These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling,
And took their wages, and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.
-- A.E. Housman
In the First Battle of Ypres (1914), a whole regiment of British regulars was wiped out acting as rearguard to the retreating army. Derided as "mercenaries" by the Germans, who had a conscript army, Housman immortalized the professional soldiers of the British Army with these lines.