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Royal Navy in World War 2

NAVAL LIFE and CUSTOMS, Part 2 of 2

by Lt-Cdr John Irving, RN

Links to Main World War 2 Pages:
- Royal Navy Organisation
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- 1,000 Warship Service Histories
- Convoy Escort Movements
- Battles, Major Warship Losses
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- Navies Daily, 1939-42
- Admiralty War Diaries
Another battleship - HMS Resolution (courtesy - Maritime Quest)

return to Part 1
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So far we have chiefly contented ourselves with viewing the ship and its officers and men "off service," that is to say, in their own quarters and virtually off duty. Now let us see them at work.


Everything that goes on in a ship has its basis in routine. There is a special routine for the daily work in harbour, and a special routine for Sundays in harbour; there is a sea routine as well. The design and framing of the ship's routine is the sale prerogative of her Executive Officer. As "Chief Housemaid" he has to set aside adequate time for his ship to be cleaned, swept and garnished. He has to fit in the meal hours "laid-down" by regulations. He has so to adjust matters that the day's work does not begin too soon, with no daylight to see what is being done, nor end too late when efforts are beginning to flag. He must make the most economical use of the hands available during working hours, dealing in "bodies" rather than in the "paper-strength" of his complement, for there are always men away on leave and attending "courses" somewhere or other. He must allow for a number of men being detached from ship routine for the various training duties required by the gunnery and torpedo officers. He must set aside time for "colours," cleaning guns, "defaulters," fire stations, and the various general drills - wholesale seamanship exercises which the flagship from time to time inflicts upon her squadron. A mammoth task this, for upon its success depends the smooth running and efficiency of the ship from stem to stern. from truck to keel.


Let us then follow an ordinary day in harbour through this triumph of the Executive Officer's organising skill. The actual routine, as he drew it up, is printed by the ship's Royal Marine printers - and not only is there a copy hung up on every mess-deck and living space, but the key copy is framed over the Quartermaster's Desk at "the break" of the quarterdeck. From that point the ship's routine is "run" in harbour: the Quartermaster of the watch on deck makes it run, and the Officer of the Watch is responsible that it does run, and to the minute.


We Begin our Day with the Morning Watch


Let us then start "while it is yet dark," in the small hours of the morning watch, with the Officer of the Watch drinking a steaming cup of hot cocoa in the shelter of the after-turret, and the Quartermaster doing the same thing at his desk in the greater shelter of the quarter-deck screen doors. The first item on his printed "Daily Routine" will be "Call cooks and galley party." There will be no printed time for this: the ship's cooks know how long it will take them to get the first meal prepared and they will have "put themselves down" for a call in the gangway quartermaster's call book, The Royal Marine Corporal of the Gangway has looked at this and, with a glance at the clock, speeds away to give these first risers their "shake." Then comes "Call Duty Regulating Staff, Boatswain's Mates and Buglers" - they too are rousted out. Next, "Call men under punishment," and there's a time set down for that, for one of the means of expiating a minor "jankers" crime in the Navy is to have to turn out before the rest of the hands. Now comes "Call the hands: lash up and stow: hands to wash and dress." That will be printed in heavy black type for it is a "key time." The Regulating Staff (crushers) post themselves at vantage points on the mess-decks; the boatswain's mates and buglers take up their posts; the Marine Corporal of the Gangway stands by the ship's bell; the Quartermaster switches on the ship's broadcast system and stands, "pipe" in hand, watching the clock. As its minute hand touches the routine time for calling all hands he nods, the marine strikes the bell with a thunderous clash, the Quartermaster's pipe sets up a high-pitched squealing wail throughout the ship, and the ship's buglers sound off Reveille.


Father-and-Mother of a Hullabaloo


All over the ship there starts at once the father-and-mother of a hullabaloo. "Crushers" and Boatswain's Mates hail the waking sailors with "All 'ands, All' ands; Roust out and shine there, roust out and-shine! Show a leg there; show a leg! - Sun's a burning your eyes out!" None of them lack lung power, and their combined chorus would waken the dead. Still some of the older hands do not stir: they cock a wary eye over the canvas lip of their hammock and tuck down for "just another snore." Rude hands, however, seize the hammock and shake it: ruder backs get underneath it and bump it - and in the end all are out on the deck, dressing. Then a scramble for a wash, the hammocks are unslung, lashed and stowed away in the hammock bins, under the bitter eye of the Duty Mess Deck Petty Officer, and the night is over. It is the same at the after-end of the ship where the midshipmen also are astir and turning out, "cleaning" into cricket shirts and grey flannels, for they have a good half-hour's "P.T" to put in before bath and breakfast.


Again the loud-speaker hails the mess-deck "Away picquet-boat." This is the first boat of the day, and its crew hurry on deck and man their boat over the lower-boom. lts engine-room staff has already got steam ready and, taking in tow a couple of cutters from the boom-lizards, the steamboat drops down to the port gangway to collect the Marine postman who will bring early newspapers - and the midshipman of the boat who wasn't quick enough to man her over the boom! The cutters are wanted to bring off those Libertymen who have been ashore all night on leave.


Sorting Out for the Great Clean-up


The next item of routine is to get the ship clean, and throughout the ship the bugles ring out Watches for exercise fall in, One by one and in groups of twos and threes "the hands" appear from every forward hatchway. They sort themselves out into their "tops" each with its petty officer, Captain-of-the-Top, in front. He checks over their names with a list that he carries in a notebook. The Chief Boatswain's Mate checks over with the Captains of Tops that all are present - and along the deck comes the Commander himself, his feet thrust into short sea-boots, and with a muffler round his neck - up at the same time as his men and waiting to detail them to the various jobs that will keep his ship fighting fit and clean. The Boats' Officer has one or two early jobs to be done in his boats, and the Commander allocates "one hand from each part" to him; the Chief Gunner also has a few outstanding jobs, and the Commander says Carry on the Gunner's Party. At length all the minor demands upon the available hands have been made and met - then clean ship with the remainder and the Commander orders "Part of the ship the rest!" and away they go.


Forecastlemen collect their treasured "FX "-marked brooms and buckets, Foretopmen theirs, and Quarterdeckmen theirs. The canvas hoses, often leaking at the joints, and known more affectionately as "water-snakes," are coupled up to the fire-hydrants along the deck. Someone passes the word to the engine-room to "start the fire-main": streams of water are soon cascading everywhere. Squads of sailors in seaboots with hard scrubbers scrub steadily and evenly across* (*Scrubbing across the grain makes more noise than scrubbing with the grain and therefore conveys the impression (entirely false) of great effort!) the wood planking from one end of the deck to the other; others follow behind them with longhaired coir brooms to sweep off the surplus water into the ship's side scuppers. Ahead of them their Petty Officer walks backwards as they advance, scattering handfuls of sand to be scrubbed well into the wood. That's the secret of a warship's white decks - sand and scrubbers, salt-water and elbow-grease. While one party cleans the deck, others, with hand-scrubbers groom the gangways and platforms. Down below the flats and passages are similarly being cleaned and washed, mopped and dried.


And so to a Well-earned Breakfast


Again the bugle rings out - this time the call is for Guard and Band. Down in the Marine "Barracks" there is much final polishing of buttons and brass instruments, much settling of tunics and squaring of belts and side-arms and the ship's Marine Guard and Marine Band comes trooping up on to the midship deck where a Royal Marine Officer is already waiting for them. The Guard falls in and is inspected minutely by the Marine Officer: the Band falls in abaft the Guard. Right aft on the quarter-deck a signalman appears with a large harbour ensign under his arm; at the stem, another waits with a small stem-head Union Flag. A quarter-to-eight! The bugler sounds Cooks to the Galley, and the "cooks of messes" put away their brooms and go below to get the breakfast for their respective messes. The petty officers in charge of cleaning-parties, satisfied that their section is clean, tell the hands to "pack it in" and stow away their gear. The bugler sounds the Secure as an order for this and a minute or two later the Disperse, a signal for the hands to go below. Five minutes to eight; the boatswain's "calls" draw out their wailing Ha-a-a-a-nds to Breakfast, and the ship's company on the mess decks sits down to the first meal of the day.


Colours are Soon to be Made


At the ,same moment, high up on the signal bridge, the bunting-tossers are hoisting the horizontally blue-and-white striped Preparative Flag which indicates that by flagship time "Colours" are to be "made" in precisely five minutes, at which instant the "preparative" will be hauled down. The Chief Yeoman of Signals slips aft and reports the preparative signal to the Captain and Commander. The Commander, fully dressed by now, comes up on deck, where in a couple of minutes he will be joined by the Captain. Further forward the Officer of the Guard turns his Guard and Band aft, and to the strains of A Life on the Ocean Wave the Royal Marine Guard is played into position, drawn up right across the quarter-deck under the great after-guns. The Captain comes on deck and is met with a salute from the Commander, from the Officer of the Watch, and from the Officer of the Guard - the first salutes of the day, and these he gravely returns.


The minute's tick quickly past and the ship falls silent. The Officer of the Watch watches the preparative signal for the slightest tremor of its halyards. Suddenly he sees them slacken - a sure sign that the signal is about to come down. It moves, and he hails aft "Preparative down, sir!" "Sound the Attention!" orders the Officer of the Guard, and his bugler "sounds off."


Sweet and clear the bugle notes ring out across the harbour waters from every big ship lying there. "General Salute - Present Arms!" the Marine Officer orders, and, as one man, his Guard presents arms; their bayonets flashing in the morning sun. With the last movement of their rifles the bandmaster lifts his baton and the strains of our National Anthem come crashing through the stillness. Every man on deck is still and facing aft; every officer is still and at the salute; the marine guard is motionless as so many statues, while slowly and solemnly the great white ensign climbs up its staff towards its gilded truck. There at last, it takes a lazy flap in the morning breeze, then spreads itself  like a cloak astern. Its slow hoisting comes to an end with the last thunderous roll of the anthem, the signalman belays its halyards and sets up the lacing which holds it taut in to the staff.


The Ship's Company Carries On Again


"Guard - Slope Arms!" rings out the crisp order. Again that flash of bayonet in sunlight; Captain and Commander and Officer of the Watch drop their hands from the salute; the blue-clad ranks of the Royal Marines, their cap-bands showing startlingly scarlet against the sombre background of the after-turret's grey enamel, are motionless again. "Sound the 'Carry On'!" The bugler lifts his gleaming bugle: the staccato call pierces the stillness; tension relaxes. Captain and Commander turn for'ard to watch the Guard move off, and everywhere about the upper deck movement begins again till the quickening hum of life is once more beard from one end of the ship to the other. Captain and Commander chat for a moment or more as the Guard and Band are dispersed to their "barracks"; the Officer of the Guard passes a joke with the Officer of the Watch; then breakfast, each to his own mess. The ship's official day has begun. All over the world that ceremony of Making Colours goes on aboard His Majesty's ships of war. The same solemnity, the same respect from officer and man. We have seen it in Icelandic harbours and in the stillness of Antarctic ice, in the shadow of the Andes, and with the China coast like a thin yellow-brown ribbon to leeward. In ships where there is no Guard and no Band - ships like destroyers and other "little ships" a whistle is blown for Attention! and blown again for Carry on! But the principle is always the same.


Everybody who Comes Aboard is Checked


With the Colours fluttering in the breeze and the officers and men at breakfast, the deck is comparatively clear for a while. Boats come alongside and depart, each arrival and departure watched carefully by the Officer of the Watch. Everyone who comes aboard is checked overside by the Corporal of the Gangway, who assures himself that they are "authorised persons" within the scope of his orders. Stores that arrive are dealt with by their departments. Any wines or spirits or beer that come aboard for the canteen or officers' messes must be noted down in the gangway book, parcels in the parcels' book. In addition, every single thing that occurs affecting the ship herself must be recorded in the Deck Log - the time the picquet-boat went ashore; who came aboard; what ships entered harbour or left; any man or officer drafted out of the ship or joining it. Though outwardly this mealtime may seem an idle hour it is just as busy as any other time for the gangway staff.. Above all, the Quartermaster is still the Presiding Genie of Routine: he must still keep an anxious eye on the clock.


Breakfast comes to an end at last and the bugler blows Out Pipes. It is really the official Cease Fire call but it is always used in the Navy to signify that smoking must stop. A moment later he sounds off the Officers' Call at the entrance to the officers' quarters. This call brings the various Divisional and other officers to the quarter-deck where they stand yarning for a moment while the Royal Marine boy-buglers fall-in in the waist of the ship. With an eye on the clock the Officer of the Watch orders them to sound off and, blowing as one man, the row of buglers sounds off Divisions, the call to the morning parade. While the call is sounding throughout the ship everyone should be motionless: quite why this is so we do not know - it is just another of those customs. But as the last notes vanish in the air there is a rush for ladders and hatchways as the Boatswain's Mates pipe through the broadcast system Han-an-an-an-an-ds to Divisions.


Strict Ceremony of Divisions


Everybody on board is supposed to attend these daily Divisions except men who have been exempted on an "Excused List." This list, drawn up by the Commander, excuses certain cooks and writers, carpenters and the like and various special parties because they have work to do which is best left uninterrupted. There are also always a few ratings who "dodge the column" and nip round corners in advance of the regulating staff as they tour the decks in search of such dodgers. From time immemorial such evaders are known as the "hook-rope party." Sometimes a man will appear at Divisions with a recently torn jumper - not time enough yet to mend it. Then, lest this be spotted by "the Bloke," he will be told surreptitiously to "join up with the hook-rope party" and keep out of sight until the parade is over.


At Divisions the Ship's Company falls in, each man according to the Division to which he belongs. The Forecastle Division usually falls in in the Starboard Waist, with the Boys next to them: on the port side are the Topmen and Stokers' Division. On the quarterdeck we find, on the starboard side the Royal Marine Detachment, and on the port side the Quarter-deck Division of the seamen. Elsewhere may be drawn up the Dayman's Division - the division which includes signalmen, wireless men, and various non-watchkeepers. First of all the Divisional Petty Officers and the midshipmen of the divisions check over the muster with the nominal list of names in .their possession; absentees from this parade must later explain why - and where! Then the midshipman will take a quick look round his division before calling it to attention and reporting it Present to his Divisional Lieutenant. The latter now inspects the Division man by man and rank by rank. He has an eagle-eye for dirty boots, unshaven chins, torn clothes and the like, for men who do not stand upright or who do not look well. His detailed inspection complete at last he moves away, standing his men at ease and easy.


"Ship's Company Present, Sir!"


After a few moments the bugle blares out a single note - "one 'G '" this is called. This is the signal for all divisional officers to report, and, calling his division to attention our Forecastle Divisional Officer marches right aft to the quarter-deck where the Commander, standing alone under the muzzle of the after-turret guns, awaits his report. The divisional officer salutes and reports Forecastle Division correct, sir. The Commander acknowledges the salute, the Lieutenant salutes again, turns on his heel and marches back to his men to stand them at ease once more. Each officer in turn makes his report - officers of seamen divisions, the Senior Royal Marine Officer and the Engineer Officer in charge of the stokers. When the last has made his report the Commander, in his turn, spins round and reports to the Captain, aft under the ensign - "Ship's company present, sir!" and the muster-roll is complete.


A quaint ceremony, maybe, and one which some young people regard as a waste of time. It is, however, a survival of the days of sail when it was necessary in the morning to check up on the personnel to make sure that no one had fallen overboard from aloft in the dark watches of the night. For the same reason one had Evening Quarters at four o'clock in the afternoon in a ship to ensure that no one had gone overside unnoticed during the day. The purpose of these "checks" no longer exists, but even with the modem community it is as well to have one stated time in the day when everybody shall be properly dressed, shaved, and "cleaned," and for that primary reason Divisions is retained.


The Captain receives the Commander's report that his ship's company is present, thanks him - that is always part of the ritual - and then orders "Lay aft for prayers!" Sometimes one hears the newer term "Close aft for prayers," but we ourselves would far rather see the retention of the old sea term Lay aft! The Commander turns about and orders the Close to be sounded: again the bugles ring out along the deck.


Centuries-old Ritual of Daily Prayer


At each Division the Divisional Officer falls out his Roman Catholic sailors, who withdraw to a secluded part of the ship; the remainder, in threes, are marched aft into a compact mass on the quarter-deck to the strains of the Royal Marine band lustily playing the ship's favourite march from their "bandstand" on top of the after-turret. Non-divisional officers such as "Guns" and "Torps" and the others may, perhaps, gather on the quarter-deck behind the Commander, and up through the after-hatchway comes the ship's Chaplain in cassock and surplice, his naval stole - ends a-flutter in the breeze. "Off caps - Stand easy," orders the Commander and, from end to end of the deck, each head is bared for Morning Prayer. At a sign from the Chaplain the band strikes up the first bars of a hymn, most certainly one that everyone has known since childhood; printed Service hymn-cards pass from hand to hand in the "congregation" and maybe a thousand men sing. One has to hear a battleship's complement singing a well-remembered hymn across a foreign harbour to realise the part this plays in naval routine. A few prayers, each ending with a deep-throated Amen, that splendid prayer for the fleet written by Bishop Sanderson in 1603 and used daily, by regulation, throughout the Navy, the prayer that asks that He will


bless us Thy servants and the Fleet in which we serve. . . that we may be a safeguard to such as pass upon the sea upon their lawful occasions. . . that we may return to enjoy the blessings of the land and the fruits of our labours"


a sailor's prayer heard daily by Royal Navy sailormen all the world over. The blessing and prayers are over and the Chaplain goes below again. "Attention. On caps. Turn for' ard, right and left turn. Double march," comes the order. The band strikes up a lively "double" tune and the mass of men moves off, each division to the position it occupied along the deck to begin with. Arrived there, "jerks" are the order of the day for the next ten minutes or so, each divisional P.T. instructor taking charge of his own Division. Then comes a "one 'G'" blast on the bugle once again, jumpers are put on and the whole ship's company, to the strains of the band and headed as often as not by the Commander in person, doubles two or three times round the whole upper deck for further exercise.


Watches for Exercises Fall In


But time is passing and the whole working day cannot be given up to parades and prayers and physical exercises, much as some people would like it. The Commander has his ship to run, so the "one 'G'" call comes again. The doubling-round stops and the Divisions come to rest. The "Bloke" orders "Sound the Disperse." Each Divisional officer dismisses his men. Before they have time to take more than a couple of steps, however, the bugle has sounded off Watches for exercise fall in, and the hands muster as they did first thing in the morning, to be detailed for the forenoon's work.


Parties for a Thousand-and-one Jobs


Once more the Commander, aided by his henchman, the Chief Buffer, satisfies the minor claims made on them: the painter wants a special painting party below decks to paint out the Chapel - they have to be craftsmen for there's some "lining" to be done, and the. Commander picks out men who had done some painting before they joined up. The Boatswain wants a "side party" over the side in the copper-punt again: a storeship came alongside in the early morning and her hazelwood fenders have scored the paint; the Chief Gunner wants his party again to parcel up and return some cordite for test at the depot; he also wants a magazine crew for drill and training. The Gunnery Officer wants his range-finder operators and control crews - it is a nice clear morning and there's a chance to exercise them with advantage; in addition, two of his six-inch guns crews must go to drill; the Torpedo Gunner wants his torpedo party to do some job in the flat below; the electrical artificer wants his electric light party to repair some broken circuits.


Each in his turn asks for what he wants - and gets it - and the Commander looks with a somewhat wry smile at the dwindling few that remain, for he himself has quite a big job to be done - all the wire-ropes - long, 112-fathom lengths coiled on canvas-covered reels - have to be unreeled and oiled and reeled up again to preserve them. He also wants to get the falls of one of the sea-boats changed over end-for-end and re-rove. So when he has met the last of the specialists' demands he smiles at his Chief Buffer and tells him to take the rest for his wires and boat-falls - and the forenoon's work is under way. The ship's upper deck, which was deserted and almost silent during breakfast, which became in turn a parade-ground and a church and an exercise arena, now hums with professional activity. The Commander casts his eye around, satisfies himself that everything is "buttoned up," as he would say and takes a leisurely but all-seeing stroll round his domain.  Just as his upper-deck buzzes with energy, so do the flats beneath, so do the control positions. Let us take a look at each in turn.


Getting the Guns Dead On the Target


The range-finder crews and the control parties are already hard at work by the time we reach their lairs. Out on the skyline, far beyond the anchorage, can be seen the smoke and upper works of a passing westbound steamship. For the moment she is the "enemy." "Target a steamship, two masts, two funnels," directs "Guns," from the control tower. Voice-pipe and telephone echo their details of the target to all the control positions and down to the nerve centre below decks where the bandsmen sit at their instruments.


"Bearing-red five-one," he continues, and the rangefinder-trainers turn their training wheels until the gaunt instruments are trained dead on the "target." At once the range-takers begin their work, twiddling their knobs until in their eye-pieces they see two divided images become one. Instantaneously they foot-pedal the news of their "cut" to the nerve centre below decks, where cunning instruments convert the "cut" to a range in yards and, when several such ranges come in from different range-finders, neatly average them. Faster and faster twirl the knobs: more and more ranges come pouring in - the exercise is working perfectly.


"Shift target!" orders "Guns."  "New target - a fishing smack; one mast, red sails, bearing red two two!" Round come the range-finders, a moment or two of time-lag and the pedalling begins again, and the chain of control is once more at work. Target after target is found and ranged on - the teams are working well together. If only the "targets" had been real enemies, thinks the Gunnery Officer, and a grim smile comes to his lips. Not only this morning, but day in and day out these control parties of his practise and practise and practise, until efficiency becomes super-efficiency, and even better than that.


Years and years of practice just like this and then, maybe, an hour of a running action-an enemy found by accident. And all this practice and training in that one hour gives us the victory.


Torpedo Men Also Keep Technique Bright


From the masthead, down we go to the bowels of the ship where the torpedo party has the steel hatch of the for'ard torpedo flat open and the men are hoisting red-nosed dummy collision torpedo warheads through in readiness for some torpedo-running practice when the ship again puts to sea. These collision heads, for practice purposes, take the place of the real warheads filled with their deadly load of high explosive. They are ballasted to an ounce to be the same weight, but if they hit - no doubt, "Torps" would rather we had said when they hit  -this collision head collapses and does not damage the friendly ship fired at. Alternatively if the torpedo misses it comes to the surface, nose up, at the end of, its headlong career through the water, and in the nose of this dummy head there is a small calcium flare which gives out a mark-light at night and a puff of grey smoke (and an appalling smell) by day to aid in the recovery of this expensive weapon.


Further along the ship still we come to the electric light party; mysteriously chasing their "earths," opening junction boxes and section boxes in quest of blown fuses and generally checking the whole electric wiring of a section which has showed a minor fault.  In the Chapel, a small space set apart for this purpose, the special painting party is at work redecorating with infinite care - for this is a part of the ship in which invariably all hands take a particular pride. Although we believe that weddings on board ship are either no longer permitted or else are discouraged, christenings of the children of officers and men do take place here, on which occasions, by tradition, the ship's bell, inverted, is used as the font.


All About a Sailor's Wedding-day


Mention of weddings calls to mind that one can always tell if an officer or a man in a warship is being married that day for, by ancient custom, his shipmates hang a large garland of evergreen at the principal masthead, and keep it there from sunrise till sunset. Incidentally, they like to take part in the ceremony ashore too, and by hitching gun-drag-ropes (suitably whitened) on to the front of the car they "draw" the bride and bridegroom after the ceremony from the church to their reception - with the Chief Buffer riding on the top of the car, Boatswain's "call" in hand.


How these ceremonies came into being no one knows, though probably the masthead garland has some far off pagan parentage similar to the traditional custom of breaking a bottle of wine over the bows of a new warship as she is launched. That, indeed is a picturesque ceremony - the crowds of workmen who have fashioned the steel monster; the crowds of public, there to watch; the flash of the broken wine-bottle past the stem of the ship as she starts to move down the ways. Then come the gathering cheers and the first white kiss of the foam as her keel touches water, and the rising thunder of chains and falling timbers, and above it the crescendo of the moving ship herself taking to her rightful element where she will "safeguard all such as pass upon the seas upon their lawful occasions." That broken wine-bottle is a survival from the pagan days when the sea had its own sea god, and, to safeguard a ship, a libation of wine was poured into the sea to appease that sea god.


Even the Sailor's Smoke is Organised


And so, upon deck again, to where the long two-inch and three-inch wires are being reeled carefully off their drums, then, before they are tightly reeled on again, are oiled over carefully to preserve their strength and flexibility. A "pipe" breaks in on the activity - Place spitkids, and small wooden half-tubs are placed in various positions about the upper deck. A spitkid is a maritime spittoon, and to-day is a reminder of those days when sailors chewed rather than smoked tobacco, and spat vigorously and often, days when, as the old saying goes "to spit brown and call a cat a flat-tailed shemale" was the hall-mark of the seaman. Nowadays the spitkids are there primarily as receptacles for cigarette ends and pipe dottles, for "the Bloke" has been known to verge upon an apoplectic stroke at the sight of a cigarette stub negligently nestling upon his deck planking. A moment later, and the bugle call all have been awaiting rings out - Stand easy. All over the ship work that can be dropped is dropped, out come the pipes and the cigarettes on the upper deck, and for ten welcome minutes the hands smoke and yarn. Then it's Out Pipes (Cease fire) on the bugle and Clean out and stowaway spit kids on the boatswain's pipe, and the work goes on where it left off.


Not for all, however, for several will shortly be required to attend Commander's Requestment and Defaulters, the ship's daily "Petty Sessions" for which the Master-at-Arms and his minions are already rigging the scenery in the shape of a green-baize-covered table on the break of the quarter-deck. "Requestmen and Defaulters" is an interesting custom - for the Requestmen at least. It reaffirms the great democratic principle afloat that a man "in bad" is judged in open court, and a man "in good "- that is to say one who has become entitled to advancement - is also rewarded in public.


Rights are Solidly Based on Justice


The bugler summons defaulters and men with requests to make - requests for another good conduct badge, or to go to the gunnery school for a "rescrub," a refresher course, or for compassionate leave. These come first before the Commander, and as far as he can he deals with them; important cases, as also with defaulters who are more than minor offenders, are dealt with weekly by the Captain.


There are many things enshrined in this naval petty sessions. For instance, any man, irrespective of his rating, who believes that he has been treated unjustly - that he has a just complaint about something - may ask to see the Commander and state that complaint openly and fairly. Let him beware, however, lest he call it a grievance - for no Commander worth his salt will tolerate that word in his ship. If possible the matter is adjusted summarily, but even so, if the complainant considers he has not received adequate satisfaction he may ask to see the Captain, and from him carry his case to the Commander-in-Chief and beyond if he wishes. At every stage in the chain the case is ventilated without any question of the complainant being victimised. Moreover, if he wishes it to go to a higher authority, his request cannot be gainsaid. Now and then one comes across a "sea-lawyer" in a ship, the argumentative sort of man who is never pleased with anything and whom - even a Solomon's judgment could not satisfy. Happily such men are rare - their own messmates cure them in time. In general, however.....naval justice is summary justice - and is probably the fairest in the world. From the petty sessions of the Commander's table to the "High Court" of a court martial, a man is being judged by ordinary men who are his professional peers and who have all been "through the mill " themselves.


Naval Petty Sessions in Progress


Still, here we are not dealing with a court-martial with its Union Flag at the foremast of the ship on which it is held and its one-gun salute for the victim at Colours on the morning of "the day." Here we have Petty Sessions, and the defaulters and requestmen are ready assembled. Before the Commander appears all the witnesses for each case are marshalled and the Master-at-Arms usually reads a homily to the appellants as to how they must behave. Telescope under arm, the Commander steps to his place on "the Bench" behind the green-baize table and looks thoughtfully at the row of men in front of him. The first name is called and a stalwart Able Seaman steps squarely to the front of the table and salutes; he is a requestman and keeps his cap on. The Master-at-Arms, reading from his Request Book, recites that this man is applying for the restoration of his first Good Conduct Badge. In front of the Commander is this man's service certificate containing every detail of his career ever since he joined the Navy: within its folds are the more detailed reports of the various officers he has served under, also his Conduct Sheet, setting out the misdemeanour for which he was "dipped" the badge to begin with. At the latter the'" bloke" does not even glance, but turns instead to the man's own Divisional Officer who is there to help the case. Just a raised inquiring eyebrow, that is all - and the Divisional Officer says, "strongly recommended for restoration, sir!" The man stands like a graven image and "the Bloke" looks hard at him: inwardly he is thinking that this is a good chap who has had his" rap." "Recommended," says the Commander at length. " Recommended for restoration of first good conduct badge," thunders the Master-at-Arms, continuing almost in the same breath with "Right turn, double march." The man salutes and moves away, and the next requestman is summoned.


This one, says the Master-at-Arms, wants to see the Commander upon a private matter. The Commander nods and everyone withdraws out of earshot while seaman and officer put two heads together to solve one man's very private problem. Explanations over, the positions are resumed at the table, and the Commander turns to the Master-at-Arms with "I've given him four days compassionate leave starting from midnight tonight. Get him ashore as early to-day as you can, there may be an earlier train for him."


Sifting a Defaulter's Case


No more requestmen to-day, and the next to appear is a defaulter. He comes when his name is called, removes his cap and stands cap in hand before his judge. He should have come on board from shore leave by the 7.30 a.m. boat the previous morning but, not coming off till 11 a.m., was interrogated by the Officer of the Watch, and  by him placed in "the rattle." " Ordinary Seaman Smith," drones the Master-at-Arms, reading from the charge sheet "was absent without leave for three hours and twenty-seven minutes, i.e. from," and so on. "The Bloke" looks hard and long at the accused then turns to the witnesses with "Well?" The Officer of the Watch who first interrogated Smith on arrival late aboard speaks first, stating baldly the time, the boat, and adding that Smith had stated that he had missed his way to the jetty earlier on and, when he did come aboard, seemed to be considerably distressed because he was late. "Anyone else got anything to say?" says the" Bloke." "Yes, sir," speaks up the man's Divisional Officer, "I've always found Ordinary Seaman Smith to be punctual and a very keen and willing hand the whole time he's been in the ship, sir!" "Hm-m-m!" retorts the Commander, and again looks long and searchingly at the malefactor. Then "Well, now, tell me what you have, to say about it all." Smith goes a little red and, in his own language, explains that he set out from the Y.M.C.A. ashore, where he had slept the night, in plenty of time to catch the proper boat, but that someone has misdirected him and he had arrived eventually at the jetty end after the boat had left and was already half-way across the harbour. "Expect me to believe that?" grimly questions the" Bloke." "Yes, sir!" comes the straight answer. "H-m-m! I don't see why I shouldn't either. Your record's in your favour - but, and it's a big but - don't come here again; I remember faces too well! Case dismissed this time!" " Case dismissed! " thunders the Master-at-Arms at his elbow. "On caps! Right turn, double march."


Ritual of the Sailors' Grog


The next offender is called, and then the next, and so on, until the whole line has been dealt with. Here and there among them is a "bird" - a regular minor offender - whose case is not dismissed; others come in for a sharp caution; others again are bluntly told what the Commander thinks of them. At long last, however, the job is done and the Commander walks aft across the quarter-deck leaving the Master-at-Arms and his satellites to unrig their Petty Sessions Court as unobtrusively as they rigged it. "Defaulters" as an institution in a ship is a necessity, but it is a nuisance and takes up a great deal of the Commander's valuable time. Even, with the short list on this particular morning it is turned seven bells before it is over. Just a few minutes to go and then the bugle rings out with the Grog call.


Here at our hand is another interesting custom dating back a full two hundred years. Some half-an-hour previously, while the sailors on deck and below in their various parties were settling down to finish the forenoon's work, while the cooks were fast getting on with dinners for 1,400 men, and the Commander was hard at it with his defaulters and requestmen - an unobtrusive" pipe" rang through the ship - Up Spirits. At that order the Duty Warrant Officer, accompanied by the Chief Supply P.O., one of the Regulating Staff of crushers and several other worthies drew the key of the Spirit Room from the keyboard sentry, duly signing the key-book in his presence, and repaired to the murky and reeky Spirit-room. There, using the copper tools of their trade, they placed a long copper pump into the bung-hole of a full rum cask and drew off into a large vessel a quantity of neat spirit. This amount was then measured out carefully with the copper measures into just so many gills, and the remainder was poured back, the cask rebunged, the copper vessels dried and cleaned, the Spirit Room door locked, and the key returned to its board.


Eighteenth Century Origin of "Grog"


The amount of neat spirit drawn off represented the total amount of spirit to which all on board were entitled. In practice any rating (not officer) above the age of twenty is entitled to draw a free measure of rum each day - unless he happens to be out of the ship, or under punishment, or the issue is withheld by doctor's orders. Men who are teetotallers, or who wish to do without their spirit issue, can have a small money allowance instead, and quite half the Navy does this nowadays. Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers are permitted to have their rum neat - "nitters" as it is called - the remainder of the "hands" have two-water rum; that is to say rum that is broken down with water into "grog."


The very name Grog - carries us back to the Central American expeditions which Fielding describes. In these eighteenth century campaigns the ships operated in malaria swamps and under scurvy-infested conditions, and Admiral Vernon, their Commander-in-Chief, ordered an issue of spirit to be made to all hands for health reasons. He always wore grogram trousers, so his sailors called him "Old Grog," and the diluted spirit issue he ordered was called "Grog" after its donor. Once the raw spirit is removed from the Spirit Room it is placed in a small brass-bound barricoe (pronounced breaker in the Navy), locked, and carried aft where the barricoe and its key are placed in the charge of the sentry.


A Queer, but Interesting Custom


There it remains until the Serve out Spirits call is blown before dinner. At that time a "cook" from each mess takes a clean mess kettle along to the screen doors, and there joins a waiting queue of similar "cooks." A large half-cask is produced with GOD SAVE THE KING emblazoned on it in large brass letters. Into this barrel in the presence of a Supply P.O., a "crusher" and an officer the neat spirit is poured from the locked barricoe. First of all from the big half-cask is now drawn the neat spirit allowed to the P.O.s and C.P.O.s messes, etc. - each mess according to the number of rum-drawing occupants as set out in the Supply P.O.'s Check Book. Then comes the turn of the other messes whose occupants are entitled only to the diluted spirit. The precise amount of raw spirit left in the big cask being known, an exactly equal amount of water is added to it and well mixed in and then the distribution to each mess begins.


The first in the queue calls out the number of the mess he represents and also the number of rum takers in it "No. AA Mess - seventeen." The Supply P.O. compares this with what he has in his book and retorts "seventeen it is." Seventeen diluted tots - no more, no less - are then poured carefully into the mess kettle, and away the "cook " hurries with it to divide it out fairly and equably among his messmates. Usually the amount in the barrel exactly suffices; sometimes there is a little left when all have been served. This drop in the bottom, termed the ullage - is poured down the scuppers into the sea. A queer custom this, but one interesting to watch, for it has survived for so long and will survive for so very much longer.


With the departure of the last of the "cooks," however, dinner-time is getting close.. Already on deck the men have "secured" and put away their gear. Cooks to the galley has sounded long since, and the dinners are just coming on to the mess-deck waiting to be served out. Suddenly the long-awaited eight-bells crashes out on the upper-deck - twelve o'clock and dinner-time - and with the shrill wailing of the pipes and the boatswain's mate calling Han-an-an-an-ds to dinner we will leave the ship's company to their meal in peace.








Dinner-hour in most ships of war lasts from noon till a quarter-past one, when the hands "turn to" again for the afternoon's work. Dinner itself does not, of course, take up all that time. The meal is soon done and for the rest of the time the men scatter, each about his own business. The dinner-hour here, just as everywhere else on earth, is very much the private time of the individual and, with the exception of those actually on watch or duty or away in duty boats, the hands make the most of it. Some, naturally, remain below in their mess decks taking a caulk or a stretch of the land as the sailor terms his short "nap." Others have a bit of mending to do; others again want to finish off letters to catch the afternoon post ashore. Some read; a few play cards but not for money - at least not officially, for if the Regulating Staff catch them at this they'll be in "the rattle" as sure as fate, and their winnings and losings will in the end be forfeit to some charity or another. Some " drift" along to the canteen where almost everything that could be bought in a general store ashore can be purchased for hard cash.


Canteens nowadays in ships are run by N.A.A.F.I., the Navy, Army, and Air Force Institutes, and are self-supporting. A percentage of the profits made in all canteens - called "the rebate" - is sent back quarterly to each ship and is included in the Ship's Fund, a source from which such things as football-boots and jerseys for the ship's team are purchased and from which com

passionate help is accorded to men in domestic trouble. Canteens are usually quite large spaces with easy chairs, called  recliners," a newspaper stall with the latest books, novels and newspapers for sale, maybe even an ice-cream-making plant and an abundance of games such as darts, draughts, chess, and so on, for those who want them. Adjoining the canteen there is usually what is termed a recreation space with more chairs and tables and, lining the bulkheads, the cupboards containing the many volumes which comprise the Ship's Library. This is "opened" at certain stated times in the week when, just like any shore-going concern, those who want books can borrow or return them. The ship's schoolie (Schoolmaster) usually has the charge of this activity, under the general direction of the Chaplain, and frequent renewals of books are obtained either from such sources as Naval War Libraries or by purchase through the Ship's Fund.


Dinner-hour is Sailor's Off-duty Hour


If it is a fine, sunny day on deck; quite a number will take their half-hour's caulk stretched out in the sun on the white deck-planking. Then there are the dancers. It is almost traditional that during the dinner-hour the Royal Marine Band shall play to the ship's company on the upper-deck just as it plays for the Wardroom officers on their guest night. All the popular tunes are played to a most appreciative audience, and now and then some will get up and dance together to some particular craze-tune of the moment - and to the loudly-expressed amusement of the remainder. Dinner hour is the ship's off-duty hour and the matelot enjoys his leisure just as, in their messes, the C.P.O.s and P.O.s are enjoying theirs; the Warrant Officers are having their "catnap," the Wardroom Officers are either stretched out in their chairs or maybe playing billiards or snooker if the mess runs to a table, and the Gunroom in its own way enjoys its leisure.


Out Pipesand Back to Duty


Leisure hours come to an end everywhere, however, especially in a warship. At 1.10 the bugle sounds off Out Pipes, and the boatswain calls Clean out and stow away spitkids. Pipes are knocked out and cigarette ends nipped out, recumbent men yawn, stretch and stand up, messmates give the sleepers "a shake." Sharp to the moment at 1.15 the bugle summons all watches on deck again, and the same routine of "telling off the hands" for work about the ship is gone through once more. The Gunnery Officer wants more control parties this afternoon: he intends to practise one of the alternative systems only put into use when the main control has been killed or put out of action. No sleep for the "snotties" this afternoon - nine of them to a gun's crew, two guns' crews to drill. There's a nice smart breeze across the anchorage so the Commander sends two cutters away under sail to give the "boys" some boat drill under sail. Then there are more wires to be unreeled, greased and reeled up again, and the carpenter wants a small party to work on the cables with him.


The hands disperse to the various jobs for which they have been detailed and once, more all is orderly bustle. On the boatskids, in charge of their instructors, the "boys" are being initiated into the vagaries of lowering the two cutters used as sea-boats and always kept turned out and ready for use at sea. The griping bands are cast-off and-steadily and surely, always on an even keel, the boats are lowered. When a foot clear of the water, the lowering officer orders "Out pin - Slip," and with the disengaging gear at work the boat falls to the water.


With an officer and instructor to each boatload of twenty boys they soon have the masts up and stayed and the sails bent on and hoisted in the rutters. There is a series of sharp, crisp order "Settle down in the boat; set mainsail, check your sheet; hoist foresail, sheets to windward; bear off well for'ard with your boathook; hold on to your boatrope aft; helm hard up." The cutters begin to cant away fro the ship's side and, as the wind gets into their backed headsails, payoff ever more sharply. "Let draw foresail, aft main-sheet," and the sheets come in hand over hand as the sails are flattened down to the breeze. "Ease your helm," says the officer in charge to the helmsman - a boy. "Ease your helm and keep her going now close-hauled with the wind about four points on the bow; feel a little weather helm under your hand she'll go nicely like that." And away the cutters go - one off on the port tack, oneon the starboard; each with a bone under her forefoot. They'll spend the afternoon tacking and wearing, making sail and taking in sail, when they get clear of the anchorage. Running free, soldier's wind, reefing down, brailing up - all will be practised and explained to the boys who will in turn take the helm and learn to take charge.


Unofficial Boat-race after Instruction


Then, it is a foregone conclusion with the two lieutenants who are out there in charge, the two boats will mysteriously come together about three miles from the ship and will race home "flat-out" with the spray flying - a fitting end to an afternoon's instructions. Probably the Commander suspects this, more than probably he did the same himself as a young lieutenant. There is more than a twinkle in his eye as he stands on the starboard gangway and watches the starboard seaboat swing smartly away from the ship's side; more than a twinkle as he raises a megaphone to his lips and hails the lieutenant in charge - "Cutter, ease away your main brail; your mainsail looks like a sack of flour with a rope round the middle of it!" The" bloke" turns back to the quarter-deck with a grin. "Lucky young devil, "he's thinking - only to find the Captain at his elbow, also watching the cutters sail off a little wistfully. "Serve him right," says "the owner" with a chuckle, "nearly made me give up my afternoon's work and get the galley down for a sail." That galley of his, a long, lean smooth-sided boat with its "private suit" of red silk sails that is the owner's pride and joy and hobby. Not another galley in the fleet like it - for that matter not another captain can touch Nonsuch's at galley-sailing. He "collects" all the prizes at the regattas. Commander and Captain look up at the wind stretching out the ensign flat like a board. "Shall I get the galley in the water for you, sir?" asks the Commander. "No thanks - don't tempt me. We're sailing to-morrow forenoon and there's too much to do - my luck to miss a good breeze!" - and he saunters back to his Spartan forecabin.


"The Bloke" Goes on Tour


Off round his own domain goes "the bloke." Again a few words of advice to the men monotonously oiling and reeling the wires, the big five-inch towing wire - thick as a man's wrist - needs some coaxing. He goes along to the gun battery and watches the two guns crews of midshipmen at drill under a Gunner's Mate and satisfies himself that they are being well "chased." They are manning and handling the gun in exactly the same way as the regular gun's crew must do it - all according to "the drill." Instead of proper projectiles they are loading wood dummy shells and dummy cartridges, ramming them home into the long barrel whence they roll back aboard out of the muzzle down a canvas drillchute. This makes the drill realistic to a degree. They practise casualties and learn that "so long as one man only remains at a gun that gun must be loaded and fired as one shot may decide an action"  -instruction which has been given to countless guns' crews for a century - and which in action after action has borne its golden fruit. They practise replacing action-damaged parts of the gun with the spare parts which hang on the battery walls. They "change rounds" time after time until each" snotty" has had his turn at each position in the gun's crew, until each has had his turn of command until all know "the drill." Then there's a "spell-oh " while their instructor tells them, for the good of their gunnery souls of actual problems at a gun which he himself has encountered - problems he encountered as a "boy" at Glasgow's guns in the tragic Coronel fight in the last war, at Exeter's guns in the running fight with the Graf Spee in this war. These are the midshipmen who will in time be Officers of Quarters - in charge - of guns such as this, maybe in action. He sees to it that they know their job better than the guns' crews they will have to command.


Stand Easy for Smoke-oh!


So the afternoon wears on; cleaning, training, maintenance work and refitting proceeds steadily in one part of the ship or another. Half-way through the after-noon there is a bugle-heralded ten-minutes Stand Easy for "smoke-oh," then on with the job again. Just as the upkeep work continues above decks so it is in the engine-room. When she first came into harbour Nonsuch was ordered to remain at "four hours' notice for steam," that is to say she was to be ready to have steam for manoeuvring at four-hours' notice. The Engineer Commander had a number of minor upkeep jobs to be done on his main and auxiliary machinery, but in each case was limited to jobs that could be done in less than four hours. Ever since coming to an anchor, those jobs have been going steadily forward. Aloft on the signal bridges there were flags to be dried and mended, new signal halyards to be rove off. All over the ship jobs to be done and being done.


At last the clock over the Quartermaster's desk shows half-past three, and the Corporal of the Gangway strikes "seven bells." The Boatswain's Mate pipes the First Dog Watchman to tea, for they must have their tea before they relieve the deck at four o'clock. In Wardroom and Gunroom the officer of the First Dog Watch and the midshipman who will keep watch with him sit down to their respective teas. Five minutes later the bugle sounds the Secure, and workers all over the ship put away the tools of their trade. Disperse follows, then Cooks to the Galley to draw the mess-kettles of steaming tea and other things. Then, sharp at a quarter to four, the buglers sound off for Evening Quarters - another of those calls which require all hands to stand still, wherever they may be, until the last note of the call dies away. Once more the hands troop up on to the upper-deck and fall in by Divisions; once more they are mustered by their Petty Officers and reported to their Divisional Officers. Once more these officers march aft and in turn report to the Commander that their "quarters" are correct. "Sound the Disperse," orders the "bloke" when the last has reported: "Sound the Disperse; Pipe Tea." The "disperse" sounds out on the bugle, and simultaneously the Boatswain's call wails through the ship piping Hands to Tea and again the upper-deck is deserted while tea is in progress on the mess-decks.


Ready-made Name Awaits, You in the Navy

Down below all is animation - Nobby asks Pincher if he is going ashore; Shorty wants to know if Dusty has got all-night leave or is coming off in the midnight boat. We rapidly discover that not only has the sea a habit and mode of life all its own, and a language of its own creation, but that its devotees seem to have special family nicknames too. These names are of more than passing interest, for every Miller at sea had been nicknamed Dusty for many a long decade, just as every Parker has been a Nosey. All these family nicknames are more or less obvious and a selection of them here will show how well they fit, in:


CHARLIE Beresford

WIGGIE Bennett





NOBBY Hewett


PILLS Holloway



TOM King



DUSTY Miller

SPUD Murphy


NOSEY Parker


JACK Shepherd

SPIKE Sullivan

SNIP Taylor

BUCK Taylor

TUG Wi1son





These are by no means all the traditional Christian nicknames to be found on the mess-decks, and in the Wardroom too for that matter; but there are sufficient there to show the why and wherefore of them. In any case the reason for the name won't matter, and if your surname is Grey then DOLLY Grey you will assuredly be the whole of your Service career.


No sooner are they seated. at tea than the "leaf" is piped again - the precise details of which parts of the ship can go ashore and for how long. There is a scramble to get ready and when, at four-thirty, the bugle calls Liberty Men Fall In, the lucky ones are on deck, many of them, ready and waiting. The picquet-boat is called away at the same time, and the launch and pinnace boat-keepers to carry them ashore, and while these are manning their boats the Master-at-Arms checks over the names of all who are going ashore and reads a short summary of the port orders. Certain places, for example, are best left unexplored; all libertymen are to be careful to dress according to regulation and are to remember to salute all officers - instructions which are, we fear, honoured more in the breach nowadays than in the observance. They are warned that the ship is under sailing orders, which reminds them that if they miss the boat it will be considered as a serious offence; they are told quite clearly what time the boats leave shore and from what jetty.


Libertymen must be a Credit to Service


The Master-at-Arms, having finished his homily, then calls his libertymen to attention and reports them to the Officer of the Watch who, passing through the ranks, minutely inspects each man. Let a man appear in a dirty collar - it's below and change and wait for the next boat for him. One doesn't see sailors' caps perched precariously on the back of their heads - "flat aback" - at these inspections: that slovenly habit only begins when out of sight of the ship! At last the inspection is complete and "the Master" is told to "carry on."


The liberty boats are alongside the port gangways by now, and in single file the libertymen march down to the boats. At the head of the gangway stands a lynx-eyed "Crusher" and the Corporal of the Gangway. If he sees a man's coat bulge at the pocket he may just tap it casually as he passes; if a man carries a parcel ashore he may ask him to open it. This is not petty interference, but an important protection of one of the sailor's great privileges. From time immemorial he has been allowed to buy tobacco - either tobacco in the uncut leaf or shredded for pipe or cigarette - at prices which pay no King's duty on board ship. For instance a pound of some of the best pipe tobacco in the world can be bought once a month for half a crown! As this is "duty-free" tobacco, however, it must not be landed in quantities more than are needed for immediate use. There is always a chance that some greenhorn may try and take a tin ashore for his father, not realising that if the Customs Officer finds it on him he will get into serious trouble and, like all other privileges, there is always a chance of the privilege of duty-free tobacco being removed from everyone else at the same time. Hence the need for the quick "frisk" and the occasional opening of a parcel. It is just the same when liberty men return from shore. Again they are liable to be "fanned," not this time for tobacco, but in case any of them has brought any liquor on board, for that is absolutely against the rules.


All this is not a business which takes up any time, however, and soon the deck is clear of libertymen and the boats are full. "Carry on!" orders the Officer of the Watch, and the picquet-boat with its freight of humanity in tow starts in for the shore.


The Duty Watch Goes To It


One watch is ashore for the night, another is ashore until 11 p.m., that leaves just the Duty Watch aboard to work the ship- and for them a job is already in train.


Sharp at five o'clock the watch call sounds and the Duty Watch Falls in. Reported present to the Officer of the Watch he orders "Fire Stations. Fire in the Starboard Gangway." For any normal small fire on board a ship, the Duty Watch should provide sufficient of a fire-fighting force, and this force is exercised each evening in harbour. The various instructions contained in the ship's Fire Orders are complied with, the engine-room fire main starts up, the carpenter's party appears with axes and crowbars, the hoses are run across the deck to the starboard gangway. In almost less time than it takes to tell, half-a-dozen full-power jets are pulsing into the sea across the top of the gangway. "All right," says the O.O.W., satisfied with the prompt efficiency of arrangements. "Stop the fire main; dry off the hoses; replace gear. Finished with the Duty Watch.


When they have done that their work is done for the moment; but they must remain on call, so they lounge about or make models, or write letters, or what-you will, till supper when they "clean into night clothing." A peculiar thing about the Navy is that no one ever changes into this rig or that - he always cleans into it even if it happens to be his dirtiest suit of overalls. By night-clothing is meant, not night-attire, but an old pair of trousers, a jumper with no jean collar, and, maybe gym shoes (plimsolls). In this rig he can settle down in comfort to enjoy his evening.


Indeed, except for the work of routine boats' crews the sailor is, in harbour, left very much to himself after tea. At sunset the Colours are lowered, the bugle sounds off the Attention, and throughout the ship there is stillness and silence while the Ensign (and the stem-head Jack) are lowered slowly and solemnly to the strains of the sunset call on massed bugles. Then comes the Carry on and all is as it was before.


All Ready for the Rounds


His time is his own, in fact, quiet and undisturbed until 8.45 p.m. when the broadcast system "pipes" him to Clear off the decks for the Rounds. Up he comes from below - into the canteen or recreation spaces, or, if it is a fine night, on to the upper-deck while the "sweepers" below give a hurried sweep round and tidy up. The Commander is sitting reading in the Wardroom, maybe, when outside the door gathers a little cavalcade - Master-at-Arms, a "Crusher" with him, the Commander's messenger, a bugler, and another boy bearing a lighted lantern. Sharp to the minute, as two bells strikes, the Master-at-Arms doffs his hat, goes into the Wardroom and reports "Ready for the Rounds" to the Commander, at the same time handing him a slip of paper, the Daily State, showing how many men are aboard, how many on leave, how many are sick, and how much water remains in the tanks.


Joining the remainder of the retinue at the Wardroom door the Commander and his cavalcade move off, headed by the boy with the lantern. At the door leading to the Marine" barracks" the bugler sounds the Attention, and the" Rounds" move forward to the accompaniment of the "Crusher's" stentorian shout of "Silence for the Rounds." In the "barracks" the cortege is greeted by the senior Royal Marine N.C.O. aboard who salutes as the Commander hurries past. "Royal Marine barracks correct, sir," he reports. The "bloke" returns the salute and hurries on, for there is much ground to be covered in a battleship's "rounds." At each mess-deck it is the same: the senior rating reports, the sweepers stand to attention. Spaces that should be locked are tried to see if the doors are secure; spaces that should be unlocked are thrown open. The Commander sniffs the air and recommends more or less ventilation here and there, his hand torch casts a sharp beam into dark corners - "glory-holes" - where rags and rubbish may have been swept out of sight. Apart from the unhealthy results of such loose sweeping there is always a danger of fire from accumulations of rag; and one of the real purposes of night rounds is, and always has been, to satisfy the Captain that no abnormal risk of fire will exist during the night.


We Say Good-Night to Master-at-Arms


Arriving at the canteen door, the men inside stand as the Commander passes - and says "Good night ", at the galley and bakery doors the Chief Cook and the Chief Baker stand the rounds and report that their fires are drawn. So it goes on, from one compartment to another, right through the living spaces of the ship, until the "Rounds" is back once more where it started from. The Master-at-Arms salutes - and is rewarded with a smile and a "Thank you" and a "Good night." The bugle sounds the Carry On through the ship, and away goes "the bloke," Daily State in hand, to report to the Captain that the nine o'clock rounds are correct. He finds him sitting at his desk in his "Fore Cabin" studying a chart and surrounded by papers.


The report made, the two talk the ship over for half an hour - very old friends these and shipmates in several "old ships." The funnel wants touching up and the ensign staff could do with a little more gold-leaf on its gilded crown-truck. There's one of the young officers the Captain thinks could do with a "shaking up," and another who seems to be shaping remarkably well. There's Able Seaman Brown - the Captain wants to know how he stands for "shipping his hook." It so happens the Commander has also been thinking of him as a possible Leading Seaman as soon as it can be done. So they talk - always about the ship and what can be done to help her - their ship - to be even more efficient and happy than she already is.


And there we must leave them, for we have our good-byes to make and, much as we would like to, we cannot stay on board Nonsuch for ever - and she sails on the morrow. We have seen much - we have seen officer and man on duty and off, seen them in their "home" and at their daily routine step by step.


Special Routines for Saturday and Sunday


Had it been practicable we would like to have seen how a Saturday's work went along and what happened on a Sunday. These days we are told, have their separate routines - in many ways not very unlike the ordinary daily round. Saturday, for example, begins like any ordinary day, but after breakfast there are no Divisions. This is the great "Clean Ship" day when the Commander's one god is cleanliness above and below. So, instead of Divisions and Prayers, the hands fall in immediately after breakfast and just clean and clean and clean. Every deck is scrubbed; every square foot of corticene is washed and hand-scrubbed; the mess-tables are sand-washed to a snowy-whiteness; the mess-traps are burnished; the brass gleams; even the paintwork of bulkhead and deck head comes in for its wash down. Not a square inch of ship from truck to keel that is not subjected to scrub and water first, and spit and polish after. This will occupy every man aboard until ten to eleven when there is the usual "smoke-oh!" After that, the bugle calls for Quarters Clean Guns, and the various fighting stations in the ship are subjected, by their regular fighting crews, to as sturdy a clean and polish as the ship itself has just had. Brasso tins, emery paper and cleaning rags are the keys to this "clean guns" mystery. And, incidentally, here is the origin of one of the Navy's oldest phrases. Two men who are friends, close friends, are usually known as "raggies" - the reason being that, as friends they share their cleaning rags as they share everything else. Should they have a row, however, then they part brass-rags - in other words divide their erstwhile communal cleaning gear between them and each goes his separate way.


While the guns are being cleaned at these "cleaning quarters" the Commander usually takes the opportunity to make a thorough tour of inspection of the ship to make sure that it really is clean - and by that time it is dinner-time.


After dinner on Saturday, however, there is no "hands fall in" for: work in harbour. Saturday, by ancient custom, is a "make and mend day" when the sailor formerly used to make and mend his clothes but nowadays takes a half-holiday from work. So Hands to Make and Mend Clothes is piped, and the ship falls lazy till teatime, after which, to all intents and purposes the usual daily routine goes on as usual.


Sunday's Divisions are a Formal Affair


Sunday, again is a special day which begins like every other day and is normal until breakfast-time. After breakfast and the morning smoke, however, Sunday finds the sailors "cleaning" into their best clothes ready for Sunday Divisions. Sunday's Divisions are a very formal affair with the Ship's Band playing selections and with everyone on deck - no excused list. Just as on a weekday the Divisions are mustered and reported by their Lieutenants. When all is ready and the ship's company has been reported present by the Commander to the Captain then the latter, accompanied by the Paymaster and the Doctor as well as the Commander and

the heads of departments, sets to work minutely to inspect the Divisions looking searchingly at each man, calling the Divisional Officer's attention to a fault in dress here, passing a word of praise there. This is an inspection in very detail. When it is finished, moreover, while the hands stand easy about the upper-deck and listen to the Band, the Captain and his heads of departments begin a further detailed tour of the ship itself which, in part, explains why the Commander was so particular that all should be well scrubbed the day before!


Church is Rigged on the Quarter-deck


Captain's Rounds are over at last, however, then Church on the quarterdeck. First the Roman Catholic and United Board Church Parties land to attend their own places of religion on shore, and only Church of England men remain aboard. The Duty watch "rigs" Church by ranging rows and rows of mess stools across the quarter-deck for the hands, and a couple of rows of chairs. The carved lectern - the ship's carpenter made that in his spare time - comes up from the Chapel, and a small table is draped with the White Ensign. The ship's bell begins to toll as soon as Church is rigged and, while the string section of the ship's band plays a voluntary, the officers and men troop in singly and in groups. Church aboard a warship is "voluntary" - but all are expected to attend! The Service is short and simple - a few hymns, a few well-known prayers, a psalm, maybe, with the band accompanying; the Captain reads a lesson, the Chaplain delivers a very short sermon, another hymn, another prayer, the National Anthem - and all is over. The Chaplain, hands deep in the sleeves of his surplice, passes alone down the centre of the standing ship's company; a pause and the Captain follows him, turning to say "Pipe Down, Commander" to the "bloke" as he passes. The Commander nods and the officers troop out, then the Chiefs and Petty Officers. "Pipe Down," orders the Commander. "Duty Part Unrig Church" - and the routine of the day is over.


These details we could not stay to see for our boat was at the starboard gangway, and as four bells rang out - ten o'clock - we steamed slowly and regretfully away leaving the wail of the boatswain's pipe behind us "piping the hands down" for the night. Standing in the stern-sheets as we speed across the harbour we watch the lights dwindle to pinpoints and then vanish. We know something at least of the Navy now; we wish we could have seen more. But - "here to-day and gone tomorrow." On the morrow Nonsuch sails: we'll see her go. Five bells ring faintly across the water. Presently it'll be six, then seven, and then the crash of eight bells, the end of the watch. Midnight to you and us: 24.00 hours to the soft-footed watchful signalman high up on the bridge. The end of another day, and we who have seen so much can write now with some feeling at the bottom of this page the legend with which the old-time navigators closed each day in their log-books:













Nonsuch is due to sail at ten o'dock (10.00 hours in Naval parlance), so after a quick breakfast, we bend our steps towards the jetty-end to see her go. This morning the anchorage presents quite a different picture from yesterday. Several small ships have sailed - and since yesterday two cruisers, an aircraft carrier, squat and unlovely and half a flotilla of destroyers have arrived. Just like yesterday, small boats scurry to and fro and planes are overhead - but from Nonsuch's funnel there is a wreath of curling dark smoke speaking of stern activities below.


We take up a comfortable position and await developments. Knowing now what the ship and her people are like makes it much more easy to picture what must be going on aboard her. Ever and anon a burst of coloured bunting whirls to her yardarm. Some other ship, a destroyer maybe, acknowledges her call with a whisp of red-and-white Answering Pendant and down comes the hoist. Busy moments these on the signal bridge: last minute instructions to be given and acknowledged, signals to be coded and decoded in the coding room, then passed through the distributing office to whomsoever they concern in the ship. Even as we watch, the stout main derrick rises from its housing abaft the stout funnel, poises for a moment and then dips overside to pick up one of the steam picquet-boats as though it were a feather and deposit it in its sea storage. All over the ship, but too far away to be seen by us in all its detail, there is organised activity.


Be Ready to Sail at 10.00 Hours!


It all started with the Captain's Order Book. The Captain's Royal Marine Orderly took it to the Commander and the Engineer Commander and the various heads of departments last night. Just the bald laconic instruction - to the Commander, be ready to sail at 10.00 hrs.; to the Engineer Commander, have steam for 15 knots by 09.45 hrs. and for full speed by 10.00 hrs., steam on the capstan by 09.30 hrs.; to the Navigator to have the cable shortened in by 09.45 hrs. Each of these officers read his orders and initialled the Captain's Book in acknowledgment that the orders were understood. Each of these officers then issued his own more detailed instructions to his own department - and the result, the ordered "flap" of a capital ship preparing for sea.


Actually, on board, the day began like any other day with calling the hands and washing down the decks and then breakfast. Instead of Divisions and Prayers, however, the hands fell in straight away after the breakfast hour was over and began to prepare for sea. In a modern man-o'-war this entails a multiplicity of detail. One by one the boats that are down in the water have to be hoisted inboard and stowed and secured in their sea-stowing positions. The sea-boats have to be griped-to to prevent their swinging loose in a seaway, and the Boatswain has to inspect the boats in their davits and report to the Commander that all their gear is in them, fit and ready for instant use. Then the gaunt lower booms and quarter booms have to be got in and secured down to their chocks, and all their inhauls and outhauls coiled down, ready to go out again without a hitch. The gangways and side ladders have to be hoisted aboard, a task calling for twenty men and a carpenter, for those gangways are very substantial. Everything movable about the decks has to be secured, and the stanchions and handrails at the ship's side must be tested to see they are firm. Right aft the ensign is removed from the harbour ensign staff and worn again from the peak halyards at the stumpy after-mast - that is the seagoing position for a man-of-war's ensign. She carries it there when under way - usually a smaller ensign than the harbour one because with steaming it is subjected to very hard wear. She wears it there in battle, and in various other parts of the upper works as well. British warships in action nowadays almost invariably wear a large red ensign as well as the white - as an identification flag. This was particularly necessary in the First World War between 1914 and 1918 owing to the great similarity in appearance, especially at a distance, between the German Imperial Navy's Ensign and our own. Similar confusion arose in the Middle Ages during our continuous struggles with Royal France, whose Fleur-de Lys "anciente" so closely resembled our own Standard that we adopted the three ensigns as a means of identification.


Getting Ready in the Engine-room


Just as there is work to do on deck to prepare a ship for sea, so there is much activity below in the engine-room. Last-minute adjustments have to be made, the boiler furnaces lit away, and steam raised in accordance with the Captain's instructions. Always, before putting to sea, a warship "turns over" her main engines just one or two revolutions ahead and astern, tests the steam on the whistle and steam siren, and tries over the main steering gear and capstan and cable-holders. These are tested and reported to the Commander by the various people concerned.


In the Gunnery Office the Gunnery Officer checks over the various details of his armament and arranges for the ready-use supply of ammunition at the guns. He also awaits reports from each heavy gun turret that the locking bolts are in - huge metal bolts which hold the revolving structure in the fore-and-aft line. It would not do if, in a seaway, one of these monsters began to swing about with all its hundred-tons of impetus. He has a "Quarters Bill" which shows him at a glance how many low-angle guns he will have manned for each degree of readiness for action the Captain may wish to adopt. His anti-aircraft battery will be manned continuously, of course, and his anti-submarine and anti-aircraft lookouts will be at their post before the ship leaves harbour.


The Navigator Makes and Checks his Plans


High up on the navigating bridge, in the small chartroom, the Navigator pores over his chart, ruling a course here, checking and counter-checking every calculation, and from time to time jotting down a note of this or that in the notebook at his elbow. A responsible job is his for, under the Captain, he must navigate the ship safely to her destination, using chart, compass and lead-line and the accumulated knowledge of years. At his elbow is his assistant navigator, a midshipman known traditionally as Tanky. This is because the Navigator in a warship is also responsible for the fresh-water supply and the water tanks. He is waiting now for a report from the Chief Shipwright telling him the draught of the ship on leaving harbour. This piece of information Chips acquired quite early by going out in a boat to look at the draught-marks painted in Roman numerals at the stem and stern. The Pilot must know this as the amount of water his ship draws can effect his Course in shallow water. Down below him, well below armour, the Master Gyro Compass is spinning steadily and the Compass Gyro Repeat on the bridge is set. In this department as elsewhere all is ready and on a " split yarn." .


Two bridges down and we come to the sea cabins - one for the Admiral, another for the Captain, another for the Navigating Officer, and another for the Flag-Lieutenant. If their harbour cabins were Spartan these are doubly so. Just a bunk with drawers beneath, a small table, a wash-basin and a settee. Here, as long as the ship is at sea, those who bear the burden of responsibility for her will eat and sleep, never venturing aft, for in these days at sea, especially in wartime, things happen quickly. An enemy plane flying in to attack at 300 miles an hour need only be in sight for three minutes from first to last; an enemy submarine basking on the surface can "crash-dive" and be out of sight 40 feet below the surface in less than a minute. At such moments of crisis an admiral or a captain will wish to be on the bridge and at hand - if they were aft in their harbour cabins they could never be on the bridge in time. So they live, literally, on the bridge all the time their ship is underway.


Coding, De-coding and Distributing Messages


Beneath this again lies the Coding Office with its coders busy coding and de-coding a constant stream of signal-messages. Next door, the distributors are at work. Beneath that again is the signal bridge, teeming with activity. Here the Chief Yeoman, telescope under arm, directs his staff in their never-ending and all-important communication work. Semaphore arms whirl at the wing bridge a "captain-to-captain" private message to one of the cruisers is being made. At the other side of the bridge a small searchlight with a venetian-blind signalling shutter across its lens is sending out Morse to a destroyer. Elsewhere an Aldis Lamp is at work calling up a Swordfish plane overhead. Were we there we should soon realise that here again is spoken a language of its own - "bunting-talk." Signalmen in the Navy - bunting tossers - have to be very precise, a wrong flag or a wrong letter in a coded signal might easily mean disaster: The similarity of such sounds as P and B, M or N when spoken into the teeth of the wind would easily give rise to mistakes - but for "bunting talk." Just as the soldier ashore has his telephone-language and says Ack-Emma for A.M., Pip-Emma for P.M. so do the bunting-tossers guard against mistakes with a language of their own. There are many variants of it: one uses Christian names such as G-for-Georgie, F-for-Freddie, C-for-Charlie; another has odd words. For example if the Chief Yeoman were to call out "Baker, Queen, Compass, Dog, Georgie," it might - and would - sound like utter gibberish to the uninitiated, but to his bunting-tossers it would mean "Make a signal using B-flag, Q-flag, the Compass Pendant, D-flag and G-flag in that order." With such a nomenclature there is no possibility of mistake and the right signal goes up every time.


How Signals are Hoisted and Answered


Naval signals are hoisted close up "at the run" and kept flying until they are answered by the ship to whom the message is addressed. The latter is always "named" by two whisp-like pennants known as her number. When one ship wants to "call up" another she makes her two numbered Pennants - from which, of course, comes the expression "to make one's number on somebody," meaning to call on them. As soon as the ship addressed sees her number go up she hoists her answering flag - a pendant at the dip, i.e. half-way up-until the actual signal is understood, when this answer flag is hoisted close-up to the yard-arm in acknowledgment. The actual signal is obeyed at the instant it is hauled down. There will be much of this, a great deal of flag signalling, soon when Nonsuch puts to sea with her two cruisers and the destroyer escort round her, guarding the ace as such escort work is sometimes termed.


Yet another thing we should notice up here on the signal bridge - we would have heard it about the decks if we had been there to listen. Sai1ors have queer nicknames for their ships, queer friendly names that pass on from generation to generation. Nelson's famous Agamemnon, the ship he loved more than any other, was the Aggie to the sailor of Nelson's day, just as a later Agamemnon in the First World War was the Aggie to us - and if a new Agamemnon were to come out tomorrow she would be the Aggie of the present sea generation. In their talk with each other they use these names, and a list of just a few of them is given here: others will no doubt occur to mind.


Ships' Nicknames

Achilles - Egg Shell.

Agamemnon - Aggie

Agincourt - Gin Palace

Andromache - Andrew Mack

Amphitrite - 'Am and Tripe

Anson - Annie

Argus - The Hatbox.

Ark Royal - The Ark.

Audacious - 'Ow Dare She

Aurora - Roarer

Barfleur - Bellflower

Bellerophon - Billy Ruffian

Chatham - Tiddley Chats

Conqueror - Corncurer

Cyclops - Old One-Eye.

Dreadnought - Dreado

Emperor of India - E of I

Excellent - Whaley (the Naval Gunnery School)

Furious - Furibox

Formidable - Formy

Hermione - Ermy-one

Hecate - He-Cat

Howe - Any Blooming (?) How

Iphigenia - Niffy Jane

Iron Duke - Tin Duck

Indefatigable - Indefat

Indomitable - Indom

Inflexible - Inflex.

King George V - Kay-Gee-Five

Lord Nelson - Nelly

Magnificent - Maggie

Mersey - Misery

Minotaur - Minny-tor.

Marlborough - Marlyboro

Northumberland - Northo

Penelope Pepper-pot

Princess Royal - Pretty Royal

Queen Elizabeth - Big Lizzie

Resolution - Reso

Royal Sovereign - Tiddley Quid

Seraphim - Sea Orpha

Spartiate - Sparty-arty

Vengeance - Lord's Own.

Venerable - Archdeacon.

Victorious - Victor.

  Warspite Stodger, the Old Lady

Weston-Super-Mare - Aggie-on-a-horse

Standing on the jetty end we can visualise now so well what is happening. We look at our watches - it is ha1f- past nine - and almost simultaneously the battleship's signal mast once more bursts into hoist upon hoist of flags. In our focussed attention on Nonsuch we had forgotten the cruisers and destroyers. All this time they had been receiving minor instructions, had in their turn been preparing for sea and weighing. Now they get their orders - to precede the battleship to sea, to take up their formation and there await the "ace." From masthead after masthead the acknowledging signals flutter. Down comes the maze of flags from Nonsuch, and one by one the ships forming the escort move slowly through the water.


All Ready to Put to Sea


On the battleship's forecastle we can now see men gathering; further aft the last boat is being hoisted in by hand. We can imagine the scene with the duty watch, falls in hand, stamping along the deck as the boat rises till chock-a-block at the davit-head. On the quarter-deck the last gangway comes inboard.


On the forecastle-head the Cable Officer is ready with his carpenters at the cable. holders and capstan; his blacksmith, maul in hand, stands at the heavy cable-slips. The forepart of all watches is up there - it takes many hands to manhandle a battleship's chain cable. "Cables" satisfies himself that the huge, man-thick Blake slip is holding the chain and orders "Heave in." Slowly the huge cable-holder revolves, and the cable along the deck tightens and tightens till its whole strain is being taken by the cable-holder and the slip hangs slack. "Off Slip," he orders, and with a swing of his maul the blacksmith drives back the tongue of the slip and it falls clear; willing hands drag it out of the path of the cable. "Vast Heaving," orders" Cables"; the capstan stops and the men on the forecastle range themselves in two ranks, standing at ease and facing outboard. Snaked along the deck from the nearest rising-main run a couple of hoses to wash down both cable and anchor as they rise from the foul bed of the harbour. If this were not done the mud and slime would find its way below into the cable-lockers and as they dried would smell the place out. Right in the very eyes of the ship stand two signalmen - one of them waits to haul down the small stem-head Jack the moment the anchor is broken clear of the ground, for then she is officially under way and no stem-flag must then be flown. The other, with a case of sticked signal flags beside him, waits to signal to the bridge the amount of cable still outside the ship. This signal is always made in "shackles" using the Naval number code.


"A" Flag Means Anchor's Aweigh


"Cables" looks over the side now and sees a giant shackle just above the water. On the eighth link of chain above that shackle he can see a twist of seizing wire marking the eighth shackle. There are, he knows, eight lengths shackles of 12 fathoms each -200 yards of chain-still to come in. "Show eight," he says to the signalman - who thereafter stands with an "eight-flag" held above his head as a signal to the bridge. When the seventh shackle comes inboard he will change that for a seven-flag, and so on, without further orders. With the anchor-cable "up-and-down," that is to say with the chain vertically down from the hawse-pipe but with the anchor itself not yet broken out of the ground, he will hold up a "U-flag." As soon as the anchor is broken clear he will show "A-flag" - "Anchor's Aweigh" marking the instant at which the ship officially becomes under way.


Farther aft along the forecastle, from each side of the deck, projects a. small steel platform with steel stanchions, a chain handrail and a canvas apron round it. In these "chains" stand the leadsman. They are always there when the ship gets under way, comes to an anchor or moves in shallowish water. Moving in to an anchorage they feel for the depth of water with their hand-leads, casting the lead far ahead of them with a full overhead swing and, as the ship draws over the spot where the leads entered the water, noting how much lead-line is under water when held taut and vertical. They make their report in a curious sing-song voice, traditional to all leadsmen, but a voice which can always be heard above the wind. The report gives the depth not in feet, nor yet in fathoms, but in accord with a peculiar form of lead-line marking which we inherited from the early Dutch navtgators. The whole length of the lead-line is marked off into a sequence of "Marks" and "Deeps," each mark having a piece of coloured cloth, or bunting, or leather, or cord to denote it. The reason for using different material for these markings is that not only can the different markings be seen easily in daylight, but they can also be felt in the dark, the difference being noticed in the texture of the various markings.


The Leadsmen Chant Their Messages


At the moment, with the ship lying stopped and at anchor, these leadsmen have their lead on the ground and their lead-lines vertical: "Ship stopped, sir," they intone almost together. If the ship were to move ahead the lead-line would at once begin to draw aft in their hands; if she moves astern the lines grow forward so they are able to notice the slightest movement of the ship - an important point when weighing in a crowded anchorage. "Cables" stands motionless between the hawse pipes, keenly watching the bridge. Presently over the top-bridge dodger the Navigator's face appears. "Shorten into three," he hails. "Aye Aye, sir," replies "ables," then, to the shipwright on the cable-holder, "Heave in." With groans and screams like a creature in torment, the cable begins to clank in through the hawsepipe link by link in steady rhythm. Over the side the fierce jet from the hosepipes is played on the links as they come up, another hose plays on them on deck where men, armed with brooms, scrub the last remaining traces of harbour slime from them. Steadily, with never a change of speed, the cable comes in: six shackles, five, four, the hand flags changing with each new arrival. At last the third appears midway between hawsepipe and water. "Vast heaving" is the order, and the grinding cable-holder stops. "Shortened in to three, sir," the bridge is told, and the forecastle party resume their positions in two ranks facing outboard.


On the Bridge with the Admiral


Up on the bridges also things have been happening. The Admiral and his Flag-lieutenant have arrived and survey the scene, now and again making a signal to one or other ships in the escort. On the navigating bridge the Navigator stands on the compass platform watching the land over the top of his compass to make sure that the anchor still has a firm hold of the harbour bed and that the ship is not "dragging" now that her cable is so short. Beside him stands the Captain, and on the other side the Officer of the Watch with his Midshipman of the Watch busily recording the times of every single happening about him.


Below them, on the wings of the next bridge down, the look-outs have taken their place; high above, the masthead look-out mounts into his crow's-nest. Beside the bridge look-outs stand the "flag-and-cone men" who, by means of small flags stuck in sockets at the rail, indicate the speed the ship is doing in knots. With small black cones hoisted to the yard-arm, one each side, they show whether the ship's engines are at full, half or slow and, depending on whether the cone flies point up or point down, whether the engines are going ahead or astern.


Well below them in the conning tower stands the Chief Quartermaster by the wheel, and with the best helmsman in the ship actually at the wheel. These are part of the "Special Sea Dutymen" who take up these responsible posts whenever the ship enters or leaves harbour, goes into action, or does any job for which the utmost skill at the helm is needed. Beside them stand the three telegraphmen - one at the port engine-room telegraph, one at the starboard telegraph, and one at the revolution indicator. These are the direct mechanical means of passing to the engine-room the orders from the navigating bridge. Between conning tower and Navigator there is a voice-pipe for intercommunication. Every order "the pilot" passes down is immediately repeated, word for word, by the Chief Quartermaster, who reports back when the order has been carried out. Thus, the Navigator will sing out down his voice-pipe, "Midships," as an order to set the rudder amidships. "Midships," repeats the Quartermaster up the voicepipe. The helmsman spins the wheel and sets the rudder to midships and reports to his Quartermaster, "Midships it is"; the Quartermaster then hails up the voicepipe, "Hellum's a-midships, sir," to an acknowledgment of "Very good" from the Navigator. Written out, stage by stage like this it all seems to be very much of a rigmarole, but in actual practice it takes less than no time and makes an invaluable check that all important orders are properly passed and received. Actually, all orders in a ship, whether navigational, gunnery, or anything else, are always repeated back word-for-word as a check and at the same time as an acknowledgment.


Cruisers and Destroyers Take Up Positions


One by one the essential reports of a ship proceeding to sea are made to the Officer of the Watch. One of the shipwrights reports the "wells" sounded; the gunner reports that the signal rocket is ready in its tube; the Master-at-Arms reports that no one has overstayed his leave and that there are no stowaways; the Chief Buffer reports the watertight doors closed. On the quarter-deck the work of preparing for sea is complete at last, the "after part of the watches" stand in two ranks facing outboard just as the fore part is doing on the forecastle. The cruisers pass, slowly gathering way to take up their allotted screening position ahead; the destroyer escort slides past, rakish and venomous in their every line. As each ship passes a whistle is blown aboard her and her ship's company on deck stands to attention and faces the Nonsuch while her captain salutes. The battleship's bugler replies, the admiral acknowledges. One of the Nonsuch's quarter-deck men, a sea-bitten "stripey" with three good conduct badges (but no leading seaman's hook on his arm for all his years of service), cocks a knowing eye at the sky. "There'll be some 'dirt' before we're round the corner," he mutters; "those destroyer blokes will be earning their 'hard-liers' before morning." An old-standing wisecrack this and aimed at the fact that in small destroyers and other "little ships" the ship's companies get a few pence extra a day called "hard-lying" money to compensate for the relative discomforts of small-ship service.


Another seaman looks up into the blue vault above and watches the aircraft tumbling and wheeling as they form their air cover. "A bit parky up there," he comments. Aircraft cover is nowadays just as much a part of a warship's equipment as are her guns and torpedoes.


Defence Against Every Kind of Attack


Time was when the gun was the only real weapon a warship carried. Then "guns, guns, and still more guns" was the order of the day, and ships' sides were toughened and strengthened with additional strakes of timber as a defence against the cannon-ball. Then came Britain's H.M.S. Warrior with a large iron belt on her side, a belt of defence that the projectiles of the day could not pierce. Thereafter the race was beyween shells and armour, better shells calling forth thicker armour and the thicker armour encouraging more penetrative shells, until the limit there was reached. Then the broadside gun gave place to the centrally mounted gun, somewhat on the principal of the turret gun of to-day, and gunfire could be better developed. It seemed down those years of evolution that the battle between the offensive gun and the defensive armour swayed first one way and then another. Suddenly into the arena stepped the torpedo which could sink a ship below her armour belt. Torpedoes, it was soon found, were admirably suited to their work if carried about in small swift torpedo craft - and the torpedo-boat destroyer had to be evolved to destroy the torpedo boat. At each stage of evolution, whether the struggle was between the ship and the gun or between the ship and the torpedo the answer was, however, found and the modern fleet carries to sea with it that antidote-answer.


So it is with the more recently evolved aerial weapon. In the beginning the new aerial weapon was presumed only to affect a fleet in so far as this could now be spied upon and located from the air more easily than by anything else. This was a chance that always had to be taken - but it could be coped with to some extent by having naval aircraft carried in ships for the same purpose, and sufficiently well-armed to deal with other reconnaissance planes if they were encountered. Then aircraft took, during the last war, to carrying torpedoes. This risk was partly covered in the construction of our warships, partly again by the provision of aerial fighters to break-up such airborne torpedo attack. Then, later still, the bomber had to be taken into account. Actually there was very little actual evidence anywhere to suggest that a modern warship, capable of normal self-defence could normally be sunk by bombs alone - but the possibility had to be considered, and an additional reason for aircraft fighter protection grew up.


Aircraft's Part in Naval Warfare


What with one thing and another, therefore, it was quite obvious, years before the Second World War broke out, that part of the fighting equipment of the modern fleet was a reconnaissance plane which could see, let us say, 50 miles instead of the masthead lookout's 15-mile range of vision, a small bomber which would let go a projectile (bomb) two or three hundred miles from ship instead of the 18-mile extreme range of the ship's guns, and a torpedo plane which would carry its torpedo as surely and much more swiftly to the point of attack than could a simple torpedo boat.


That was on the offensive side. As for the defensive, in actual practice the odds against being hit are infinitely greater in a bombing attack than in a gun duel, are far greater in an airborne torpedo attack than in a waterborne attack - so that the normal ship's defences of armour and blisters against these weapons would do much that was needed. For the rest, Fleet fighter aircraft, specially designed for the job, could be relied upon to break up the attack from whatever source it might come. Thus, by purely logical reasoning the part the Air must play in Naval warfare explains itself. The Air can never be an arm by itself, but it can be, and is, a very potent and essential additional weapon of defence and offence in the hands of a fleet commander.


New Weapons and Devices


Always, however, when something new in the way of killing and destroying is discovered it attracts great comment and much notice and, sure as fate, someone will say that his "jigararee" has revolutionised everything. So it has been with the Air weapon in these last few years - but the same was said of the ironclad, of the big gun, of the mine, and of the torpedo. Each of these in turn was dubbed by contemporary historians as a new feature of war which would metamorphose everything. But it did not; the counter-measure appeared, was tried and was adopted, and instead of the new invention becoming a wonder-worker on its own it has become the invaluable harnessed handmaiden of those Sea and Land Forces which have existed for so long. As with the customs, the habit and the speech of the seamen, so it is with the basic laws of sea warfare. Methods may change, weapons may come and go - but the basic principles remain ageless and unchanged.


This digression upon Sea and Air was occasioned by the sight of the air cover forming up to escort Nonsuch on her way. Many a seaman looks up at the 'planes as they wheel, identifying this one and that. Every man afloat to-day prides himself on being able to pick out and name the 'planes he sees. Who knows? There may come a moment with that man at the trigger of a pompom when the life of one of our own pilots may depend upon swift recognition, when the adjustment of the pom-pom sights will depend upon knowing "pat" just what attacking speed such-and-such an enemy 'plane is capable of doing. But those over the Bay are "our own" and for such as these, like ships, the sailor has his own affectionate nicknames.


Nicknames for Various Types of Aircraft

Annie, or Old Annie - Avro Anson bomber and trainer-plane

Beau - Bristol Beaufighter

Beer-barrel - Brewster Ruffalo

Blendyburger - Bristol Blenheim

Bumblebee - Grumman Martlet (Wildcat).

Crate - An obsolete aircraft-indeed, the word itself is almost obsolete.

Cats - Catalina Flying-boat

Dafly - Boulton and Paul Defiant

Flying Horse - Gloucester Gladiator (a1so called "Gladys").

Flying Pencil - German Dornier bomber

Flying Suitcase - Handley-Page Hampden

Hurry, Hurribird - Hawker Hurricane


Flyblows  - Flying Boats

Kites  - Aircraft generally. This word has replaced to a great extent the word 'crates' coined in the last war.

Kipper-Kites Coastal Command aircraft engaged upon convoy escort or fishery protection duties.

Lizzie - Westland Lysander

Maggie Miles Magister

Messer  - German Messerschmitt

Spit, Spitty - Supermarine Spitfire

Sun - Short Sunderland

Stringbag - Fairey Swordfish

Shagbat  - Walrus

Vicky  - Vickers Victoria

Wimpey - Vickers Armstrong Wellington


Two minutes to ten o'clock. High up on the topmost bridge the Captain now leans over the bridge "dodger" and hails the forecastle with an "Up anchor." Up goes "Cables" hand in acknowledgment, the cable-holder heaves in full speed, dragging up the chain willy-nilly at the rate of a foot a second. "Ship's drawing ahead, sir!" intones the leadsman in the starboard "chains" - evidence that, the whole 35,000 tons of Nonsuch is being slowly and inexorably hauled up towards her anchor. The third shackle comes inboard, then the second: the stem-head signalman stands ready with the stem-jack's halyards in his hand. Beside him his colleague puts No.3 flag in its case and holds two-flag ready: the hoses hiss and splutter; the brooms scrub away. Far below in the cable locker the cable is being ranged as it comes in, all ready for letting go again. Gradually the cable outboard grows vertical the signalman changes two-flag for U-flag as "Cables" hails, "Up-and-down, sir!" The revolving cable-holder growls more complainingly, the chain itself whines and twangs as the anchor is being torn from its oozy hold in the harbour bed. Suddenly the pressure eases. "Anchor's aweigh, sir," hails "Cables." A-flag is held up at his side by the young signalman; down comes the little stem-jack: Nonsuch is officially under way.


The Magnificent Cavalcade Moves Off


On the upper bridge the Captain orders "Slow ahead both engines." There is a throbbing hum as the turbines start up, a whirl of water under the stern as the propellers bite. The leadsmen in the chains hail, almost in unison, "Ship going ahead, sir."


Carefully the navigator threads his way out of the harbour towards the waiting destroyer escort. "Half Speed ahead, one-two-oh revolutions," he calls down the voice-pipe beside him. In the conning-tower the telegraphmen transmit these orders to the engine-room, and as the reply gongs clang, report back, "Both engines going half speed ahead, sir, one-two-oh revolutions on." From ten knots to fifteen, and from fifteen to twenty, the battleship's speed soon increases. In the wing of the bridge the flag-men set the small "two" and "nought" speed-flags at the rail; the cone-men have hoisted their speed cones, point uppermost, halfway up. "Steady her on south-west," calls down the Navigator to the Chief Quartermaster, and the course is steadied.


More flags and more again race to masthead and yard-arm - "Cruisers form single line abreast to starboard and take station one mile ahead of the admiral. Destroyers form screen. Speed 20 knots. Course southwest." Flags from cruisers and destroyers fly in acknowledgment for a moment, and then down with a run comes every flag together. The destroyers spin round in a scurry of foam, the cruisers take up their al1otted station, and the formidable cavalcade moves off purposefully about its lawful occasions.


Smaller and smaller grow the ships until one sees them from the shore, not as several ships, but as a small moving grey mass with a faint wreath of smoke hanging above it. Away they go the south-west, the Keepers of the King's Peace on the Seven Seas and the Five Oceans. We watch till they become a mere grey smudge - until that smudge in turn is swallowed up into the morning sea-haze which the sun has not yet had time to burn up. We watch till they are gone from our sight entirely - but it is only the ships that are gone, the ships and the men who serve in them.


The things they stand for will long outlast the ship and the man. That salty taste on the end of a British tongue which sends us to sea in the first place, the principles for which, when the time comes, we fight to the end - these things last longer than ships. They are, after all, the very rocks upon which the Royal Navy is built: and the cement which binds together those rocks for all time are the habits and the custom and the speech of the men who serve.  










A.A. Anti-aircraft (gun, look-out, etc.)

A.B. An able-bodied seaman - one who can "hand, reef, and steer."

Above board. Fair and square

Ace. A star performer.

Ack-Ack. Anti-aircraft guns. The 'ack' comes from the peculiar 'language' of the Army signalman who uses these word-sounds to prevent confusion: Ack-A, Beer-B, Pip-P, Emma-M, etc.

Ack-emma.  A.M.

Acid. Sarcasm, irony; sarcastic reprimand. To 'hand out a bottle of acid' explains itself

Adrift.  Late; undone, unfastened. A man who returns to the ship late from his leave is 'adrift': so also is the man who is slow in falling-in when the bugle summons him.

Afterguard. All Wardroom, Gun-room and Warrant officers in a ship together comprise the afterguard.

A.F.O. Admiralty Fleet Orders - issued weekly.

All out. A phrase hailing from Brooklands motor-track and signifying "with maximum effort"

All right? The question which a petty-officer instructor always asks his class at the close of instruction. It means "Do you understand so far? Have you any questions to ask? "

Alex.  Alexandria (Egypt).

Ammo. Ammunition.

Andrew Miller. A nickname for the Royal Navy, where it came from is lost in the mists of obscurity.

Antics. "Steam antics" is the sailor's name for manoeuvres under way with the Fleet.

Arthur. Arsenical poison gas.

At the double! All orders in the Navy have to be complied with "at the double."

Aye, aye, sir! In the Navy this is the junior's reply to any order or instruction issued by a senior. Only sailors make this reply: Royal Marines invariably reply" Very good, sir!"





Back-chat. Cheek.

Bad show. A disappointing event.

Bamboozle. Deceive.

Banana boat. A barge or raft specially built for invasion work.

Barber's clerk. A seaman who pays more attention to his appearance than to his work.

Barber's cat, a. A very talkative person.

Barracks, the. The Royal Marines' mess-deck in a warship.

Battle-bowler. Steel shrapnel helmet.

Beat it! Clear out.

Beam ends, to be on one's. To be penniless - an expression carried forward from the old sailing-ship days.

Beef-boat. The first boat from shore in the morning; it usually brings off the fresh meat.

Bent. Damaged: probably badly.

Bender, a. An invention; a fib, but not exactly a lie. It should be noted that whereas one tells a lie one spins a bender.

Bible, the. Any book of regulations.

Bible-puncher. A nickname for the chaplain.

Bin. Very small living quarters in a ship, such as the curtained-off space accorded to the commanding officer of one of the old-type torpedo boats.

Binder, the. Someone who bores - a word that has been imported from the R.A.F., probably by way of the Fleet Air Arm.

Binder, a. The last drink of the evening.

Bilge free. Full of liquor; "tight."

Bilge. Rubbish. To talk bilge is to talk rot.

Big noise, the. The man in charge (an Americanism).

Bird, a. A sailor who is continually in (minor) trouble.

Biscuit, the. The thin. flock-filled mattress for a seaman's hammock.

Bishop, the. The Chaplain -sometimes shortened to "Bish."

Black, a. A bad mark.

Black varnish. Stout.

Bleat, a. A complaint or a grouse - but never a grievance. Grievance is the one word that is taboo in a warship.

Blister, a. A bulge overside at the waterline, built on to a ship as a means of minimising the effect of a torpedo hit or the near-miss of a bomb.

Blitz, a. This word was born into the Navy during this war and implies that the Commander, or whoever it is that inaugurated the 'blitz' in question, is hunting everybody on to their jobs.

Bloke, the. The (Executive) Commander of a ship.

Blood wagon. The motor ambulance attached to a Fleet Air Arm Station. It is kept permanently manned and moves towards the runways when a plane is seen to be landing.

Blower, a. A boaster or a braggart.

Blue-eyed, to be. To be in someone's good books.

Blue nose, a. A Newfoundlander.

Bobbery. A Hindustani word meaning "unnecessary noise"

Body-and-soul lashing. A piece of rope which the sailor ties round him like a belt outside his oilskin coa t.

Body, a. A seaman who is actually present - an effective member of the ship's company.

Bottle, a. A reprimand.

Bowser, a. A mobile petrol tank used on Fleet Air Arm Stations for fuelling planes.

Bowse down! Shut up.

Bows under. Drunk.

Box, in the. Confined to cells.

Boiling, the whole. Every single thing.

Brown food. Beer,

Browned off. Fed up, bored, sick of a monotonous' job.

Brass-hat. Anyone of Commander's rank and above who wears a ring of gilt oak-leaves round the edge of their cap-peak,

Bricks. Projectiles-usually far the larger calibre guns.

Brough, a. A halo round the moon, "The bigger the brough the bigger the breeze" - a brough usually presages hard winds to come,

Brow, the. A direct ship-to-shore gangway.

Broke. Ruined, from a service point of view, An officer dismissed the service has been "broke,"

Bug-run. A neatly combed parting in a seaman's hair.

Bun-worry. Any sort of large party ashore, especially a tea-party.

Bull, to hand out. To bluff, to exaggerate one's own importance.

Bukshee. Free.

Butter. Unctuous words, calculated to encourage praise.

Button your flap. Shut up!

Buttoned up. Everything in order and ready.

Buzz, a. A rumour which may or may not be founded on fact. Ships permanently abound in buzzes and their regular purveyors are known as buzz-mongers,

Bumble-jar. Gramophone, piano, piano accordion, harmonium.




C.B.M. Chief Boatswain's Mate.

C.G.M. Chief Gunner's Mate.

C.P.O. Chief Petty Officer.

Cadi, a. A cap or hat.

Cag, a. A friendly discussion almost verging upon an argument.

Can, the. The blame for something.

Can-do! "I understand: I will get on with it!"

Cannuck. A Canadian.

Canteen medals. Food stains down the front of one's uniform.

Carry the can back, to. To take the blame for something.

Caught on one leg. To be off one's guard.

Caulk, to. To sleep.

Carrozi. Horse cab (a Maltese word).

Channel fever: A longing for home.

Charmer, a. A girl.

Chase, to. To keep someone up to the mark at their work.

Chase-me-Charlie, a. A German glider bomb.

Chats. Chatham.

Chatty. Dirty and untidy.

Chicago pianner. Two pounder multiple-barrelled pom-pom gun.

China, a. A very close friend.

Chin-food. Idle talk.

Chocolate. Praise.

Chock-a-block. Tight.

Chocker. Fed up, browned off.

Chummy ships. Ships which, serving on the same station, strike up a common bond of friendship between their respective ship's companies.

Civvies. Plain clothes. The sailor never uses the word mufti for this.

Civvy street. Civilian life ashore.

Clean, to. To change one's clothes.

Clew up, to. To finish off (a job).

Courting a cat. Walking out with a girl.

Corney. An Americanism meaning out of date.

Crossing one's bows. To get in someone's bad books. This phrase comes from the fact that in the Navy it is the height of bad manners for a junior ship to steam across the bows of a senior.

Cuts. (Official) strokes with the cane for punishment.

Crack at, to have a. To have a try at doing something difficult.

Crabs. Service pattern shoes.




Dags, on. On leave.

Davy Jones. The legendary Welshman who rules at the bottom of the sea and there maintains his famous locker as a receptacle for drowned seamen.

Dame, a. A young woman.

Date, a. An appointment on shore with someone (usually a female).

Day on. A day of duty.

Dead marine. Empty bottle.

Dekko, a. A quick look.

Devil-dodger, the. The chaplain.

Dipped. Disrated.

Dicky run, a. A quick run ashore.

Ditch, the. The sea.

Dhobey. Laundry, a word culled from Hindustani.

Doings, the. Anything the name of which is for the moment forgotten.

Doughty-nose. in love.

Dope, a. An incredibly stupid man.

Drink, in the. Overboard.

Drill, the. The right and orthodox way of doing anything is termed "the drill."

Drip, to. To talk rubbish.

Dud, a. A shell which fails to explode or a fuze which does not go off; in general, a failure.

Dummy run, a. A full dress rehearsal of anything.

Duffo. A Westcountryman.

Duster, the Red. The red ensign of the Merchant Navy.

Dusty boys. The supply staff - they got their name from working in the flour store-rooms.




Elbow grease. Hard work.

Everything under control. Everything going along as foreseen.

ENSA. The Entertainment National Services Association, which is responsible for concerts and the supply of entertainers to the Navy.

Eyetie. Italian.




Fair do's. An even division

Fanny. A large mess kettle

Fanny Adams. An odd expression which means literally "nothing of anything."

Fast one, a. A shrewd move.

Flan, flannel. Unctious phrases.

Flap, a. Excitement.

Flat out. At maximum speed.

Flat aback. When a sailor ashore wears his cap (improperly) perched on the back of his head it is "flat aback."

Flicks, the. Cinema show.

Flog, to. To pawn or sell anything.

Flog the clock, to. To put the hands of the clock on a few minutes.

Fore and aft rig. Jacket-and-peaked cap rig.

Float about, to. To wander aimlessly to and fro.

Fowl, a. A sailor who is constantly in (major) trouble.

Freeman, Hardy and Willis. The three War medals granted for the First World War.

Fug pants. Thick knitted winter-weight underpants issued to men serving in cold latitudes.




Gannet. A glutton.

Gash. Surplus or unwanted material is 'gash.'

Gaw-gaw. A seaman who is comparatively useless.

Get cracking! Get a move

Get your head down, to. To snatch a little. sleep.

Gharri. Cab.

Gippo. Gravy.

Girls on the tow rope. A ship homeward bound.

Glasshouse. Detention quarters (a term imported from the army).

Gob. American seaman's name for himself.

Gobby. Customs Official.

Gong, a. A medal.

Goof, a. An aimless fool.

Goofer, a. A bum boat, a shore-boat.

Grease, to. To bribe.

Grabhooks. Fingers.

Graft. Hard work-honest work (strangely enough).

Guff. Rubbish, a tissue of lies.

Guz. Devonport.

Grog. Rum after it has been broken down with water as "laid down" in the regulations.




Hands, the. The working part of a ship's company.

Hand out slack, to. To cheek someone.

Hang on the slack, to. To be dilatory and perpetually late: to delay.

Hard-lyers. A corruption of "Hard Lying Money" the small additional daily allowance made to those who serve in small uncomfortable ships.

Hammy-handed. Impossibly clumsy.

Het up, all. Perturbed and bothered.

Holiday, a. An unfilled space; a gap.

Homework. Girls.

Hook. The anchor; a leading seaman's badge.

Hooky. Leading seaman.

Hot. Up-to-date; up-to-the mark.

Hook-rope party. Ratings who for various reasons avoid divisions.

Huggermugger. Muddle.




Insult, the. The seaman's fortnightly advance of pay.

Imshi. Clear off!

Ice-creams. Italians.

Irish pendant. A rope's end hanging down from aloft.

Issue. An article which is provided by the Crown and does not have to be paid for by the individual.

Idlers. Those officers and ratings who do not keep watch in a ship.

In the rattle. On "a charge" and in the Master-at-Arms report of offenders to be seen on the quarterdeck by the Executive Officer.




Jammed. Stopped, as when one's leave is jammed!

Joses. Maltese.

Jerks. Physical training.

Jankers. Minor punishment.

Jaunty. The Master-at-Arms (from the French word Gendarme).

Jimmy the one. The lower-deck's nickname for the First Lieutenant.

Jigararee. Something quite new.

Job number. The number given to a warship while building or refitting in a dockyard.

Joss. Luck.

Judy. Policewoman.

Jug. Civil imprisonment.

Juke box. Electric piano. (an American organ).




K.Rs. The King's Regulations and Admiralty instructions wherein everything concerning the Navy is "laid down."

K-block. Naval quarters for the temporarily insane.

Killick. An anchor: a leading seaman.

Kip. Bed or hammock.

Kipper. German torpedo.

Kitty, in the. In the common pool.

Knitting. Girls.

Kie. Ship's cocoa.

Knock off, to. To stop work.




Ls, the four. Lead, log, latitude, lookout - the seaman's safeguards.

L.S. Leading seaman.

Lace, to. To thrash; to put rum in one's tea or coffee.

Lay eggs, to. To go minelaying.

Laid down. Everything in King's Regulations is "laid down."

Lammy-coat. A duffle jacket of very thick fire-proof material.

'Leaf.' Leave.

Lid, a. A sailor's hat or cap.

Limey. An American nickname for the British merchant seaman.

Line, to shoot a. To tell the tale.

Loggerpeads, to be at. To be at cross purposes with someone.

Loose off, to. To open fire.

Looksee, makee. To have a look at something.

Looney-bin. A lunatic asylum.

Lose the number of one's mess; to. To be killed.




Macaroni. Italian.

Mae West, a. An inflatable lifejacket worn by officers and men of the Fleet Air Arm.

Maggy Miller. Washing clothes by trailing them astern at the end of a long rope when under way.

Marens. Wrens attached to the Royal Marine Divisions.

Make-and-mend, a. A half holiday: so called because, in days gone by, men used such opportunities for making and mending their clothes.

Makee-learn. A beginner.

Matelot, a. The British sailor's name for himself (from the French).

Matey, a. A dockyard workman.

Marry the gunner's daughter, to. To get a caning.

Miker, a. A work-dodger.

Moan, a. A grouse or a grumble.

Mouldy, a. A torpedo.

Mudhook. The anchor.

Muster one's bag, to. To be seasick.

Mutt and Jeff. The medals for King George V Jubilee and King George VI Coronation when worn together.




NAFFY. The canteen run by the N.A.A.F.I. (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes).

Natter, to. To chatter aimlessly and endlessly.

Nesting boxes. Wrens' quarters.

Nelson's blood. Rum.

Nitters. Neat rum, i.e. before it has been broken down with water to make Grog.

Nitwit, a. An apparently brainless person.

Nice work! An expression of approval.

Nosebags. Anti-gas respirators.

Not entitled! Not due to receive any pay because the account is overdrawn.

No future in it! An unproductive job.

Number one. The officers' nickname for the First Lieutenant.

Number's up, your! You are wanted!

Nurse, the snotties'. The officer detailed to supervise the training of the midshipmen. First class.




O.D. Ordinary seaman.

Office. the. All the information about something.

Off the record. Accurate information but imparted unofficia11y.

Off service and on service. That tradition in the Navy whereby a senior can roundly rebuke a junior "on service" one minute and a little later be joking with him "off service."

Old buck. Cheek.

Old man, the. The Captain.

Old sailor, the. Someone who knows all the ropes.

On the beach. Retired from the service.

On the mat. In trouble.

One-gun-salute. A court-martial, because one gun is fired at colours on the morning the Court sits.

Oppo, my. A chum or someone who does the same job as oneself in one of the other watches in the ship.

Owner, the. The Captain.




P.O. Petty Officer.

P.Z. Tactical exercises at sea - so-called because in years gone by this was the two-flag hoist signifying that exercises would begin.

Pack up, to. To stop work.

Packet, a. Trouble in some form or another.

Panic, a. A state of frenzied hurry and excitement.

Parchment, a. A sailor's official certificate of service.

Part brass-rags, to. To break a friendship.

Party, a. A tough fight, a typical example of naval under-estimation.

Pash, a. A letter.

Pay; Paybob. The paymaster.

Pile up, to. To run (a ship) ashore.

Pip-emma. P.M. (see Ack-Emma).

Piece; a. A gun.

Pipe down! Shut up!

Permission to grow. Permission to grow a beard and moustache of regulation shape and length. Once grown the beard must remain in position until permission is granted to shave it off again.

Pass the buck, to. To shelve responsibility for a decision.

Pan out, to. To come to an end as expected.

Plumbers, the. The engine-room department.

Pongo. A soldier.

Poodle-faker, a. Someone who haunts mixed tea-parties on shore.

Poop off, to. To open fire - usually with big guns.

Pompey. Portsmouth.

Portugee Parliament. Somewhere where everyone is talking and no one paying any attention.

Poor view, to take a. To hold a different opinion about something.

Private ship, a. A ship with a captain in command.

Pukka. Correct, genuine.

Put up a badge, to. To be rated up. Similarly an officer will "put up a stripe" when he is promoted.

Pull. Influence.

Pusser. Paymaster.

Pusser's dirk. The seaman's knife.

Pusser's yellow. Yellow soap used for cleaning ship.

Putty, the. That part of the shore upon which a ship grounds.




Queen Anne's Mansions. The superstructure round the foremast in a modern warship.




Racket, a. An American importation suggesting a swindle.

Raggie, a. A personal friend.

Rattle, the. The Master-at-Arms daily list of offenders to be seen by the Executive Officer.

Rate of knots, at the. At great (but unspecified) speed.

Rescrub, a. A refresher course.

Ringer, a one. a one-stripe officer, i.e. sub-lieutenant.

Rock scarp. Gibraltese.

Rockies. Members of the Royal Naval Reserve (R.N.R.)

Roll on payday! The bitter exclamation of a sailor who is 'broke' until the next fortnightly advance is paid out to him.

Royals, The. The Royal Marines.

Rumble, to. To bowl something out.

Run round in circles, to. To rush about aimlessly like a ship whose helm has jammed.




S.G. Seaman Gunner (Gunnery Rating third class)

S.T. Seaman Torpedoman

Sail close to the wind, to. To keep just within the law.

Sandpaper the anchor, to. To do something that is quite unnecessary.

Salthorse, a. A non-specialist officer in the Navy.

Saltash luck. A wetting and nothing to show for it.

Scowegian, a. A Scandinavian.

Scranbag. A ship's lost property office. All articles found lying about are put into the scranbag whence they can be retrieved weekly upon payment of a piece of yellow soap.

Sculling about. Lying about the place.

Scuppered. Finished.

Sea daddy. A senior petty officer who takes charge of a class of new entry seamen.

Sea lawyer. A know all - and an infernal nuisance in any ship; disliked by ship's company and officers alike.

Sewn up. Drunk.

Shake, to. To stir someone out of lazy habits.

Shake a leg, to. To dance.

Shipshape. Trim and smart.

Shindy, a. A disturbance; the word comes from the name of an old-time sailor's dance.

Shiner, a. A black-eye.

Skipper, the. The captain. This word is very seldom used in the Navy except when referring to the commanding officer of a trawler

Skylarking. Playing the. fool.

Skrimshanker. A work dodger.

Skouse, a. A Liverpool born seaman

Slops. Clothing, tobacco, etc., issued from the ship's slop-chest by the paymaster. Unlike "issue" (q.v.), slops must be paid  for.

Slushy. The cook - but he not like this name!

Sling your hook. Clear off!

Sling your hammock, to. To get used to a new ship and its ways. Usually a man joining a new ship is given 24 hours in which to "sling his hammock."

Slurge, a. A "swot."

Snob, the. The ship's cobbler

Snotty. A midshipman.

Soup. Thick, wet, and foggy weather.  

Soft number, a. Someone with an easy job.

Specialist, a. An officer or rating who 'specialised,' doing a long course of instruction in. gunnery, torpedo, etc.

Spit brown, to. To chew tobacco.

Spliced, to get. To get married.

Splice the mainbrace, to. To issue an extra tot of rum to all hands.

Spitchered! Finished! (A Maltese word.)

Spunyarn major, a. Any executive officer above the rank of lieutenant-commander.

Squarehead, a. A German.

Square number. A shore job that is also a., soft number.

Square pusher. Someone who is courting a girl.

Squeezebox. Portable harmonium as used in the ship's chapel.

Squeeze-pigeon. A bribe.

Stash it! Shut up!

Stand-easy, a. A short break in the day's routine.

Stripey, a. A long-service seaman with three good conduct badges but still an A.B.

Stop a packet, to. To get into trouble, to be wounded.

Stone frigate, a. A (brick or stone-built) shore naval establishment.

Subby. The sailors' nickname for their sub-lieutenant.

Submariner. An officer or man who is in the submarine service.

Swinging the lead. Malingering, making a pretence of doing a job.

Swift ship, a. A smart ship.

Swallow the anchor, to. To retire from the sea and go into Ciyvy Street.




Tally. A sailor's name is his "tally"; his cap-ribbon is his cap-tally.

Taps. The Royal Marine drummer.

Tear off a strip, to. To administer a sharp reprimand.

Teased out. Worn out like a piece of frayed rope.

Throw one's hand in, to. A card-playing term meaning, at sea, to refuse duty, to resign.

Tikketty-boo. Everything in perfect order.

Tin fish. A torpedo.

Tiddley and giveo. Dressed "to kill."

Tom Pepper. A liar.

The Trade. The submarine service.

Ticklers. Tinned tobacco sold in half-pound tins duty free.

Tiddley. Ornamental.

Tizzysnatcher. A crude name for a paymaster.

Top line, all on. All ready.

Topsides. Up on deck.




Up the Straits. In the Mediterranean. 

Ullage. A useless man.

Upper yardman. A rating destined for promotion to the quarterdeck in due course.

U/S. Unservicable.




Vicar, the. The chaplain.

Vicarage, the. The chaplain's cabin.

Very good! The senior officer's acknowledgment of a junior's report.




Wavy Navy, the. The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (R.N.V.R.).

Warm the bell, to. To advance the clock hands a few minutes.

Westo, a. A west country-man.

Whaley. H.M.S.Excellent, the naval gunnery Island school at Whale Island, Portsmouth.

Winger, a. An assistant.

Winkling. Bayonet work.

Wart. A junior midshipman.

Wet a stripe, to. To celebrate one's promotion.

Win, to. To obtain something without its owner's permission.

Wrens. Members of the Women's Royal Naval Service (W.R.N.S.).

Wrennery. Wrens' living quarters.




Yes please! The Navy's way of permitting anything to happen to anybody at any time.







Inside back cover



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or to World War 2, 1939-1945

revised 24/10/10