The Bonds of Discipline

First published in book form in Traffics and Discoveries (1904),
this story is prefaced by a piece of verse 'Poseidon's Law'.


Naval references in 'Poseidon's Law'

V.1, l.1 "….. brass-bound man ….." A reference to a sailor's uniform. Until the 19th century, the only seafarers wearing a regulation uniform were commissioned officers of the Royal Navy (uniform introduced in 1748), whose dress uniform was bedecked with much gold lace and brass buttons (gilt if you were rich). Other seafarers dressed as suited them best, in a recognizable style, which often included bright buttons, of brass or silver. In the 19th century, the Royal Navy introduced uniforms for its ratings in 1857, and 1st class Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers wore uniforms with a brass-buttoned reefer jacket. These were copied by the more solid and prestigious commercial shipping lines, like the Cunard and P& O, and gradually the brass-buttoned reefer jacket came to be accepted as the mark of the seafaring person, even if he were no more than one of W.W. Jacob's bargees, dressed up to the nines.
V.1, l.1 "….. commissioned first for sea ….." H.M. ships have been put into commission since the times of the Tudors. A captain derived his authority from a Commission signed by the Lord High Admiral, and in the Royal Navy a sailor will speak of "doing a commission in the old Dainty in the Med in `56-`57", meaning that he served in that ship during that particular period, with the same ship's company throughout.
V.3, l.2 "….. the twinkling shoal ….." This may seem a strange adjective to use, but it is the case that the sea over a shoal (shallow water) does change colour, and the size of the waves will alter as the space between the surface and the sea bed narrows. Hence, the sea may indeed seem to twinkle, when caught by the sunlight, and the change in colour and pattern of waves is often a visible indication of shallow water (cf. such places as Portland Race, off Portland Bill, on the coast of Dorset).
V.3, l.2 "….. the leeward beach …" the shore downwind from you. In the days of sail, this was, and if you are a yachtsman today still can be, an uncomfortable place to find yourself. In round terms, no sailing ship can sail 'closer to the wind' than 30 degrees from the line of the wind, and a square-rigged ship, such as the Victory or the Cutty Sark couldn't get much closer than 70 degrees off the wind. If you were close to the shore, with the wind blowing from the sea directly towards the shore, and if you were not desirous to be cast ashore on the beach, then you tried to 'claw off' the shoreline, by sailing as close to the wind as you could go; but there was always a component of the wind's force acting on the sails which was pushing you towards the coast, and it was a balance between the component which was pushing you through the water to get away from the land, and that which was pushing you back.
V.4, l.3 and V.5, l.1 "….. windward-opened eye ….." and "….. windward-eyed ….." A sailor always (even today) keeps an eye open to windward, for that is the direction from which the weather comes, and a violent squall can be dangerous even to a modern powered vessel.
V.5, l.1 "In dromond and in catafract ….." A dromond was a form of ancient Greek merchantman, but I have not been able to find a dictionary which gives a definition of catafract. The sense is clear - it is another type of ship: and from l.3 in that verse, the assumption may be made that it is a warship, a 'bireme', that is, one with two banks of oars.
V.6, l.1 "The thranite and the thalamite ….." the upper and lower banks of oars of a bireme. (Or do I mean the lower and upper?)




The Bonds of Discipline


The story itself. The page references are in sequence, and are taken from the first English edition of 'Traffics and Discoveries' (red cloth, published by Macmillan in 1904: subsequent Macmillan red cloth 'Uniform' editions had the same pagination, as did the Macmillan red and blue pocket editions) Even if your edition is not quite the same, the sequence will be correct.


Page 39
1st para.

This whole paragraph is a reference to books such as 'Jane's Fighting Ships', first published in 1898. Fred T. Jane was a journalist who specialized in writing about navies. He saw a niche in the market, and published a book giving the details that Kipling describes (more or less - he didn't include turning circles, and inner gear may be taken to refer to the engines and fuel) and the whole was indeed "embellished with profile plates". He acquired the details by observation and from contacts. Jane's was never an official publication, in that the information did not come from Admiralty sources (or not officially). In due course, Jane's was recognized, and issued to British warships. Today, Jane's publishes books on defence matters of all sorts, but 'Jane's Fighting Ships' is still recognized as being the flagship of the firm, with a world-wide reputation for accuracy, and an ability to garner information that would have James Bond gasping in admiration.
Page 39
2nd. para.
"….. it is not bound in lead boards ….." This is a reference to the Confidential Books, which contained information of a sensitive nature, such as codes, or the detailed workings of a new type of gun-turret. These were bound in lead boards so that in the event of a ship being captured, the 'CBs' could be thrown over the side, to sink instantly.
Page 39
2nd. para.
"….. one of our well-known Acolyte type of cruisers." An imaginary name: there has never been a class of ships named after church dignitaries or functionaries, though there have been some strange names from time to time. The late 18th and early 19th centuries saw a rash of classical names, e.g., Bellerophon (Billy Ruffian to the sailors), and the coming of the iron and steel navies, which for the first time saw whole classes of exactly similar ships being built, brought with it the idea of naming ships by themes - hence the 'Admiral' class battleships of the late 1880s, 'County' class cruisers of the early 1900s (and 1920s and 1960s, as the same names were handed down)
Page 39
3rd. para.
"….. it is the disgrace of our Navy that we cannot produce a commissioned officer capable of writing one page of lyric prose." Naval education was something of a thorny question at this time. It is quite possible that Kipling, when living at Torquay, had seen the site of the new college then being built at Dartmouth to replace the old Britannia - the foundations were laid in 1896, and the college opened in 1902. The old Britannia had concentrated (though not exclusively) on seafaring subjects, seamanship and mathematics, for example, and the Arts came a long way down the list of priorities.
Page 40
Last para.
"….. and an odd hand in a torpedo factory." In fact, this is probably one person whom Kipling's narrator would not have found in Plymouth/Devonport. Mr. Whitehead's torpedo factory, the only one in England then, was at Weymouth. (Later, the Admiralty took over the old Argyll Motor Car factory at Alexandria, between Glasgow and Loch Lomond, as a torpedo factory.) He might have met a man who worked on torpedoes in the Armament depot at Ernesettle, but I doubt if that workman would have described himself as working in a torpedo factory.
Page 41
1st. para.
"….. any warrant or petty officer …." The warrant officer was half-way between a rating and a commissioned officer. He had invariably started as an Ordinary Seaman, and worked his way up. He was a man of vast experience in his own field, and very much respected by his subordinates and superiors alike. At this time, he would have been a relatively uneducated man, or (and they frequently were) self-educated. A warrant officer was the naval equivalent of Mulvaney's Company Sergeant Major. A petty officer was below a warrant officer, and was the equivalent of a Sergeant.
Page 41
Last para.
"I'm in charge of the cutter. Our wardroom is dinin' on the beach en masse". The cutter was one of the bigger ship's boats - 30 to 35 feet long, and in this case, being used to bring the commissioned officers ashore (the 'wardroom' being both a collective noun for all the officers, and also the name of the compartment in the ship which was their mess, i.e., their dining room), for the purposes of dining (at a restaurant, understood). "On the beach" should not be taken literally - it meant anywhere ashore. The "six large bluejackets" who were with Pyecroft were the cutter's crew.
Page 42
Line 3.
"Are you an "Archimandrite?" A sailor will refer to himself as being 'a Nonsuch', indicating that he is a member of the ship's company of HMS Nonsuch. In this particular context, it may be considered one of Kipling's 'showing off' phrases, since it is unlikely that a non-naval person would have known this particular usage.
Page 42
Line 5.
"A Red Marine ……" From the early 19th century until 1923, the Royal Marines were divided into the Royal Marine Light Infantry (Red Marines, from the colour of their coats) and the Royal Marine Artillery (Blue Marines - ditto).
Page 42
Line 21.
"Emanuel Pyecroft, second-class petty-officer." A second-class petty officer did not wear the brass-buttoned reefer jacket mentioned above, but was a 'man dressed as a seaman', i.e., he looked like the sailor on the Player's cigarette packet.
Page 42
Line 23.
"….. Goldin', you picket the hill by yourself, throwin' out a skirmishin'-line …..". It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that Victorian sailors spent almost as much time ashore, acting as soldiers, as they did afloat, being sailors. Ship's companies were regularly drilled, army fashion (well, they learned the drill movements for company and battalion drill, but Jack never quite managed the precision of the Brigade of Guards), so that they could 'Form Square', and so on. So Pyecroft's acquaintance with battlefield tactical terms is more than likely.
Page 42
Line 25.
"….. when Number One's comin' down from his vittles." 'Number One' refers to the First Lieutenant, the senior executive (seaman) officer of a small to medium sized ship under the captain. Reading between the lines, Archimandrite represents a small cruiser, probably commanded by a junior Captain, on her way to the Cape Station (South Africa). His senior executive officer would have had the rank of Lieutenant, but would have worn the two-and-a-half gold stripes (one thin ring, sandwiched between two thicker rings) of a Lieutenant of more than eight years' seniority. Today, such an officer has the specific rank of Lieutenant-Commander, but this rank was not introduced until April 1914.

Page 43
Line 4.
"The picket'll be comin' for you ….." 'The picket' refers to the naval patrol, under the Naval Provost Marshal, which went round the streets of dockyard ports every evening, rounding up drunk and/or disorderly sailors and marines. Again, this is an army term, and I think that a sailor would have been more likely to say "the patrol'll be comin' …..". (As an aside, if one wanted to 'see life' in a dockyard port, an invitation to spend an evening with the Naval Provost Marshal and the Patrol was well worth accepting.)
Line 14 "Tracts again!". Sailors were seen as being a fruitful field by evangelicals, who would circulate in the pubs, distributing improving tracts, either on behalf of the various churches or the temperance societies. It was round about this time that Agnes Weston, later Dame Agnes, first set up her 'Sailors' Rests', where sailors could go for (strictly temperance) refreshment, and quiet, and space - a warship's messdeck was, and still is, crowded, and privacy is rare.
Page 45
Line 5.
"The old man …..". This refers to the captain: sometimes known as 'the owner', or sometimes, 'the skipper'. Today, all three phrases are still used, plus 'Father'.
Last line
but 3.
"….. our Yeoman of Signals, ….." The senior petty officer of the signals branch. Since all the tactical signals, and much administrative traffic, passed through his hands, he usually knew what was going on, very often before the captain did himself.
Page 46
Line 11.
"….. the starboard four point seven, ….." A small(ish) gun whose calibre (diameter of the bore) is 4.7 inches.
Line 13 "….. fistin' out the mess-pork ….." Taking the salt pork out of the barrel (in naval terms, a harness cask - after Mr. Harness) in which it was stored. Refrigerated food came to the Navy slowly. After the fresh meat and vegetables embarked immediately prior to sailing had been used, and any livestock which might have been embarked at the same time had been slaughtered, then it was back to salt pork and salt beef (rarely mutton) or tinned meat (introduced in 1853). Salt meat was taken out of the barrel at least 24 hours before use, to be steeped in fresh water - always provided you had fresh water (though in steam ships, with their ability to make fresh water from salt, there was not much problem). Salt provisions remained the standby until at least the beginning of World War I.
Line 16 "….. mildewed buntin'-tosser, ….." A bunting-tosser (sometimes shortened to 'bunts') was a signalman, flags being made of a material called bunting.
Line 22 "Boots in the galley, ….." Clearly the Chief Cook thought that boots should not be worn in the galley. At this time sailors still went barefoot quite frequently, though not as a matter of course. Today, 'galley boots' are an indispensable part of a cook's dress, since they are designed to protect the foot from any hot fat or boiling water.
Page 47
Line 8.
"Down 'ammicks!" (Down hammocks). In the evening you brought your hammocks down from the stowages where they were kept during the day. In Nelson's day, they were kept in nettings on the upper deck (hence 'down', when you took them down to where you slept on the gundeck). Twenty years before the date of this story, hammocks were still kept on the upper deck (but in the hollow bulwarks which surrounded the upper deck of the first generation of ironclads). By the 1890s, hammocks were kept below decks, but the pipe would still be "Down Hammocks" at the end of the day.
Page 47
Line 14.
"….. communicatin' with the after-flat …." A 'flat' in a ship is just another word for a compartment.
Page 47
Line 26.
"….. navigatin' under forced draught, with his bearin's 'eated." Indicating, to use a modern vulgarism, that the Sub-Lieutenant has 'got his knickers in a twist'. When steam first went to sea, boilers operated using 'natural draught' to provide the combustion air to burn the coal on the grate. As higher powers were required (bigger and/or faster ships), it became desirable to burn more coal, to generate greater heat, to boil more water in a given time, to make more steam. To burn more coal, on a grate of a given size, more air must be supplied to it, and so 'forced draught' was introduced in the late 1880s/early 1890s. The stokeholds were enclosed, and steam driven fans were used to force air into the stokeholds. (One consequence was that you had to enter a boiler room through an air lock, with your ears 'popping'). With the greater power came the problems of overheating of the propeller shaft bearings, as the shaft turned faster. A more modern naval equivalent, from submarine life, would be "Father's doing 420 revs round the control room", which indicates that the captain's personal 'engine' is going flat out, and he is excited about something.
Page 48
Line 29.
"….. when he was trained man in a stinkin' gunboat ….". When an Ordinary Seaman had qualified by time and age, he would be rated Able Seaman Trained Man - which means just that - he could hand and reef and steer, but he hadn't sub-qualified as a Seaman Gunner, or Seaman Torpedoman or anything else. This is another example of Kipling's getting the jargon absolutely right.
Line 49
Line 8.
"….. under any post-captain's bows." A ship has a captain, who is her commanding officer, but his naval rank will vary with the size and importance of the ship. A small ship might be commanded by a Lieutenant: a bigger one by a Commander, and an even bigger one by a Captain. In all cases, the officer is known as the captain of the ship, but the phrase 'post-captain', which dates back to the 18th century, indicates that the officer concerned is both the captain of a ship, and of Captain's rank (today, usually referred to as a 4-stripe captain, from the rank badges he wears, though post-captain is still used from time to time).
Line 49
Line 14.
"…..part brass-rags". Fall out with one another. In the days of the spit-and-polish navy of the 1890s to 1914 (and between the wars) two sailors would share brass polishing gear (polish - 'bluebell' polish - and rags - more often cotton waste): 'he puts it on, I polishes it off'. So, if you were no longer sharing 'brass rags', you were no longer friends. And one's particular friend (these are all lower-deck terms) was one's 'raggie'.
Page 49
last line but three.
"….. carryin' 'is signal-slate at the ready." In the days before wireless, signals received by semaphore, flashing light or flags would be written down on a slate, to be shown to the captain: and the captain would dictate his reply to the Yeoman, who would write on his slate. It is hard to imagine just how little paper was used in the Victorian navy! Without wishing to be scatological, just ask yourself, when was toilet paper introduced generally?
Page 49
last line but one.
"….. without anythin' more in sight for an 'ole night an' 'arf a day." This is a very interesting remark, and again shows Kipling at his best in getting into the skin of his characters. Sailors (and marines) got a nominal four meals a day: breakfast, dinner (at 1200), tea and supper. Each mess catered for itself: the prescribed rations -so much meat, so much vegetables, tea, sugar, oatmeal, raisins, etc., were issued on a daily basis. The main meal was dinner: in round terms, a pound of meat and a pound of vegetables - sometimes followed by a 'duff' - a suet pudding. The other meals were little more than bread (more often biscuit) and tea or cocoa. Breakfast was usually no more than the latter (though Marmalade had been issued on the ration scale from the 1880s, to the intense disgust of the old sweats, who thought it was a sign of degeneracy!) - and might often be foregone, for the sake of a few minutes extra in one's hammock. So from supper (at about 7 p.m.) to dinner next day, one might well have 'nothing more in sight for a whole night and half a day'.
Page 50
Line 26.
"….. ship's theatricals off Vigo." Although in Spain, Vigo Bay was a regular anchorage for the Channel Fleet of this period - probably without bothering too much about obtaining diplomatic clearance beforehand.
Page 50
Line 26.
"…. Played Dick Deadeye …." A reference to Gilbert and Sullivan's 'HMS Pinafore'.
Page 51
Line 7.
"That night he dines with the wardroom …..". The captain of a warship lived (lives) in 'more than oriental splendour' on his own. He only ever went into the wardroom by invitation (the First Lieutenant was the president of the wardroom mess). In a happy ship, the captain might dine formally with his officers quite frequently (as is suggested in this story): and a captain might invite two or more of his officers to dine with him in the 'cuddy' from time to time - partly because otherwise being a captain was/is a lonely job, and also so that he could get to know them socially as well as on duty.
Page 51
Line 14.
"….. they abrogated the sentry about fifteen paces out of earshot." The sentry was there, not as a guard against mutinous sailors, but to pass messages, in the days before telephones and public address systems.
Page 51
last line but 4.
"….. an' the best squee-jee band …." A ship's band for entertainment purposes, mostly made up of concertinas. If you didn't have anyone who could play such an instrument, you might have a 'phoo-phoo band', made up of jews' harps.
Page 53
Line 19.
"In the balmy dawnin' ….., all among the 'olystones …..". Scrub deck routine as always before breakfast, usually from 0630-0700 (and, experientia docet, coming across the Bay of Biscay in December 1952, doing it barefoot is no picnic: at the end of half-an-hour, there was no feeling in one's feet, and it felt as though one's legs ended at the ankle).
Page 53
Line 20
"….. who was a three-way-discharge devil," A nice bit of alliteration, but I suspect this is Kipling playing with words. I don't think it was a recognized phrase, though it relates to the arrangements on a pump, which could discharge in one of three ways.
Page 54
Line 1.
"We shifts into the dress of the day …..". There was always a 'dress of the day', or 'rig of the day' (which might vary during the day, according to the duty being performed). When mustered for 'divisions' (a ceremonial parade), the dress would be No. 1s - best blue serge suit, gold badges, etc. On this occasion, it would have been working dress, white cotton drill jumper and trousers.
Page 54
Line 2.
"….. an' we prays ong reggle ….." (en regle). Queen's Regulations stipulated that prayers should be held at least daily on board HM ships.
Page 54
Line 9.
"….. slave-dhowin' in Tajurrah Bay, ….." The navy of the 1890s, particularly on the East Africa station, still spent a fair amount of time in the suppression of slavery, particularly the traffic between East Africa and the Persian Gulf. I am not sure where Tajurrah bay might be, though I suspect that it is on the coast of Oman, or thereabouts.
Page 54
Line 24.
"The leather-necks ….." A nickname for the Royal Marines, from the leather stocks they used to wear in the previous century. (And, of course, they were also known as 'The Jollies' - cf. Kipling's verse 'Soldier an' Sailor too').
Page 55
Line 10.
"….. the muzzle of the port poop quick-firer thort-ships". A quick-firing gun was a gun with a particular type of breech mechanism: they were mostly small(ish), guns ranging in calibre from about 2 inches (a 3-pounder) to a 5 inch gun. They were NOT machine-guns, such as the Maxim, Gatling or Nordenfeldt, but each round was loaded individually. They were Q.F., as opposed to B.L. (breech loading), because their breech block slid vertically (an invention of Herr Krupp), as opposed to the B.L., whose breech-block opened like an oven door. "thort-ships" is literal spelling for athwart-ships, i.e., across the ship, rather than fore-and-aft. Slinging a hammock athwart-ships was rather pointless, since it negated the hammock's virtue of swinging with the roll of the ship.
Page 56
Line 26.
"You refill your waterjacket and cool off!" A reference to the waterjacket of a Maxim gun (a heavy machine gun), still carried in the fighting tops of battleships of the period.
Page 57
Line 5.
"…..than a spit-kid." A spittoon - at this period, many sailors still chewed tobacco, and wooden spit-kids were provided. At the end of the day, when the crew were 'piped-down', the pipe (an order preceded by a series of notes on a bosun's call, or pipe) was "Out lights, spitkids and pipes", meaning 'out lights, put the spit-kids away, and extinguish your pipes'.
Page 57
Line 25.
"Chips" the Warrant Carpenter.
Page 58
Last line
"….. not precisely Navy makee-pigeon." An interesting spelling, because the reference is to pidgin English, which comes from a Chinese word meaning business. Pidgin English was the fractured English employed in trading with the Chinese originally, but came to mean almost any kind of pseudo-English. The Navy was particularly prone to larding its conversation with pidgin English - 'No can do', and 'Hammy-Eggy-Cheesy-topsides'. You will still hear (occasionally) "It's not my pidgin", meaning "It's none of my business".
Page 59
Line 13.
"…. Four trysails …." A trysail was a four cornered fore-and-aft sail, loose-footed, and with a gaff to support the head. They were mostly supplied to steam ships which had sails as well, and they replaced the ordinary square-rigged sailing ship's triangular staysails which were supported by the fore-and-aft stays which prevented each mast from falling backwards. As Pyecroft says, they were still supplied to warships for use in the last resort. (C.f. McAndrew's Hymn: "Fail there - ye've time to weld your shaft - ay, eat it, ere ye're spoke;/ Or make Kerguelen under sail - three jiggers burned wi' smoke" (a 'jigger' was a temporary sail).
Page 59
Line 21.
"pyjama-stun'sles ….." A stun'sle is an abbreviation for 'studding-sail' (so it ought to be stu'n's'ls!). Properly, a studding sail was an extra four-sided sail, hung from a stuns'l boom, extended on one side or both of a yard (which is the cross-piece from which a square sail hangs in a square-rigged vessel). Pyjama-stun'sl in this case because they were made out of the ceremonial awning, red-and-white striped, which was used inside the main awning over a ship's quarter-deck on high days and holidays (c.f. Jacques Tissot's painting, Ball on Shipboard).
Page 61
Lines 7-9.
"…..A Life on the Ocean Wave ….. havin' dragged too many nasty little guns to it.". This is a reference to the naval field-gun crews' demonstration which used to take place at the Agricultural Hall in Islington, the forerunner of the now defunct Royal Tournament. This had started in 1900/01, when the crew of HMS Powerful brought their guns back from the Cape, after assisting at the defence and relief of Ladysmith. Possibly Kipling has the tune wrong, because 'A Life on the Ocean Wave' is the march of the Royal Marines, while the Royal Navy's march is 'Heart of Oak'.
Page 63
Lines 2 to 5.
"Was it garnished with suet?" and "Morgan went an' armed his lead…..". When in pilotage waters, in the days before echo-sounders to give the depth of water, depth was found with the lead (which was a 7lb. lump of that metal) on the end of the lead-line, which was marked at intervals. The leadsman, standing in 'the chains', a platform projecting from the ship's side near the bows, swung the lead backwards and forwards until it had got sufficient momentum to carry forward, describing an arc as it fell into the sea some yards ahead of the ship. The skill of the leadsman lay in keeping the lead line just taut, as it became vertical with the lead itself just resting on the seabed, and reading off the mark at the waterline, as the ship passed the position where the lead had entered the water. The lead had a depression in the end which could be 'armed' with tallow. On recovery, the tallow would have bits of sea-bed adhering to it: sand, shells, mud, etc., and this could help to give an indication of the bottom, because the nature of the seabed is also recorded on a marine chart, as well as the depth of water.
Page 66
Line 18.
"….. all 'ands and the Captain of the Head". The 'Captain of the Head', or 'Captain of the Heads,' was the rating responsible for the cleanliness of the ship's latrines.
Page 70
Line 4.
"….. brought up on a dead centre." A mechanical, rather than a naval term, meaning that the engine has been stopped with the piston at the very end of its stroke, with the connecting rod exactly in line with the crank, and so unable to exert any turning moment. The engine thus will not move.