Crossing The Line - Equator Page 2


"Crossing The Line" - Part 2


(Above: A Typical 'Crossing The Line' Certificate issued to sailors after being duly Initiated.
Donated by Petty Officer Bosun 'Harry' Harris - HMAS Cerberus Seamanship School.)


To this the Captain - wrote the following reply, placed it in a sealed envelope, and handed it to the envoys:


To Neptune, R. and I.


I thank you, Sire, for Your kind greeting,
And wish to say our happy meeting
Is one that all who serve on board
Look forward to - we shan’t be bored.
I’m honoured, Sire, with your commands,
I’ll take great care that your demands
are fully met, and that no novice,
By any chance, shall be amiss.
The guard and band shall be paraded,
No form of rite shall be evaded,
But sharp at nine we’ll man the side,
And hope to see you with your bride.


O. E. LEGGETT. Capt, R.N. HMS New Zealand


The following letter of welcome was handed to the Admiral of the Fleet:


To Admiral Of The Fleet:



My Noble Lard and Admiral of the Fleet...
Fresh from your triumph of the Huns’ defeat’
It pleased our royal heart to hear the news
concerning you, the ship, the Empire cruise
And how your Jack that’s bent upon the main
A sight we’ve seldom seen in all our reign
May be our memory is sadly slow
For Pelman holds no courses down below.
Yet can we ne’er recall in days of yore
That flag thus hying o’er our line before.
Then welcome, victor of a fiendish foe,
To climes more temperate far than Scapa Flow.
The dullness of that foggy treeless part
Evoked the deepest pity in our heart.
Though news of Neptune then you’d none perhaps
I frequently came up to watch your scraps
And cheer you on to victory in the north
The while I froze - Zounds how l hate the Forth.

We’re charmed to hear you’re bringing in your ship
The Lady Jdllicoe - Throughout your trip
It is Our Sovereign Will inviolate
That she may find Our realm in settled state;
Your Commodore. The Mind behind the guns -
Whose brain has slain a multitude of Huns;
Your clever staff; - we welcome to our realm
‘Youth on the thwarts and Wisdom at the helm
A motto this, to guide you on your way,
It’s rather good - We pinched it out of Grey-
And now, my Lord, ’is We shall see you later,


Farewell, yours,


The bears then discharged their duties in other parts of the ship, and, before departing over the side visited every Officers Mess, handing to the President of each a sheaf of summonses for the novices in it, and to other messes a sumons issued to the Senior Members, ordering the presence of the uninitiated. Each Summons ran:


NEPTUNE, by the Grace of Mythology


Lord of the Waters, Sovereign of all Oceans, Governor and
Lord High Admiral of the Bath, etc.


Whereas it has pleased Us to convene a Court to be holden on board His Majesty’s Ship NEW ZEALAND, on the upper deck thereof; at the hour of 9.30 a.m.


By these presents We summon you


to appear at the said Court to tender Us the usual homage, and to be initiated into the mystic rites according to the ancient usages of Our Kingdom.Hereof nor you, nor any of you may fail, as you will answer at your peril, and to the delight of Our trusty Bodyguard.


Given at Our Court on the Equator this Eighth day of May, in the year One thousand nine hundred and nineteen of Our Watery Reign.


On their return the Bears reported to the Secretary of State that full preparations for the Court were being made. At the foremost end of the amidship deck a stage had been rigged, with a large canvas bath along its port side stretching aft. On the stage were thrones for their Majesties and Chairs for court officials, and, overhanging the bath, was a stool on rockers, upon which novices were to be seated and tilted into the bath, where the Bears would be ready to receive and duck them. Abaft ' P,’ Turret, at the fore end of the bath, a raised platform had been erected for the Admiral, Lady Jellicoe, and the officers.


Next morning it was reported to His Majesty that many novices were looking very green. These, on being interrogated by their friends, indignantly denied any feeling of nervousness, and asserted on the contrary that they had both slept well and partaken of a hearty breakfast. In the case of wardroom officers the breakfast might have accounted for the loss of their former bloom, as their cook had undoubtedly scored a miss with their buttered eggs. In the meantime, the old hands were going round with horrible, hair-raising tales of their own initiation. It appeared from their accounts that only the mercy of Providence and a solid constitution could possibly pull one through. In spite of this, much big talk was heard on the subject of ducking the Bears. The Bears, however, proved in action that they were quite capable of looking after themselves.


In Her Majesty’s private apartments all was bustle as the Queen made her toilet, and in moments when her Majesty lost Her temper over the silly fiddling of Mermaids-in-Waiting, not a few were threatened with the losing of their empty heads. Nor was the old King unstirred by the signi -ficance of the day, and He soundly rated’e walrus for not grooming the sea horses to His liking. Their Majesties set off at last for the ship, and domestic unhappiness had fled long before They heard the drone of the propellers or saw the smoke trailing away over the starboard quarter.


"Clear Lower Deck" had been piped and the Officers’ Call of four "G’s" had summoned all to the ‘midship deck. In a few moments Their Majesties arrived on board, and were received by Lieutenant-Commander Boyle, whom His Majesty greeted most cordially as an old acquaintance. The Lieutenant-Commander, having made his obeisances to the various members of the Royal Suite, conducted the party to the Robing Room in the starboard shelter.


A gun-carriage, suitably equipped, with a double throne, was in readiness. It was noticed that in the decoration of the thrones the starboard one was red and the port one green. This interesting mythological fact may possibly be due to His Majesty’s dealings with the Americans, who, as everybody knows, steer by Right or Left Rudder, instead of Port or Starboard Helm. - Attention - having been sounded, the screen on the after-side of the starboard shelter was raised, and the Royal Procession proceeded - Slow Ahead Both - along the starboard side of the quarter-deck and amidship deck.


During the Royal Stately Progress, officers and men stood rigidly to attention, though occasionally they broke into loyal and enthusiastic demonstrations. It was an inspiring scene, and all who were favoured to witness it were moved with the deepest emotion. At the after end of the bath Their Majesties were received with a Royal Salute while the Band played - A Life on the Ocean Wave. - The procession halted for Their Majesties to alight, and then resumed its way, the King and Queen on foot. With great dignity the party mounted the dais where the Admiral of the fleet and Lady Jellicoe, and the officers had already taken their places.


In making the Royal Address, His Majesty’s voice was at first a little husky, possibly owing to his having been so long in the water, though later, when he fell into his stride the full strength of the Royal lungs was distinctly felt, and a trace of gunnery accent was faintly noticeable. With His venerable grey beard, His ancient crown, His trident, His carmen velvet robes, and standing there as only a King can stand, His Majesty filled the air with all the grandeur of his aged dominions. Formalities over, and the Court at length having settled into position, His Majesty at once proceeded with the Investiture, conferring upon the Admiral of the fleet, the insignia of the Most Exalted Order of the Old Sea Dog, and upon Commodore Dreyer, Captain Leggett and Paymaster-Captain Share the Insignias of their respective Orders.


In bestowing these honours His Majesty was pleased to address a few words to each:


My gallant Admiral, Captain, Crew,
Our pleasure’s great at seeing you
Once more on Our Equator.
Old friends We notice by the score,
But some We’ve never met before.
They’ll be presented later.


To the Admiral -

A British Admiral of the fleet’s
A subject whom one seldom meets-
Sir, Our contatulations!
Delighted too were We to know
We’d meet the Lady Jellicoe,
To whom -- felcitations.

(Pinning Order on Admiral) --

This order on you We bestow,
An Old sea dog! - hencefgth you go
With wishes of the best, Sir.’