[November 4 2006]
[Page 39, line 1] As literature, it is beneath contempt this whole paragraph is a reference to a popular genre of the period, publications in various languages that set out the details of the latest warships for the information of the amateur; all with better claims to being informative than to literary merit. The range included confidential publications issued by Navies to their own officers only, reference books of repute, the productions of journalists and ‘naval experts’, and finally amateur ventures like the work of “M. de C." which provides the starting point for this story.
Kipling would have heard of, though probably not seen, official publications during his voyages in the Pelorus. Of the reference books of repute, the best known, already, was Jane’s Fighting Ships first published in 1898. Fred T. Jane was an established 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 a Master Spy gasping in admiration.
“Endurance”, in such books, is also described as “enduring mobility”, “steaming radius”, or “radius of action”; in theory, it was the number of nautical miles that a ship’s fuel supply would allow her to steam at a stated speed. Maximum endurance was obtained at "economical speed", which was usually about half the maximum speed, or a little under. In practice, the endurance given was apt to be optimistic; it assumed ideal conditions, coal of consistent quality, usable down to “swept bunkers”, and little or no consumption for auxiliary services.
“Armament” then consisted of guns and torpedo tubes.
“Turning-circle” is the diameter of the circle traversed by the ship when turning with a stated angle of helm or rudder. At the time of this story, when ramming was still considered a valid and likely tactic for the battlefleet, it was useful to know a potential enemy’s turning-circle. Ramming for battleships (the idea had been initiated by an incident in 1866 at the battle of Lissa between the Austrians and Italians) turned out to be a blind alley, but it did become a not inconsiderable factor in both world wars in the battle against the submarine threat.
[Page 39, line 7] morale the meaning of this word, originally French, in English, spelt thus, is well-understood today, it is suggested. The Concise Oxford Dictionary gives it as “Moral condition, especially (of troops or workers) as regards discipline and confidence”. The ORG, in the 1960s, went into a substantial dissertation, quoting the Fowlers’ The King’s English (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2nd. Ed.1908) to support Kipling’s use of the word without italics and with the final ‘e’:
The French for what we call morale, writing it in italics under the impression that it is French, is actually moral. The other is so familiar, however, that it is doubtful whether it would not be better to drop the italics, keep the -e, and tell the French that they can spell their word as they please, and we shall do the like with ours.The Fowlers went on to quote this particular line from Kipling to illustrate their contention. Nearly a century later, the Fowlers’ usage is commonplace.
[Page 39, line 11] dispositions the reference is to the stationing of ships by the Admiralty (representing “the British sailorman”): our strategic naval deployment. And indeed, it is doubtful if the Admiralty took too much notice of what was published in Jane’s and elsewhere. It was not that they were complacent (well, perhaps they were, but not in this), but the Naval Intelligence Department, set up in the 1880s, had information quite as good as that appearing in the ‘beneath contempt literature’. And Naval Attachés (licensed spies) had been attached to British legations in major capitals since the 1870s.
The dispositions had been made, throughout the latter part of the 19th century, in accordance with time-honoured tradition: a battle-fleet in home waters, and another in the Mediterranean, to counter the French; a single ‘ship of force’ with a few smaller corvettes on the China station and the same on the North America and West Indies station (to protect Canada, in case Brother Jonathan got ideas above his station); and a cruiser and a number of corvettes, gunboats, etc., on the south-east coast of America (trade from the River Plate), the Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa (trade round the Cape to Australia – cf. “McAndrew’s Hymn” - and slave-trade suppression on the east and west coasts of Africa); the same in the East Indies (the Indian trade and slave-trade suppression in the Persian Gulf), Australia (to discourage the Russians from pouncing – considered a real threat – and to prevent ‘black-birding’ (more-or-less slave-trade) in Polynesia); and finally, a squadron in the Pacific, ranging up and down the west coast of the Americas, from Cape Horn to the Aleutians.
This was Pyecroft’s Navy to which Kipling had been introduced briefly at the Cape in 1891, and then in two fortnights in the Pelorus in 1897/8. But all was about to change. 'Jackie' Fisher (Admiral Sir John, later Lord, Fisher), whom Kipling came to know well, became First Sea Lord in 1904, and it was as if a typhoon had hit the Admiralty. He brought home all the colonial gunboats (cries of dismay from the Foreign Office and the Colonial office) which, he said, could neither fight nor run away, and he concentrated the fleet in home waters to counter the growing might of Germany. One of Fisher’s predecessors as First Sea Lord never forgave him - “He abolished Jamaica”!
[Page 39, line 14] 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, line 16] one of our well-known Acolyte type of cruisers an imaginary name – see introductory notes: 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, line 21] Dumas Alexandre Dumas, either of the two French dramatists and novelists, Dumas père (1802-70), the father and Dumas fils (1824-95), the son. Probably the former, who wrote among much else, The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. We know that Kipling had read their oeuvre avidly when at school.
[Page 39, line 23 et seq.] it is the disgrace of our Navy that we cannot produce a commissioned officer capable of writing one page of lyric prose This remark clearly stung Admiral Brock, for the ORG commences:
this has strong claims to be regarded as one of the Maestro’s least carefully considered generalizations. A naval officer, disclaiming both the ability and wish to write lyric prose, might reasonably dispute the “disgrace”, since he is neither trained nor hired to do so, and indeed if he did, the chief result would be to bring his professional ability into grave doubt.This editor would suggest that Admiral Brock was unkind to Mahan, in that the sentence “Those far distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never looked, stood between it and the dominion of the world” come close to being lyric prose. And anyway, Kipling was being arch, or ironic.
Naval education was something of a thorny question at this time. We know that when Kipling was living at Torquay (1896-7), he dined on board HMS Britannia and he may well have seen the site of the new college then being built at Dartmouth to replace the old ship – ground was broken for the foundations in 1896, and the college opened in 1905. The curriculum in 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, line 8] Funchal the main town of the island of Madeira.
[Page 40, line 31] 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 Bull Point, but I doubt if that workman would have described himself as working in a torpedo factory, though, as the ORG correctly points out, in one of its older senses the word ‘factory’ includes any structure for maintenance and repair work.
[Page 41. line 1] Devonport the naval dockyard town, bearing a similar relationship to the more fashionable Plymouth as Portsmouth does to Southsea. In fact the present conurbation of the City of Plymouth used to be known as “the three towns” – Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse.
[Page 41, line 5] any warrant or petty officer the warrant officer was half-way between a rating and a commissioned officer. He had invariably started as a Boy or 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 (as 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, line 7] Bedlamite a nickname given to the ship as a result of the events about to be described.
[Page 41, line 16] (h)andsome in this sense, “fairly”. But ‘handsome’ is also a particularly west-country form of endearment – “me handsome”, or “my lover” was a common form of address, such as a bus conductor might use to a passenger of either sex, in the same way as a Cockney would use “mate”.
[Page 41, line 18] pot-boy a publican’s assistant who collects and washes the tankards and glasses.
[Page 41, line 26] a square man with remarkable eyes we meet Pyecroft.
[Page 41, line 32] cutter a ship’s boat propelled by oars or sail. See Appendix on “Boats”.
[Page 41, line 32-3] Our wardroom is dinin’ on the beach en masse We will find that Pyecroft has a penchant for using foreign phrases, not always correctly. “The wardroom” (literally, the compartment on board ship where the commissioned officers eat) is used here as a collective noun to refer to all the commissioned officers. “dinin’ ashore” means that they have all left the ship to dine together ashore in Devonport or Plymouth. All this tells us that the Postulant is lying out in the Hamoaze (the lower portion of the river Tamar, below Brunel’s Saltash railway bridge), and that her commissioned officers have decided to have a “wardroom run-ashore”, and dine together (in plain clothes, at a restaurant, understood: “on the beach” should not be taken literally – it meant anywhere ashore.) They have been rowed ashore in the ship’s cutter (or one of them), by a crew of six oarsmen, under the command of Petty Officer Pyecroft (actually, a cutter would have had more than six oarsmen). The boat has been secured at some steps close to Mr. Wessels’ pub, and the crew would have been sitting there, smoking and yarning, waiting for the officers to return from their dinner.
[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 9] Lewes Lewes was the County Town of Sussex. But it was also home to the naval jail, where naval ratings and Royal Marines who had committed an offence punished by a custodial sentence were sent. It is unlikely that the Marine’s family home would have been in Lewes (taking the sentence literally). The Postulant is in Plymouth, and therefore would have been a west-country manned ship. And her Royal Marines would have come from Stonehouse Barracks, and would have been drawn from men living on the western side of the UK. The rule was not invariable, but in broad terms, Devonport ships drew their crews from Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Wales, and cities such as Bristol, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Portsmouth-manned ships drew their crews from Hampshire and the western home counties, Birmingham and the Black country, while Chatham ships were full of cockneys and ‘Swedies’ – men from East Anglia, and Yorkshiremen. So the Red Marine, who, we shall see, was not above having several drinks too many, had probably spent time, possibly more than once, in the naval jail at Lewes. Similarly, “I’ve been invalided” is a euphemism for having been away, but not in hospital.
This is a first-class example of Kipling’s virtuosity (and also shows that an apparently innocent statement can be used to mean something quite different). Other critics may suggest that it is mere showing off, but it may be argued that it must be very refined showing-off, since 95% of the readers of the Windsor Magazine in Britain, and 99.99% of readers of Collier’s in the U.S.A. would not have been aware that he was showing-off.
[Page 42, line 21] Emanuel Pyecroft, second-class petty-officer since a first class petty officer ranked with a sergeant, and a leading seaman with a corporal, the second-class petty officer must have come in between, as it might be, a lance-Sergeant. A second-class petty officer did not wear the brass-buttoned reefer jacket mentioned in the notes on the accompanying verse “Poseidon’s Law” [Verse 1, line 1], but was a ‘man dressed as a seaman’, i.e., he looked like the sailor on the old-fashioned Player’s cigarette packet. The rating was abolished in 1907. And whence the name Pyecroft? We may note that the name of one of Kipling’s schoolfellows was Pycroft (no ‘e’). Probably it stuck in his mind.
[Page 42, line 23] Goldin’, you picket the hill by yourself, throwin’ out a skirmishin’-line precautions, in slightly garbled military terms (popularized by the Boer War and Boxer rebellion, no doubt) to avoid being surprised by the officers returning from their dinner party. In this context, to “picket” means to post a scout or sentry. 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 (as in the two examples quoted above). Ships’ 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. (The term “Number One”, however, was a Wardroom rather than a Lower Deck expression; “Jimmy-the-One” or “Jimmy” were more common with the ship’s company).
Here, it is the Postulant’s First Lieutenant, but we may assume that the Postulant (a postulant is a candidate for admission to a religious order) was of the same class as the Archimandrite. Casting forward two pages, and reading between the lines, Archimandrite represents a small cruiser, probably commanded by a junior Captain, on her way to the Cape Station (South Africa). Her senior executive officer (we meet him on page 45) 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.
vittles means 'victuals', food.
[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.)
[Page 43, line 11] santy santé, “here’s health!”
[Page 43, 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 43, line 18] A little more ‘ead to it, miss, please Glass, the marine, is more than ‘half-seas-over’. The landlord has already indicated that he won’t serve him any more (p. 42, line 11), but Glass is still imagining that he’s going to get a drink out of the narrator, and, with his eyes still shut, is talking to the barmaid as though she is in the process of drawing him a pint.
[Page 43, line 20] Plymouth Brother Pyecroft still thinks that he’s going to be preached at: the Plymouth Brethren were (and remain) a religious body founded at Plymouth in about 1830 with no formal creed and no official order of ministers. Their doctrines were sometimes professed, especially in Devonport-manned ships, by ratings who wished to avoid church, which was then compulsory except for those recognized as belonging to a “fancy religion”. Pyecroft clearly knows this dodge.
[Page 44, line 10] Our 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’.
[Page 44, line 11] ’Op soon identified as the Yeoman of Signals, whose full name may have been Hopkins or Hopwood.
[Page 44, line 13] impromptu book one of Pyecroft’s malapropisms, whose meaning can only be guessed. Perhaps 'He has improvised a book' or, conceivably, an anonymous book.
[Page 44, line 33] transpired the Fowlers, in their book The King’s English, already mentioned, condemn this use of "transpire" or "happen" (Mr King, the Classics master in the Stalky stories, also disliked "transpire" but apparently on a point of style rather than meaning: "Forsooth, forsooth! You’ll be talking about ‘speckled beauties’ and ‘eventually transpire’ next." ["Regulus" in A Diversity of Creatures, p. 245, line 3.]
[Page 45, line 7] mail-boats trotting into Madeira every twenty minutes Madeira was a regular port of call for the Union-Castle liners going to and coming from the Cape, and for liners to and from the River Plate and other South American ports.
[Page 45, line 8] lop-eared having loose flapping ears like a rabbit. The term is also used by Colonel Drury in his tales of Private Pagett, Royal Marines (see the Introductory Notes to the Pyecroft stories), so it may have an esoteric Lower Deck meaning, but “littery” men are more given to euphemisms than the Lower Deck – or were sixty years ago. (Thus the ORG, writing shortly after the first appearance of “kitchen-sink” drama on the London stage, with its more realistic use of everyday, unsanitised language.)
[Page 45, line 9] first cutter see Appendix II on “Boats”. When a ship had two cutters, the first cutter was the one hoisted on the starboard side. It is a general rule in the Navy; ‘odd numbers to starboard, even numbers to port’.
[Page 45, line 13] our owner another term for the Captain – see page 44, line 10.
[Page 45, line 14] galley in this context, the ship’s kitchen
[Page 45, line 17] Ascension an island in the South Atlantic, used then as a British naval coaling station. In the 1890s it was commanded by a Captain RN, and run as a ship. Today, it is a dependency of St. Helena and is still a vital staging post for the South Atlantic, but it has no permanent inhabitants.
[Page 45, line 18] Carth’lic Roman Catholic. Normally, of course, this would not have been a matter for comment by Pyecroft, but the unspoken assumption is that the “lop-eared Portugee” (even if he were French), must be a Catholic, and so would be more suitably associated with one of his own co-religionists.
[Page 45, line 24] matlow a phonetic rendering of the French matelot, appropriated by the British seaman apparently in the second half of the 19th century.
[Page 45, line 30] 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 8] line-head properly, line ahead; ships in single line following the flagship. An approach towards an enemy in this formation was dangerous, since it risked the enemy “crossing the ‘T’”, and being able to deploy all his guns on the broadside, while the ships of the approaching column mask each other’s fire.
[Page 46, line 9] ong eshlong en echelon, or "line-of-bearing", or "quarter line", a formation in which ships were clear of one another, and were able to bring more guns to bear. The implication is that ‘Op adopted an indirect approach.
[Page 46, line 11] the starboard four point seven a small(ish) gun whose calibre (diameter of the bore) is 4.7 inches (about 12 cm). Such guns had been particularly in the public eye when the tale was written, since naval guns of this calibre had been landed from the cruisers Powerful and Terrible in the first months of the Boer War and, mounted on improvised carriages, had played a significant part in the successful defence of Ladysmith.
[Page 46, line 12] ’ated ‘ummin’ hated humming. Whistling on board was always sternly discouraged, partly because of a superstition against it (whistling was supposed to call up a wind – desirable maybe in the doldrums, but not down in the ‘roaring forties’ where sailing ships had all the wind they wanted), and partly because it could be mistaken for a machinery squeak calling for investigation. (This latter reason was presumably the rationalization of the superstition taught to Admiral Brock when he joined at the end of World War 1. This editor was told, when he joined 30 years later, that it might be mistaken for the sound of the bosun’s call, passing an order: all of which suggests that the prohibition of whistling was pure superstition!) None of which has anything to do with humming, but the ORG started it! The Chief Cook’s dislike of humming has to have been a personal matter.
[Page 46, 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. ‘to fist’, nautically, is to handle anything (an oar, sail, etc.) The word has now fallen into disuse. Refrigerated food came to the Navy slowly (refrigerated storerooms came in new construction from the late 1880s, and “domestic” refrigerators from the start of the 20th century). 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.
[Page 46, line 16] mildewed buntin’-tosser a bunting-tosser (sometimes shortened to ‘bunts’) was a signalman, flags (the main means of communication at sea at the time) being made of a material called bunting.
[Page 46, line 19] gay “happily”, in an ironic sense.
[Page 46, line 20] 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 46, line 26] lyin’ to a sailing term, meaning to wait, motionless and head to wind. Here, ‘Op has been waiting to make his observation.
[Page 47, line 1] Dook Duke.
[Page 47, line 3] cannibalizin’ cutting great hunks off them.
[Page 47, line 5] obstructed-like abstracted; another Pyecroft malapropism.
[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. And the pronunciation ‘Hammick’ lasted to the end of hammocks in the Royal Navy in the 1960s – it was usually abbreviated to “me (my) ‘mick”.
[Page 47, line 12 be sugared an euphemism, employed elsewhere in this series, e.g., Pyecroft in “Their Lawful Occasions”; 'Pedantics be sugared! You buy an ‘am and see life.' And in “Mrs. Bathurst”; 'some pride of the West Country had sugared up a gyroscope'. The phrase was not merely a literary euphemism. In the present editor’s time in the Navy it was used in everyday speech: nowadays (2006) with the f*** word regularly used in public, it is probably much less used.
[Page 47, line 12] melly melée.
[Page 47, line 14] communicatin’ with the after-flat a ‘flat’ in a ship is just another word for a compartment. The after-flat was where the officers’ cabins were situated.
[Page 47, line 16] three-fifths power this implies a good turn of speed, the power/speed ratio being a steeply rising curve thereafter.
[Page 47, line 19] Mong Jew Mon Dieu.
[Page 47, lines 21/22] slings ‘is ‘ammick … Portugee conscript” the hammock was “slung” by means of a rope “lanyard” (a thickish, three-quarter-inch diameter piece of rope about three feet long) at each end of the hammock. The lanyard, in turn, gave way to the “nettles”, sixteen of them, much thinner, about one-eighth of an inch in diameter, which were knotted through 16 eyes at each end of the hammock. The lanyard was secured to an overhead hook in the deck-beam, or to a purpose-made hammock bar, suspended about nine inches below the deckhead (ceiling). There was about two feet between each hook. To nip in required practice, if it were to be done in a seamanlike manner; while coil down suggested that one curled up, in one’s hammock, much as one does in a bed.
[Page 47, line 23] casts off the tow leaves him to his own devices.
[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 1] cut down in this case, obviously by cutting the lanyard at the foot of the hammock (by tradition, one always slept with one’s head towards the bow). There is no means of making a graceful exit from a hammock cut down by the head – indeed, such an action would be downright dangerous.
[Page 48, line 8 essence of naval discipline a remark not to be taken seriously.
[Page 48, line 11] the Gunner protrudes his ram bow many capital ships and cruisers then had a ram bow with a projecting underwater spur for ramming an enemy (see note at page 39, line 1). The construction of the ram was discontinued in the 1880s, although battleships continued to have a ram-shaped bow until the ‘R’ class battleships completed in 1915/6. However, these later ships did not have the ram-shaped bow reinforced with what one might describe as a structural girder, as had the earlier rams. We may infer that the Gunner (who was a Warrant Officer, ex-lower deck, and not to be confused with the Gunnery Lieutenant, or Gunnery Officer: the former was the assistant to the latter) had an underhung jaw and an aggressive manner.
[Page 48, line 13] piebald warrant-rank the normal meaning of piebald is black-and-white (specifically of a horse); here, it is used in the sense of neither one thing nor the other: and it is the warrant-officer’s social status which is in question, rather than his rank. As a Warrant Officer, he was unequivocally “an officer”. King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions laid down that “Officers” included Commissioned Officers (officers of Lieutenant’s rank and above), Warrant Officers (Gunners, Boatswains, Carpenters) and Subordinate Officers (Sub Lieutenants, Midshipmen, and Naval Cadets). In ships smaller than the fictional Acolyte the warrant officers and commissioned officers lived together in the Wardroom. But although, in the Acolyte, their cabins might have been adjacent, the warrant officers still messed separately, as will become apparent later – see page 51, line 16.
[Page 48, line 15] my large flat foot seamen commonly went barefooted on board. It is impossible to say when the habit ceased: in general terms, in such ships as destroyers from the mid-1890s, with iron decks and iron ladders, shoes would have been the norm. And as late as the 1930s, boats crew might have gone barefoot. In general, though, it died out with the First World War.
[Page 48, line 16] detonatin’ contact close contact. Pyecroft was a Torpedoman, one of whose specialities was in explosives: torpedo warheads, mines, and demolitions. Virtually all explosives require some form of initiation, usually provided by a primer; and this in turn usually needs to be set off by a detonator. In a torpedo warhead, for example, to prevent the chance of a premature explosion, the detonator was not embedded in the primer when the weapon was fired. Older readers may remember seeing photographs of torpedoes with ‘whiskers’ on the nose – this was a small propeller/impeller which, on being turned by the passage of the torpedo through the water, turned a screw which forced the detonator into a small cavity in the primer, so that it was “in detonating contact”.
Here, “detonating” may have had undertones – often to be found in Pyecroft’s malapropisms – since the notebook disclosed “M. de C.’s” identity and started what we might now call a chain reaction.
[Page 48, lines 21/22] continue my evolutions in rapid time till I eventuates under ‘Op’s lee hurried to find ‘Op. Pyecroft has this irritating (?) habit of speaking in a grandiose manner. It came – sometimes even now still comes – from learning things by rote out of a text book. An evolution, in naval terms, was a specific drill: “Prepare to tow for’ard”; “Away kedge anchor”, and so on. All these would be detailed in the ship’s Watch and Quarter Bill, so that every sailor knew what was expected of him when the appropriate ‘pipe’ (on the bosun’s call) was made. “Eventuate” means “to turn out as a result” – here, “find myself”. And “‘Op’s lee” is “in the vicinity of ‘Op” – the lee of a vessel, or feature, was the downwind, sheltered, side.
[Page 48, line 24] indelible pencil a pencil whose marks could not be erased with an India-rubber – the ‘lead’ in the pencil was, in fact, plumbago. It was more legible than an ordinary graphite pencil, and was much used by, for example, the postman when he wanted you to sign for a registered letter; or the milkman, in making up your weekly milk account – he would produce a stub from behind his ear, lick the end, and there you were! The indelible pencil disappeared almost overnight some 50 years ago with the coming of the Biro pen.
[Page 48, line 25] doodeladays du, de la, des. A superficial impression of some elements of French grammar.
[Page 48, line 28] intricate probably intimate(ly); another Pyecroft malapropism.
[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. Superficially, this sounds like another example of Kipling’s getting the jargon absolutely right. But in fact it can be argued that this may be a Kipling slip. ‘Op was a signalman, and most signalmen progressed from Signal Boy, to Ordinary Signalman, to Signalman, Leading Signalman, and Yeoman of Signals. So ‘Op is unlikely ever to have been an (Able Seaman) Trained Man. However, it has to be admitted that it was not impossible. Men might apply to transfer from being a seaman to a signalman. The verdict has to be “not proven”.
[Page 48, line 33] tattician tactician (Lower Deck pronunciation).
[Page 49, line 2] private log personal diary, from log (book) which records a ship’s proceedings.
[Page 49, line 4] owner the captain – see note on page 44, line 10.
[Page 49, line 6] Nay, nay, Pauline an English catch-phrase for over 100 years (1963) – this Editor confesses never to have heard it in the last 40 years. However, it seems to have sprung from The Lady of Lyons (1838), a play by Edward Bulwer Lytton, Lord Lytton (1803-73). The words, in this precise form, do not seem to appear in the play, but there are a lot of “Nay”s, addressed to the heroine Pauline. Kipling puts the phrase in Pyecroft’s mouth again in “Steam Tactics”. The meaning is clear – an emphatic “Not me!”
[Page 49, line 7] mine-droppin’ figuratively, preparing to spring an unpleasant surprise. Pyecroft clearly saw the fundamental defect of a surprise party, that only too often the wrong person is surprised.
[Page 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).
[Page 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, line 16] keep station a reference to a ship maintaining her proper position (station) relative to the flagship.
[Page 49, line 22] You was sentry a Royal Marine sentry was posted in the after-flat, as custodian of the ship’s keyboard, and of the pistol cupboard. And, in the days before loudspeaker systems and telephones, he was there to pass messages for the Captain or Commander.
[Page 49, line 29] anteloper possibly intended as a portmanteau word, combining “antelope” and “interloper”. (It may also reflect the difficulty sometimes felt by the Lower Deck in dealing with the classical names of some of H.M. ships. If Penelope could have four syllables, why not Antelope?) There was an occasion during World War II when the cruiser Penelope met the destroyer Antelope, and signaled her: 'At last, Pennyloap meets Antellopee.'
[Page 49, line 30] 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, line 32] 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 half-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’. On the whole, however, naval diet compared more than favourably with that issued to contemporary Other Ranks in the Army, and continued to do so until at least 1956, in spite of efforts to create tri-service equality.
[Page 50, line 8] irons either handcuffs or shackles for the feet (bilboes) which were provided in the cells for restraining violent men. ‘Op was evidently thinking of the former. The suggestion is that the Captain supposed him to be mad.
[Page 50, line 13] pension-cheater one overdue for retirement.
[Page 50, line 20] nose exshtreme angle plunging fire ‘Op has come out of the cabin, extremely pleased with himself, having persuaded the Captain that ‘Antonio’ is indeed a French spy; in consequence he has a rather nose-in-the air (extreme angle) attitude. Glass goes on to make a comparison with a gun at maximum elevation to give effect to “plunging fire”. Prior to about 1875, all naval gunfire was on a flat trajectory, intended to pierce the sides of a ship to cause damage and ultimately to sink it. But after an initial round of 'armour – bigger gun to pierce armour – thicker armour – even bigger gun – even thicker armour', the gun makers realized that there were more ways of breaching a ship’s watertight integrity than by battering away at the sides at short range, and designed guns to be elevated to greater angles, which could achieve longer ranges, and achieve their destructive effect by ‘plunging fire’ – descending from a greater angle, over the armour: thus by the 1880s, battleships and many cruisers had armoured decks as well as armoured sides. [An example can be seen in the midships section of HMSBelfast, an outstation of the Imperial War Museum in the Pool of London.]
[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’ first produced in 1877. In view of its mockery of contemporary ideas of naval discipline, Pinafore might seem a surprising choice for ship’s theatricals, but memoirs record that it was sometimes performed on board (the tunes were extremely catchy, and the phrase 'What, never? … no, never! …what, never? … well, hardly ever!' was (and still is) in everyday use). In those days, its humour depended on its absurdity – though the role of Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord, whose song detailing his progress from 'office boy to an attorney’s firm' to being the 'Ruler of the Queen’s Navee' was based on the career of W.H. Smith, the news agent. Since then, some believe that HMS Pinafore has left the stage for the “ocean blue” and is now only too realistic. Thus the ORG 40 years ago. This editor hopes that the shade of his predecessor will not take offence he says that his predecessor seems to have been a bit liverish – see also the note on page 39, line 23.
A deadeye was a round, flat, wooden block, once used in setting up the standing rigging of a mast.
[Page 50, line 26] to the moral in a lifelike manner (late 19th century colloquial).
[Page 50, line 28] leather-neck a seaman’s term for a Royal Marine, referring to the leather stock they once wore. Royal Marines were also called ‘Jollies’ (see Kipling’s verse Soldier an’ Sailor Too). Today, they are usually known as ‘Royals’.
[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 12] a cordite mouth though cordite had not long been adopted as a smokeless (!) propellant, it seems to have soon been discovered by malingerers that eating a little produced a headache and a slight temperature and a general feeling of the morning after. We had better not enquire too closely how Pyecroft knew of the Madeira’s effect!
[Page 51, line 13] mess-men an officer would have said “mess-waiters”, or at a later date, “wardroom attendants” – but Pyecroft is using the lower-deck term for those who did the chores for the petty-officers’ mess. To an officer, a mess-man was a caterer – frequently a civilian, particularly in the Mediterranean and on the China station – who provided the officers' messing for his own profit under the terms of a contract agreed with them.
[Page 51, line 13/14] navigate towards the extreme an’ remote ‘orizon figuratively, to withdraw.
[Page 51, line 14] they abrogated the sentry about fifteen paces out of earshot another Pyecroft malapropism. See note at page 49, line 22 above, for the sentry’s presence.
[Page 51, line 16] the Gunner, the Bo’sun, an’ the Carpenter Warrant Officers, who, until 1948 had a separate Warrant Officers’ mess in cruisers and larger ships.
[Page 51, line 18] wardroom joints bein’ lower-deck hash conversation overheard in the Wardroom becoming Lower Deck gossip.
[Page 51, line 25] cruiser big-gun records, sailing cutter (fancy-rig) championship, etc. the Navy of the period was intensely competitive: this served a treble purpose; it improved naval efficiency (better shooting, better seamanship skills); it alleviated the boredom of peacetime life in the Navy (never-ending ship-husbandry, painting and polishing, can be soul-destroying); and it improved overall morale – the crew of the ship which was ‘cock’ of the squadron felt that they were unbeatable at anything, as Pyecroft suggests.
[Page 51, lines 25/26] sailing-cutter (fancy-rig) championship sailing races in service boats were supposed to be with standard service rig, and full service gear: though many and varied were the means of “improving” a boat’s performance. Hours would be spent on sanding down the hull, and painting it with special paint; oars would be shaved, to reduce weight, until they were in danger of breaking, because they were too weak; the sailmaker would adjust the set of the sails so that they would draw better. And, in most service regattas there was a class in which the boat could be rigged with any sails to its best advantage. As an example, in the 1950s, the Navy was still racing 30-foot gigs, whose standard rig was two four-sided lug-sails – they were fast, but could be brutes to tack: however, for unrestricted races, C-in-C Plymouth, Sir Richard Onslow, rigged his gig with two dinghy masts and mainsails, and a dinghy foresail, from the standard Royal Naval Sailing Association dinghy. His boat was, in consequence, far handier than boats with the standard rig.
[Page 51, line 29] 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 51, line 33] to stop our way a ship’s way being her movement through the water, the figurative meaning here is to put a stop to the irregularities, restore normal discipline.
[Page 52, line 2] three points off the port bow about 34º to the left of the direction of the ship’s head.
[Page 52, line 8] broke the boom … all mines together figuratively, started things moving, with a bang. There is a specific reference here, which would be understood by naval men,and those who took a particular interest in naval affairs. The reference is to the breaking of the boom, by HMS Polyphemus at Berehaven, in Bantry Bay, during the summer manoeuvres of 1883.
The coming of the torpedo, and the small, fast, and highly manoeuvrable torpedo boat (cf, Torpedo Boat 267, “Their Lawful Occasions”) meant that a much weaker enemy could mount an attack on a much stronger enemy fleet while it was at anchor (it couldn’t stay at sea for ever – coal would be needed at quite frequent intervals). (This was the essence of the doctrine of the French Navy’s Jeune École of the period.) So harbour protection became a tactical issue in the 1880s, and a boom across a convenient entrance was part of the protection, together with a controlled minefield, where the mines would be exploded from the shore, when or if an enemy, having passed the boom, steamed over them.
HMS Polyphemus was built as a ‘ram’, specifically to be used for such tactics, and on a celebrated occasion, mentioned above, she proved that a boom could be broken, or ridden over. Old sailor used to date things by the occasion – “that was the year after Polyphemus broke the boom at Bantry”. The fact that the boom was breakable was responsible for the introduction of torpedo nets (see the note in “Their Lawful Occasions" page 139, line 4) to protect individual ships at anchor.
[Page 52, line 11] grist another malapropism – ‘gist’ is meant.
[Page 52, line 13] Gaulish French (facetious).
[Page 53, line 5] lootenant in the Royal Navy, as in the Army, the correct pronunciation for the word ‘lieutenant’ is ‘leftenant’: it is only the United States Navy which regularly uses ‘lootenant’. However, ‘lootenant’ is sometimes used jocularly in the RN – and in this case, Pyecroft is probably, as he thinks, exercising his linguistic talents.
[Page 53, line 6] three ‘undred and ninety-six revolutions 396 revolutions was considerably in excess of the maximum for a cruiser’s reciprocating (“push-and-pull”) engines: it was about the limit for much smaller engines of this type in a fast torpedo-boat. (The first cruiser to have turbines was HMS Amethyst, launched 1903, completed 1904.) A very high speed is implied.
[Page 53, line 19] In the balmy dawnin’ ….., all among the ‘olystones Scrub deck routine was 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). The holystones were made of gritstone – the effect was to sandpaper the wooden decks. They were so called because one used them on one’s knees, in an attitude of prayer. Smaller ones were called ‘prayer books’, larger ones were ‘(hand)-bibles’.
[Page 53, line 20] who was a three-way-discharge devil a three-way discharge pipe coupled to the ship’s fire-main enabled three hoses to be used simultaneously. The sub-lieutenant may be taken to be a competent, mischievously energetic officer.
[Page 53, line 21] inverse ration to the cube o’ the velocity ‘ration’ is, of course, a malapropism’ ‘ratio’ is intended. The whole means ‘anything but smartly’.
[Page 53, line 23] arrogated the inverse malapropism for ‘abrogated’ – see page 51, line 14.
[Page 53, line 24] flat-foot seaman – see page 48, line 15.
[Page 53, line 27] mops up a heathenish large detail was allocated an unusually large party of hands.
[Page 53, line 31] viva voce a 'malapropism' for qui vive. Pyecroft frequently got his expressions slightly wrong. See the note on his 'malapropisms' in the introductory note on the Pyecroft stories.
[Page 53, line 33] in his sword-belt deliberately over-dressed – a sword-belt was only worn in No.1 dress.
[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, with blue worsted badges.
[Page 54, line 2] an’ we prays ong reggle. (en règle). King’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. Tajurrah Bay (also Tadjourah, Tajura) lies at the western end of the Gulf of Aden, in what used to be French Somaliland, now the independent state of Djibouti.
[Page 54, line 14 et seq] My sword … end o’ the court-martial during the court-martial of an officer, his sword is placed on a table before the Court for the duration of the trial. If they acquit him, this is conveyed to him, on his return to the court-martial room, by the hilt of his sword being turned to face towards him, and it is usual for the President to return his sword to him formally, after the finding is announced.
[Page 55, line 1] Brazee presumably Brazilian (cf. Portuguee, Chinee.)
[Page 55, line 5] ’ard astern, both screws “Full astern” is the usual order, “hard” being reserved for helm orders, as wheel orders were then called. And “both engines” would be used, instead of “both screws”.
Is this a Kipling slip? Doubtful – he would have been sufficiently aware of the correct form of engine orders. So we must assume that the Navigator was being deliberately erroneous as part of bamboozling M. de C., but Pyecroft thinks it unnecessary to explain to the narrator.
[Page 55, line 9] blue slop rig articles of uniform issued from the Paymaster’s store (known as the slop-room, and the clothes as slops).
[Page 55, line 10] the muzzle of the port poop quick-firer 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.
[Page 55, line 10] thort-ships “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. But again, this is, presumably, all part of the bamboozling with incompetence exercise to deceive M. de C..
[Page 55, line 12] brought ‘is stern to an anchor sat down – rather ponderous nautical slang.
[Page 55, line 18] the pip bad temper, “a liver”, spleen. (Slang)
[Page 55, line 20] split a half bottle of soda water – 'with whisky' is understood.
[Page 55, line 23] massacritin’ Pyecroft’s invention: from massacre-ing, with reference to their drill.
[Page 55, line 28] ash-hoist a device, worked by a small steam-engine below in the boiler-room, for hoisting ash from below, to be thrown into the sea down an ash-chute. It was usually chain-worked, and the chain clicked over its sprocket as each link passed over – hence the Sergeant ‘clucking’.
[Page 55, line 29] fore-and-aft-bridge in cruisers of this vintage, a gangway connecting the fore- and after- bridges, overlooking the waist. A Fleet in Being, page 43, records that the Pelorus was completed without one, but had one fitted during her first refit. Today, the Bridge of a ship is the primary command and conning position, and looks like a block of flats. But when the first ironclads were built in the 1860s, the primary conning position was where it always had been (see HMS Victory), alongside the steering wheel, on the quarterdeck. However, in the design stage, it was quickly realized that this was impracticable, because the Officer of the Watch would not be able to see ahead, because of the seven-foot-high bulwarks; and so a (literal) bridge was provided (see HMS Warrior). In due course a pilot house (chart house) was provided, and with the demise of sail, the bridge was moved to a more advantageous position further forward (among other advantages, the command did not get covered with smuts), and an after conning position provided for use in case the fore-bridge was damaged in action.
[Page 55, line 29] ”Listen to the Band in the Park” also referred to as “Soldiers in the Park”, or “Oh, listen to the Band”, an instant song-hit from A Runaway Girl, musical comedy by Seymour Hicks and Harry Nicholls, music by Ivan Caryll and Lionel Monckton, Gaiety Theatre, London, 2nd May 1898. It ran for 593 performances. Produced in New York on 23rd August 1898 at Daly’s Theatre, where it ran for 216 performances.
[Page 56, line 2] a sanakatowzer of a smite a lusty blow.
[Page 56, line 6] a Gosport ‘ighlander a case of Kipling being a bit too clever. The R.M.L.I. barracks in the Portsmouth area were at Forton Barracks in Gosport, on the western side of Portsmouth Harbour (later they were used as the Boy’s Training Establishment, St. Vincent; they are now a sixth-form college). So Red Marines of the Portsmouth Division might be referred to as Gosport Highlanders, or Gosport Rangers. But as mentioned above (Page 42, line 9), Archimandrite was Devonport-manned, and her Royal Marine detachment would be from Stonehouse Barracks, the home of the Devonport R.M. division.
[Page 56, line 11] interregnum malapropism for 'interruption'.
[Page 56, line 19] morgue Britannic British arrogance, or haughtiness.
[Page 56, line 24] volupshus voluptuous – malapropism for 'enveloping'.
[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’. The whole phrase can be translated into modern usage as 'as thick as two short planks'.
[Page 57, line 13] a general row round the situation a metaphor for generally supervising the whole scenario, suggested by the evolution frequently carried out 'Away all boats, pull round the fleet'.
[Page 57, line 18] the steam-cutter down for repairs the steam cutter (smaller than a steam pinnace) was the one power boat carried by a small cruiser such as Archimandrite. It would normally have been stowed inboard (i.e., not on davits) “on the booms”, a framework abreast and outboard of the fore-and-aft bridge previously mentioned (see page 58, line 24, below) and, to move it, the main derrick would have been used, involving a fair amount of ropes and pulleys (tackles) and manpower (“she takes a lot of humourin’”, line 22)
[Page 57, line 19] cheero-party an organized ship’s picnic party.
[Page 57, line 25] Chips the Carpenter.
[Page 57, line 26] small reckonin’s odds and ends.
[Page 57, line 28 ”tiffies” slang for Artificers: at this time, Engine Room Artificers were the only branch; but there have subsequently been Electrical Artificers, Radio Electrical Artificers, Air Artificers, Ordnance Artificers, Shipwright Artificers, etc.. The expression is still in use (2006).
[Page 57, line 28] the Pusser a nickname for the ship’s Paymaster, who in Nelsonic days was the Purser. (For many years known as Accountant Officers (although their responsibilities were wider), Paymasters in 1944 became the Supply and Secretariat Branch. Today, although they are still Supply and Secretariat specialists of the General List, they are generally known as Logistics Officers (Loggies – Heaven help us).
[Page 58, line 2] bed-plate engine-seating, another engine room metaphor. Retallick was ‘shaken to his core’.
[Page 58, line 9] non continuous class a class of, or for, ratings on a non-continuous service engagement – short service men. Continuous service men signed on for an initial engagement of ten or twelve years (the term altered at about this time). Short service men engaged for a term of three years only, and their basic instruction was shorter and less thorough than continuous service ratings – so, as and when necessary instruction in particular subjects would be given on board.
[Page 58, line 10] give way together normally the order for a boat’s crew to start rowing: here it is apparently used as the historic present for 'gave way together', i.e., made a start.
[Page 58, line 11] non plus ultra ne plus ultra, the furthest point attainable, the height of achievement.
[Page 58, line 13] Fratton one of the less picturesque districts of Portsmouth
[Page 58, line 15/16] in light skirmishin’ order 'in marching order', or 'in skirmishing order', indicated the amount of equipment the sailor was carrying; full marching order would have meant wearing belt and gaiters, carrying his haversack, blanket, rifle, cutlass, ammunition, three days rations, water-bottle, etc.: skirmishing order would have dispensed with the haversack, and blanket: light skirmishing order would have, perhaps, meant only half the ammunition and only half a day’s rations. All would have been laid down in the Gunnery Manual of the day.
[Page 58, line 22] stole at our last refit when a ship’s reputation depended to a great extent on her appearance, and the Government allowance of stores was so inadequate that an Executive Officer had to buy paint and cleaning material out of his own pocket, it was not to be expected that an opportunity of obtaining stores without signing for them would be overlooked. Readers may be assured that nothing has changed in the last century.
[Page 58, line 23/24] the port booms see page 57, line 18, above.
[Page 58, line 25] Charlie Peace an English criminal (1832-79) notorious for offences ranging from burglary to murder for gain. He was hanged at Leeds and portrayed in the Chamber of Horrors at Madam Tussaud’s waxworks (in London). He was the subject of a biography, The King of the Lags by David Ward (Elek, London, 1963).
[Page 58. line 28] Hell’s Hell, … an’ when there study to improve We have not found a source for this apparent meaningful aphorism: possibly it was Kipling’s own. The meaning is, ‘it’s bad enough already, see if you can’t make it a little worse.’
[Page 58, line 33] 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, from about 1815 onwards, 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;[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 probably 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). Their introduction here is highly fanciful, but Pyecroft’s picturesque embellishments, including the shimmy (chemise) suggest washing on a line.
[Page 59, line 26] Bosun’s calaboose “calaboose” (from the Spanish calabozo, a dungeon, is probably still familiar (to our older readers, at least) from its American colloquial use for a jail or lock-up. It may here be confused with “caboose” (from the Dutch kabuis, or kombuis, a cook’s cabin, which in the U.S.A. is still the conductor’s car on a freight train, and nautically is the cook’s galley in a small ship.
If 'calaboose' was indeed adopted by the Royal Navy for a small locked compartment, like the Boatswain’s store, it seems to have been displaced in later years by “caboose”. Corrupted to 'caboosh', this has remained in use by the Lower Deck up to today (2006).
[Page 60, line 6] résumé résumé so spelt and inflected is unconvincing coming from Pyecroft: but as 'resoom' it has been an important part of the vocabulary of almost every Petty Officer instructor from that day to this.
[Page 60, lines 11 and 14] like Voltaire’s Habakkuk … each man seemed veritably capable of all reference books give “Habacuc était capable de tout as 'attributed to Voltaire' and let it go at that.
[Page 60, line 12] one o’ their new commerce-destroyers before the Entente Cordiale of 1904, some French cruisers were clearly designed for attacking British merchant shipping: equally, the Powerful and the Terrible, mentioned above (page 46, line 11) were specifically designed to hunt down and destroy such commerce-raiders.
[Page 60, line 28] onjenew ingénue, naive.
[Page 61, line 1] Ganymede cupbearer to Zeus in Greek mythology.
[Page 61, line 7] ”A Life on the Ocean Wave” a song by Epes Sargent (1813-1880), an American author. The tune was composed by an Englishman, Henry Russell, then working in America. It is now the march of the Royal Marines.
[Page 61, line 9] 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 61, line 14] tohu-bohu pandemonium, hubbub (French).
[Page 62, line 9] in plain sea a literal translation of en pleine mer, on the high seas, in the open sea.
[Page 62, line 15 Hesperides in Greek mythology, the guardians of the golden apples of Hera or, as here, the delightful garden of the gods, often vaguely located on the western limits of Ocean and sometimes identified with lost Atlantis. The point here is their mythical nature.
[Page 62, line 15] vigias vigia (French vigie) is derived from the Spanish or Portuguese for 'look-out'. It is a navigational danger that has been reported, but not confirmed, often in an unlikely position. It may be due to a temporary movement of the earth’s crust, an optical illusion, or to errors in navigation by the ship reporting it. Though it cannot be ignored it remains doubtful until its existence in the place reported is confirmed by independent observers. In Pyecroft’s day such features were still quite common on charts – the notation P.D. against a rock meant “position doubtful”: or there might be a dotted circular line marked “shoal reported 1879”. Distant waters and the deep oceans were then still incompletely surveyed, but in 2006, there are few areas of the earth’s oceans which have not been accurately surveyed, though it is a never-ending task to keep them up to date.
[Page 62, line 31 chenaler to follow the course of a channel, or to seek a passage in shallow water.
[Page 63, line 5-6] armed his lead see the note at verse 4, lines 1 & 2 of The Wet Litany, the poem that accompanies “Their Lawful Occasions – Part I”.
[Page 63, line 20] bonnets in a needlecase The late Mr. P.W. Inwood brilliantly elucidated for the ORG this esoteric little jest of Kipling’s.
Bonnettes en etui is a French equivalent for studding-sails (see note on page 59, line 21 above), although bonnettes by itself is now in common use. The uninstructed (the ‘narrator’ is obviously one such) could translate the former quite literally into 'bonnets in a needlecase' since bonnette can also mean 'bonnet' (in connection with fortification – it was a cover over a casemate – hence our present use of 'bonnet' as the word for the lid of the engine compartment of a car; an early Panhard or Renault’s engine cover was shaped rather like a fort’s 'bonnette'). etui may be a needle-case (and indeed, is so used as in English) or a sheath.
Keen scholars will find this somewhat obscure etymology of both French and English discussed by Dr. R.C. Anderson in the November 1954 issue of The Mariner’s Mirror (page 324) and more briefly by Ernest Weekley in his Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (Secker and Warburg, London, 1952), under “Studding-sails”.
[Page 63, line 23] That show’s the beggar’s no sailor Pyecroft is unkind – had the narrator been able to be more exact in his translation, Pyecroft would have realised that “M. de C.” understood very well what had been achieved. [The perils of translation between languages having words with similar sounds, but different meanings! A prime example is that the French misaine is the foremast, whereas the English “mizzen” is the after-mast in a three-masted ship.]
[Page 64, line 1] though I’m a Torpedo man now when the Royal Navy took up the Whitehead torpedo in 1870, it became, and remained until 1876 a branch of gunnery. In the Pelorus in 1897, in the absence of a Gunner (T), the Gunner was responsible for the two torpedo tubes (A Fleet in Being, page 53, line 12).
It is hard to believe that gunnery and torpedo ratings were as interchangeable at that date as Pyecroft implies. Thus the ORG. Indeed not. Pyecroft was 'the captain of the port-bow quick-firer', and as such would have had at least a second-class gunnery rating. (there were thee classes – third class was normally for Able rates; second class for leading Hands, and First class for Petty Officers: you wore your rank badge – a single anchor for Leading hand, crossed Anchors for Petty Officer on your left arm, and you “non-substantive” rating on your right sleeve. The two did not always go in step.) And the Navy did not like to “waste money” on training a man to do one thing, only to have him decide that he preferred to do something else. So inter-branch transfers were rare (see the comment at page 48, line 29).
[Page 64, line 4] varicose another malapropism. Presumably he means 'various' or 'variegated'. (varicose is a medical term referring to an uncomfortable condition of the veins.)
[Page 64, line 12] in puris naturalibus naked – another malapropism, implying 'in normal conditions'.
[Page 64 impromptu improvising.
[Page 64, line 18] might as well bear a hand as look pretty a catch phrase to stimulate the indolent.
[Page 64, line 19] bundoop “bundook”, a gun or rifle (Hindustani)
[Page 64, lines 19-20] at fifteen hundred with a range of fifteen hundred yards.
[Page 64, line 29] subcutaneous probably Pyecroft meant 'subterranean' – the magazines were down in the bowels of the ship. (See the text at page 53, line 28).
[Page 64, line 32] faint and sickish … business professional distaste for such an ignominious display.
[Page 65, line 4] free-knowledge-ist phrenologist. (phrenology was a pseudo-science which purported to explain people's mental condition by examining the bumps on their heads).
[Page 66, line 8] Hayti bean-feast Hayti (Haiti) has not always been renowned for civilized practices.
[Page 69, line 9] backed the band this phrase does not appear in current reference books. 'To beat the band' was an enthusiastic adverbial phrase.
[Page 69. line 18] all ‘ands and the Captain of the Head. The ‘Captain if the Head’, or ‘Captain of the Heads,’ was the rating responsible for the cleanliness of the ship’s latrines. The phrase means every single person on board, without exception – sometimes said, particularly in the Merchant service, as “all hands and the cook”.
[Page 69, line 23] sno-midshipman Pyecroft has just stopped himself from saying “snotty”, an impolite term for a midshipman. Moorshed we shall meet again in this series (see "Their Lawful Occasions").
[Page 67, line 4] anything more chronic disorganized, dissipated, in an appalling state. 'Chronic' tended to be used by the uneducated to indicate, always in a negative sense, anything extreme: ' ’E was carrying on somethink chronic' means that someone was letting loose a tirade against somebody or something. The usage stemmed from the medical use – e.g.,chronic (which strictly may be taken to mean ‘recurring’) bronchitis meaning continuous and severe bronchitis.
[Page 67, line 11] cockbill the yards cockbill the yards as explained by Pyecroft, just below, this is disarray as a sign of mourning. The last recorded instance of this in the Royal Navy is said to have been in the Tagus in 1908 after the murder of Don Carlos, King of Portugal. (It may be doubted whether Lord St. Vincent or Nelson would have approved mourning for a 'mutineer'.)
[Page 67, line 12] We hadn’t any yards except a couple of signallin’ sticks the disappearance of sail left warships with signal-yards only, but very soon, lofty wireless yards were needed also. These were still rigged in the old-fashioned way until about the start of World War II.
[Page 68, line 2] the bugler let off the “Dead March” Strictly, the Dead March is any solemn march played, in slow rime, for a funeral procession. The best known is probably the “Dead March” in “Saul”, an oratorio by G.F. Handel.
Since the bugle has only eight notes, of which five were normally used, this must indeed have been a 'merry tune yowlin’ from the upper bridge' (line 14 below).
[Page 68, line 7] attend public execution the last recorded instance was at Talienwan Bay, during the second Chinese War in 1860, when a Marine charged with attempted murder was hanged at the yardarm.
[Page 68, line 17] broken firebars to sink the corpse.
[Page 68, line 29] a white shirt ‘e’d stole his own would have been grey flannel.
[Page 69, line 7] aeolian harp a stringed instrument emitting musical sound in the wind (from Aeolus, god of the winds.
[Page 69, line 29] shotted weighted, in this case with firebars, but formerly round-shot was used.
[Page 69, line 31] Sails colloquial diminutive for the sailmaker. Sailmaking skills still remain in the navy for such things as boats’ sails, awnings, covers, etc.. Today the materials used included synthetics, of course.
[Page 70, line 4] brought up on a dead centre a mechanical metaphor, rather than a naval one, meaning that the captain was 'rooted to the spot'. An engine is said to be 'on a dead centre' when it has 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.
[Page 70, line 13] push party, crowd (slang, Australian origin).
[Page 70, line 19] an’ the bugle struck up a cheerful tune it is the custom, at a naval funeral, if there has been a band present with a funeral firing party, and buglers to sound ‘The Last Post’, for the party to march off to a more rousing tune. Indeed there is a naval skit of the “Drill for a funeral firin’ party” which concludes “will march off to the accompaniment of a merry tune”. It sounds very much as though the idea of the skit has been around since Kipling’s time.
[Page 70, line 27] trampo tramp steamer
[Page 71, line 4] a sixteen-inch kick 16-inch guns, fitted in HMS Benbow in 1885, and in two later ships, were the largest in the Navy, and remained so until an 18-inch gun was briefly tried, in HMS Furious, in 1917.
[Page 71, line 10] a change … came o’er the spirit of our (my) dream from “The Dream”, by Lord Byron (1788-1824). For all that Kipling has reproduced so well a sailor’s 'navy-talk', it is probably stretching it to expect Pyecroft to be acquainted with Byron!
[Page 71, line 11] Elphinstone an’ Bruce in the general election of February 1874, Sir James Elphinstone, Bart., and thew Hon. T.C. Bruce were elected as Conservative members for Portsmouth. After the polling, Sir James addressed his supporters from the window of the famous George Hotel, which stood in the High Street of old Portsmouth till demolished by the Luftwaffe. As suggested in our introductory notes, it is improbable that Pyecroft would have remembered this speech if he had been much younger than Kipling who was 8½ at the time.
[Page 71, line 16] obligato yet another malapropism; 'obligatory', meaning 'essential', is meant. (Obligato is more familiar (with two ‘b’s) as a musical term, meaning 'essential to the effect'.)
[Page 71, line 25] Amalekites sworn enemies of the Israelites, vide Exodus XVII.
[Page 71, line 26] Do captains talk like that in the Navy who did talk like that was Mr. Chucks, the Boatswain in Captain Marryat’s Peter Simple - see the note on A Fleet in Being , page 5, line 17. See also “The Propagation of Knowledge” in Debits and Credits (one of the later ‘Stalky’ stories).
[Page 72, line 2] trimmin’ coal the coal-trimmers were the lowest rate of crew-men in the Merchant service. Their task was to bring the coal forward in the bunkers (obviously, as the coal got used up, the coal pile was further and further from the bunker doors), so that the stokers could reach it, to feed the furnaces. In doing so they had to ensure that the level of the coal remained the same on each side of the ship, to keep her upright, and ‘in trim’.
[Page 72, line 12] moral double-bottoms figuratively, disciplinary foundations.
[Page 72, line 28] The Strict Q.T. this phrase, meaning “in strict confidence” (“Q.T.” being an abbreviation for “quiet”) is said to have been introduced by G.H. (“The Great”) Macdermott of the stentorian voice and powerful personality who sang “We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo, if we do”, thereby making another contribution to the English language. He died in 1901. The phrase is found in one of the verses of the song Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay, which appeared in 1891:
Fond of fun as fond can beHowever, we have not traced a song so entitled.
[Page 73, line 11] brass-‘atted blighters according to Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Slang this expression for a senior officer came into popular use during the Boer War (1899-1902) but had been used by Kipling in 1893. This seems to refer to “In the Rukh” (Many Inventions page 223, line 12.) There the phrase is uttered by Muller, the German head of the civilian Woods and Forests Department of the Government of India.
©Alastair Wilson 2006 All rights reserved