Crossing The LIne - Equator Page 4


Crossing The Line - Part 4


The most illustrious novice, Lady Jellicoe was graciously excused homage as she was suffering from the effects of a most ferocious and wanton attack by an Ampere, which had leaped upon her from an electric fan and bitten her severely on the hand. But, as will be recorded later. Lady Jellicoe played her part in the proceedings right nobly.


Getting initiated and  dunked in the slops - HMS Ship Crossing the line ceremony in the 1970s


At this stage His Majesty was pleased to cause it to be ordered that, owing to theextensive wave motion, set up in the bath, by the pitching of the ship, novices were to be hove or pushed in. The bath constantly lost water, which plunged over the sides on to the deck, and left insufficient to make safe use of the ducking stool.

The first novice to mount the scaffold was Commodore Dreyer who had the full benefit of the Court’s experience—in fact, it may be said, he made quite a good splash.


Other officer novices were then dealt with most successfully. Many old sea-dogs insisted on re-initiation, and almost everyone in the ship either qualified or re-qualified. Several of the Royal retainers were so moved with emotion at meeting the rosy-cheeked Gunroom officers that they could not be restrained from taking the water with them, the Barber’s Assistant being particularly extravagant in this form of enjoyment. The ship’s company followed in swift succession, so rapid indeed that the Court well justified the Royal Motto, which, as the world knows, is “Hustlers—Us and Forked Lightning”—not that this rapidity was attained at the expense of efficiency—it was the result of careful organisation and attention to detail. As each candidate appeared on the platform, he was presented to Their Majesties, had his name ticked off by the Judge’s Clerk, was examined by the Judge of the Royal Court, and was passed by the King’s eminent Physician, who further fortified him for the ordeal by administering a bitter tonic or a soap pill—occasionally both in bad cases. This wise man was also armed with a fine stethoscope, new to medical science, though strongly reminding one of the instrument of torture worn by many sightsetters and the like through the dark nights of the past four years to enable them to detect the tune sung by Angelic Hosts aloft (in Control Positions). The Doctor also sounded backs and chests with a wooden mallet. He sounded, too, a number of heads, all of which seemed to be phenomenally thick.


The candidates then passed along to the Barbers, under contract by Royal Patronage from the firm of Sweeney Todd. The Lady Barber massaged the head, while the other two were lathering and shaving. It appears that Messrs. Sweeney Todd make a speciality of removing tattoo marks. Sometimes they used an enormous pair of scissors for hair-cutting. The Royal Hairdressers’ gentle ceremonies at length completed, and the candidate now cleansed and in a seemly state to proceed with the further rites, he parted more or less reluctantly from them, and descended rapidly and sometimes inelegantly, into the bath and the mauls of the Royal Bears. With care and solicitude, they baptised the aspiring candidate in the salt and sacred waters of His Majesty’s Dominions, and the taste was C none the less distressing for the oily and odorous substance, resembling Stockholm tar, which exuded from the hairy skins of the Bears. Splashing, gurgling, appreciatively, and giving forth other signs of manifest joy, the candidate at last emerged from the bath, no longer a novice, but a com- plete and honoured subject of His Majesty. Soaked in the sacred water, and a trifle bedraggled, but flushed and exhilarated, and thoroughly clean for once, the initiated one went drippingly away to change his damp garments.


Now, its the Skippers turn, as the bears stand guard whilst the charges are read


From time to time His Majesty’s Intelligence Department brought tidings of a shirker or a “conchy.” The King’s Trumpeter having sounded the “Still,” His Majesty would proclaim “It has been brought to our notice that . . . has not yet appeared before Us. Police, arrest him!” The defaulter was then rounded up, and was forthwith initiated in a most thorough manner, His Majesty frequently directing the efforts of the Bears in person. The Police took no chances with truculent subjects. Several were brought up in bags, and only let loose on the platform.


When the wardroom cook had been captured and brought up, the “Still” was again sounded, and His Majesty addressed the Court thus—”We have before Us the Wardroom Cook. It has been brought to Our Royal Notice that he spoiled this morning’s breakfast. Let him be ducked thrice three times!” On the cook, however, presenting an injured hand, this sentence was graciously commuted and he was treated with remarkable forbearance, as also were several other sportsmen who appeared from the Sick Bay in V various stages of disrepair. Their insistence on going through was loudly cheered by their shipmates.


A Presently the Trumpeter sounded once more the “Still,” and there stood before the Throne ten small Lascar Signalmen. His Majesty took the occasion to rise and say—




You gallant boys of India,
Appearing before My Queen and I today,
Will give Us the greatest of pleasure,
To admit you with the remainder of Our children of the sea
Into the mysteries of Our realm.
Your dark smiling faces
Will always remain in
Our minds for many years to come.
Because We did not expect to meet you
In this mighty battle-cruiser of His Britannic Majesty’s Navy.
We shall watch your progress
With interest, and feel certain that you will prize
The certificate which will be given you
After the ceremony.
Not so much as a memory
Of the occasion itself, but as a memory
Which as time passes will grow more fragrant rather than faded
Of this splendid ship,
And the gallant Admiral of the Fleet
Whom you have the honour to serve with .


Their Majesties then shook hands in turn with each boy, and wished them the best of luck.


They went through laughing and choking, and then the proceedings ran along smoothly and without incident until seven bells, when the Court and the assembled multitude were called to attention by another blast ( from the trumpet). Amid a great silence, the King rose and said "My very old friend, the Admiral of the Fleet, has expressed a wish to be again initiated. I consider it a great honour which he pays Us, and an example to other old friends of ours."


The Admiral, attended, of course, by his Secretary and his Flag Lieutenant, also old friends of His Majesty, duly observed the customary rites. As the Admiral emerged from the bath he was greeted with three enthusiastic cheers from the whole assembly, led by His Majesty and the Court.


A ripple of talk now filled the air, followed by a hush, as Lady Jellieoe came forward, in spite of advice to the contrary from her physician, so that she, too, might observe the full rites. And indeed, she did so, though instead of taking the full course of the bath, a few drops of its sacred water were sprinkled over her. The ceremony over, she was given three hearty cheers and a “tiger.” His Majesty announced at this stage that the Court would resume at eight bells of the afternoon watch, and thereupon closed the morning session.


At the appointed hour His Majesty came in procession as in the fore- noon, and immediately carried on with the remainder of the business. Many old hands followed the example of the Admiral, and all the proceed- ings were completed within the space of the First Dog Watch.


The most stirring, even touching, incident of the afternoon session was the eloquent address delivered by the Admiral’s Printer, the oldest member in the Ship’s Company, who spoke thus, causing Her Majesty deep emotion.


To Father Neptune--


Behold in me a Printer bold
Who’s always got a "thust,"
Contracted in my childhood days
By swallowing dry gold dust.

Your waters I’m prepared to try
Upon my outer skin,
But just to damp the dust, old boy,
I’d like something else within.

Now if You wish to test my wares,
I’m foremost in the race--
Just see how nice the gold dust looks
On Amphitrite’s sweet face.


The Printer had gilded the cheeks of Amphitrite and presented King Neptune with a packet of the precious gold dust.


My tale is nearly ended now,
But I’m sure you’d like to know--
I crossed Your blinking, mouldy Line
Just thirty years ago.


Yours (in aqua pura),


After closing of the Court, formalities were relaxed, and Their Majesties, before returning to the Deep, permitted the Royal Suite to throw them- selves into the bath, where they were joined by crowds of onlookers. The final scene was, very properly, distinctly watery. All those who attended the Court this day were presented, as is customary, with the Royal Certificate, artistically designed and executed by His Majesty’s Printer-in- Chief.


Their Majesties were pleased to learn in the evening that the whole of the good ship’s company looked back upon a very merry day, which was unspoiled by any unfortunate incident or jarring note. Their Majesties, too, though somewhat fatigued, returned to Their watery Realms in an excellent temper and with a deeper affection for the old ship, her Admiral, And her crew.


His Majesty King Neptune has been graciously pleased to request the Secretary of State to convey His Royal Thanks to those who played the leading parts for their untiring energy, good humour and liveliness through- out the cay, and for the trouble they took and the ingenuity they showed in preparing their costumes.


King Neptune - Mr. E. J. Whiting, M.B.E., Chief Gunner, R.N.

Queen Amphitrite - Mr. P. Turner, Commissioned Shipwright, R.N.

Judge - F. H. Green, P.O. Mr. F. J. Cummins, W.V.O., R.N.

Judge’s Clerk - W. Spinks, Sto.

Doctor - F. R. Stallard, Sto. P.O.

Barber - R. Donaldson, Sto.

Barber’s Assistant - E. Roberts, Lea. Sea.

Lady Barber - A. G. Johnston, P.O.


S. 0. Allen, Sergt., R.M, L.I.,
R. Horsefield, A.B.
F. H. Marfieet, Cks. Mate.,
J. Hicks, Ptr.,
W. T. W. Miller, Ptr.,
J. J. Upton, Joiner,
A. Marlow, A.B.,
A. Joyce, Lea. Sto.,
F. W. Battrick, A.B.,
P.O. J. J. Brennan.


Secret Police

P.O. F. Quick,
Pte., R.M.L.I., J. Bingham,
A.B. W. J. McCall.



A.B. W. H. G. Bishop,
C.P.O., D. Redfern, Armr.,
F. Blake, A.B.,
H. T. Andrew, Shlpwright.


Head Bears
W. J. Bryant, P.O.,
J. J. Ellis, A.B.


W. T. Cook, Ch. Electn.,
H. Daniels, C.P.O.,
J. P. Swiggs, P.O.,
A. Wardropper, A.B.,
H. Trafford, A.B.


King’s Messenger - R. Yendell, Cpl. R.M.L.I.


Chariot Seahorses
M. Grant, L/Cpl., R.M.LI,
R. M. McGregor, Bombr., R.M.A.


King’s Trumpeter - B. J. Every, Bugler, R.M.L.I.


His Majesty also wished to thank the Commissioned Shipwright, the Signal Boatswain, and their assistants for rigging and decorating the bath and the stages; and particularly the members of the First Commission, from whose arrangements the general plan of the ceremony was taken.