These notes cover the second part of this tale, first published on October 10th 1903, in Collier’s Magazine in the U.S.A. and in January 1904 in the Windsor Magazine in Great Britain.
One particular aspect of this tale, and of “The Horse Marines” (A Diversity of Creatures) in which both Pyecroft and Moorshed appear, is that they both revolve round the characters’ ‘stalkiness’. Mr. Moorshed is a lesser ‘Stalky’ in a blue suit. We have seen stalkiness in Part I, in which Mr. Moorshed, of the Blue Fleet, obtains the Red Fleet’s secret code by a ruse. We are about to see some more.
[Page 128] The Heading With one or two minor amendments and the addition of an intermediate verse, this was entitled “The Egg-shell”. It is collected in Songs from Books (1912), and in Inclusive Verse (1919), Definitive Verse (1940), and the Sussex and Burwash editions. (See Philip Holberton’s notes on the text.) The new second verse reads:
“The wind fell dead with the midnight –
The fog shut down like a sheet,
When the Witch of the North heard the Egg-shell
Feeling by hand for a fleet.
‘Get!’ she said, ‘or you’re gone,’ she said,
But the little Blue Devil said ‘No!’
The sights are just coming on,’ he said,
And he let the Whitehead go.”
The ‘Whitehead’ in the last line is a torpedo, whose inventor, in 1869-70, was a Briton, Robert Whitehead (1823-1905). This allusion removes any doubt about the meaning of these verses.
[Page 128, Heading, line 3] The Witch of the North took an egg-shell there is a superstition that, if the shell of a boiled egg is left empty and unbroken, then a witch can sail in it and wreak havoc on sailors. In this case, the egg-shell is a small fragile craft, torpedo-boat No. 267.
[We are indebted to Lieutenant Hugh Campbell, Royal Navy, for the information on the superstition, which it is clear Kipling knew – but we are not sure how it can have arisen: how can a boiled egg remain empty and unbroken? But then, with witches, anything is possible!]
Philip Holberton adds: If you take the top off a boiled egg and eat the contents neatly, you are left with a hollow container which would float (if you could keep it upright!) with an opening at the top for the witch to get in. When my wife was a child in Sussex in the 1930’s, it was mandatory in her family, when you finished your boiled egg, to make a hole through the bottom of the shell with your spoon so that it would not float and could not be used by a witch. [P.H.]
[Page 128, Heading, line 4] a little blue devil the egg-shell’s captain: a naval officer in a blue suit.
[Page 128, Text, line 5] devil a highly-seasoned broiled or fried dish.
[Page 128, line 11] better equipped with electricity in most types of British warship, a searchlight was provided long before any thought was given to internal electric lighting. Internal illumination, in the form of arc lights, first appeared in 1877 in HMS Sultan in the stokehold.
[Page 129, line 4] reformers and revolutionists Admiral Brock wrote: “one of the author’s hyperboles”. The era, 1900-1910, was indeed one of reform in the Royal Navy, with Admiral Sir John Fisher leading. When this tale was written, he had scarcely got into his stride. He had, as we have seen remarked elsewhere, given the Mediterranean Fleet a good shake-up, and now, as Second Sea Lord, he was about to start on officers’ training and an improvement of the sailor’s lot, but the dust did not really start to fly until he became First Sea Lord in 1904.
It is unlikely that Pyecroft and Morgan, as ratings, would have discussed what ‘Jackie’ might do in strategic, material and operational terms. And they might have been dubious about his lower deck reforms – the British sailor, then particularly, but still to a degree, is a conservative (small ‘c’) person. But Fisher was prescient: forty years earlier, life on the lower deck, though uncomfortable to our 21st century eyes, was as good as, and better than, much comparable employment. The sailor got paid and fed regularly: the diet, though monotonous, was nourishing and plentiful (it has been calculated that the ration-scale gave 3000 calories per day): his job was secure: and at the end of 20 years service, he received a non-contributory pension: all this in the 1860s.
But by the end of the century, as trade unions began to make their mark, and labour unrest became a major feature of the British industrial scene, the Services had to ensure that the ‘taint’ did not spread to Britain’s ‘sure shield’. So Fisher’s reforms were timely, and Kipling may have been reflecting the first stirrings which he might have heard in 1897 and 1898.
[Page 129, line 10] the Hat Crusade (note to follow)
[Page 129, line 14] eighteen knots The nominal maximum speed (sometimes appropriately termed “legend speed”) of torpedo boats of this era was 23 knots but if that had ever been obtained, it was in youth, calm deep water, and a fairly light load. So Kipling was being entirely realistic in suggesting that 18 knots was all that 267 could make. Lest this seem unduly slow to the 21st century, it may be pointed out that HMS Pedantic (alias Majestic) had a nominal top speed of just under 18 knots, but her normal maximum would have been about 16, and her economical speed would have been about 12. Today, the normal top speed of a conventional warship is rarely more than 28 knots, with an economical speed of 15-18 knots.
[Page 129, lines 15-25] The floor was ankle deep … wide open this is a splendid evocation of the conditions in the engine-room and boiler-room of a small destroyer in the days of reciprocating engines, and coal-firing. Health and Safety Regulations were unknown – there was probably (but not necessarily) a railing round the crank-pit of each of the two engines, but it would have been commonplace to stick an arm in among the machinery “to give her a bit lick on the slides” (anglice, a lick of oil on the slide-valves). (See page 130, line 7, and its reference to “Hinchcliffe’s white arm buried to the shoulder in a hornet’s nest of spinning machinery”.)
The “creamy batter” is an absolutely exact description of the appearance of emulsified oil and water, thrown out of the crank-pit by the rapidly-rotating crank-shaft. One used to chuck the oil in by the bucketful. The “drone of the fans” refers to the fans supplying the forced draught to the boilers. The reference to the “palpitating firepot” is also exact – destroyers (or torpedo-boats) were frail vessels, packing more power into their fragile frames than was really good for them, and the impression must have been that the slightest divergence from normality would wrench it wide open.
[As an aside, it is suggested that steam machinery gives a greater impression of naked power than does any internal combustion engine, or electric motor, even though the latter two may be developing greater horsepower. Until he had seen (and that only on television), film of the launch of a ‘Saturn’ rocket, showing the roaring flame of the rocket’s five exhausts, almost as one imagines the surface of the sun, the compiler of these notes had seen nothing to beat the centre boiler-room of the World War 2 aircraft-carrier, HMS Illustrious, doing a full power trial, with some 40,000 horsepower being developed in two Admiralty three-drum boilers, all sprayers going, the boiler-front pulsating, glimpses of a light so intensely white as to be beyond white, noise almost as loud as the roar of the rocket some forty-five years later, so that all conversation was by sign language, and a temperature up in the 120s (Fahrenheit – of course!).
[Page 129, line 17] Zoetrope a ‘scientific’ toy of the period. A series of images, usually of no more than a single subject, rather like the successive frames of a cartoon film, were pasted on to the inside of a circular drum. Looking though a slit aperture and rotating the drum produced to the eye of the viewer, an appearance of motion. It was sometimes called “the wheel of life” from the Greek (zoe = ‘life’, tropos = ‘turn’).
[Page 129, line 20] ox-eyed large-eyed. Used frequently by Homer.
[Page 129, line 30] foc’sle the foc’sle was either the topmost deck at the bow of a vessel, or the space immediately underneath it, where, traditionally, some, if not all, of the seamen berthed. In destroyers and torpedo boats at this time the foc’sle deck had a cambered shape, known as a turtle back; “doll’s house” in the previous line suggests that forecastle here means the seamen’s messdeck below.
[Page 130, line 11] Berthon inventor of the boat described. Edward Berthon (1813-1899) was an Anglican clergyman with a practical turn of mind. His folding boats, made of canvas with a wood frame, were supplied in two sizes, 20 ft (6.1m) or 12 ft (3.6m), and were adopted in early torpedo craft where weight and space were at a premium. They were replaced by ordinary boats in later destroyers. Today, the Royal Navy uses, almost exclusively, rigid inflatables in all ships smaller than the aircraft carriers.
[Page 130, line 14] Chinaman a sailing vessel trading to the Far East.
[Page 130, line 15] purfled adorned with a border, especially an embroidered edge. The sails were edged with roping, strengthening them and enabling them to be managed more effectively.
[Page 130, line 27] steerage way a speed sufficient to allow the rudder to control the ship’s course.
[Page 130, line 28] a hand-bellows foghorn jarred like a corncrake in sailing vessels, and other small ships without a steam siren or other audible device, fog-signals were made using a ‘handraulic’ device, forcing air through a reed at the base of a horn. In this case, Kipling postulates something like a concertina: in this compiler’s later experience, the device was like a big brass cartridge case, with a plunger, and a “His Master’s Voice” horn sprouting from the bottom – also in brass – the whole kept highly polished (of course). In the Royal Navy, sounding it was a job for the Midshipman of the Watch – in the Merchant Navy, it was the Apprentice’s job. The noise produced was harsh, like the corncrake, or landrail. Admiral Brock referred to it as an “elusive bird”. In the intervening years since he wrote, the bird has almost disappeared from English fields.
[Page 130, line 30] scrooped creaked or grated; an onomatopaeic word
[Page 130, last line] Wonder why they’re always barks – always steel – always four-masted – an’ never less than two thousand tons A bark, or barque, was a three- or four-masted vessel, fore-and-aft rigged on her after-mast, and square-rigged on the two or three masts in front. Even at this time, many bulk cargoes were transported by sail (as late as 1885, 75% of ocean freight was still carried in sailing vessels). Such cargoes (iron-ore, coal, nitrate, wool, grain) which were not in a great hurry could be carried more economically by a sailing vessel, and steel-hulled sailing ships of up to 3,000 tons, big by the standards of the day, were being built up to the turn of the century, and operated profitably up to the outbreak of World War I. A few, but very few, continued to trade up to the outbreak of World War II.
[Page 131, line 3] out on the turtle-backed bows as a fog look-out. In this case he was probably no more than 30 feet in front of those on the ‘bridge’, but when visibility is scarcely 50 feet, the extra 30 feet may make a difference.
[Page 131, line 5] whistle “A steam vessel shall be provided with an efficient whistle or syren, worked by steam …” (Extract from the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea for the period.)
[Page 131, line 9] A cracked bell rang. Clean and sharp ….. a bowsprit surged over our starboard bow, the bobstay confidentially hooking itself into our forward rail The bell (too late) was being rung by the trawler. With her trawl down, she was effectively anchored, although she was, in fact making way through the water. Therefore she sounded the fog-signal of a vessel at anchor (a bell, rung every minute) rather than the one blast every two minutes of a vessel under way. The bowsprit is the ‘mast’ projecting more or less horizontally out in front of most sailing vessels, while the bobstay is a rope which goes from the waterline of the vessel up to the end of the bowsprit, to, as it were, hold it down (analogous to the martingale in a horse’s harness).
The Collision Regulations (as they are rather wryly known) are the entirely practical reason why all ships still carry a bell – not as an anachronistic reminder of the days when time was marked by the striking of the bell.
[Page 131, Line 15] voice down the tube the only means of communication with the engine room in a small ship at that time. Each end of the tube had a lid with a whistle in it: one took off one’s own lid, put one’s mouth to the funnel-shaped top of the tube and blew. At the other end, the ERA of the watch, hearing the whistle (a thin, high-pitched whistle, of a frequency higher than most of the machinery noise, and thus audible amongst the rest of the clatter) took his lid off, and said “Engine-Room”, and turned his ear to the tube – you spoke, and he then repeated the order up the tube, and so manoeuvring was carried out.
[Page 131, line 17] trawler with her gear down a trawler fishes by towing a bag-shaped net just above the bottom of the sea, to catch bottom-feeding fish, as opposed to a drifter, which lays out a line of nets (frequently up to a mile-and-a-half long), which hang vertically from a series of small floats or buoys, like a curtain, with the aim of catching fish which are feeding in shoals midway between the surface and the sea-floor. The drifter lies head to wind, anchored as it were, at the end of her line of nets, drifting with the wind and tide. This was the traditional way of catching herring: the fish are not caught in a bag, but get stuck by their gills as they try to swim through the net. Drift fishing is virtually dead in European waters now.
The trawler is naturally larger and more powerful, generally speaking. Here she is evidently a sailing trawler (out of Brixham). The trawl is like a huge bag kept down and the mouth kept open by the trawl beam referred to on Page 133, line 20. A modern steam or motor trawler uses ‘otter boards’ (like a kite on its side) set at an angle to hold the mouth open, while the net is held down by a series of weighty rollers mounted on the lower edge of the net. And more powerful trawlers can tow bigger nets to scoop up more fish – if there are any. The size of mesh is strictly regulated to allow small fry to get away, but unscrupulous fishermen (of all nations) have not been particular, and net-makers have colluded to make under-sized nets.
[Page 131, line 18] look out for our propeller a rope or wire round a propeller and its shaft can provide hours of work for a diver before the ship’s mobility is restored.
[Page 131, line 23] fenders used to protect the side of a ship or boat from injury by contact or chafing. There are many types, but for plating as thin as a torpedo boat’s they would have to be pretty soft or resilient. Mostly, such fenders would have been made of interwoven coir rope (coir, from the husk of the coconut, is light in weight). Today, many are made of air filled plastic, rather like a large, thick-skinned, balloon. It is a naval ‘crime’ of the worst kind to be seen with fenders dangling over the side of a ship or boat when they are not actually in use – on a par with ‘irish pendants’, loose ends of rope dangling.
[Page 131, line 24] bulwark an extension of the ship’s side upward, above the upper deck, keeping the latter dry and improving stability by an increase in freeboard.
[Page 131, line 27] Brixham a fishing village near the S.E. corner of Torbay. It used to be the home to a major fishing fleet of a specific design of smack, but those days are long gone – as is the rest of the British fishing industry.
[Page 131, line 30] Not till we met yeou this and the conversation that follows represent a very creditable phonetic reproduction of a Devonshire variety of West Country dialect, much enjoyed by those whom it does not infuriate.
[Page 132, line 3] to port on the port (left-hand) side of the trawler.
[Page 132, line 3] aigs eggs
[Page 133, line 7] ….. currents evolutin’ like sailormen at the Agricultural Hall There is a similar reference in “The Bonds of Discipline”. Pyecroft has devised the verb “to evolute” from “evolution”, a naval term for ship’s exercises, competitive drills, etc.. There was a Naval and Military Tournament at the Agricultural Hall in Islington, the precursor of the now recently-defunct Royal Tournament. The meaning of the sentence is that the currents are setting fast in all sorts of directions.
[Page 133, line 17] fathom six feet, a unit used chiefly for depth of water or the length of a rope. So it was in 1903 when the tale was written, and so it was in 1963 when Admiral Brock compiled his notes for the ORG. However, Admiralty charts are now marked with depth in metres, and ropes are issued in lengths measured in metres. Unfortunately, when, back in the late 18th century, the length of a degree of latitude was determined, which set the length of the nautical mile, the metric system had not been introduced, so we now have the ridiculous system of measuring navigational distances in imperial measure, while depths are metric. Ladies among our readers will recognise this as the similar logic which resulted in curtain material (say) being 54 inches wide, but sold in metric lengths!
[Page 133, line 19] windlass used in the merchant service (and, during WWII, in a number of warships built to merchant naval standards) instead of a capstan or cable-holder, for weighing (raising the) anchor or handling a rope under strain. The axis of its drum is horizontal, instead of vertical like a capstan.
As an aside, readers may like to note the distinction between “weigh” and “way” in naval language. One “weighs” an anchor, and spells it so: the meaning is to haul the anchor cable in (with the capstan or windlass) to raise the anchor from the sea bed. When the anchor has been weighed, a vessel is said to be “under way” (again note the spelling, frequently mis-spelled by those not up in nautical language). “To be under way” has the specific meaning that a vessel is not in any way connected to the sea-bed or the land. “To have way on”, or “to be making way”, means that a vessel is moving through the water, under the influence of some form of propulsion. There are even further subtleties and refinements which will probably confuse any reader who hasn’t studied pilotage, e.g., if you are standing on the shore, watching a low-powered boat trying to progress against a strong tide, she may appear to you to be motionless, as she indeed may well be, relative to the land. But she is nonetheless “under way, and having way on”, though she’s not getting anywhere.
[Page 133, line 20] ….. the jar of her trawl-beam in those days, trawlers used a trawl-net of which the mouth was held open by a heavy beam of wood (see above, page 131, line 17) which also helped to keep the net on the sea-bed, which is where a trawler gathers her fish, while they are feeding on the bottom. The ‘jar’ in this case is the thump made as the beam comes up to the top of the gallows (a frame above the level of the deck), when the net is being hauled in.
[Page 133, line 26] bight here, a loop or curve in a rope, the catenary of the towing rope.
[Page 134, line 8] Azrael the angel of Death.
[Page 134, line 13] an economical tramp laved our port-rail with her condenser water A very close shave indeed. The tramp (tramp-steamer, understood) was so close that the discharge from her condenser (sea-water which had passed through the tubes of the condenser, where they had turned the spent steam back into water to be fed back to the boilers again – somewhat analogous to the radiator of a car), spouted out over 267’s port rail round her upper deck – probably from a range of about three feet.
[Page 134, line 33] Prawle Point a good fifteen miles south west of Brixham, for which they were aiming.
[Page 135, line 3] Iss yes.
[Page 135, line 6] gaff the spar sloping upward and backwards from a mast to which the head (top) of a fore-and-aft sail is bent (laced on), or from which the ensign is flown at sea.
[Page 135, line 15] pouched pocketed or stolen, the fishermen had hauled most of the wire on board their own vessel and were planning to cut the wire there after the tow.
[Page 135, line 17] solo arpeggie the general sense is reasonably clear, i.e., a single voice on a rising note, but a firm definition has been sought in several musical dictionaries and encyclopaedias without success.
[Page 135, line 21] The Trues these Authorities seem to be in need of a P.R. officer. Presumably they are equivalent to, or are connected with, the eternal verities. Kipling also uses the expression in his poem “The Feet if the Young Men”.
Philip Holberton notes: Kipling explained what he meant in a letter of 16 August 1897 to C.E. Norton (Thonas Pinney, The Letters of Rudyard Kipling, Vol 2 p.310):
The Trues in the verses are – well, the Trues – the old original four or five head-deities of the Red Man’s mind –the old Beast Gods I think they were – Buffalo –Beaver – Elk – Fox/Coyote –or something of that nature. At any rate they are the Red Gods of the hunting grounds – earth spirits waking man up in the spring.’
[Page 135, line 30] trap a door in the floor of the stage, to permit an unexpected entry (“enter the demon king …”)
[Page 135, line 31] the lead the hand lead, as opposed to the deep-sea lead (see “The Bonds of Discipline” page 65, lines 2-5). It was so called because it was made of lead, and secured to a line suitably marked in fathoms (up to 25 fathoms, or 150 feet). This gave the depth of water, and when the lead was “armed” (the depression in its base being filled with tallow) brought up a sample of the sea-bottom. The information gained could give another useful indication of the ship’s position.
[Page 135, lines 32-33] Lay on, Macduff Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, Scene vii, line 62. Pyecroft is being very erudite – many people (most?) misquote this as “Lead on, Macduff”.
[Page 136, line 1] frock-coat a formal, long-skirted black coat, double-breasted, not cut away in front as the 20th century morning coat was (as hired/worn by many bridegrooms – and why not). It was then worn by diplomats, men of affairs in the City and the like (you would have worn it for making an afternoon call in ‘polite society’), and there was a naval version for Sundays and formal occasions not demanding full dress (in 1903, and up to 1939, the officer of the watch in a battleship in harbour, would usually have worn a frock coat and sword-belt (but not the sword)). On a Devonshire fisherman, however, it might well astonish a stranger (but cf Kipling’s later verse “The Lowestoft Boat”, v.4:
“Her mate was skipper of a chapel in Wales,
And so he fights in topper and tails,
Religi-ous tho’ rovin’, etc.”)
[Page 136, line 3] sea-boots, and a comforter not particularly naval, but an interesting change of use of a word. In Warrior at Portsmouth, we show a sailor’s kit of the 1860s – which included a ‘comforter’ (a scarf). But to most of our visitors under the age of 50, a comforter is a baby’s dummy!
[Page 136, line 7] command-allowance a figure of speech of Pyecroft’, suggested by the fact that in 1903, the commanding officer of one of HM Ships received, in addition to his pay (which had not been appreciably altered since the Napoleonic Wars) a relatively substantial increment in the form of allowances such as command money, entertaining allowance and pilotage.
Admiral Brock added, in 1960: “In accordance with the usual Treasury practice of taking away with one hand as much as possible of what has been granted with the other, every unwilling increase of pay in later years has seen an attempt to abolish these allowances. Until recently, at least, the Admiralty has managed to resist their complete extinction but they are now no more than a fringe benefit.”
In 1860, a Captain’s pay was £1.0.0 per diem, plus 10s.6d command money, plus 1s.6d. entertainment allowance (if appropriate)
In 1958, a Captain’s pay was £5.6s.0d per diem, plus 10s.0d command money, plus 10s.0d entertainment allowance if appropriate.
Today (2004), a Captain’s salary is the equivalent of approximately £164.00 per diem!
[Page 136, line 8] You’re a taxpayer direct taxpayers formed a smaller proportion of the total number of citizens than in our day.
[Page 136, line 10] Lead there! Lead this was Moorshed, calling for a sounding to be taken
[Page 136, lines 11–12] Didn’t I say ‘e wouldn’ understand compass deviations A magnetic compass doesn’t point to true north, but is affected by two factors: one is variation, the difference in bearing between the true north and the magnetic north pole, which varies with time (because the magnetic north pole wanders around the true north pole in (if I remember aright, and am quite prepared to be told I’ve got it wrong) an irregular figure-of-eight): and also with position – the closer you are to the pole, the greater will the variation be, broadly.
If you look at a compass rose on a chart, it will show you the true north and the magnetic north, with a superscription, e.g. “variation 10 degrees west (1999) decreasing 10 minutes annually”. And a compass rose 50 miles away (on the same chart) may say “variation 9 degrees, 30 minutes, west (1999), decreasing 10 minutes annually.”
The other factor is deviation, which is due to the iron in the ship carrying the compass, and this varies with each individual ship, and depends on your latitude, and the heading you are on. You reduce this as much as you can by putting other magnets of an opposite polarity to that of your ship adjacent to the compass (a matter largely of trial-and-error), and then, every three months or so, you ‘swing for compasses’ to determine the amount of deviation on each compass heading. In a wooden ship, such as the Agatha in the story, deviation would be more-or-less non-existent. Hence the skipper of the Agatha “wouldn’ understand deviations”.
[Page 136, line 14] Let me zmell un! In the same way that some seamen could tell where they were by the nature of the sea-bed, some swore they could tell by the smell of the sea bottom, as brought up sticking to the tallow in the bottom of the lead. This compiler is a bit sceptical, but only a bit, because during the ‘first cod war’ in 1958 (a dispute with Iceland over fishing rights off their coast), the destroyer of which he was the navigator took a Hull trawler skipper with us to our patrol area. Fred had first ‘gone down’ to the Iceland fishing grounds in a sailing trawler in 1910, and he could tell where we were just by looking at the colour of the water – or so he said.
[Page 136, line 18] donkey-man engineer, from donkey-engine, a small engine to do all the work.
[Page 136, line 21] Ganymede … M. de C. see note on “The Bonds of Discipline” [page 61, line 1] for Ganymede, and the story generally for ‘M. de C.’
[Page 136, line 22] curaçoa a liqueur made from spirits flavoured with the peel of bitter oranges. The name comes from the Dutch island of Curaçao in the West Indies, persistently mis-spelt Curaçoa in English.
[Page 136, line 25] abeam abreast
[Page 137, line 17 – 18] be yeou gwine straight on to Livermead Beach a bit of local colour, which Kipling would have known from his recent sojourn in Torquay. Livermead beach was a popular beach between Torquay and Paignton.
[Page 137, line 24] a fiver a Bank of England five pound note, then engraved on thin, white, hand-made paper. Probably a month’s profits to the skipper, and about ten days’ pay for Moorshed.
[Page 137, line 30] ruddle-nosed ruddle is red ochre, especially of a kind used for marking sheep.
[Page 137, line 30] fule fool Used by Kipling long before Geoffrey Willans used it for Molesworth (“as any fule kno”).
[Page 137, line 33] run smuggled.
[Page 138, line 6] sink, burn and destroy an echo of classic naval orders. It was repeated by Admiral Cunningham on 8 April 1943 to his ships patrolling the Sicilian Channel in the last stage of the North African campaign, when the remnants of the Afrika Korps were trying to escape to Sicily.
[Page 138, line 10] Crump’s bull’s horn this (pseudo?) Devonshire simile has not been identified, but may well be a memory of Kipling’s days at Westward Ho!
[Page 138, line 11] Good egg a mid-Victorian commendation, evidently still current (thus Admiral Brock, but of course P.G. Wodehouse was making Bertie Wooster use the phrase twenty years (and more) later.) Admiral Brock further suggested that twenty years later, it had been superseded by ‘a sound egg’, ‘a stout fellow’ or ‘a great guy’.
[Page 138, line 16] an’ may the Lard have mercy on your sowls a West Country rendition of the final words used by a British judge in passing a sentence of death. No longer the case.
[Page 138, line 26] rows the naval term is “pulls”, from “to pull an oar”
[Page 138, line 26] Navy-stroke in fact, there was less uniformity than is here suggested: some ships prided themselves on an individual style. The key to what is meant is probably supplied by Page 119, line 28: “moved by long strokes”. One would expect them to be marked by a catch at the beginning of the stroke and a swinging recovery, accompanied by the sound of oars being “feathered” (that is, turned at right-angles so that the blade is parallel to the surface of the water for the back-stroke, minimising air-resistance.
Admiral Brock grew up in a Navy which made much greater use of boats under oars than did this compiler’s Navy, though the use of an oared boat as a sea-boat (the boat which is always ready to be lowered and sent away, when a ship is at sea) was virtually mandatory until the early 1960s – oars were always ready, but an engine which refused to start at the critical moment was a positive risk. The pulling taught in the 1950s was absolutely devoid of frills: one leaned forward, with the oar blade vertical, dipped it in the water, and using the weight of the upper body, pulled it through to the end of the stroke, where the oar was raised, the body swung forward, and so on: no feathering or anything like that, just “plain, practical rowing of the get-the-boat-along order”, as Jerome K. Jerome said in Three Men in a Boat. But there had been what was then called “Galley-style”, used by a picked crew of seamen in the Captain’s Galley, his personal boat. This was what Admiral Brock described above: there was a marked pause (very slight) at the beginning and end of each stroke, and the oar was feathered by dropping the wrists, on the return.
[Page 138, line 26] tiller a lever fitted at the rudder-head for steering.
[Page 139, line 4] Suppose their torpedo-nets are down Battleships and cruisers of the period carried torpedo nets, a loose form of chain mail, suspended like a curtain around the ship from a series of booms all along the ship’s side, just above the waterline. In photographs of the period (they were discarded just before WWI), you will see the booms sloping backwards, as many as twenty along the length of a dreadnought. The purpose of the nets was to make a torpedo explode on hitting the net, some distance from the ship’s side, thus making a lot of noise, but no hole in the ship.
They were only effective when at anchor: at any speed at sea, the nets would ride up, leaving the bottom of the ship vulnerable, and in any case, the wires supporting the booms and nets were unable to stand the additional strain. As Moorshed says, getting the nets out was a job for the whole ship’s company, and was one of the least popular ‘evolutions’. But some of the times claimed for completing the task would be unbelievable if they were not well attested.
[Page 139, line 15] lacquered the better for drink.
[Page 139, line 15] conversazione a soirée given by a learned or cultured society (Italian). This is Pyecroft, once again, misusing a foreign phrase.
[Page 139,line 29] prima facie this seems to be a favourite phrase of Pyecroft’s – vide page 114, line 13. The strict Latin meaning is “at first sight” – which is how he used it in the earlier reference. Here, he seems to be using it to mean “as an impartial witness”, but only he could say how he arrived at that meaning.
[Page 140, line 7] gardeners a delicate method of implying that they were no seamen, a deadly insult.
[Page 140, line 11] Remember you fat fist is our only Marconi installation A very interesting comment, indeed. These were the earliest days, and I do mean earliest days, of practical wireless (see the story “Wireless” later on in Traffics and Discoveries) but Kipling makes Pyecroft aware of the fact that one can determine the bearing from which a radio transmission comes, and, based on the strength of the signal, can get a rough estimate of the range of the sender. The range is most unreliable, but the determination of bearing could be pretty good. So Alf’s fist is their rudimentary radar.
If Pyecroft was, indeed, a torpedo rating (see above, L.T.O., T.I.), then he could well have had some knowledge of wireless. Torpedomen were the Navy’s electricians, and the torpedo branch was given charge of wireless when it was first introduced. (Readers may remember the British film comedy The Maggie, based on the ‘Para Handy’ stories, in which the Wee Boy is sitting in the bows of this Clyde ‘Puffer’ in fog, throwing lumps of coal ahead “That’s oor radar: if it splashes, we’re OK, if not …”. Kipling had a similar idea 50 years earlier.)
[Page 140, line 14] Bournemouth a Dorset seaside resort, about 95 miles eastward.
[Page 140, line 17] laa law.
[Page 140, line 20] Short on your anchor! reduce the amount of cable out, so that the ship will swing on a shorter radius.
[Page 140, line 24] dingy a printer’s error for ‘dinghy’.
[Page 140, line 26] gooseneck a connection on the inner end of a boom, allowing it to pivot freely in two planes, from side-to-side, and up-and-down.
[Page 140, line 26] backward-sloping torpedo-net boom The gooseneck was usually quite near the waterline, and the boom sloped upward and aft from this. The net was stowed, rolled up, on a shelf above this. To get it out, the boom had to be hauled forward until they were at right angles to the ships side, and the outer end lowered until the boom was horizontal. All this to be done for a dozen or more booms simultaneously.
[Page 140, lines 28-29] HMS Cryptic, which is 12,000 tons The Cressy class armoured cruisers of 1899-1900 were first-class cruisers displacing 12,000 tons, but further details of the Cryptic and Devolution that appear in the tale show that Kipling, no doubt deliberately was drawing on both the Cressy class and the Diadem class of protected cruisers. [The Cressy – named after the battle of Créçy – and her sisters Hogue and Aboukir were all sunk in one morning by Otto Weddingen in U-9 in September 1914, a potent reminder to the Royal Navy that sea-warfare was changing.]
[Page 140, line 33] casement casemate (See note on page 110, line 11)
[Page 141, line 7] stern-walk a less decorative substitute for the stern gallery of a ship-of-the-line, providing the captain of a large ship (or the admiral, if she were a flagship) with a balcony round the stern, outside his cabin. Unfortunately, it is not now possible to see an old stern gallery. Victory, when built, had one, but this had been enclosed by 1805, and it is in the later form that she is now preserved.
[Page 141, line 7] defenceless ‘eads a snippet from a well-known hymn. (Hymns Ancient & Modern, No.193, ‘Jesu, lover of my soul’, – verse 2, line 7) Coming from a family with Methodist roots, Kipling probably knew this hymn, by Charles Wesley, off by heart.
[Page 141, line 14] sponson a curved structure. Sometimes compared to a bird’s nest, projecting from a ship’s side to allow a broadside gun to be mounted outboard, and thus have a better arc of fire.
[Page 141, line 15] stem the bow.
[Page 141, lines 19-23] These lines form the first verse and chorus of the famous Devonshire song, “Widdicombe” Fair, which dates back to ca 1790. Widdicombe (alt. Widecombe, or Widdecombe) is a village on Dartmoor, in Devon.
[Page 141, line 24] Sinbad a common error for Sindbad. (An error of which this compiler is guilty – being totally unaware until reading the ORG notes!) The Tales of Sindbad the Sailor are a collection of Arabic travel romances drawn from many sources. Some are included in The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
[Page 141, line 25] Give way the order to start pulling (an oar).
[Page 141, line 27] Patti Adelina Patti (1843-1919), the celebrated soprano.
[Page 141, lines 29-30] Give me the tones of ‘earth and ‘ome no derivation for this phrase has been found. It has the ring of the music-hall about it, or possibly from a popular author, writing in one of the ha’penny papers.
[Page 141, lines 30-33] List to the blighter …. When I’m a warrant-officer Eaves-dropping can sometimes be both instructive and amusing. In this case, Pyecroft has heard some-one whom he has identified as a warrant officer (no hyphen, please) from the tone of his voice, his accent, and the nature of the ticking-off he is giving to a subordinate (“The Lord preserve me from sailormen like you … where did you learn to coil down a rope that fashion”, or something similar). Pyecroft is hoping that Heaven will give him the vocabulary to ‘tear someone off a strip’ in similar fashion when and if he becomes a warrant officer.
Admiral Brock went on to say, rightly, that with his resource, Pyecroft had no need to envy anyone his vocabulary. He also remarked that Admiral Lord Charles Beresford was crusading for a “silent Navy”, carrying out evolutions with a minimum of orders (as things were always done in the Royal Yachts). In true Irish fashion, he was, at the same time, demanding a more powerful word of command from young officers!
Admiral Brock also commented that:
“incidentally, if Pyecroft could clearly remember the General Election of 1874 (see note on The Bonds of Discipline, page 71, lines 11-13), he would almost certainly be too old for warrant rank, which had to be attained, with both professional and educational qualifications, by the age of 35. Kipling erred in making Pyecroft imply that the rank could be expected automatically, like a good conduct badge.”
This compiler, while conceding that Admiral Brock has a valid point, would suggest that he’s going over the top slightly in expecting absolute fidelity to the Navy’s ephemeral and changing advancement rules in a piece of fiction, whose precise date will never be determined. “When I’m a warrant(-)officer” may equally be taken to be a figure of speech, as, in today’s terms, “when I win the Lottery”. The fact remains that although nit-pickers can easily find petty errors in Kipling’s specialist talk, in spirit he is absolutely true to his characters and the setting in which he puts them.
[Page 142, line 1] little lapping strokes not Navy-stroke, for the sake of silence.
[Page 142, line 8] (and see page 144, line 17) I’ve got the lymph to simulate a hit from a torpedo a stencilled mark, not unlike an old–fashioned vaccination scar, was painted on to your enemy’s side.
[Page 142, line 10] chief carpenter having achieved an Admiralty commission by something like twenty years’ unblemished service as a warrant officer, the Chief Carpenter might be allowed Capital Letters.
[Page 142, line 12] starboard bow twelve-pounder on the lower deck the lower deck would have been virtually on the waterline, and there certainly would not have been a gun-port so low in the ship: main or middle deck must have been meant: and, whichever the deck, the gun would have been larger than a 12 pounder, which were, in cruisers, mounted on the upper deck.
[Page 142, line 20] bald an’ unconvincin’ a quotation from The Mikado by Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
[Page 143] opposite another of Pyecroft’s malapropisms – apposite is meant.
[Page 144, line 3] nix mangiare Rear-Admiral Gerard Wells says, in his Naval Customs and Traditions:
“Nix Mangiare Steps, Malta.This name was given to some steps in Valetta, Malta, by bluejackets as a consequence of the large number of beggars who used to frequent (them) and whine, Oh Signore! mi povero! Miserabile! Nix padre, nix madre, nix mangiare for sixteen days per Jesu Christo.”
The steps led up from the Customs House, used by all ship’s boats. Nix meant ‘nothing’, (from the German nichts) and mangiare was the Italian for ‘to eat’. Admiral Wells adds that the “sixteen days” were always in English and “the statement was contradicted by the chubby faces of the children of the party.”
We are indebted to Mr. P.W. Inwood for “your starveling back” as an approximation to Pyecroft’s meaning here.
[Page 144,line 11] Emanuel Emmanuel. (See Matthew 1,23)
[Page 145, line 6] Morsing Samuel Finlay Breese Morse (1791-1872), American artist and inventor, devised the means of representing letters by dots and dashes, used in telegraphy, signalling by lamp, etc.
[Page 145, line 16] ‘igh-born suckling a young man of good family. Morgan clearly was exercising his initiative to some effect – not even a Sub Lieutenant who thought he was going to take over the family estate in a few months’ time would have responded to a senior officer’s signals in so cavalier a fashion.
[Page 146, line 2] They held that patent boat open by hand for the most part The Berthon boat (see page 130, line 11) was a collapsible boat made of wood and canvas which folded as conveniently as does a folding umbrella today. When open, it was supposed to be held open by two struts, but 267’s crew clearly were using their arms or legs as those struts.
[Page 146, line 20] South Seventeen East S17ºE. At this time, courses to be steered were given either in this manner, i.e., in degrees east or west of North and South; or in terms of the 32 points of the compass, e.g., East South-East (E.S.E.), or North by West (N by W). The equivalent of S17ºE would be S by E, ½E. The course ordered would be the true course, i.e.,relative to the true North, and could be marked on the chart without correction. To determine what course the helmsman should steer, using his particular magnetic compass, the seaman had to apply variation to allow for the difference between True and Magnetic North. This gave the Magnetic Course, but a further correction called deviation (see note on page 136, lines 11 & 12) was needed to give the Compass Course for a particular compass affected by the ‘residual magnetism of a particular ship.
The gyro-compass, which completed trials in 1911, does not depend on magnetism and can be adjusted to give a virtually true reading under most conditions. Since its adoption, courses and bearings are normally given in degrees, from 0º to 359º clockwise from North. But for some 50 years more, small ships still had only a magnetic compass, and one had to apply the errors as described above. In practice, one combined the two errors, and then applied the total (‘the compass error’) to the True Course, to get the Compass Course, e.g. variation 8ºW, deviation 17ºE: compass error 9ºE. Using the mnemonic, error West, Compass best: error East, Compass least, you applied the error so that, in this case, a true course of 090º (East), would be translated as a Compass course of 081º. End of Navigation lesson.
[Page 146, line 31] Casquet the Casquets are a group of rocky little isles about six miles West of the Channel Island of Alderney. The tides around them are fierce.
[Page 147, line 7] Dodman (Point), a headland on the south coast of Cornwall, about 45 nautical miles West of Start Point.
[Page 147, line 19] rallying-point a military expression, a place where dispersed elements re-group for further effort. It was probably an expression in the public eye and ear at that time, with the Boer War in its final stages.
[Page 147, line 20] pivot-ship of the evolution the Guide of the Fleet, the ship from which the others adjust their bearing and distance when maintaining station or changing formation.
[Page 148, line 17] Each one represents a torpedo got ‘ome Moorshed and Pyecroft were unnecessarily lavish in their stencilling. 267 carried three torpedo tubes, and no reloads. One torpedo alone would, for the purposes of the annual manoeuvres, been sufficient to put Cryptic and Devolution out of action: it would probably have been sufficient to sink them, in reality. The Navy’s damage control ability was not then very advanced, and during WWI a number of ships were lost to comparatively minor strikes which later might have been countered, and the ship saved.
Nor did torpedo boats and destroyers carry spare torpedoes on board, although Admiral Brock noted that: “British destroyers in the Kaiser’s War (1914-18) carried only one spare torpedo; this was primarily a replacement for one under maintenance or repair, though at Jutland, 1916, some destroyers managed to use it to reload.”
[Page 148,line 25] G.M. Moorshed’s initials (as explained later, page 153, line 26)
[Page 148, line 31] as Queen ‘Enrietta said to the ‘ousemaid presumably a burlesque of Queen Elizabeth I’s remark to the Countess of Nottingham; “God forgive you, but I never can”, (Hume’s History of England, Vol II, chapter 7.)
[Page 149, line 6] The mote on their neighbour’s beam Taking “beam” here as meaning the ship’s side, this is a punning distortion of Matthew 7,3: “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is thine own eye?”
[Page 149, line 18] pipes strictly speaking, a “pipe” meant the sounds emitted by a boatswain’s call, or whistle, plus the verbal order that accompanied them. (The standard excuse of a laggard sailor (rarely accepted) was that “I didn’t hear the pipe, Sir”.) But it was quite often used, as it is here, to mean the call itself.
The boatswain’s call emits only two notes, high, and very high, in pitch. The higher pitch is achieved with the hand almost entirely closed over the orifice, the lower with the hand open. From the time of the First World War onwards, there have been only seven standard calls in general use: the ‘still’ (drop everything and stand motionless) and the ‘carry-on’: ‘call the hands’ (waking them up in the morning), the ‘dinner call’, and ‘pipe down’ (out lights, extinguish any pipe or cigarette): ‘piping the side’ (the ceremonial call when a senior officer enters or leaves a ship) and the ‘general’ call, which prefaced all verbal orders. The calls were differentiated by the sequence of the notes and their lengths and variations such as a trill. In earlier days, there were a number of either similarly differentiated calls for various seamanship orders. The point of passing orders by the boatswain’s call was that the pitch was so high that it could be heard against most other background noises.
After hundreds of years the Royal Navy abandoned the general use of the call in 1963, though it is still used invariably for piping the side.
[Page 149, line 19] whaler a 27- or 25-ft boat, pulling 5 oars; developed from the double-ended dory used in whaling ships (and Grand Banks long-liners, cf. Captains Courageous).
[Page 149, line 21] Destroyer will close it is extremely doubtful whether the Royal Navy ever adopted the use of “will “ to indicate the imperative mood – a practice liable to lead to serious misunderstanding as the United States Navy found on the night of 24th-25th October, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte.
British naval officers have had to learn by experience that when the British Army says “Meals will be provided”, what it means is that “Meals will not be provided; bring your own sandwiches, chum”.
[Page 150, line 3] ram the lower part of the ship’s stem. (See the note on A Fleet in Being, page 2, lines 18 and 19.)
[Page 150, line 9] sit on (used of a jury, committee, etc.) to hold sessions concerning, to consider.
[Page 150, line 16] half a tide when not affected by local peculiarities (as at Southampton) the average period between successive high waters is about 12 hours 25 minutes, so half a tide is a little over six hours.
[Page 150, line 22] in stern a singularly unhandy-sounding phrase – “in the stern sheets” would be the naval phrase.
[Page 151, line 10] stars as ever sang together cf Job 38,7: “The morning stars sang together”.
[Page 151, line 11] King’s King Edward VII, reigned 1901-10. An indication that the tale is set in his reign, rather than that of Queen Victoria.
[Page 151, line 14] nine-point-two a gun of 9.2 inches calibre (diameter of the bore of the barrel).
[Page 151, lines 15-16] marines relieving each other at the lifebuoy a lifebuoy sentry would be unnecessary in harbour. (See the note on A Fleet in Being, page 7, line 8)
[Page 151, line 16] call-boys in those days before public address systems (universally known within the Navy as ‘the Tannoy’, from the trade name of the firm who made them), a team of boatswain’s mates and call – boys had to go round the ship repeating all pipes to ensure their being heard by all concerned. The size of the team was naturally governed by the size of the ship.
The duties of the boatswain’s mate in this respect still remain; it is his – or her – job to make the broadcasts by which the ship’s routine is run, but rarely today will they be prefaced by the use of the ‘general’ call on the pipe.
[Page 151, line 21] Martha it was her sister Mary who had “chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her”. Luke 10,42.
[Page 151, line 22] scoffed here used in the slang sense, implying eaten or grabbed.
[Page 151, line 25] battery a number of guns, normally 6-inch in cruisers of the period and size, mounted along the side of the ship instead of on the centreline like the heavier 9.2-inch guns forward and aft.
[Page 151, line 25] beam in this context,the breadth of the ship.
[Page 151, line 28] flash-plates steel or iron plates, fitted in an arc underneath the muzzle of the after gun, to protect the teak quarterdeck from the flash when it was fired at the low elevations which most British captains still wanted. The “well-browned” look would be due to some special preparation, probably an acid, aimed at resisting rust and flash without loss of smartness.
[Page 151, line 28] dazzling hatch dazzling due to burnished brass rails and perhaps polished wood surrounding it (the dockyard joiners had excellent French-polishers among their number).
[Page 151,line 29] flagstaff this should have been “ensign staff”.
[Page 151, line 31 to Page 152, line 2] the pious Abigail … a little dry cough perhaps a reference to Abigail, wife of Nabal, in I Samuel, 25. Kipling evidently found her a less simpathetic figure than the Scripture writer meant her to appear.
However, Philip Holberton notes: abigail (the lower case ‘a’ at the start is deliberate) came to mean (see the Oxford English Dicxtionary) ‘A lady’s maid; a female servant or attendant. Now archaic and historical’.
It seems likely that is in this sense that Kipling uses the word here. TB No. 267 is sitting among all the nautical mayhem she has caused, like a careless servant girl who has just broken a large piece of china and is saying “Please, M’m, it wasn’t me, M’m”, or “It just came apart in me ‘ands, M’m”.
[Page 152, line 15] frame-plan an elevation of the ship, showing the frames, equivalent to the ribs of a wooden ship. Kipling has put Moorshed’s question badly: a number of copies would certainly be held, the only question being their immediate accessibility.
[Page 153, line 1] Greenwich chronometer a very accurate timepiece, used for navigation, which had been checked and regulated at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In 1958, the Observatory moved to Herstmonceaux Castle in Sussex, and in 1990, its functions were dispersed, with those relating to time being absorbed by the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington.
Depending on its size, a ship would carry a chronometer (quite a large timepiece, kept in a specially padded box), or a chronometer watch (somewhat smaller), plus one or two deck-watches which were used for taking the time of observations (when observing the altitude of a heavenly body, time is taken to the nearest 0.2 second). The chronometers were the responsibility of the Navigating Officer, with the day-to-day care of them usually delegated to his ‘tanky’ (a Midshipman) or his Yeoman, a responsible seaman, who in the latter two-thirds of the 20th century had the job of checking them against the time signal broadcast daily by the Admiralty.
[Page 153, line 14] One revolution “of the screw” is understood, a matter of less than a second.
[Page 153, line 18] small arms rifles, pistols, etc., kept under the sentry’s surveillance.
[Page 153, line 22] main cabin the captain’s day cabin, combining the functions of a personal office and sitting room.
[Page 153, lines 25-33] making nine stencils … appear In expecting us to believe that Moorshed and Pyecroft accomplished all this in the thick weather described, and with the indifferent boats and limited ship’s company then allowed to a torpedo boat, the author is claiming honorary membership of Poseidon’s Law. But it is a worthy cause.
[Page 153, line 29] Mark IV the first pattern of a weapon or piece of equipment supplied was entitled Mark I. As significant improvements were made, the modified designs were known as Mark II, Mark III and so on.
[Page 153, line 33] large window presumably a square port.
[Page 154, line 30] make and mend clothes As Admiral Brock wrote:
“it now (1963, and still is in 2004) seems to be generally understood by the British public that a “make-and-mend” is a holiday (or more commonly a half-holiday) in the Navy, and is so-called because it was once devoted to getting men’s clothing up-to-date.”
[Page 155, line 6] naked barometer a mercurial barometer, consisting basically of a glass tube filled with mercury. The tube was some 33 inches long, but since atmospheric pressure varies, roughly, from 28 inches of mercury to 31½ inches of mercury, very often the lower two feet or so was more-or-less bare, with only the upper nine inches or so having a scale associated with it.