Notes on the text
(notes by Roger Ayers
and Alastair Wilson)
'apart from being somewhat larger, a Jolly is the same sort of chap as a soldier'.Searching a computerised thesaurus for a word with an appropriate meaning and which, when corrupted, could sound something like "chrysanthemum", only one came up - "criterion", which fits, if one accepts that the soldier speaker also got the plural wrong, to give "For they weren't no special criterions". The final line in paraphrase then becomes:
'For them there were no special criteria, despite having to be both soldier and sailor.'In the final two stanzas, the construction is unmistakably quite different and does not affect this argument. Previous commentators have either ignored chrysanthemums (Durand and Lycett), left it as inexplicable (Carrington), or offered other suggestions (Whitehead).
... In four minutes her foredeck was submerged and the sea was pouring in through the open casemate doors in the side of the bridge superstructure. Efforts to manoeuvre a heavy canvas collision mat over the hole in the hull were abruptly curtailed, and most of the crew (some 600 of them) [i.e., seamen and marines] fell in four deep on the quarterdeck and silently waited for the order to move. Nobody broke ranks. Then “without any warning she appeared to fall over to starboard, slowly at first, but with increasing rapidity.” (quote from Captain Noel) "Lieutenant Heath gave the order to jump, and the disciplined ranks of bluejackets” [and marines, understood] “broke up like a flock of roosting birds at a gunshot”...[Line 6] whether it’s Widow the reference is to Queen Victoria (“the Widow at Windsor”); i.e. whether it is for the Queen or for the ship, the Royal Marines do what is necessary.
"358 officers and men died. Many of the victims … failed to get away from the ship. Some were caught by the still-turning propellers. Some were non-swimmers who had prided themselves on never getting their feet wet. Some were killed by debris rocketing to the surface after the ship had gone.”