Even during wartime naval crews celebrated crossing the equator whenever they could and typically this ceremony was performed by a sailor dressed as Neptune and others as his court. The ship was turned over to silliness for the afternoon and various semi-humiliating ceremonies enacted against members of the company who had not previously ‘crossed the line’ such as being ‘shaved’ with a giant razor or dunked in water. After the ceremony those who had crossed the line for the first time were presented with a certificate. Tonight we have a crossing the line certificate from the battleship HMS Ramillies in 1943 which is surprisingly elaborate and colourful for 1943:
Apologies for cutting off the border, but it is too large to fit on my A3 scanner! My thanks go to Owen Thompson who very kindly sent me this magnificent certificate.
At the top the ship’s badge is displayed:
Beneath this is the ship itself, sailing on the ocean beneath a particularly cheerful sun:
Neptune himself is seen riding a sea monster, with his court following behind on some sort of sea snake:
There are a number of mermaids on the certificate, all beautifully rendered with 40s hairdos and ample bosoms:
The main part of the certificate indicates that it was issued on 27th August 1943:
At this point HMS Ramillies was part of the Eastern Fleet and based in Kilindini in East Africa. Here members of the ship’s company celebrate crossing the line (although whether this is this specific time in 1943 or another point in the war I do not know):
Alfred Booker was a boy seaman who joined the ship in 1943:
At the start of the war HMS Ramillies was in New Zealand. The crew were friendly with some Maoris. Before the ship left the Captain was presented with a Maoris Pui- Pui skirt. They said that it would protect the ship and the wearer when in danger.
Our captain, Captain Middleton, wore the skirt during times of danger. He wore it over his uniform, together with his tin hat and his walking stick! The ship went through the whole war without losing a single man. the Pui-pui is now in the Royal Marine Museum in Southsea.
At one time a Japanese torpedo went through the side of the ship and lodged in the gun magazine. Neither the torpedo nor the shells in the magazine exploded. The ship was protected by its Pui-Pui skirt!
I joined the ship in 1943. I found out later that the father of my wife-to-be had also served on the Ramillies when he was younger. This helped me to gain his approval!
In 1944 the ship was involved in the Normandy campaign. We destroyed German gun encampments, so assisting the troops ashore. The troops could ring us with instructions of where we should fire so that they could advance.
HMS Ramillies then went back to Portsmouth to have new guns fitted as the old guns were worn out. After this we sailed to the Mediterranean to join the US Task Force. They were invading the South of France. We gave the same kind of off shore support to the troops as we did in Normandy.
We captured a small ship carrying Germans who were escaping from an island, which the allies had captured, off the coast of France. Someone shouted to them to ask how many were in the ship.
They replied, ‘Thirteen.’ So we shouted back that they should chuck one into the water, because thirteen was an unlucky number! When we got all thirteen aboard, and took them as prisoners of war, we handed them over to an American ship for interrogation. Interestingly, these were the first Germans that I saw during the war. I met many more later in Malta.
When HMS Ramillies returned home she was ‘payed off’, so I had to join another ship.