Life in the Royal Navy Cigarette Cards (Part 5)

Rum Issue

In Tudor times sailors were entitled to a ration of 1 gallon of beer, but great difficulty was found in keeping the beer from going sour at sea. For this reason wine was issued to ships in the Mediterranean in the 17th century, while on other stations, and especially the West Indies, rum became the official beverage. Before 1740 the ration of rum was served neat, but in that year Admiral Vernon ordered it to be diluted with water and it became known as grog, “old Grogan” being the admiral’s nickname. Until recently the proportion was three parts of water to one of rum but it is now two to one. Men are allowed to take a cash allowance in lieu of the rum issue if they so desire.

Make and Mend

In normal ship routine one afternoon is set aside each week when no work need be done and men are free to “make and mend” their clothes. Many years ago nearly every man in the ship was capable of doing his own tailoring, but this is not the case today. There are however a few individuals who specialise in this work and are able to add to their pay by undertaking it for other men. In the picture two such men are seen at work, having no doubt entered into a partnership for the purpose. Such an association is known on the lower deck as a “Jewing” firm probably because in the old days many of the tailors in the naval ports were Jews. The majority of men however take advantage of a make and mend afternoon to read or to write letters.

Naval Schoolmaster

Here is seen a naval schoolmaster (warrant officer) giving a lecture in a warship to a number of young ordinary seaman and boys for whom school instruction is compulsory. Before an able seaman can be advanced to leading seaman or petty officer he has to pass educational tests. Hence men seeking advancement are glad to undergo voluntary tuition in various branches of knowledge from the ship’s school master. Again petty officers who wish to become warrant officers are required to undergo an educational test for which coaching is usually necessary. From this it will be apparent that schoolmasters at sea have quite a busy time.

Physical Training

After breakfast in a warship, hands have to clean the mess decks and attend divisions. This is followed by 10 minutes of physical drill which concludes by all hands doubling round the deck as seen in the picture. As a rule the officer in charge of the division joins in this activity. It will be noticed that the capstan in the background is rigged with capstan bars, ready for weighing anchor by hand. This is one of the many evolutions which are carried out in the Royal Navy on a general drill day.

Seamanship Training Class

A number of young ordinary seaman are seen being instructed by a leading seaman in bends and hitches. Although sailing ships have vanished from the Royal Navy there is still ample scope for the use of these knots in connection with boat work, rigging awnings, hoisting in provisions and stores, securing gear in heavy weather, rigging collision mat etc. The official manual of seamanship of which there are two closely printed volumes contains some 50 illustrations of bends and hitches, some quite simple, others fairly complicated. Of these perhaps the best known are the half hitch, clove hitch, rolling hitch, fisherman’s bend, reef knot, bowline and sheep shank.

Hands to Bathe

Every sailor should be able to swim and care is taken to instruct new entries in swimming before they are drafted to sea. In this picture the order has evidently been given hands to bathe and of this men not otherwise engaged appear to be taking full advantage. It will be seen that a ladder has been put out over the side for the use of the bathers. A petty officer or leading seaman is invariably told off to keep an eye on the bathers in case a man may get into difficulties. Before being drafted to a ship all men have to pass a provisional swimming test and subsequently a standard swimming test which consists of swimming 40 yards in deep water wearing a duck suit and then keeping a float for three minutes.

Pulling Race

Although the majority of boats carried by warships are power driven, plenty of interest is taken in boat pulling, regattas being held periodically in the principal fleets. For weeks beforehand, every opportunity is taken to train the crews entered by each ship. The boat show in the picture is a gig, whose crew are obviously going all out under the urging of their coxswain, a petty officer. Though it may appear a heavy boat in comparison with the racing craft seen at Henley, a gig with a good crew can be made to move through the water at a surprising speed.

Liberty Men Going Ashore

Liberty men, or in other words men who have been given shore leave, are here seen going down the ship’s accommodation ladder into a large motorboat. Now a days leave is given much more plentifully in the Royal Navy than in the last century when the majority of naval boats with held by oars and sails. Facilities for recreation ashore have also improved greatly. At naval ports and other places visited regularly by the fleet plenty of ground is available for football and other games. The great liberty and extended recreational facilities of today are much appreciated by all ranks and ratings.

Ship Open to Visitors

In a naval port, His Majesty’s ships are thrown open to visitors during the annual Festival of Navy week, held in August bank holiday week at Portsmouth, Chatham and Devonport. Entry to the dockyards and to many ships, with a free view of various displays, can be obtained for one shilling (children half price), a privilege which has been aptly described as Britain’s best “bob’s-worth.” At other times the best opportunity of inspecting British warships is during the summer cruise of the home fleet when different vessels are detailed to visit ports and seaside resorts in the United Kingdom.

Home Again

In this picture a cruiser of the Kent class is seen arriving at her homeport after a foreign commission, the normal length of which is 2 1/2 years. The principal foreign stations are the Mediterranean, China, the East Indies, America and West Indies and Africa. When a ship leaves for home other ships on the station give her a send off with appropriate ceremony, guards are paraded and bands play the traditional tune rolling home. The ship shame here is flying out paying off pendant which is normally the length of the ship plus a proportionate increase if her commission has exceeded 2 1/2 years. In a short time on the cruise it will pay off their offices are men going on foreign service leave before being appointed to other ships.

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