[Page 327, introductory verse] Gloriana ! The Don may attack us... This is taken from Henry Austin Dobson’s "Ballad to Queen Elizabeth". Dobson was born in 1840, so the piece was relatively recent. It’s a bit over-the-top for the tale about to be told – colonial Portuguese weren’t exactly the might of Spain attacking ‘plucky little’ Britain – but it does match RK’s imperialism.
[Page 328, line 31] The Cape of Storms An early Portuguese name for the Cape of Good Hope. Some say it was so called by Bartholomew Diaz, who discovered it in 1488, and that King John II of Portugal altered the name. Others believe that Cape of Good Hope was the name fancied by Diaz.
[Page 328, line 32] Camoens Luis de Camoens (1524-1580), Portuguese epic poet of renown: one of the greatest lyric poets of the 16th century.
[Page 330, line 22] It was then that Fate sent down in a shallow-draught gunboat. The accuracy of RK’s description of the ‘flat-iron’ has been remarked in the introduction, in so far as it refers to the Griper. The Griper and her class were once described as “a somewhat numerous flotilla of coast defence ‘flat irons’, unsafe in rough weather and doubtfully useful even in smooth”.
[Page 330, lines 29-30] a four-inch gun forward, which was trained by the ship;“Training” a gun is altering its direction in the horizontal plane, i.e. aiming it, as opposed to “laying”, which is altering its elevation.
The massive 18 ton, ten-inch gun carried by the Griper had a patent mounting which enabled it to be lowered into the hull to improve the ship’s stability at sea and had an arc of training of no more than 30º on either side of the fore-and-aft line of the ship. The gunboat would therefore have to be headed in the general direction of the target. In addition, the rate of training might well be slower than the rate at which the ship might swing in a tideway or a strong wind, so many captains would prefer to do all the aiming by pointing the ship. There is no reason why a four-inch gun (which weighed a mere 26 cwt (1,323kg), mounted as described in the introduction, should not have had a better arc of fire and a much faster rate of training.
ORG remarks that: “in the Science Museum in South Kensington, London, there is a model of a river/harbour gunboat of the 1870s armed with the massive old-fashioned ten-inch gun. A note says the wheel was placed just abaft the gun because most of the aiming was done by pointing the ship. It seems clear that Kipling worked on this basis in his description, but it also seems clear that it was a mistake to use such a rustic technique with the four-inch gun with which he armed Judson’s gunboat.” It has not yet been possible to establish whether this model is still on display.
[Page 330, line 31] three degrees worse than a torpedo-boat. At this time, there were in the fleet, first- and second-class torpedo boats (HM King George V commanded one around this time), and "Their Lawful Occasions" (in Traffics and Discoveries) says more about them than I can. Suffice to say that they were not comfortable to live in at sea.
[Page 331, line 7] second post in the Anson or the Howe. British naval officers invariably live "in" and not "on" their ships The lower deck, the Merchant Navy and the US Navy are less dogmatic on this point. RK uses "on" again in line 13 and in two or three later places. However, at some point a correction has been made. The author of these notes has a 1918 pocket edition in which "on" is used, and a 1949 standard edition, in which it has been changed to "in" The reference is to being the assistant navigator (remember, Bai-Jove Judson was a Navigating Lieutenant), in one of the latest battleships: Anson and Howe, two ships of the Admiral, class were then the latest thing in battleships, completed in May and July 1889 respectively.
[Page 331, line 15] Simon’s BayAn indentation on the west side of False Bay, which lies east of the Cape of Good Hope. On it is Simon’s Town, now usually written Simonstown, with a naval dockyard, the headquarters of what in 1891 was called The Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station (usually shortened to “The Cape Station”). The dockyard was transferred to the Union of South Africa (now the South African Republic) in 1957, and remains the headquarters of the South African Naval Forces.
[Page 331, line 19] a preparation of powdered cork that was sprinkled over her inside paint. The theory is that the cork absorbs the moisture of the condensation, and this was still in use in the 1950s – though how the cork could absorb moisture from the surrounding air when it was covered with umpteen layers of paint is less clear!
[Page 331, line 21] her foc’s’le was a dog-kennel. The foc’s’le (strictly fo’c’s’le, if we are to put an apostrophe wherever there are letters omitted from the full word – in this case forecastle) was where the crew, other than the Petty Officers, lived. And dog-kennel is a pretty kind description. The word derives from the structure on mediaeval warships, from which armed men could launch their weapons against an enemy ship. By the eighteenth century, it could mean either the forward part of the weather deck or, as in this case, the space underneath it. Again, a visit to the Gannet at Chatham will provide an illustration. She was a slightly larger version of the real Redbreast, but the accommodation for at least some of her lower deck ratings was in a fo’c’s’le like the ‘flat-iron’s’.
[Page 331, line 22] Judson’s cabin was practically under the water-line. Actually, Judson wasn’t doing too badly. Until the 1870s, or slightly later, the officers’ accommodation in most ships of any size (though not usually the captain’s) was below the water-line, with no illumination other than a candle in your cabin. The wardroom itself (the officers’ dining-room) was usually lit by a sky-light. A visit to Warrior at Portsmouth will show these features. There, the cabins do have scuttles (portholes), but these are a later addition. The wardroom itself is illuminated by a skylight to the deck above, which itself is illuminated by a skylight in the deck above that: so there wasn’t an awful lot of light got down to the wardroom, and when the upper deck skylight was covered, as it would be for much of the time at sea – especially in a small ship – there was no natural light down below. It is not surprising that naval officers had a reputation for not being very well-read: the opportunities for reading comfortably and without eye-strain were few and far between.
[Page 331, line 23] Not one of her dead-lights could ever be opened. Following on from the above, a scuttle was a circular opening in the ship’s side or superstructure, containing thick glass in a hinged frame, acting as a window (referred to as a porthole in merchant vessels). It opened inwards, and over it was a further circular hinged plate, the deadlight, to prevent the glass from being burst in by the sea, or spreading splinters around if struck by enemy fire. The scuttle was hinged at the side, and the deadlight was hinged at the top. It is quite possible that, at this time, the ‘flat-iron’/Griper had no glass in her scuttles – merely an opening, closed by a deadlight. Since she was so low in the water, these could never safely be opened when she was at sea.
[See Wikipedia. for an explanation of how the national flag evolved over the years to reflect political changes.]
[Page 338, line 28] abaft the windlass! "Windlass: a machine used in merchant ships instead of a capstan, to heave the anchors up from the bottom, etc." This definition, from an old Nautical Dictionary, would still serve if qualified by mentioning that steam windlasses have been fitted in some small warships, especially those of merchant ship design modified for naval use. A windlass differs from the capstans and cableholders normally fitted in HM ships chiefly in having the axis of its working drum horizontal instead of vertical; it also makes rather less demand on manpower to attend it, an advantage in a small ship.
[Page 338, line 33] white ensign at her one mast-head. Admiral Brock’s comment in ORG was: "The ensign is usually flown from either a gaff on the after mast, or from its own ensign staff, but perhaps in the absence of a gaff, Judson chose the masthead as being more conspicuous than the ensign staff."
All absolutely correct, but in fact Griper (RK’s model) did have a gaff, as evidenced from the drawing in Jane’s. But more importantly, it has long been the Navy’s custom, when going into battle, to fly (a) battle-ensign(s) in the most conspicuous positions in the ship. So Judson, recognizing the significance of the occasion, would surely have followed the old custom, and flown his ensign from the masthead. It is suggested that this was the kind of advice which RK would have picked up from his young informants and “technical advisers” in the club in Simonstown.
[Page 339, line 20] Just the half of a fraction of a point more. Judson is referring to the angle by which his bearing of a shore object will have to alter before it indicates that he is over the shoal. As there are 32 points in the 360 degrees of a compass card, one point equals 11¼º.
[Page 340, line 17] to her lower strakes, A strake is a continuous line of plates from stem to stern in the hull of a ship. The lower strakes would normally be below the waterline.
[Page 340, line 25] 'and écrazer your vile tricks'. To overwhelm, crush (Fr.). Modern spelling “écraser”.
[Page 341, line 23 et seq.] I want to get this gun on that house. Once more RK is inconsistent: when the Admiral was trying out the effect of the gun on the compasses, he had it trained round – but here we are, doing it as it would have been done in reality by the ‘flat-iron’/Griper.
[Page 341, line 32] whistle Usually called a “syren” or “siren” in the Navy.
[Page 342, line 22] Ten pounds of gunpowder shut up in a hundred pounds of metal was its charge. Once again RK hasn’t got it quite right. If the gun were a four inch, then the projectile would have been no more than twenty-five pounds in weight, and the propellant would, by this time, have been cordite: and yes, one could have described it as so much propellant "shut up” in so many pounds of metal, because it used fixed ammunition – i.e., the propellant was contained in a cylindrical brass cartridge case, and the projectile fitted into the front of it, the whole becoming one item to be loaded into the gun. But a ten-inch muzzle loading rifle, such as Griper carried, had separate ammunition – the charge would have been black powder contained in a flannel bag, and I’ve no doubt ten pounds was the amount, for a short-ish range, while the projectile would, indeed, have weighed about 100 pounds.
[Page 342, line 32] an Isabella-coloured petticoat, "The yellow colour of soiled linen, so called from Isabella of Austria who, at the siege of Ostend, vowed not to change her linen until the town capitulated. The siege lasted three years!" Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives this derivation and another, but then spoils it by saying “There is no reason to accept these fanciful derivations"!
[Page 343, line 11 and 22] dragged quick-firing guns with them. and ten little gatlings. RK was not quite au fait (when this story was written, anyway), as to the exact meaning of a quick-firing gun, and the difference between a quick-firing gun and a machine gun. He tends to use the former expression when he means what we would refer to as a machine-gun.
A quick-firing (QF) gun, to a Naval gunner, was a gun with a vertically sliding breech-block (used, at this time, on guns of 4" calibre and below: later on guns up to 5.25" calibre), as opposed to a breech-loading (BL) gun, which had a hinged and swinging breech-block, with an interrupted screw thread. The former was, indeed, able to fire at a faster rate than the latter, but in both types, each round had to be loaded individually. A machine-gun, on the other hand, has each round fed into the breech automatically from a belt, or hopper.
The Gatling gun was an early form of machine-gun, having a number of barrels arranged concentrically round a common axis. At this time, the machine-gun was the latest and most frightening piece of military hardware. There were basically three types: the Gatling, as described above; the Nordenfeldt, similar in principle to the Gatling, but with its seven barrels arranged in a horizontal line; and the Maxim, a water-jacketed, belt-fed machine gun, the same in its essentials as the heavy machine guns used by today’s armies. (Cf Hilaire Belloc’s “The Modern Traveller”:
“Whatever happens we have got The Maxim gun, and they have not”.)
[Page 343, line 32] but they’ve snaffled the lock-actions. Part of the mechanism had been removed to make the guns unserviceable: analogous to “spiking a gun”, in the days of muzzle-loaders and flint-lock firing.
[Page 345, line 12] hang you at the yard-arm According to the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship, that part of the yard (the horizontal spars across a mast) on either side of the mast is known as a yard-arm.
Admiral Brock wrote: I have now seen quite a number of photographs and drawings of the flat-irons and without exception they either have no mast at all or else a mere smear one. It will be recalled that it was the flimsiness of Judson’s masts that made his very proper desire to have it stayed in a seamanlike manner so jeered at. So Judson was merely trying to sound fierce or Kipling had forgotten what a yard-arm is.
It is suggested that the former was the case, as is made clear from the next sentence! And “mere smear” is a very good description of Griper’s mast!
[Page 345, line 21] Hum! There are popular uprising in Europe, Captain – in my country.
Admiral Brock’s commentary, quoted in the introduction before this word-by-word interpretation, makes it clear that there had been a minor insurrection in Portugal at this time.
[Page 346, line 11] He throw away everything – Gladstone her all, you say, hey? I am indebted to Mr. Ken Frazer, one of our members, who has provided the answer for this phrase. “Various dictionaries of slang refer to Gladstonize 1885-1900 meaning either "to evade and prevaricate" (Cassels) or "to say a lot and mean a little"....both allegedly Gladstonian characteristics. It is suggested that the Governor here is criticizing his King for his handling of the “popular uprising” – as might be said today “all mouth and no trousers.”.
[Page 347, lines 4 and 13] Badajos, Almeida, Fuentes d’Onor(o) and Ciudad Rodrigo Battle (Fuentes d’Onoro) and sieges (the remainder) of 1811-12 in the Peninsula War, in which Portuguese troops served under Wellington, their light troops, the Caçadores, enjoying a particularly high reputation. However, in putting these words into the Governor’s mouth, Kipling removes any doubts that it is Portugal which is the colonial power concerned.
[Page 351, line 7] Swing, swing together, This is from the "Eton Boating Song".
[Page 351, line 30] only ward-room, not fo’c’s’le drunk. The typesetter has got the right number of apostrophes in fo’c’s’le! And the meaning is:- drunk by the standard of the officers’ mess, as opposed to that of the ship’s company.
Admiral Brock wrote: "Things have changed now but at one time “fo’c’s’le drunk” was illustrated by the remark, alleged to have been given in evidence by a witness at Captain’s Defaulters: 'Drunk, sir? `E wasn’t drunk – I saw ‘im move.'"
[Page 356, line 2 and 3] Their spar-colour and our free-board tint. Probably fairly self-explanatory – the paint which was the colour of the Guadala’s spars would, when judiciously mixed, be the same colour as the ‘flat-iron’ was above the waterline. The point being that every ship had an allowance of so much paint etc., per quarter, and no matter that any deterioration was not the ship’s fault, once used couldn’t be increased – so your ship looked scruffy (or the captain paid out of his own pocket). So the opportunity to acquire some suitable extra paint at no expense, was not to be disregarded. And “freeboard” is that part of the ship’s side between the waterline and the deck level.
[Page 357, line 10] “Your, ah! – jolly-boys shall spoke their bayonets!” “With drums beating, flags flying, and bayonets fixed” – the Honours of War accorded to an honourably beaten foe. In this case, the “jolly-boys” are the Royal Marines, one of whose nick-names is “The Jollies”. This name was originally given to the Trained Bands of the City of London, from whose ranks, after the Restoration in 1660, many men were recruited to form the Admiral’s Regiment of Foot, the 1664 precursors of the Royal Marines.
[Page 358, line 19] leave the books Gold leaf was supplied (by the Navy, in minute quantities, and to big ships only) on tissue paper, made up into booklets.
[Page 359, line 21] “enough for two first-rates,”
Admiral Brock wrote: “the first-rate was a three-decker, the largest and most powerful ship of the line in the days before steam. The Navy used to be conservative, but the term seems archaic for an ERA 2 to use in 1891."
Which is all absolutely correct, but I think Kipling might have his ear well-tuned in this case. The last wooden three decker was taken out of active service in 1867, only 24 years earlier, and, as Admiral Brock remarks, the Navy was conservative (in speech and expression, certainly, though not in everything). And there were plenty of former first-rates in harbour service – Mr. Davies might even have been trained on board one. Furthermore, there were First-class Battleships and Second-class Battleships at this time, so, the use of “first rate” probably continued for longer than it might otherwise have been expected to.
[Page 359, line 30] the Martin Frobisher Admiral Brock wrote in ORG at length, and as follows:
The flag-ship, a great war-boat when she was new. Sir Martin Frobisher (c.1535-1594) was a noted Elizabethan seaman. The name and description of the ship were no doubt suggested by HMS Raleigh, flagship on the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station for three consecutive commissions between 1885 and 1895. Launched in 1873 as a “steam frigate”, she was termed a “screw cruiser, 2nd Class” in 1891. Though “war-boat” may have been a catchword of the period and was clearly written facetiously, with particular reference to her obsolete design and armament, it must have set many naval teeth on edge, as applied to one of the very last ships to bear the noble name of “frigate” in its original sense, which included the more powerful and faster types of cruiser. (The “frigate” of Hitler’s War, though invaluable in defence of convoys, was not a particularly happy revival, since she was capable of only one of a true frigate’s functions).
The Raleigh was considered expensive, in initial cost and upkeep, by frigate standards, but in other respects was a remarkably successful attempt by the constructors to reconcile the conflicting requirements of steam and sail. Her active life was nearly the longest of any British warship of the mid-Victorian era, and much the longest of an unarmoured one. She was our last frigate to pass Cape Horn under sail and the last full-rigged ship to carry an Admiral at sea, in 1895. She was still in commission, wearing the broad pendant of the Commodore in command of the Training Squadron, in 1899, when the uneasy international situation led to that squadron being paid off, to man ships of more immediate fighting value. She was eventually sold in 1905, one of Sir J.A. Fisher’s much-advertised economies.
[Pages 360-361] 'Last week down our alley came a toff...' The nine lines of verse are from an old Music Hall song, "Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road", made famous by Albert Chevalier (1861-1923) who wrote and sang the words.
A final note (Written by R G Harbord in 1962)
We must not attach too much real history to this wonderful tale but it will interest readers to have an outline of the long association of Portugal with Britain before them.
At the time the story was written we had a Treaty with Portugal, the oldest of our allies, and that Treaty is still unbroken and it is 600 years old. Portugal recently lost Goa to India by direct military action, and seems to want to blame Britain for the loss, presumably because we gave India independence in 1947. It is to be recorded that Portugal does not think her possessions (colonies), Angola and Mozambique, in West and East Africa respectively, are ready for self-government.
Admiral Brock who contributed to these notes has sent the Editor a photograph to see. It was taken on board HMS Raleigh (i.e., the Martin Frobisher of the story) in Simonstown 1890. It shows four Lieutenants in frock coats:
Lieutenant P.G.V. Van der Byl (First Lieutenant, retired 1899).
Lieutenant Reg. G. Gregory (Commander, 1899).
Lieutenant Charles Madden (Torpedo Officer).
Lieutenant S.V.Y. de Horsey.
Madden was the future Chief-of-Staff to Admiral Jellicoe during the latter’s command of the Grand Fleet, 1914-16. He commanded the 3rd Battle Squadron and was Second-in-Command to Admiral Beatty in 1916-18, First Baronet Admiral of the Fleet 1924, First Sea Lord 1927-1930.
de Horsey also reached flag rank; it is thought that he was the original of “Judson” as far as the “topmast” was concerned (see Carrington, p. 186).