[Heading] Kipling himself gives the source of the title, as ‘Navy Prayer’. It is, in fact, regarded by the Royal Navy as ‘The Naval Prayer’, and is to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, in the section ‘Forms of Prayer to be used at Sea’, where it is the first prayer of all, with the note “The two following prayers are also to be used in His Majesty’s Navy every day” (my prayer book is dated 1922). Prayers (that is, in the sense of public worship) are no longer said on board HM ships every day, but no service on board would be completed without the magnificent language of this prayer.
There will be few British members of our society aged over 50 who have not at some time seen Noel Coward’s terribly stiff-upper-lip film “In Which We Serve” (based loosely on Lord Louis (as he then was) Mountbatten’s exploits at the start of World War II in HMS Kelly, the leader of the flotilla to which HMS Kipling belonged). The words in the title of that film also come from the same prayer, the text of which (1903 version) is:
“ Oh Almighty Lord God, who alone spreadest out the Heavens and rulest the raging of the sea; who hast compassed the waters with bounds until day and night come to an end; Be pleased to receive into thy Almighty and most gracious protection, the persons of us thy servants and the Fleet in which we serve. Preserve us from the dangers of the sea and the violence of the enemy, that we may be a safeguard to our most gracious Sovereign Lord, King Edward, and his Dominions, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions: that the inhabitants of our island may in peace and quietness serve thee our God; and that we may return in safety to enjoy the blessings of the land with the fruits of our labours, and with a thankful remembrance of Thy mercies, to praise and glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
During the past century, minor changes have been made to reflect the realities of naval life and politics: thus the Navy prays to be preserved from the “dangers of the sea and of the air”: we pray for our “most gracious Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth” – but still for her “Dominions”, while the little Englander outlook of “that the inhabitants of our Island” (N.B. it was singular – Skye, the Orkneys and Ireland could look out for themselves – not to mention the Isle of Wight) has been replaced, first by “the inhabitants of our island and Empire”, and, at sometime in the late 1950s by “the inhabitants of our islands (N.B. the plural) and Commonwealth”. These changes do not, it is understood, appear in the Book of Common Prayer, but are authorised in that form by a Ministry of Defence Book of Reference.
[Page 105, lines 1 & 2] Disregarding the inventions of the Marine Captain, whose other name is Gubbins the ORG says “although the narrative is by no means ‘bald and unconvincing’, we may reasonably suppose that Captain Gubbins was inserted by Kipling as a “corroborative detail to lend an air of verisimilitude” (see note on page 142, line 20)”.
The present compiler thinks that there may have been a bit more to it than that. In those “high and far off days”, the press and public took a great deal more note of the affairs of the navy and army than they do today (except when it’s bad news). The annual naval manoeuvres (and ditto army) were often reported in some detail, and Naval and Royal Marine officers who could write (or sketch) would be invited to act as the special correspondent of The Times or the Morning Post, etc., (in the same way as Winston Churchill did on the North-West Frontier, at Omdurman, and (until he was captured) in the Boer War. It is suggested that the Marine Captain was one of these correspondents, and Kipling is saying “Don’t you believe the sanitised version which ‘our special correspondent with the Red Fleet’ has published: this is what really happened”. And ‘Gubbins’ can be used as a word meaning ‘thingummybob’.
[Page 105, line 4] HMS Caryatid went to Portland to join Blue Fleet for manoeuvres From the 1890s until the outbreak of World War I, the Home Fleet/Channel Squadron/Atlantic Fleet, or whatever its current title was, carried out tactical manoeuvres around the coasts of Great Britain at the end of the summer. There was usually some particular aspect of naval warfare to be examined – the efficacy of torpedo boats, or the effect of various rates of coal consumption on tactical thought – and the fleet was divided into two: the Red Fleet – the ‘goodies’, and the Blue Fleet – the ‘baddies’. In those far-off and degenerate times, the Blue Fleet was usually given the characteristics of the French Fleet. (My apologies to any of our French members who may stumble across this, but so it was.) In those days, when the British Empire was unashamedly red in all British school atlases, red was seen as an appropriate colour for the home side. After WWII, red became the opposition’s colour, and Britain/NATO became the blues. In the 1970s, someone in authority got an early attack of the PCs, and the opposing side became Orange, just in case the Soviets became paranoid.
A caryatid was a supporting column of a building in the form of a female figure: from the Latin caryatides; the Greek karyatides means ‘women of Caryae’, a town in Laconia, Greece.
Portland was a secondary naval base in Dorset. There was a small dockyard on the north end of a peninsula, known as the Isle of Portland, connected to the Dorset coast by the Chesil Bank. (And in a real Channel sou-wester, seas break over this bank, and the Isle of Portland becomes a true island.) It had been designated as a ‘harbour of refuge’ in the 1860s and the anchorage lying between Portland to the south, and Weymouth to the north on the Dorset coast was being enclosed against torpedo attack by breakwaters which, in 1903, were nearing completion.
[Pages, various] HM Ships Caryatid, Pedantic, Wraith, etc. These names (which did not represent real ships) are Kipling with tongue in cheek. The Victorian Admiralty’s ships’ names committee loved classical names, hence Mars, Hannibal, Dryad, Endymion, Euryalus, and so on through the alphabet – gods, goddesses, figures of myth and real names from antiquity. And they loved sonorous names indicative of strength and power for battleships: Majestic, Magnificent, Victorious, Illustrious. In 1897, HMS Majestic was the Flagship of the Channel Squadron, and Magnificent was the “leader of the second line”. Pedantic is a gentle dig at such names.
[Page 105, line 6] Portsmouth the most important naval base in Great Britain, in Hampshire, sheltered by the Isle of Wight.
[Page 105, line 6] fell among friends in contrast to the man in St. Luke’s parable who fell among thieves. (Luke 10,30)
[Page 105, line 10] Portland Breakwater to be pedantic, the area enclosed by it.
[Page 105, line 13] …Lieutenant-Commander A.L. Hignett… This is an interesting usage, since the substantive rank of Lieutenant-Commander did not exist at that time (it was introduced in April 1914, for all Lieutenants of over eight years’ seniority – who, in any case, since the 1880s had worn the rank insignia of two-and-a-half gold rings, which from 1914, marked the rank of Lieutenant-Commander). A.L. Hignett would have appeared in the Navy List as a Lieutenant. And he would have signed official letters from his destroyer as A.L. Hignett, Lieutenant-in-Command, or possibly Lieutenant and Commander. However, there is little doubt that, entirely unofficially, the use of ‘Lieutenant-Commander’ was not out of the ordinary.
Admiral Brock wrote “In a scurrilous little book, The British Navy in the Present Year of Grace, written in 1885-6 by an author who took the seaman-like precaution of signing himself “an undistinguished Naval Officer”, “Lieutenant-Commander” is described as “The title by which the Lieutenants in command of gunboats desire to be known: it has no official existence in our Navy, but, still, there is something in the latter half of it which indicates a possibility of the bearer of the title being promoted to the higher rank, and it accordingly brings comfort and consolation to many expectant officers, a large proportion of whom are never fated to become Commanders”. As a Court-Martial soon afterwards sentenced the author to imprisonment and dismissal (on charges not connected with his authorship), we need not treat his cynicism too reverently. We need only note that in 1903, the use of the title was exactly on a par with the practice of addressing a Commander as “Captain” – a matter of custom or courtesy and not established right.” (And speaking personally, the writer of these notes, if abbreviating Lieutenant-Commander on an address, writes Lieut. (or Lt.) Commander, rather than Lieutenant Cdr. for the very reasons which “an undistinguished Naval officer” gave, 120 years ago!)
[Page 105, line 15] Kobbold or kobold, a German mythological goblin or underground spirit.
[Page 105, line 17] flagship another courtesy title: “flagship” has the specific meaning of a ship wearing an admiral’s flag. A ‘lieutenant-commander’ could only fly a senior officer’s pendant, and that only in the absence of anyone senior to him in the vicinity. Today, NATO-wide, the use of the ‘Starboard’ pendant, a green-white-green pendant, indicates the senior officer present in a port, in the absence of a flag officer afloat. To the older generation, this is confusing, because the hoisting of any flag containing the colour green (known as the gin-pendant), used to indicate that the Wardroom bar was open to all comers.
[Page 105, line 19] leader of the second line in this phrase, Kipling has fused two expressions, “the lee line” from the days of sail, and “the second division” of later origin. In a fleet under sail in two columns, the Commander-in-Chief normally led the weather (windward) line and his second-in-command led the lee line, as Nelson and Collingwood did respectively at Trafalgar. To the end of his time, Lord Charles Beresford continued to refer to his second division as ‘the lee line’, completely disregarding meteorology and the fact that none of his steel ships had a square yard of canvas.
Kipling’s meaning is clear enough: the Pedantic was the flagship of the Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command (or the Second Flagship). We have seen, in A Fleet in Being, that the two flagships of the Channel Squadron in 1897-8 were the Majestic and Magnificent. In 1903, they were reaching the end of eight years’ service as such. It would be unusual for Kipling to identify the Pedantic with the Magnificent. 15,000 tons is an approximation to the ship’s Navy List displacement, which at that date represented an estimate of the actual weight of the ship as designed, plus an arbitrary allowance for the weight of coal, water, stores, etc.. The bunkers were assumed to be about half full. The tonnage of merchant ships is normally arrived at in a completely different manner, based on the capacity of the ship concerned.
[Page 106, line 10] Ulster a long, loose, overcoat, often with a belt, owing its name to the fact that originally it was made from frieze manufactured in Ulster, the northernmost province of Ireland. Punch took note of its vogue in 1871.
[Page 106, line 13/14] leg-irons fetters for the feet, after the fashion of hand-cuffs.
[Page 106, lines 16-19] Mr. Emanuel Pyecroft … Plymouth this, of course, refers to “The Bonds of Discipline”, the preceding story in this volume.
[Page 106, line 29] Cathedral a reference to the size and majesty of the battleship and the ceremonial attending a flagship.
[Page 106, line 30] Vulcan exceptionally, there was an actual ship of this name, described in the Navy List of 1903 as a Twin Screw Special Torpedo Vessel (Depot Ship). The First Lord of the period when she was laid down, in 1889, said she was “a swift protected cruiser, fitted with special appliances for lifting and carrying a considerable number of the largest type of second-class torpedo boats”. This concept was seen to be a failure, but Admiral Brock’s dismissive comment that “Her surplus work-shop capacity after maintaining her own commitments would have been limited” is perhaps slightly overstated, and she served as a depot and repair ship throughout WW1, and she didn’t end her career until 1955 (the author of these notes did a short course on board her in 1953/4, when she formed part of the Devonport Torpedo School).
Conceivably, Kipling may have thought that since Vulcan was the god superintending Roman heavy industries, particularly metal working, the name was suitable for a hypothetical Fleet Repair Ship. The Magnificent had not spent any appreciable time in Malta, so the incident was presumably contrived to allow Pyecroft to express contempt for the Pedantic’s overweening self-importance and selfishness in monopolising the Vulcan’s services. On a more serious note, it could have been an accurate reflection of Beresford’s description of the Mediterranean Fleet of this period as being a “twelve knot fleet with breakdowns” (see introduction).
[Page 106, line 32] “Man and arm watertight doors” Pyecroft is flippantly combining “Man and arm boats” and “Close watertight doors”, two unexciting evolutions which T.B. 267 would be spared because of her small size and simplicity.
[Page 107, line 4] sugared see the note on
“The Bonds of Discipline” page 47, line 12.
[Page 107, lines 4 & 5] “Buy an ‘am and see life” this phrase was quickly taken up by naval and army messes and became a general catchword, though it is to be doubted that it is common in 2004.
[Page 107, line 15] No. 267 Torpedo Boat a fictitious number, as one might expect. The highest numbered steam torpedo boat was No. 117. Details given later in the story suggest that her original, insofar as she had one, was one of a group numbered from 94 to 97.
When the self-propelled torpedo was introduced in the 1870s, it was carried in a few large ships of cruiser size, or above. (Incidentally, when the American Admiral Farragut said “Damn the torpedoes, Full steam ahead” in Mobile Bay, during the civil war between the States, he was referring to what are now called mines.)
The first engagement in which a self-propelled torpedo was fired in anger was in 1878, in an engagement between the British cruiser Shah and the Peruvian ship Huascar. It was not a success, since the Huascar could go faster than the torpedo! But it was at that time that the first torpedo boats were being built, the Victorian steam-driven equivalent of later Motor Torpedo Boats and PT Boats. The French in particular built a large number of these craft, seeing them as a means whereby they could attack the British fleet, with a fair measure of success (they hoped), without having to build big, expensive battleships. And we built such craft, in quite some numbers, similarly to attack the French fleet (see the description of the Vulcan above). They were not large craft, being about the same size as a really large ocean racing yacht today – and rather less comfortable, and certainly less well able to keep the seas. But they were perceived as a serious threat: the idea was that French torpedo boats would sneak across the Channel under cover of darkness, and deliver an unexpected attack on our fleet in Portsmouth or Plymouth (Pearl Harbor before its time). To counter them, bigger Torpedo Boat Destroyers were built, whose name was shortly condensed to ‘Destroyer’, and which had, by 1897, to all intents and purposes taken over the functions of the torpedo boat. Hence, most torpedo boats were obsolescent, and had been reduced to reserve, only being brought out for the annual manoeuvres, as has No. 267 on this occasion.
[Page 107, lines 20-22] The Right Honourable Lord Gawd Almighty Admiral Master Frankie Frobisher, K.C.B. Admiral Brock wrote:
“any attempt to identify the character with the celebrated Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot Fisher, later the first Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, must depend only on the similarity of names. Kipling would almost certainly have altered this if he had thought there was any danger of confusion between them. Fisher was both the prophet and driving force of material progress, he welcomed change and was far from ‘eroded by age’ (See page 108, line 18) at this time. He never commanded a fleet in home waters,” [and his only major fleet command was as C-in-C Mediterranean, 1899-1902] “Opinions on him varied widely, but he was certainly the most famous and influential flag officer of his time”.
The writer of these notes can see not the remotest similarity in the names, and is convinced in his own mind that, as Admiral Brock went on to say, “Frobisher” sounds much more like Sir Harry Stephenson, who had been commanding the Channel Squadron when Kipling made the two cruises described in A Fleet in Being. Kipling did not take to Stephenson: in a letter after his first trip in Pelorus, in July 1997, he writes “All the same, the new Channel Admiral is rather an ass.” (Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol II, ed. Pinney, p. 305); nor was his view improved after dining with the admiral next year.
Stephenson’s temper clearly had been ‘eroded by age’. He had been a gallant and successful captain of one of the two arctic discovery ships on the 1874-5 expedition, in which a team led by Commander Markham reached the farthest north that man had then done, but Admiral Brock repeats the story that:
“on one occasion Sir Harry made his embarrassed Flag Lieutenant deliver to his Flag captain, Prince Louis of Battenberg, a message so gratuitously offensive that the latter sent for the Fleet Surgeon and had himself placed on the sick list. He then retired to his cabin and remained there, incommunicado, like Achilles in his tent, until the Admiral recognised that the cure lay in his own hands, and made suitable amends.”
However, elsewhere (Royal Sailors, by A. Cecil Hampshire), it is said that Sir Harry suffered seriously from dyspepsia, to the extent that he spent substantial time ashore, being treated. It is therefore unsurprising that the admiral let loose his wrath on Moorshed after dinner. No doubt Kipling had learned of Sir Harry’s affliction while in Pelorus – it would have been common knowledge throughout the fleet.
[Page 107, line 25] tiffy Engine Room Artificer (E.R.A.), employed on skilled duties in the Engine Room. At this time, E.R.A.s had all their technical training under civilian auspices – they would have completed a formal apprenticeship in a factory or shipyard – and joined the Navy as Chief Petty Officers (i.e., at the top of the lower deck tree) with trades union views and no seagoing experience, which did not improve relations with men who had come slowly up the hard way, at sea. One of Sir John Fisher’s first reforms, as Second Sea Lord in 1903, was to introduce the Boy Artificer, who received all his training in naval establishments, and rose (but much more quickly than his seaman or semi-skilled counterpart) through the Leading and Petty Officer rates afloat.
The resentment died hard – it was still manifest in the 1950s: and the Artificers always messed separately from other Petty Officers and Chief Petty Officers in destroyers and any ship larger. But it answered: this writer has no hesitation in saying that there are no finer technicians in the world than a naval artificer (see below, p. 113, line 28).
Nonetheless, Pyecroft is maligning the breed in general when he suggests that an ERA would clean his dynamo with brickdust – which was generally used as a cleaning abrasive for brass brightwork at that time, and would have done a dynamo’s bearings a power of no good. And as will be seen, Kipling made a secondary ‘hero’ of Hinchcliffe, the E.R.A. of T.B. 267.
[Page 107, line 26] Blast these spurs! They won’t render! a rope is said to render when it slips without warning, or when it goes freely through any place, where it is intended to go. The second meaning is what Pyecroft has in mind here: he is in fact blaming the spurs because he can’t manage them. (The writer of these notes has himself seen an army officer in full mess undress, with spurs, come an almighty purler while trying to step over a hatch-coaming – spurs, indeed, do not render!)
[Page 107, line 27] steam gadgets in an oldish T.B., these would amount to little more than her main machinery and its ancillary pumps. Labour-saving aids were inconsiderable in small ships. (Admiral Brock might well have said ‘non-existent’ – and he needn’t have qualified it with “in small ships”, either.) There was then no great need to save labour in the Navy (nor, really, in the household, either). In both, labour was plentiful, and had to be kept occupied, anyway. In T.B. 267, for example, the anchor would have been weighed by a hand windlass – as this writer experienced in a minesweeping motor launch (about the same size as T.B. 267) some 54 years later: and we also had to reel in by hand the 200 yards or so of the thick electric cable with which we swept magnetic mines. This was a job requiring all hands, and the memory remains another 50 years later!
[Page 107, line 28] Our Mr. Moorshed mentioned as a midshipman in the Archimandrite (‘The Bonds of Discipline’, page 66 line 23). Now he is in command, aged 19, he would be a Sub-Lieutenant.
[Page 107, line 32] crabbin’ ourselves progressing sideways. When steering across the tide, you will inevitably not go straight ahead in the direction of the ship’s head. With a strong tide, and at slow speed, you may go more sideways than forwards.
[Page 107, line 33] steerin’ pari passu Latin – meaning ‘with equal pace, simultaneously and together’. Another of Pyecroft’s uncertain ventures into foreign phrases. His meaning can only be conjectured; perhaps ‘as best we could, meeting difficulties as they arose.’
[Page 108, line 2] our chief engineer T.B. 267 was too small to be allowed an engineer officer; Hinchcliffe, as the senior rating of the branch, was thus responsible for the ship’s machinery and in this capacity it was quite normal for him to be called the “chief engineer” of the ship, although as will be seen in A Fleet in Being (Chapter I, lines 10 & 11), “Chief Engineer” (N.B. the capital letters) was formally used for a commissioned rank and for certain very senior Engineer Officers in positions of great responsibility. One was taught, very early on as an officer, that one did NOT address a Chief Petty Officer as ‘Chief’ (you use his rank and name, or his job title). The title of Chief was reserved for the ship’s Engineer Officer, whatever his rank. On the lower deck (and, incidentally, in the United States Navy also) ‘Chief’ is used as the form of address for a Chief Petty Officer.
Admiral Brock added:
“Captain Lionel Dawson, RN, whose service in torpedo craft went back to 1907, says in his book, Flotillas: “A chief engine-room artificer (chief petty officer) was the chief engineer.” And during World War II (in particular) chief E.R.A.s were the chief engineers of corvettes – relatively large craft, compared to the torpedo boats of the turn of the century (vide Nicholas Monsarratt’s The Cruel Sea, probably the best sea fiction of World War II – but based entirely on his own experience in the North Atlantic 1941-45).
[Page 108, lines 4-7] the new port …. seekin’ for a sacrifice the Admiral, after dining with the captains of his bigger ships, was in the mood to look for a counter-irritant to dispel the effects of the cloudy wine that had touched up his gout or rheumatism.
[Page 108, lines 9-10] stick-and-string bateaus a scornful term for sailing ships, sometimes used during the transition period by those who favoured steam, and called themselves “the movement party”. They were told by the conservative school that steam was ruining the Navy, seamanship and smartness were disappearing, and the like. The Admiral was re-opening a dead controversy.
While there were, of course, conservatives who clung to what they knew and could manage (and given some of the disadvantages of early steam-engines, their complaints were not unreasonable), the Admiralty and most senior naval officers had seen the advantages of steam from the 1840s onwards. By 1860, there was no controversy: by 1900, as Admiral Brock says, it was dead. What is not often appreciated, in this as in other similar matters relating to national assets, is how much a part the dead hand of the Treasury played in hindering technological advances. In the case of the Navy, the Treasury could not bring itself to accept that when the fleet went to sea, it cost money. And while the fleet retained masts and yards, as it did up to 1881 (because steam engines were then very fuel-inefficient), every encouragement was given to captains to save coal.
[Page 108, line 12] steam-packets any steam-boat or vessel. A ‘packet boat’ was originally one carrying mails.
[Page 108, line 15] …. was about not evolutin’ in his company to carry out a drill ‘as an evolution’ meant – and still means – to do it as quickly as possible. So, to ‘evolute’ is a jocular expression, meaning to carry out any manoeuvre or operation.
[Page 108, lines 17-18] Knowin’ Frankie’s groovin’ to be badly eroded by age and lack of attention … As the grooves of a gun’s rifling get old and worn, or if they are not kept free from fouling, the gun becomes increasingly erratic. So it is with Admirals …
[Page 108, line 22] résumé French for an abstract or summary. The word (always pronounced “rezoom”) was much used by Torpedo Instructors at a later date, [indeed it was, I recall it being so used when I did my long Torpedo Course in 1960. A.W.] but in this context Pyecroft probably means réchauffé – heated up again. Messing, on these small craft was on that sort of basis.
[Page 108, line 23] camber Admiral Brock wrote:
“this might mean either a tidal basin, or the curved deck forward, adopted in early torpedo craft to encourage water to drain off the forecastle. Here the probability is that Moorshed and his two principal assistants had their dismal scratch meal on deck, just abaft the forecastle. Officers messing with ratings was something not envisaged in the regulations but conditions in small craft called for commonsense solutions.”
However, the more usual word for the curved fo’c’s’le was “turtle-back”, and the encounter with the admiral had occurred inside Portland harbour, in which there is a camber, known as such, the usual berth for small ships, like torpedo boats. So, although 267 is now in Weymouth, three miles or so away, either is a perfectly possible solution.
[Page 108, lines 29-31] a narrow strip of water … into Weymouth town This would be Radipole Lake and the mouth of the River Wey (not to be confused with the River Wey in the first verse of “Merrow Down”, which flows north through Surrey to join the Thames at Weybridge).
[Page 108, line 32] brig a sailing ship with two masts, square-rigged on each.
[Page 109, lines 1-3] a type …. And the full-blooded destroyer the Admiralty recognised only two classes of torpedo boat. The classification here is that adopted in Brassey’s Naval Annual, a publication regarded as having some status, because its founder, Lord Brassey, had twice been a civilian member of the Board of Admiralty. Reference to a table on page 316 of the Annual for 1896 shows that Brassey regarded 43 British torpedo boats, 126-150 feet in length, as being in a ‘Sea-going Class’ of T.B. between Destroyers and 1st Class Torpedo Boats.
The details given by Kipling in the next three lines, plus the information given at the bottom of page 114, that 267 was not built by Thornycroft or Yarrow, are what enables us to deduce that the ‘original’ that Kipling had in mind was either No.97, built by Laird at Birkenhead in 1893, or one of Nos. 94, 95 and 96, built by White, of East Cowes in 1894. All of these were 140 feet long, displaced 130 tons, were armed with three light guns and three torpedo tubes, and had once been credited with a highly optimistic 23 knots. Their full complement was 18, but for the annual manoeuvres they might have had to do with less. Captain Dawson, in his book, Flotillas, already mentioned, introduces torpedo boats in the following terms:
“These relics of a past, and pioneers of a future destroyer Navy, had been built in shoals in the `eighties and early `nineties, when the powers of the torpedo arm were beginning to be realised. The first were merely glorified steamboats, such as were carried in big ships, and indeed the first ‘litter’ were actually constructed to be hoisted into and carried by the old Vulcan (see note on p.106, above), specially designed for the purpose. The type of vessel which I now joined (O 45, late No. 45) had been the first venture in sea-going torpedo craft. His Majesty King George V had commanded one during manoeuvres.”
By the mid-nineties, however, it had become evident that a larger, faster, and more sea-worthy type was needed. Destroyers were laid down in large numbers and T.B. building was suspended. A baker’s dozen of T.B.s launched between 1901 and 1903 would probably have been the last if Fisher had not introduced what he called a ‘coastal destroyer’ in 1905. The 36 vessels of this type were so much smaller than contemporary destroyers that they had to be downgraded to T.B.
Nonetheless, the T.B.s identified as being the models for T.B. 267 served throughout World War I, and weren’t broken up until 1920.
[Page 109, line 5] quickfirers several sizes of gun were included under this heading (vide note on Page 19, line 26 of
A Fleet in Being) but those on No. 267 would have been 3-pounder guns of Hotchkiss or Nordenfelt design, with a calibre of 1.85 inches, breech-loading, with a high rate of fire.
[Page 109, line 11] more life because less constricted by ceremonial, routine and weight of numbers, and in close contact with the sea, and people.
[Page 109, line 12] bleedin’ Admiral Brock thought it necessary to explain that this was “a euphemism for ‘bloody’, which as “My Fair Lady” has recently reminded us, was introduced by G.B. Shaw into “Pygmalion” to shock his audience.” Forty years on, with the f… word commonplace on television, such explanations may no longer be necessary.
[Page 109, line 22] signaliser a serious attempt was made in the late 19th century to introduce the verb ‘to signalise’, but this was mercifully short-lived and ‘signaliser’ here can only be Pyecroft’s flippant substitute for ‘signalman’. (And – an irrelevance, but … – in the 1920s there was a short-lived move to call the Royal Air Force ‘The Airvy’!)
[Page 109, line 23] Dawlish bathing-machine Dawlish is a seaside resort in Devon, about 45 miles west of Weymouth. A bathing-machine (a peculiarly English speciality) was a wheeled dressing-box, drawn into the sea to enable the sensitive bather to change and enter the water with the minimum exposure to weather and the vulgar gaze. A casualty of the First World War.
[Page 109, lines 25-6] Levantine dragoman an interpreter or guide of uncertain descent in the Eastern Mediterranean.
[Page 109, line 27] He was the second cutter’s snotty Probably most of you know that a ‘snotty’ was a Midshipman, an officer under training, and, allegedly, ‘the lowest form of animal life’. Much of one’s training was practical, and running a ship’s boats was very much a part of that training. A Midshipman was nominally in charge of the boat, but he relied very much on his coxwain’s experience; and a good coxwain could get ‘his’ Midshipman out of all sorts of trouble with a behind-the-hand whisper at the right time – to be rewarded (quite unofficially) by beer from the Gunroom pantry. And the word ‘snotty’ derives from the fact that ‘the young gentlemen’ were supposed to wipe their runny noses on the cuffs of their uniforms! The three buttons on the sleeve of a midshipman were supposed to prevent him from performing this social indiscretion but the idea and the telling of it were so well worn that they had lost their offensiveness.
[Page 109, line 28] Cape Station an abbreviation for what at that time was officially known as the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station. With its headquarters at Simons Town, it covered (as might be deduced) most of the West Coast of Africa; Ascension, St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha and the East Coast of Africa as far north as the Equator were also included.
[Page 109, line 29] mangrove-swampin’ … lies to correspond This is a reference to the work done by the Royal Navy in the latter half of the nineteenth century in suppressing slavery on the West Coast of Africa, particularly in the Bight of Benin, the coasts of which now form parts of Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire.
The warships would often send their boats inshore at the mouths of the rivers, where the barracoons containing the slaves were situated. These rivers were bordered by mangrove swamps (the mangrove is a tropical tree growing freely in tidal estuaries, salt swamps and marshes), and often had a sand-bar at the mouth of the river – which might or might not be marked on the chart. So in the ship’s boat (a naval ship’s cutter was a 10 metre boat, which could be sailed with a single mast, setting a jib and a mainsail – in other words, cutter-rigged – or rowed, double-banked, with 12 men) one had to grope one’s way up the river, through the mangroves, trying NOT to run on the sandbanks, with the risk of staving in the bottom of the boat, and then having to explain to the First Lieutenant how it was that the Carpenter was now going to have to spend a lot of time repairing the boat. (The writer of these notes experienced mangrove-swamping in the rivers of Sarawak in the 1960s.)
[Page 110, line 5] broke professionally ruined, dismissed the service. This usage probably comes from the breaking of a baton or other mark of office, on being dismissed.
[Page 110, line 6] tattics “tactics, a lower deck pronunciation” – Admiral Brock. Today, generally, the first ‘c’ is pretty well lost.
[Page 110, lines 10-11] … an’ smoke in the casement? The writer of these notes is not entirely sure in his own mind if Kipling got this wrong, or if he is making Pyecroft use a malapropism. It’s about 80% certain that it’s the latter, but, as everyone knows, Homer does sometimes nod. The correct word is ‘casemate’, which Kipling must have known, since it was a word used in fortifications ashore, and as such known to the Sappers and Gunners, with whose language he was more familiar. The casemates, in battleships and larger cruisers of the period (from 1885 up to 1915), were positions on the main deck where the secondary armament was mounted, and were the spaces where smoking was allowed. That said, although we have seen that Pyecroft liked to use unusual words, especially foreign ones, from time to time, and used malapropisms elsewhere, ‘casemate’ is a word which he would probably have got right, since it was in everyday use on board ship.
[Page 110, line 21] the Times it is of interest that Admiral Brock thought it necessary to write an amplifying note as follows:
“always regarded as having a certain special standing and authority amongst London daily newspapers, though it is not, as many foreigners imagine, an official mouthpiece of the Government, nor has it been.” Those were the days of ‘The Thunderer’, when the editor of The Times was undoubtedly a power in the land, and it was in The Times that Kipling published such poems as ‘Recessional’. It is probably fair to say that today’s Times still enjoys a reputation as a reliable reporter of news, but it no longer holds the vastly pre-eminent position it held a century ago.
[Page 110, line 25-26] Pye, you are without exception the biggest liar in the Service Admiral Brock and Commander Merriman seem to have disagreed over this remark. Admiral Brock wrote:
“with the utmost respect for the late Commander Merriman, we must regard his view that these words would never be addressed by a naval officer to a rating, however long and closely they had served together, as proving mainly that he himself must have been what the United States Navy calls “a book man”, meaning one who abides by the printed regulations, in all circumstances and come what may. In such matters, an officer must do what his conscience tells him, but most will agree that there is a world of difference between the indiscriminate familiarity of “Popularity Jack”, the professional good fellow, and an occasional unbending in private with a well-tried subordinate and friend.”
This writer agrees with Admiral Brock. Kipling did get it right, though there are ways of saying the phrase, and there are other ways. In the context here, as between two young men (Moorshed is 19, Pyecroft is about 28–30), who have tested each other in out-of-the-ordinary circumstances (mangrove-swampin’ in the Archimandrite’s second cutter), such a phrase, said deliberately, without heat, and in a light tone of voice, in circumstances where the strict application of King’s Regulations was relaxed, seems quite appropriate.
[Page 113, line 15] No – offal – tripes – swipes – ullage an American dictionary gives:“those parts of a butchered animal that are rejected as worthless; rubbish or refuse of any kind.” English butchers confuse the issue by including under this heading such perfectly palatable items as sweetbreads, kidneys, liver and the like, but the most common meaning is ‘refuse’, and this is certainly what Sir Frankie Frobisher meant.
‘swipes’ are beer dregs, while ‘ullage’ is the dregs of a cask, in naval usage, especially of rum. So, by extension, to refer to someone as ‘an ullage’ is highly derogatory.
[Page 113, line 16] in the costume of his calling in uniform (or what might pass for uniform in a Torpedo Boat) rather than as a “squire of low degree”.
[Page 113, line 20] chucking the Service resigning from the Royal Navy. Mr Moorshead evidently reconsidered this, since he was still serving six years later. See “The Horse Marines” in A Diversity of Creatures, page 311.
[lines 22-23] ill-trimmed lamp the wick of an oil lamp must be cleaned and cut off level to give a good light. Electric lighting in the accommodation spaces had first been fitted in the battleship, HMS Inflexible, completed in 1881, but economy, and the need to save weight (early dynamos were bulky) combined for some time to deprive small craft of a dynamo for lighting. Similarly, cramped messdecks and overall lack of manpower (a parsimonious Treasury) kept them short-handed. Captain Dawson in his book already quoted says his signalman was also captain’s valet and looked after the charts and navigational instruments. This would explain why less important jobs, e.g., lamp-trimming, might be skimped.
[Page 113, line 24] bulkhead a vertical partition in a ship. The one in question was evidently a transverse bulkhead, as opposed to a longitudinal one. The word is used as a householder would use the word “wall”.
[Page 113, line 28] He’s what is called a first-class engine-room artificer. If you hand ‘im a drum of oil an’ leave ‘im alone, he can coax a stolen bicycle to do typewritin’ This writer considers this to be the finest and truest description of a naval artificer ever written. He can turn his hand to absolutely anything. When this tale was written, the E.R.A. was the only breed of artificer. Today they include electrical artificers, aircraft artificers, radio electrical artificers, and various other sub-categories.
[Page 114, line 5] petticoat a ship is always considered to be feminine and the arrangement described on the next page might remotely suggest a petticoat to the imaginative.
[Page 114, line 11] an extra pair of funnels “we doubt whether this would have persuaded anyone that 267 was an early Thornycroft destroyer, which the next paragraphs show to have been the object of the exercise. Prior to the Tribal class (laid down 1905), the three-funnelled Albatross is the only Thornycroft boat we can find with more than two funnels.”
Admiral Brock, is as always, absolutely correct, but it is suggested that this paragraph is an example of Kipling, in Pyecroft’s words, trying to talk Navy-talk. He does it very well, and he has done so in detail to “lend an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative” (Sir William Gilbert, The Mikado). He was just unfortunate that he quoted the wrong builder (there were four funnelled destroyers at this time), but 90% of his readers wouldn’t have known one destroyer from another, nor would any significant number of his naval readers. There was a plethora of builders, each building small batches of destroyers, and to the battleship man, they were small fry, of little account. In his view, they were small, and dirty, and much of a muchness.
[Page 114, line 19] bustle a pad or frame puffing out the top of a woman’s skirt behind; a bygone fashion (approx 1875-85), here a rather more apt comparison than the previous petticoat.
[Page 114, line 27] Thornycroft famous shipbuilders, with an enduring reputation for torpedo craft. In 1903, located on the Thames at Chiswick, London.
[Page 114, line 28] a pretty bulge in the `nineties, the typical Thornycroft stern sloped outwards from the upper deck down to the waterline in a slight curve.
Yarrow like Thornycroft, an early builder of torpedo craft and a continuing competitor for the highest honours in that line. Out of something like 1,000 destroyers built for the Royal Navy up to 1960, 100 were by Thornycroft, and 98 were by Yarrow. In 1903, Yarrow were lower down the Thames, at Poplar, but wages and taxation in London soon forced both firms to move, Yarrow to the Clyde and Thornycroft to Woolston, near Southampton. Yarrows are now (2004) a part of GEC Marine, and still occupy their shipyard on the Clyde; while Thornycroft amalgamated with Vospers, another firm specialising in building small naval craft, and are now based in the former royal dockyard in Portsmouth under the name of Vosper Thornycroft, or VT.
[Page 114, line 29] mark pattern, design. Most Yarrow boats of the `nineties seem to have nearly vertical sterns, sometimes with the upper part of the rudder showing.
[Page 114, line 33] Grecian bend 1815-19 and again 1868-70. A fashionable stance, consisting of a forward stoop from the waist, the effect increased by a bustle and in the later period by a puffed-out overskirt. [A Dictionary of English Costume, by C.W. and P. Cunnington and Charles Beard.]
Punch caricatured the Grecian bend in the second period (and the second period was most certainly longer than 1868-70 – Du Maurier’s drawings in Punch show the stance until well into the 1880s, and Du Maurier was a reliable portrayer of clothing and customs). It seems to have had another revival, although it did not command universal admiration, for the Irish bass, Harry Plunkett Greene (1865-1936), had a song which went:
“She was just the sort of crayture, boys, that nature did intend
To walk right t’rough de world, my boys, wit’out the Grecian bend,
Nor did she wear a cheeny-on (chignon), I’d have yez all to know,
And I met her in the garden where the praties grow.”
[The above is Admiral Brock’s comment, but almost certainly Plunkett Greene’s song referred to the 1880s – the chignon went with the bustle, and the Grecian bend stance. Greene himself started his professional career in 1888, though the song is probably later.]
Who but Kipling would have noted the likeness between the Grecian bend and the current Thornycroft stern? Yet it is clear enough, once pointed out.
[Page 115, line 1] arrière pensée French, for an ulterior motive or mental reservation. Pyecroft was no doubt thinking of derrière, ‘posterior’.
[Page 115, line 5] Pompey It now seems certain that this name for Portsmouth derived from the old French 3rd-rate Pompée, captured at Toulon in 1793, and utilised as a guard-ship at Portsmouth. She was broken up in 1817.
[Page 115, line 14] wash-streak wash-strake or washboard, a portable plank which can be fitted to a gunwale to raise the height of a boat’s side (increase her freeboard) when under sail.
[Page 115, line 16] forward three-pounder and as if it was a twelve-pounder the reference is to guns which fired a projectile weighing three or twelve pounds. A three-pounder can still be seen mounted in the bows of the Royal Naval Museum’s steam picket-boat at Portsmouth, and such guns were, until recently at least, still in use in various ports as saluting guns.
[Page 115, line 19] added a cubic to our stature Matthew 6,27 “which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” Luke 12, 25 is in the same sense.
[Page 116, line 1] torpedo-coxwain properly Torpedo Coxwain (N.B. the capitals). The Coxwain was the senior rating of a small craft. He combined the functions carried out in any ship, larger than a cruiser, by the Master-at-Arms (the senior rating responsible for discipline), the Chief Quartermaster (steering the ship at all the most important moments), the Victualling Petty Officer (responsible for supplying and accounting for the ship’s company’s food), and the Sick Berth Attendant (keeping the medicine chest, and doling out the ‘number 9s’ – a pill for costiveness).
The Torpedo Coxwain was the Coxwain of a torpedo craft. He was the senior seaman rating on board, and ranked next to the officers in the chain of command, even if the E.R.A. held a relatively higher rating (i.e., as already indicated, the E.R.A. was a Chief Petty Officer rating: the coxwain might frequently be no more than a Petty Officer. To qualify as a Torpedo Coxwain, a candidate had to be at least a Petty Officer First Class, and Chief Petty Officer status was desirable. A high standard of conduct and ability was demanded, and he had to take a comprehensive course on his numerous administrative and general duties, which Captain Dawson outlined thus:
“… the key rating of the ship’s company of any torpedo craft. He was the chief of police, general dealer in food and clothing, publican as custodian of the rum, steersman in moments of stress, and, if he was a good one, mentor and guide of his youthful commanding officer.”
[Page 116, lines 1-2] … L.T.O., T.I., M.D., etc. Pyecroft is being jocular again. The comparison must be with W.S. Gilbert’s “Oh, I am the cook, and the captain bold, and the mate of the Nancy brig, and the bos’n tight, and the midshipmite, and the crew of the captain’s gig”. L.T.O. means Leading Torpedo Operator. T.I. means Torpedo Instructor, while M.D. means Doctor of Medicine. This last should not be taken literally, but is a reference to the fact that the coxwain was, one might say in today’s terms, the ship’s first-aider.
[Page 116, lines 2-5] Number One in rear of the tube …. lockin’ levers a parody of torpedo tube drill. (There is a parody of the gunnery drill book for a 15″ turret, applied to the preparations for a Church service.)
[Page 117, line 29] went astern tumultuously to stop a ship you reverse the engines, and apply backward thrust by the screw(s), until the ship is at rest. Doing so usually throws up quite a kerfuffle of wake at the stern.
[line 33] like a Chaplain’s an allusion to an affected form of intoning, fortunately not very common in naval chaplains.
[Page 118, line 10] “Who’s your sub?” sub = Sub-Lieutenant. The complement of a small destroyer or torpedo-boat was one Lieutenant in command and a Sub-Lieutenant and a Torpedo-Gunner (this last, a warrant officer who could stand a watch on the bridge.) So the response two lines later “A gunner at present, Sir” is meant to indicate that the Gnome is operating with a reduced complement (as was regularly the case during the annual manoeuvres).
[Page 118, line 15] the Start Start Point, the southernmost tip of Devon, about sixty miles W.S.W. of Portland Bill.
[Page 118, line 32] Red Fleet’s private signal-code Commander Merriman suggested that Kipling may have first come across “private signals” in the historical books of the Navy Records Society which may be seen in his study at Bateman’s.
[Are they still there? The Navy Records Society was formed in 1893, and is still going strong, publishing one or two volumes each year of minutiae of naval history, as set out in documents.]
This may be so, but the terms remained in use well into the 20th century. It meant primarily Recognition or Identification signals, to enable a chance met ship, possibly disguised (like 267) or in darkness, to be distinguished as friend or foe. Admiral the Hon. Sir E.R. Fremantle says that in 1874 they consisted of a question, to which a reply had to be given according to certain rules. If the question was sufficiently abstruse (on cricket, say) capture of our codes might not help an enemy greatly, but identification might not be rapid. The use of various flags by day and coloured lights or rockets by night would be more speedy but more easily copied. Those were the systems in use during WW II – and they were, occasionally, copied by your unseen enemy who was lurking nearby when you happened to challenge one of your own side. Certain morse-code letters flashed by light, as a Challenge, to be answered by another group as a Reply, both being altered frequently is another possibility. This was also used during WW II.
The difficulty is to devise a system quick, sure and easy to operate, without also being easy for the enemy to pick up and imitate. Today, IFF (Identification Friend or Foe), an ‘interrogation’ by radar, triggers an automatic response from your ‘transponder’, which gives a coded response. This may be quick, but as has been discovered all too frequently in virtually every campaign in the last sixty years, it is not infallible – and ‘friendly fire’ or ‘blue on blue’ incidents have abounded.
[Page 118, lines 30 & 31] executin’ in anticipation apart from a few signals, to be obeyed as soon as seen, the normal procedure was for the flagship to make a signal, await acknowledgement that ships had seen and understood it, and then make the Executive signal to carry out the order. When using flags, the signal was “executed” when the flag-hoist was hauled down.
[As an aside, between the wars, the phonetic designation of flag G was ‘George’. HM King George VI was on the bridge of the flagship, at sea with the fleet in 1939, when the Yeoman of Signals ordered ‘George Six – hoist’, followed shortly by, ‘George Six – Execute’. The King winced.]
To anticipate the execution of a signal as a means of stealing a march in a competitive evolution was very properly considered “unethical and lousy”, but on occasions an enterprising captain with good judgement might gain credit for initiative by “executing in anticipation”, for example to hasten a lengthy change of station, if no inconvenience or unfairness to other ships was entailed. Of course, it meant accepting the risk of the Admiral changing his mind before “executing”. The use of this phrase here is an excellent example of Kipling’s ear for specialist language – it’s absolutely right.
[Page 119, line 12] rag me pull my leg.
[Page 119, line 15] Tophet hell.
[Page 119, line 22] I was with him in the Britannia The Britannia was the training ship for naval officers, moored in the River Dart since 1869. In fact it was two ships, joined by a walkway, and the new college, which now overlooks the town, was in the course of construction when this story was written. Kipling had visited the old Britannia when living at Torquay in 1896, immediately after his return from Vermont.
[Page 119, line 27] steam-pinnace from about 1885 to 1935, cruisers and battleships carried one or more steam-boats to act as tenders when anchored off-shore: fetching and carrying mails, stores, officers, and towing unpowered boats full of liberty-men. Smaller cruisers carried steam-cutters, while the larger cruisers and battleships carried two steam-pinnaces, 50 feet long, capable of about 12-15 knots with good coal, and, since they represented their ship in the public eye when alongside a jetty in some sea-side town, usually polished and scrubbed so that they really gleamed.
They were the nursery in which Midshipmen learnt ship-handling, and how to handle men. When on active service, they could also mount a 3-pdr gun on their foredeck. The steam pinnace was replaced by diesel-engined boats from 1935 onwards. Although the author of these notes never rammed his own ship twice, he did manage to run on a sandbank while carrying one Vice-Admiral, one Rear-Admiral, one Commodore and four Captains at the Coronation Review in 1953 – and lived to tell the tale!
[Page 120, line 7] slid off his cap to produce the private signals which he had placed inside it. This is evidence that Pyecroft was wearing “square rig” (as in the picture of the old Players cigarette packet) – jumper and bell-bottomed trousers which are short of pockets, and the round, ribboned, peakless seaman’s cap. He could have been at most a Petty Officer 1st Class, and could not have posed as a Gunner, or even a Chief Petty Officer in that rig.
[Page 120, line 12] forgot to give ‘is gunner his Admiralty orders read in conjunction with the previous note, this suggests loose thinking, but there is carelessness as well, since Page 118, line 32, shows that it was the coxswain, and not the gunner who had been summoned. (This summons must be considered improbable; Moorshed, posing as Captain of the destroyer Gnome, had claimed to have a gunner in lieu of a sub, and in a destroyer might reasonably have expected to have been lent a midshipman as well. An officer would normally be sent for secret papers.) Kipling’s surprising lack of understanding of a warrant officer’s status is again evident.
[Page 121, line 1] jams his turrets silences his arguments. The possibility that gun turrets might jam and hence be unable to bear on the enemy was an early objection to them that war experience eventually proved to have beenoverestimated.
[Page 121, line 7] diggin’ out in the fancy line inventing fiction.
[Page 121, line 9] Me in a copper punt, single-‘anded ….. A copper punt was a small raft, often, if not usually, made of balsa wood, in the form of a catamaran, little more than six feet long and about four feet in beam. Originally it had been used by the shipwright, in the days of wooden ships with copper sheathing, which covered the underwater parts of the ship to just above the waterline. After a storm, it was quite usual to find much of the copper peeled off at the waterline, and the shipwright would launch the copper punt, and would go round the waterline, his mouth full of copper tacks, hammering the copper sheets back into place. In the steel navy, the copper punt remained, and was used by the painter to go round the waterline ‘cutting-in’ the boot-topping, i.e., painting the nice straight line that marks the change from the ship’s side grey to the underwater anti-fouling paint. An example of a copper punt can be seen on board HMS Warrior in Portsmouth.
The implication of this whole phrase is that Pyecroft is capable of spinning a good tale, and – again to mis-use Gilbert – is well able to add corroboration to “what would otherwise be a bald and unconvincing narrative”. De Rougemont was the pen name of a Swiss writer who published in 1896 a book of weird and wonderful (and largely untrue) travellers’ tales relating to the Antipodes. They appeared in the Wide World Magazine, which prided itself on being factual. Opinions differed, as they will in England, but the majority view was that “De Rougemong” was expert in digging out in the fancy line.
[Page 121, line 14] shore seas presumably short seas.
[Page 121, line 23] Suppose … you was torpedo-gunner this clearly implies that Pyecroft expected to be accepted as a gunner despite his uniform.
Admiral Brock made much of these apparent anomalies of naval detail, but it must be said that they in no way detract from the story.
[Page 121, lines 28-29] That gouged ‘is unprotected ends open – clear back to the citadel From 1881 to 1897, no battleship designed for the Royal Navy carried side armour from bow to stern. They had a heavily armoured ‘citadel’ which encompassed the main armament and machinery, but the ends were unprotected, except for an armoured deck (horizontal) at waterline level, to provide resistance to ‘plunging’ fire, i.e., shots fired at long range which had to go up at an angle, and hence descend at a similar angle, to achieve that range. In reality, the ability to control guns accurately at long ranges was non-existent at this period, so the unprotected ends were likely to be pierced by shells fired from close to, no more than 3,000 yards, on a flat trajectory. More probably, this is a reference to the loss of HMS Victoria in 1893, which sank when rammed by the Camperdown, which did, indeed, gouge the Victoria’s unprotected end open. Cf. “The Ballad of the Clampherdown”, verse 11:
‘It was our warship Clampherdown
That carried an armour-belt;
But fifty feet at stern and bow
Lay bare as the paunch of the purser’s sow,
To the hail of the Nordenfeldt.’
[Page 122, lines 9 & 10] holdin’-down bolt for our twelve-pounder in keeping with their pretending to be a destroyer with a 12-pounder gun. (Page 115, line 16).
[Page 122, line 17] first-class cruisers in 1903 this covered a wide range of both armoured and protected cruisers, varying from about 7,350 to 14,000 tons displacement. (An ‘armoured’ cruiser had a belt of armour on her sides, as well as deck armour, and on the turrets. A ‘protected’ cruiser had no side armour, but relied on the coal in the bunkers, which were ranged along the side of the ship to protect her flanks; but she did have an armoured deck, and turrets.)
[Page 122, line 23] the Lizard the southernmost tip of Cornwall.
[Page 122, line 26] Torbay in Devon.
[Page 122, line 28] battle squadron the battleships.
[Page 122, line 29] down Channel to the westward.
[Page 123, lines 17 & 18] economical radius the maximum distance a ship can steam, starting with full bunkers. The word “economical” is more commonly applied to the speed which achieves this. Since fuel consumption rises very rapidly as full power is approached, “economical speed” is generally about half the maximum speed, or slightly over that. Today, the ratio has risen slightly, but not a great deal.
The radius is something that Moorshed should have found out at a much earlier stage, but allowance must be made for a young officer taking over a first command straight out of reserve.
[Page 123, line 19] knots we have more than once expressed the view that although the use of “knots” as an equivalent for “nautical miles” could never have been logical, it was so common among writers, seamen and nautical authorities of an earlier day that Kipling cannot fairly be charged with a major error, as it is now considered to be.
[Page 123, line 19] swept emptied, down to the last grains of coal dust.
[Page 123, lines 21 to 24] have her revolutions …… None that I can make out yet, Sir this is evidently a “littery” man trying to write “Navy-talk”. Admiral Brock is very scathing of this exchange between Moorshed and Hinchcliffe, and in the strictest of strict terms, he is correct. The E.R.A. will never know what speed his ship is making through the water at any given time, or for any given number of revolutions per minute: that can only be determined by someone on deck, or on the bridge, with an old-fashioned log, or a patent log (the likely form for determining 267’s speed) or a modern ‘speedometer’ (which works on a similar principle to that of an aircraft’s pitometer and is still called ‘the log’).
It was the job of the ship’s original navigating officer to determine the relationship between revolutions of the screw(s) and speed, by making a number of runs over a measured mile, and taking the time for the run, while the engineer determines the average number of revolutions per minute during the duration of the run. From this the navigator would produce a table, showing the revolutions needing to be set to achieve any particular speed. The order passed to the engine-room would always be in the form of “Revolutions six-six” – or whatever: never “make 10 knots”, or something similar.
For all that, in these early torpedo boats the ‘bridge’ merely consisted of a platform, shared with the for’ard gun, and behind it, the steering wheel and compass, with a voice-pipe to the conning tower immediately below, and another to the engine-room. Sometimes – but not always – there was a canvas ‘dodger’ which came to barely waist height. There was no other instrumentation, and the revolution-table (as above) was probably on a piece of soggy paper kept in one’s pocket. Under these circumstances, every engineer worth his salt would have a copy of the revolution table, and would be able to set the revolutions accordingly, if the officer of the watch’s revolution-table had disintegrated. But the E.R.A. couldn’t do more than make the engines turn at the revolutions for the speed indicated – he would have no knowledge of whether or not the desired speed was being achieved, which would depend on wind and sea conditions: e.g., in calm conditions, 144 revolutions might give a speed through the water of 12 knots: in a force 5 wind in the English Channel (Force 8 is a gale) with sea conditions to match, the same revolutions might produce no more than 11.2 knots, say.
[Page 123, lines 26 & 27] forty-nine …. three east the position given, 49º45’N, 3ºE, is miles ashore in France. Kipling has made the not uncommon mistake of applying his longitude the wrong way; it should be 3ºW.
[Page 123, line 31] picket boats steam pinnaces: because they are being used in the way that, in the Army, pickets are posted at night to give early warning of the approach of an enemy.
[Page 123, line 33] young gentlemen a polite term for midshipmen, here referring to those in charge of the picket boats.
[Page 124, lines 5 & 6] small balls of fire … tiny cigar ends with coal fired boilers, a sudden change of speed was apt to lead to “flaming at the funnel” – very undesirable for destroyers trying to attack unseen at night.
[Page 124, line 7] Red hot! Set ‘em alight! a popular catchword having some association with a fair-ground.
[Page 124, line 22] lammies clothing issued on loan by a benevolent Admiralty. The duffel coat, issued during WW II, and, as war surplus clothing, popular from 1945 until about 1970, is/was a thinner and more stylised upper half of a lammy suit. (The derivation appears to be from ‘lamb’s wool’.)
“At night or in cold weather, a ‘duffle’ (sic) suit is worn. The latter garment is made of flannel as thick as a board, and comprises a pair of roomy trousers and a double-breasted jacket, with a hood attached for pulling over the head. A more cosy rig was never invented, and when it is worn underneath a thick suit of oilskins and seaboots, the wearer can laugh at cold and rain alike: the only thing he has to be careful about is not to fall overboard, otherwise he will sink like a bag of shot.” (Torpedoes and Torpedo Vessels. Lieutenant G.E. Armstrong, 1896).
[Page 124, line 22] chock you off wedge you in.
[Page 124, line 25 et seq.] Dr. J.M.S Tompkins, in her book The Art of Rudyard Kipling, speaks of this passage as “a description of an attempt to go to sleep in a torpedo-boat at sea in the style of The English Opium-Eater.”
[Page 125, line 12] Livingstone David Livingstone (1813-73), missionary and famous explorer of Africa, who described in one of his books his sensations when being mauled by a lion.
[Page 125, line 14] gimbals an arrangement of two concentric rings, each with a set of pivots at each end of a diameter, but with one ring’s pivots set at 90º to the other’s, which supported a lamp or compass, etc., to keep them horizontal when moving in a seaway.
[Page 125, line 27] signaller a military term, signalman being the naval equivalent in those days. Some sixty years later, he became a Tactical Communications Operator: today he is a Communications Technician.
[Page 126, line 6] ten-thousand-ton liner a liner of 10,000 tons gross registered tons was still considered large at the beginning of the century, though the mammoth Atlantic liners were reaching 45,000 tons by 1914. Between the wars, 80,000 tons was reached, but recent design (1964) has been much more modest. In Kipling’s day (and Admiral Brock’s) a liner always referred to a passenger ship running to a fixed schedule. In 2004, a liner refers to a cargo ship, in 99% of cases a container ship, running to a fixed schedule. The passenger liner, in that strict sense of the word, disappeared by 1975. Her successor, in the people-carrying business at sea, is the cruise liner; and those are once again getting up towards the 80,000 ton mark.
[Page 126, line 13] full-sailed sailing ships were still common. They had all but disappeared by 1920. although a very few remained trading until 1939.
[Page 126, line 28] Number One chasin’ the mobilized gobbies …. Number One was the First Lieutenant, in a big ship responsible for her internal cleanliness. Gobbies were Coastguardmen. In those days, the Coastguard consisted of naval ratings who had completed so many years in the fleet, and then went on to the reserve, with a liability for recall in time of war, and for annual exercises.
[Page 126, line 28] flats any large compartment below decks is a ‘flat’
[Page 126, line 32] Whereas we shall caulk ….. Literally, to caulk is to make a seam watertight, whether in a wood or an iron/steel ship. Sailors held that caulkers were an idle bunch, since much of their work when in dock was in a dock bottom, out of sight of authority; and that most caulkers spent their day snoozing. Hence to caulk = to snooze.
[Page 126, line 33] ….. same as the Spanish destroyers did for three weeks after war was declared This is a reference to the Spanish-American war of 1898, and to some extent can be said to date the piece, if dating were needed.
[Page 127, lines 2 & 3] The origin of these lines, which also appear in the one-act Pyecroft play The Harbour Watch, has not been found. They have every appearance of being a music-hall song.
[Page 127, line 6] Tam-o-shanter a soft woollen cap with a full circular crown, formerly worn by Scottish ploughmen. The derivation is from the Robert Burns poem of the same name – Tam-o-Shanter being a farm labourer.
[Page 127, line 7] R.M.L.I. Royal Marine Light Infantry. (See the note on “The Bonds of Discipline” Page 42, line 6)
[Page 127, line 9] Balaclava knitted woollen covering for the head and shoulders, with an opening for eyes and nose. First provided for soldiers in the Crimea in the Russian War of 1854-56.
[Page 127, line 11] Soho London district bounded by Regent Street, Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, and Leicester Square with many foreign restaurants, shops, etc. From 1880 or thereabouts until 1939, Soho was respectable, albeit considered to be somewhat Bohemian. But from 1945 onwards, the area has become associated with sleaze and tawdriness.
[Page 127, line 15] ….. covered all with an inch thick layer of stokers, …. in this context, fine ash, carried off the firebed and up the funnel, and then deposited on the upper deck and anyone on it – depending on the wind.