Ambassadors and artists are easy on crossword solvers – they allow only a small set of abbreviations to represent them. An ambassador is HE (=His/Her Excellency), an artist RA (=Royal Academy) or occasionally ARA (=Associate of the Royal Academy).
Soldiers are a lot more trouble - the word "soldier" could lead to a whole range of 2 and 3 letter substitutions.
Take a look at the popular ones:
The "soldier" ant is a type of ant with a comparatively large head and better fighting abilities. Soldier = ANT is fair in cryptic clues; the word "soldier" may be tagged with "perhaps" to signal a definition-by-example but nowadays it isn't considered mandatory.
Times 24728: One gets fed up with soldier challenging authority (7) DEFIANT
(I FED)< ANT (soldier)
GI is a nickname for an American soldier (remember GI Joe?). GI is used as an initialism for Government Issue but it has an interesting history: an earlier GI (1908) was an abbreviation of galvanized iron, and was used by American soldiers in WW1 as slang for German artillery shells. Read more.
Guardian 25249 (Orlando): Movement uniting female soldier with second-in-command (6) ADAGIO
ADA (female) GI (soldier) [c]O[mmand]
"Man" stands for "soldier", "men" for "soldiers".
Times 24661: Replacing soldier ahead of time as source of intelligence (9) INFORMANT
IN FOR (replacing) MAN (soldier) T (time)
Everyman 3363: Hear about soldiers with TA stuck inside a drainage basin (9,4) CATCHMENT AREA
MEN (soldiers) TA, inside CATCH (hear) RE (about) A
Michel Ney was a French soldier during the French Revolutionary wars. He is often described as "soldier" or "old soldier" in cryptic clues.
Guardian 24984 (Araucaria): Place old soldier on Thames (6) PUTNEY
PUT (place) NEY (old soldier)
OR stands for Other Ranks - those personnel in the army who are not commissioned officers. OR is generally used in the plural form.
Times Jumbo 904: Like the start of a speech old soldiers face (8) EXORDIAL
EX (old) OR (soldiers) DIAL (face)
Para is a member of the Parachute Regiment in the British Army, trained to land in combat areas by parachuting from airplanes.
Times 24808: Soldier on horse overriding (9) PARAMOUNT
PARA (soldier) MOUNT (horse)
RE stands for Royal Engineers, one of the corps of the British army.
Times 24706: Tough soldiers and one protected by mum (9) RESILIENT
RE (soldiers), I (one) in SILENT (mum)
Strictly speaking RE should be used in the plural form, but it isn't unusual to see it as an abbreviation for the singular "soldier".
FT 13660 (Armonie): Command soldier, in a manner of speaking (9) DIRECTION
RE (soldier) in DICTION (a manner of speaking)
TA is the Territorial Army, a volunteer force of the British Army. TA could also be clued as "volunteers" or "reserves".
Times Jumbo 914: Volunteer soldiers in search with soldier possibly fighting (9) COMBATANT
TA (volunteer soldiers), in COMB (search) ANT (soldier possibly)
Guardian 25216 (Pasquale): Peril that besets soldiers (6)
Times 24798: Men trapped by river in spate (7)
Sunday Times 4416: Away for time, some soldier potentially dropped (4)
Times Jumbo 914: Soldiers box gunners — they play together (9) __C_E____
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