RED, WHITE AND
The Red Ensign was introduced
into the Navy in 1625 and was being worn by merchant ships soon afterward;
in 1674 it became the legal and recognised flag of the merchant service.
In about 1650 the Royal Navy was using all three ensigns; the fleet
was divided into Red, White and Blue Squadrons, each commanded by
a Flag Officer of the appropriate colour and his ships were ensigns
or pendants of that colour. All three ensigns remained in use in the
Navy in his manner until 1864 when the Red Ensign was made the exclusive
`property' of the Merchant Service. The White Ensign was then reserved
for the Royal Navy, and the Blue Ensign for the then newly formed
Royal Naval Reserve. The Blue Ensign may now be worn by merchant ships
commanded by an officer of the R.N.R. with at least six more R.N.R.
persons in the complement. The blue ensign defaced is worn by ships
belonging to various government departments. The R.N. Minewatching
Service is also authorised to use the blue ensign defaced. The white
ensign may be worn by ships of the Royal Yacht Squadron. All yachts
wearing flags other than the normal red ensign must be in possession
of a special Admiralty warrant authorising this.
Miss Fanny (or Frances)
Adams was a child aged 9 who was murdered at Alton, Hants on 24th
April 1867. The murderer (Frederick Baker, a solicitor's clerk aged
24) cut up the body into pieces some of which were said to have been
found in Deptford Victualling yard. Baker was tried at Winchester
and hanged in December 1867. At about this time tinned mutton was
introduced into the Navy and somewhat naturally it soon acquired the
name of Fanny Adams. The tins themselves were found very useful by
the sailors as mess gear (there was no official issue of mess gear
in those days) and to this day the name FANNY remains attached to
the small round "mess kettle" (similar in appearance to a painter's
pot - also called a kettle).
A nautical measurement of
six feet; it was the distance between the tips of middle fingers when
the arms are outstretched sideways to their fullest extent (the word
comes from the Danish FAVN meaning "arms extended"). 100 fathoms =
1 cable; 10 cables = 1 mile; 3 miles = 1 league.
TO RUN THE GAUNTLET
An old naval expression
meaning to take a risk of receiving severe punishment. It comes from
the old naval punishment awarded to men convicted of theft, when the
offender made his way between two ranks of men each of whom was provided
with a rope's end with which to lash him; the offender was prevented
from running too quickly by the Master-At-Arms holding a sword to
the offender's breast.
GENDER OF HM SHIPS
Ships are always feminine,
whatever their names. The classical author, Plautus (second century
BC), wrote: "If a man is looking for trouble he only has to buy a
ship or take a wife; both of them will always need trimming
In 1871, Admiralty issued
instructions by circular letter (of 18th December, 1871) that corporal
punishment was to be inflicted only in cases (1) mutiny and (2) using
or offering violence to a superior officer. Circular letter of 16th
September, 1879, directed that no Commanding Officer was to award
a sentence of corporal punishment exceeding 25 lashes. On 10th January,
1881, a Bill to amend the Naval Discipline Act of 1866 with a view
to abolishing corporal punishment was presented to the House of Commons.
This was finally withdrawn on 12th July, 1881, but on 3rd August,
1881, Admiralty issued instructions that the power of Command Officers
to award corporal punishment was suspended until further orders. Administrative
action was taken in 1881 to advise Court-martial convening authorities
that corporal punishment was not to be awarded without Admiralty approval
- one assumes that Admiralty approval would not be given. Authority
to award corporal punishment was finally removed from the Naval Discipline
Act by an Order-in-Council dated 29th March, 1949; the only form of
corporal punishment which now remains is a maximum of twelve cuts
with a cane for Boy ratings. The "cat" itself was a whip with nine
lashes; the French name for it was "martinet" (from the Marquis de
Martinet, a French Colonel of the 17th Century who was a great disciplinarian).
Originally it was made by the victim, but later it was introduced
as a ready-made Naval store item.
An old mythological story was that one of the rivets in the lower
parts of the ship's hull was made of gold. The golden rivet is as
fabulous as the Key of the Starboard watch and a Hammock ladder and,
like them, has covered many a new entry with confusion.
SON OF A GUN (another,
Although frequently used
as meaning a "good fellow", this is really an old naval expression
casting aspersions on a man's parentage. In the days when women were
allowed on board during a ship's stay in port, the gun decks were
often the scenes of debauchery; and if a male child was born he was
called a Son of a Gun. An old description of such is "he was begotten
in the galley and born under a gun: every hair a rope yarn, every
finger a fish-hook, every tooth a marline spike and his blood right
good Stockholm tar"; he would be christened "Tom Bowline" or "Bill
Backstay" or some such name. Tom Bowline was a famous character who
died of wounds in 1790 and was buried at Haslar; he went ashore once
in seventeen years.
Just as his rifle is described
as a soldier's best friend, his hammock is described as a sailer's
best friend. When properly lashed up, a sailor's hammock will support
a man in the sea for 24 hours. It is said that the use of the hammock
on board ship was introduced by Aloibiados, who commanded the Athenian
fleets war in about B.C. 450; Christopher Columbus is also credited
with the introduction, having found (in 1493) that the natives at
San Salvador slept in cotton nets (called 'hamaca') suspended between
two trees. Hammocks were introduced into the Royal Navy in about 1600.
The hammock campbed (which can be simply converted from a hammock
to a camp-bed or vice (versa) was introduced in 1954.
TO GO THROUGH
To go through the hoop is
to undergo an ordeal. From the old practice in some ships of passing
hammocks through a hoop gauge to check that they were of uniform size
and appearance before allowing them to be stowed in the hammock nettings.
FLOGGING A DEAD
Flogging or working a dead
horse is doing something for nothing. It is a merchant navy term,
a 'dead horse' being a slang term used to refer to an advance of pay
given to seamen before commencing voyages in order that they may buy
clothing etc., required on the trip. Thus, 'working a deadhorse' meant
working for the first month without pay since that had already been
drawn and spent. At the expiration of the first month of the voyage
it was at one time customary to hoist in the rigging a canvas effigy
of a horse.
An old Naval name for a
picnic party, especially nowadays by bus. The word "Banyan" originates
from the time when, as an economy, meat was not issued on Mondays,
Wednesdays or Fridays: these days were called "Banyan Days" after
a religious sect in the East which believed it wicked to eat meat.
It became the custom for men to save up portions of their rations
to tide them over these meatless days, and also to be sent ashore
on those days to gather fruit. Meatless days were discontinued in
THE DEVIL TO PAY
AND NO PITCH HOT
Usually shortened to "The
devil to pay", this means "difficult times are imminent", and so "trouble
is brewing". Caulking and paying the side of a wooden vessel from
devil to waterline was a very difficult and arduous job; unless the
supply of pitch was really hot it was made all the more arduous.
It has long been the custom
of H.M. Ships returning home to pay off after a commission abroad
to wear a paying-off pendant. It is to be noted that this is a custom
only - it is not an officially - authorised action, nor is the pendant
itself provided from official sources. Being unofficial, no instructions
about it appear in any naval regulations. The pendant is invariably
white with a red St George's cross at the hoist; at the end of the
fly a balloon or (formerly) a bladder - sometimes gilded - is often
attached to keep the fly clear of the water. The custom is said to
have originated in the XIX century, when all cleaning rags were stitched
together and hoisted as a sign that they were finished with. Later,
when "proper" paying-off pendants were made on board, it became the
custom for every member of the ship's company to put in a few stitches.
Nowadays the pendants are invariably bought ashore at the expense
of the ship's welfare fund. As the paying-off pendant is itself unofficial,
there can be no authoritative rules about its length; the following
have been cited - (a) the length of the ship if the commission has
lasted the correct length of time with additions or abatements from
that length corresponding to the difference between the actual length
of the commission and the 'normal' length of a commission; (b) the
length of the ship plus one foot for every month completed on the
station; (c) one and a third times the length of the ship; (d) one
and half times the height of the foremast. It should be borne in mind
that the commission referred to is the length of time the ship's company
has been abroad, not the ship herself: when a ship recommissions abroad
a fresh commission is started; thus a commission of longer than 2
years is exceptional.
Naval abbreviation of the
word "Perquisites", referring to allowances, either in money or in
kind, given with any particular office or appointment
Saluting with the hand was
introduced into the Navy by Queen Victoria to take the place of uncovering
the head as a mark of respect. Saluting with the left hand, alternatively
to the right hand, was abolished in 1923 out of deference to India.
When going on board an H.M. Ship it is customary to salute when going
over the side whether the gangway leads to the quarter-deck or not.
to 'Jack Speak'