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Stiff Upper Lip

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"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!", etc. 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 Brits Love 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, or Apathetic Citizens, which replaces resolve with... well, apathy.

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.


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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 Seras 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.
  • Inverted in Nanbaka. Uno is rather excitable and jumpy in the face of danger, unlike what one would believe of his British compatriots.
  • Vagabond: Ueda. His trademark attitude is smoking his pipe and ponder. He is introduced this way when Musashi first comes to the Yoshioka dojo and is killing many disciples. But this attitude becomes truly evident during the Battle of Ichijōji, when he is seriously wounded with half of his face cut and he rests under a tree, calmly smoking his trademark pipe while ravens flock to eat his flesh.

    Comic Books 
  • The Britons in Asterix album "Asterix in Britain" would stop fighting for five o'clock tea and for two days every five days. 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 every day and all day for two days every five days? "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.
    • The only time in the comic the Britons collectively (and Anticlimax specifically) lose their cool in excitement is when the rugby game is on.
  • In It Came!, an alien robot named Grurk invades England to harvest the very Britishness of its inhabitants, made clear when Grurk takes the stiffness out of his victims' upper lips aboard its spaceship. Its weakness also turns out to be tea.
  • 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 bejesus knocked out of them like the rest of us."
  • Paul Cornell's Captain Britain and MI13. For instance, his speech 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.
  • When the Wind Blows and its animated adaptation heavily deconstructs this (as well as being a serious criticism of the leaflets handed out at the time by the British government on precautions to surviving a nuclear bombing), in that being they were basically useless because ''there's no way to survive), although it's partly because the elderly British couple is very naive to the nature of the nuclear holocaust. They try to remain calm and continue their normal activities, believing it to not be any different from the Blitzkriegs of World War II, and that eventually, help will come. However, it's abundantly clear to viewers that no help will ever come, as everyone else is dead, but the couple remains optimistic even as the radioactive fallout is killing them.

    Film — Animation 
  • In Corpse Bride, when the dead crash the Everglots' wedding party, the assembly feels the need to maintain proper face expressions while watching skeletons and corpses surround them. The silence is broken when Finis betrays his extreme surprise and terror by calmly announcing: "There's an eye in me soup".
  • Played for Drama (and later Tragedy) in When the Wind Blows. The Bloggses go into World War III assuming that it will be much like their experiences in World War II, with only occasional dangers penetrating their rural life and issues of rationing and other wartime demands able to be met with their usual English resolve and ingenuity. Unfortunately, they are Wrong Genre Savvy and the subsequent nuclear war sees the couple suffer greatly from privation and radiation sickness.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Barry Lyndon: The film revolves around the fact that the aristocracy in 18th Century Britian Barry is obsessed with joining must maintain one regardless of pathos, and his very human reactions to the tragedies in his life are the major societal sin that prevents him from doing so.
  • In Which We Serve: Both the navy and the people at the home front keep calm at all times, despite what tragedies occur.
  • The Film of the Book Force 10 from Navarone. The team has detonated explosives inside a dam in an 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.
  • 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!" While the real man refused to show fear in front of his men, including never running between cover, 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.
  • 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 life-threatening situations. While having dinner during a bombardment, they discover that their "meat course" is actually a homeless 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: [slightly embarrassed] Actually, I was going to say, "Remember we're British".
    Brother Belcher: [defeated] Beggin' your pardon, sir.
    Captain Keene: [still awkwardly] And then I was going to say, "Keep a stiff upper lip".
    Brother Belcher: [crossly] Well, I'm not waiting in here for mine to stiffen!
  • Virtually everyone in Battle Of The River Plate. Royal Navy sangfroid at its very finest.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005): 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. Arthur Dent is also an example. "I'm British; I know how to queue."
  • A British soldier in the film Sergeant York was this to a tee. 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".
  • Both Cathy and Robert in the film, Vacation from Marriage.
  • 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 is expected of royalty, so when Edward breaks down upon his father's death and is told that he would be king, everyone is shocked and embarrassed. In addition, when Queen Mary is listening to King George VI's speech, she briefly shows a glimpse of a smile, then returns to the stiff upper lip.
  • This trope forms the central conflict of The Queen, featuring Queen Elizabeth II. 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 realize 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 acknowledge 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 a 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 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 ]
  • Displayed in Into the Storm (2009), the Churchill biopic. None of the main cast seems particularly shocked at the prospect of the blitz, and Churchill even watches the battle unfold.
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon: Sir Henry displays this sometimes, such as when his plume is shot off his helmet - he reacts, without flinching, with a "Good shot sir!". This is subverted at the beginning, however, when the first thing we hear is his high-pitched screaming.
  • This is pretty much a character staple in the James Bond films, more so than ever with the Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig portrayals. Bond's suave style and complete coolness under pressure are parodied in Skyfall however when of all things to leave Bond completely flabbergasted is a Komodo dragon.
  • In the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, British veterans of World War One describe their wartime experiences in remarkably frank and unsentimental terms.
  • All of the surviving crew trapped in the crippled sub in Morning Departure display admirable British pluck, apart from the Dirty Coward Snipe. The film ends with an extraordinary Face Death with Dignity scene.
  • Shadowlands: Jack's book about "why bad things happen to good people" is intellectual and unemotional, saying God uses suffering to reach people and improve character. After Joy's death, he revises his story, more or less saying it's okay to grieve nonetheless.
  • Deconstructed in Shaun of the Dead, where the English tendency to not make a fuss in times of suffering and tragedy is put through its paces when people start hiding their zombie bites. Tragically, Barbara is bitten on the wrist by a zombie sometime in the halfway-point of the film and only in the finale do we find out, because she "didn't want Shaun to be upset".

  • 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 Casual Danger Dialogue, which preserves their courage.
  • Doctor Who Expanded Universe: 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. Victimize Fitz. The kids on my street celebrated by kicking me down the road." His face softened as he looked at her, apparently realizing 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 get your jollies where you can."
  • In Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Chips is teaching a Latin class when a German bombing raid starts. After a quick mental assessment, he concludes that they're as safe in their basement classroom as they're likely to be if they try to reach the official bomb shelters, and that the best thing to do is keep the lesson going so the students will have something else to think about. He makes a dry remark about how you can't always judge the importance of something by how much noise it makes, and assigns his students to translate a passage from Caesar's memoirs about the warlike Germanic tribes.
  • 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."
  • Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy 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.
  • 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.
  • The Korean War by Max Hastings: in the chapter about prisoners, the author discusses how different nationalities reacted to being captured by the Communists:
    The British seemed to suffer fewer difficulties than the Americans with ‘give-upitis’. Resignation and adjustment to the inevitable are British national characteristics. Most British prisoners took it for granted that it was preferable to eat the unspeakable food they were offered, rather than to die.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • The Redwall hares are all like this, wot wot? They're based on RAF pilots during WWII.
  • 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.
  • Elinor from Sense and Sensibility may be one of the oldest examples. After having the home of her childhood taken away due to English inheritance laws of the time, and learning that the man she loves is secretly engaged to another woman, a promise he will of course keep, she keeps her composure, to the point that her mother and sister (both of whom are much more prone to displays of emotion) don't even notice she is unhappy.
  • Sharpe: Lord Wellington 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 Maharattas had hit him on the head, which was dashed unsporting of them.
  • 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 bullet holes 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.
  • In Harry Turtledove's World War series, several sections involve British RAF members attempting to out-understate each other.
  • The rabbits of Watership Down are made of this, largely maintaining their composure in a world where practically everyone and everything wants to kill them. Arguably even more pronounced in the movie, which of course includes British accents for all the characters.
  • Heralds of Valdemar: The Eastern Empire, ruled by a Decadent Court in which any display of emotional vulnerability will be taken advantage of, adheres to this ideology. For example, the Empire commander Tremane never moves faster than a brisk walk. Even if an Eldritch Abomination's corpse has been discovered or a blizzard is hitting the camp, he does not run. Running implies panic, which will spread to the troops. The only time running is necessary is if the camp is literally being assaulted at that very moment.
  • In There's More Than One Way Home, the Gaineses maintain an air of dignity and calm even as they walk behind the gurney carrying their son's bodybag.
  • Blackout: Even though the time travelers from the 21st century expect it, they're still amazed to witness the casual fortitude shown by common British subjects during the Blitz. This becomes one of the primary motifs of the story, that everyone who endured the war and "did their bit" was a hero.
  • Treasure Island: Most of the sympathetic characters. Captain Smollett maintains rigid discipline throughout their ordeal. Jim Hawkins maintains his dignity and poise even under threat of death. Trelawney's servants are said to react to every calamity without complaint or even much surprise.
  • In The Lord of the Rings invoked twice; once when Bilbo, to hide his emotion that Frodo is going off on a dangerous quest, bracingly slaps Frodo on the back; another when Sam almost drowns following Frodo, and Frodo, on rescuing him, covers up his feelings by remarking "Sam! You are a confounded nuisance." Both scenes in the movie, by contrast, result in hugs and tears.

    Live-Action TV 
  • John Steed of The Avengers (1960s). When he's facing a Firing Squad in "The Living Dead", he actually lights a cigarette for the man who's about to shoot him, stating, "It's important to do these things well." Emma Peel is equally unruffled no matter how bizarre or dangerous the situation.
  • After some serious Character Development, Wesley Wyndham-Price showcases a very stiff upper lip in later seasons of Angel.
    • Ironically, in season 1 Faith lampshades this trope while torturing him - even though he doesn't show any sign of breaking...
    Faith: Come on Wes? Where is that stiff upper lip?
  • William Adama of Battlestar Galactica (2003) 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 that "it's been an honor".
    • 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.
  • Referenced throughout the series but ultimately averted in the Drama Bomb Finale of Blackadder Goes Forth. Upon finally realizing 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.
  • 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 breech 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, there — Five Rounds Rapid."
    • "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?
  • 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).
  • Good Omens: We are in England (for the most part) after all:
    • R.P Tyler embodies this spirit when gives Crowley direction...despite Crowley sitting calmly in a car thast is currently on fire. God makes it clear that Tyler has actually noticed this, and isn't saying exactly what he would like to say.
    • One interpretation of Aziraphale's "So sorry to hear it" when Crowley quietly tells him that he lost his best friend is that Aziraphale knows that Crowley means him, but he doesn't want to upset Crowley further (or make it awkward) by fully acknowledging it. The other interpretation is that Aziraphale is just that oblivious.
  • 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.
    • Or when he commits suicide. When he goes and hangs himself, he first types out a letter and places it in a crisp envelope addressed to the partners.
      Roger Sterling: It's a resignation letter. It's boilerplate.
  • Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild. A former SAS Reserve trooper who has made a career of casually surviving inhospitable locations. In one particular episode, he gives himself an enema to prevent potential poisoning from dirty water whilst amusingly and stoically proclaiming he would Lie Back and Think of England.
  • M*A*S*H
    • An episode 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.
  • 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 (2000), 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".
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • Red Dwarf's Ace Rimmer upon being shot in the chest, looks simply annoyed, stating "This is my best top, damn it!"
  • 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.
  • 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 amid 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.
  • Malcolm Reed of Star Trek: Enterprise is the crew's resident British stoic. He's professional and businesslike, endures harsh conditions without complaint, and even when pinned to the hull by a mine urges Captain Archer to sacrifice him to save the ship. He might make a dry quip now and again, but that's about it.
  • 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.
  • When Top Gear (UK) 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.
  • Lampshaded by Dara Ó Briain onMock the Week during the 2008 banking crisis and Northern Rock closing, noting that in other countries the customers would be smashing up the bank to get their money back, whereas the British just queued up outside for hours.
  • Savaged by Harold Steptoe in one episode of Steptoe and Son, where he says he's fed up of being "a cheerful, chirpy, Cockney sparrow" and is "as entitled to be miserable and depressed as anyone else".
  • Parodied in Victoria Wood With All the Trimmings in a pastiche of a 1940s Pathe newsreel interviewing a woman whose house was destroyed in the Blitz. Souding somewhat coached, she says her Christmas dinner is down there somewhere, and they're going to dig until they find it, and if they find her husband, that would be good as well. The narrator then says there are hundreds of cheerful Cockneys just waiting for Hitler to bomb them, and they're all completely expendable.

  • "Pack Up Your Troubles", a World War I propaganda song about a British soldier who goes to Flanders and maintains a cheery cockney attitude all the way.
  • Savagely averted in "There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner" by Noël Coward, which is about a Britain on the point of hysteria and despair. It also riffs quite heavily on "morale-boosting" wartime songs.
    With a scowl and a frown
    We'll keep our peckers down
    And prepare for depression and doom and dread.
    We're going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag,
    And wait until we drop down dead!


  • 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!’

  • 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 40,000, we have the Death Korps of Krieg, who have an absolute disregard for their own lives and 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 (in fact, where other regiments' commissars are there to be scarier than the enemy, the Krieger commissars are there to prevent their soldiers from making a Senseless Sacrifice). 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 (in-universe, it's likely that they use forbidden techniques like cloning to keep their population high, and the masks protect against the envronment and people realizing there's only one Krieger face).
  • 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 unfazeable in combat, but you can also walk through a swamp without getting your clothes dirty and 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 Raven's 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 at 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 .

  • 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.
  • In the Mrs. Hawking play series, this trope is thoroughly explored.
    • That Nathaniel in particular, while not completely devoid of emotional response, has the ability to remain cheerful and positive even in the face of his titular aunt's grumpiness and occasional outright nastiness is remarkable.

    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 until tea time is over to retaliate against or even react to a bombing run that is going on around him as he eats.
    [an explosion rocks the building in which Commander Pierce and Colonel Windsor are having their evening meal]
    Pierce: What the heck was that?
    Windsor: I believe the Solar Empire has launched a counter-offensive.
    [another explosion, resulting in the room's chandelier falling onto their table]
    Windsor: Pass the salt, would you, Commander? There's a good chap.
  • Professor Layton seems to have a bit of this going on, given how many things seem to go pear-shaped unexpectedly.
    • In Unwound Future, this collapses spectacularly—we see him get angry and weep.
    • At the beginning of Last Specter, 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.
    • An asari in the Citadel DLC tries to apply this to humans as a whole, only to completely botch it, forcing Shepard to correct the phrase.
      Selyana: The humans are so resilient. Like that phrase of theirs: "Stiff one in the lips."
      Shepard: Stiff upper lip.
      Selyana: Right, of course. What did I say?
  • 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. Also a notable contrast to his Hot-Blooded father Edward and his highly sensitive son, Connor; 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. On top of that, in the German version, he has the same voice actor as Daniel Craig's Bond.
  • In the Battleblock Theater intro video when the friends are on a ship struck by a powerful storm.
    Narrator: "...and the floorboards 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?!"
  • Jakob from Fire Emblem Fates actually says this exact phrase when providing support to another unit during battle. Since he's a Battle Butler and he's given a British accent in the English localization, it fits.
  • In Ace Attorney, Simon Blackquill- the only character who uses British slang- is notable for never ever panicking. Even when he discovered his mentor's dead body, he remained calm enough to remove her young child from the scene, stage a coverup so extensive that authorities are still investigating it years after the fact, and condemn himself to imprisonment on death row just because he thought it was the right thing to do. Multiple Living Lie Detectors have to work together to debunk what he says, because he's that good at concealing his true feelings.
  • Deconstructed and Played for Horror by We Happy Few where after the invasion of a revived German Empire caused the town of Wellington Wells to do "a Very Bad Thing" the townsfolk's desire to just get on with things is overwhelmed by their massive guilt, causing them to develop "Joy", a drug that forcible brightens the user's mood at the cost of sanity.
  • There is a voice scheme that you can select for your team called literally this verbatim in Worms Armageddon/Worms World Party.

  • 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. He isn't, and what his true nationality is becomes a plot point.
    • Ardsley Wooster (who is definitely British) usually also counts as this (except for that one time with Gil...).

    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.
  • The RP-accented General Doyle from Red vs. Blue tries to keep calm in the face of adversity by the New Republic rebellion, against his forces with the Federation of Chorus, and later while working together with the former rebels, against Charon Industries' attempt to lay waste to their world, but tends to have a difficult time of it. He has no military history, having been thrust into the position after the death of the Federation's previous general, and, by his own admission, considers himself a coward. He does make efforts to redeem himself, however, and was ultimately calm in his self-sacrifice to eliminate many of Charon's troops in the end.

    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 1: Oh, dear, they're attacking again.
    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 the cartoon's end.
  • Played for laughs on an episode of Family Guy, in which a British commander is informing his men that only two and a half of every ten pilots will return from combat alive. Cue a pilot who has had his entire lower half blown off chiming in
    Pilot: But I didn't lose my spirit, I did!
  • 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.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "A Hard Day's Knight", the British news anchor announces the fight between Perry and Dr. Doofenshmirtz (who are piloting giant robots in the form of Queen Elizabeth the First and a dragon, respectively) as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends features the hyper-British scientist Doctor Jekyll, who has to flee his laboratory after accidentally turning a mouse into a huge monster.
    Doctor Jekyll: [running for his life down the street] I would yell for help, but I shouldn't wish to be a bother to anyone.

    Real Life 
  • This was literally military doctrine for British officers: The earliest written reference of it is in the 1727 book "A Treatise of Military Discipline: In Which is laid down and Explained the Duties of Officer and Soldier", which states officers should carry themselves in a serene and affable manner to help embolden their troops. Many real examples displayed this by walking calmly and never ducking in the face of bullets, and being unerringly polite whenever they spoke (possibly of chatting about the weather). While this concept was generally used among other Western armies of the time, true to the trope, none carried it out to the extent of the British. There was some advancement to this along with the rest of warfare's increasing lethality (for example, the officers of skirmishers in the 18th century were allowed to kneel while their troops lied prone, and in World War I, could take cover from artillery bombardment while in a trench), but the core concept remained - act like an an Officer and a Gentleman at all times.
  • 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, with astonishing sangfroid, left the field and went on board his yacht in Balaclava Harbor, where he ate a champagne dinner."
  • One of the many such examples in WWII was their response to the V-1 rocket; a flying torpedo, a sightless mechanical monster that had been falling out of the sky by the hundreds, each killing them in considerable numbers, and what do they nickname it? "The Doodlebug."
  • 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 I.
  • The Duke of Wellington, by all accounts. Ian Hislop has presented a documentary on this concept, and credits him as being something of a Trope Maker, as it wasn't really recognized 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, announcing that he had to kill the Duke. Wellington asked, "Does it have to be right now?" 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." Another account from his aide-de-camp even states he made light of the situation by cracking a joke about how his playboy days were coming to an end (he was 47 years old at the time) and that it would be unfair for him to cut younger men out of the game for so long anyway.
  • The battle of Trafalgar involved 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 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 speech "Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter." And Horatio 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.
  • On the two occasions where, as head of state, Mannerheim was forced to shake hands with Adolf Hitler, he ordered his white gloves be incinerated afterwards as they were now too soiled to rescue. Declaring contempt for your forced ally — perceived as the lesser of two evils compared to Stalin — at a time when Germany was all-powerful needed balls.
    • He also made a point of smoking cigars at their meetings, just to underline the point of how much he hated the famously anti-smoking Hitler. Hitler never said a word.
  • Another outstanding Real Life example: When British Airways Flight 9, a Boeing 747, flew through a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia on June 24, 1982, 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.note 
  • Another incident, this time from the Korean War: a British force was eventually forced to retreat, having received no reinforcements and being reduced to throwing tinned rations at the enemy. The commanding officer's report to his American superiors stated that things were "a bit sticky". The Americans, failing to recognize textbook British understatement, did not send the necessary support until after they died practically to the last man. 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', and especially notable for how it defied the official government and media response which was as though World War III had been declared.
    • One man, who lived through The Troubles, responded by saying, "I've been blown up by a better class of bastard than this."
    • 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, 2005, 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. [beat] You know, that might actually be faster?
  • 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 firebomb went off in a cinema in Liverpool during WWII. Naturally, everyone assumed it 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 pulling 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-singlehandedly 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 King's 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. In The Last Englishman, a biopic about Wintle's career, it was revealed by Maurice Miola, the head of the garrison in which Wintle was imprisoned, that his sheer patriotism and fortitude had inspired all 280 men stationed there to join the Résistance after he'd been transferred to another prison.
    • 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 also 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." Beatty is not looked upon favorably today for his role in the battle, though no one can say he lacked for courage.
  • 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. Goodbye."
  • 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-shipsnote —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 (the people responsible having been blown off of their feet by the shock waves of the explosives; a few extra minutes to dust off and recompose oneself afterwards is completely understandable), 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."
  • During The Blitz, numerous children were evacuated from cities to the countryside, or to Canada. When it was suggested to Queen Elizabeth that her daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret be evacuated from London, she responded
    The Princesses will not leave without me, and I will not leave without the King, and the King will not leave."
    • Similarly, when a bomb exploded in the garden of Buckingham Palace while the Royal Family was in residence, she said "Well, now we can look the East Endnote  in the face."
  • 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.
  • 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 officers 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 shout "Not bloody likely!" and then get out of the other side of the car.
  • 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 grueling 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 signaled back "Hebrews 13:8". In the King James Version of the Bible, that verse reads: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." 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."
    • Similarly, Emma Watson commented on this when she attended two premieres of the same film, one in America, one in the UK.
      Emma: The British audiences come out and say, "Well, that was very good." The American way is, "THAT WAS AWESOME!"
  • The imitable Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Seton, HM 74th Highlanders:
    • HMS Birkenhead wrecked on 26 February 1852 off the coast of Africa. She wasn't carrying enough lifeboats for all her passengers; most of them were soldiers, who stayed aboard the ship to allow the women and children to take the lifeboats. This had never been done before. When the ship was going down, her captain told the soldiers to jump overboard and swim for the boats; Seton, realising that this would risk swamping the boats and killing the women and children, ordered the men to stand fast, and they almost universally did.
    • In the word he chose for his orders on the Birkenhead's deck:
      When the Army complement mustered on deck, addressing his officers: "Gentlemen, would you please be kind enough to preserve order and silence among the men, and see to it that any orders given by Captain Salmond are instantly obeyed."
    • And:
      The last order he was to give - when the Birkenhead began to sink in truth, and Captain Salmond told the men mustered on deck to swim for the boats and save themselves: "You will swamp the cutter carrying the women and children! I implore you not to do this thing and ask you all to stand fast!"
  • Horrifyingly subverted in Robert Falcon Scott's diary during his ill-fated Antarctic expedition. After recounting the party's lack of food, isolation, and inability to go forward or back, he finishes with a flawlessly British: "It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more." But he then follows it with a final scrawl: "Last entry. For God's sake look after our people."
  • During the 2017 London Bridge attack, a man was seen running down the street still holding his pint. When questioned about this, he responded he wasn't leaving it behind - it cost six pounds!
  • In the last days of Queen Elizabeth II's life in 2022, she was suddenly taken ill from lingering complications from a Covid-19 infection she had suffered months earlier. Press releases concerning her health stated that doctors had placed her "under medical supervision" out of "concern" for her health. In the United Kingdom, this led to a flurry of outpourings of well-wishes and prayers and family members rushing to her side, while across the pond, American audiences were somewhat baffled by the urgency, as the impression given by the phrase "medical supervision" was that while she was ill, doctors would be monitoring her condition and tending to her until she recovered. It wasn't until a day or so later that follow up stories translated the British understatement for clearer consumption, as in American terms "under medical supervision" can best be read as "in critical condition".
    • Averted during the funeral ceremonies, with King Charles III was visibly on the verge of tears at several points in the ceremony, especially when he placed the company colours on his mother's coffin, and when God Save The King was sung. Also averted with Elizabeth's great grand-daughter Princess Charlotte, who was able to maintain composure during the funeral but after the service was seen in tears over her great-grandmother's passing.

Alternative Title(s): Imperturbable Englishman