one time, sexually transmitted diseases were incapacitating 8-10% of British service personnel. This figure peaked when the battles moved to Italy proper. He urged that brothels in the rear area of British forces should be legalised and brought under military jurisdiction, for the pragmatic reason that his men were going to go to them anyway, and the women would then be given full medical supervision. Again, Moral Guardians in Britain were appalled and Churchill came under political pressure to reject the idea. The two British armies in Italy were already attracting erroneous criticism and were falsely perceived as the D-Day Dodgers, enjoying an extended Mediterranean holiday.
  • French forces often had something called a BMC (Bordel militaire de campagne) where they would provide 'comfort' for the soldiers. One BMC was even sent to Dien Bien Phu where the women served as nurses and were re-educated by the Viet-Minh.
  • Mistresses and concubines of Red Army officers and generals during WWII were referred to with a mock acronym "PPZh", which meant "Field and Campaign Wife". It's a pun on the name of their standard-issue machine pistol, "PPSh".
  • In modern times, official organizations exist to fill some of the requirements of this trope, such as the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, a Department of Defense owned and operated corporation which operates restaurants, stores, barbershops, etc. for American military personnel, both in garrison and in deployed locations. Indeed, one of AAFES's slogans suggests this trope: "We Go Where You Go".
  • While spouses and children have a certain official status in the modern US military (specifically, the military provides housing and other benefits for them tied to their spouse's military service), it used to be common for them to share whatever accommodations the soldier was issued (obviously officers had it much better in this area). If the husband died while serving, however, the family would typically be required to pack up and get off the base immediately.
  • The vivandieres were French female independent merchants who followed Napoleon's armies in wagons to sell food, small luxuries, and wines to the troops. Some of them also did a little hustling on the side, though this was frowned on by most of the girls, who viewed themselves as legit tradesmen. During the great retreat in Russia, many of them rescued stranded and wounded troops, and even in some cases fought off marauding Cossacks. They were swashbucklers of the first order, and they need their own flick.
  • The expression "Your mother wears Army boots" comes from this, meaning "Your Mom prostitutes herself to soldiers in exchange for their shoes".
  • In World War II, in addition to the women employed on military bases themselves (to free men up for frontline service), the United Service Organizations recruited women near domestic bases to dance with off-duty Yanks with Tanks.

Alternative Title(s): Rest And Procreation, Bring Your Halter To The Slaughter, War Camp Prostitute