A senior rating in charge of fresh fish, to help and guide them as well as to
instruct them. Similarly, any rating who takes a newly-joined rating under
his wing for this purpose.
Common slang name for an empty bottle. The expression is said to have been
used by King William IV in the presence of some Royal Marine officers to whom
he hurriedly explained that he meant that, like a Royal Marine, having done
one job of work, the bottle was ready to do another.
A hangman named Derrick in the time of Queen Elizabeth I used to hang his
`victims' from a spar fitted with a purchase and topping lift. This gave to
the lifting appliance the name now generally used.
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Common metaphorical expression meaning "in a quandary". In a wooden ship, the
"devil" is the top plank or strake immediately below the sheer strake, and a
person working over the ship's side below this plank was working in a very
A naval; diminutive adjective; e.g., a "Dicky run ashore" is a short spell of
shore leave, a "Dicky flannel" is the short flannel (or vest) worn by seamen
with blue uniform in the summer.
Common slang for "Help yourself" (to food)
Common slang for "Work hard", "Get down to it".
A small boat; the name comes from the Bengali word for small boat carried in,
or attached to, a larger vessel.
Old naval name for a candle. From the old method of making candles, whereby a
wick was dipped in molten fat or wax until a candle was obtained of the
The Midshipman's sword, just under 2 feet long, the dirk was officially
introduced in 1833 for Volunteers; Midshipmen were not given dirks until
1856. They were slung from waist belts (which came in about 1825). Their
disappearance from the Navy dates from 1939.
Sailors' slang name for the clasp-knife, part of the compulsory kit of all
seamen ratings, as obtainable from the Clothing Store.
In the Navy this expression refers to clearing and washing up after a meal,
not to serving food before the meal.
Naval slang for the sea when used as a nouns for to throw away when used as a
The plain unstained wooden box (12" x 8" x 6"), part of every seaman's kit in
the old days, in which he kept his personal possessions such as photographs,
letters, curios, etc. Ditty boxes disappeared from the Navy when adequate kit
lockers were provided in ships; prior to those days, a man's kit was
permanently stowed in his kit bag, for the stowage of which back-racks were
provided on the mess-decks.
The word "ditty" may come from the Anglo-Saxon word "dite" meaning neat or
tidy; or from the convenient size of the box for containing the ditties or
pamphlets much published in the XVIII century; or because the boxes
superseded bags made of "dittis", a form of cotton material. Certainly one
reads of "ditty bags" in naval books of the 1700 period. Other suggested
origins of the word are corruption's of "oddities" and "Commodity box".
Daily "Divisions", when the men fall in before being put to various jobs in
the ship, was introduced by Kempenfelt in 1780.
King Henry VII selected Portsmouth harbour as the site of a Royal Dockyard in
TO DODGE POMPEY
An old naval expression meaning to evade doing a job of work.
One of several slang nicknames for the Chaplain - or for any ardent church-
DOGS OF WAR
An old gun room collective name for the junior members of the mess when
directed by the Sub-Lieutenant to expel someone from the mess.
Naval name for the Midshipman detailed to attend the Captain or Commander.
Common slang name for someone of very little importance.
Naval slang name for the chest in which an artisan or artificer keeps his
An old naval name for a hammock-mattress.
Technically, two rowers pulling on the same oar (or two rowers, with separate
oars, using the same thwart), this expression is used generally to denote
`doubling-up', i.e.., sleeping two in a single cabin, two sittings for meals,
An old Spanish gold coin, originally worth two pistoles.
DOWSE, or DOUSE
Normally to extinguish a light; where the association of ideas permits this
verb can be applied to other objects - e.g., to lower a sail, to close a
On H.M. ships, draught marks are in Roman figures; the figures are six inches
high, the bottom of the figure indicating the draught.
Decorating a ship with flags as a sign of rejoicing goes back to the earliest
times. Until 1889 each ship devised her own scheme for the arrangement for
her flags but this is now rigidly standardised in order that by no stretch of
the imagination could the flags be construed into any message.
H.M. ships in commission may dress either "overall" or "with masthead flags
only": H.M. ships not in commission do not wear colours or dress ship.
H.M.ships not under way dress overall unless otherwise ordered: H.M. ships
never dress overall when under way - they then dress with masthead (including
jackstaff and ensign staff) flags only.
H.M. Ships dress with the white ensign (or the red or blue per their
Admiral's colors) at their mastheads except that in flagships the Admiral's
flag takes the place of the white ensign at the appropriate masthead. A
foreign warship dressing ship in British waters, or in British honour, wears
the white ensign at her mainmast head: similarly, an H.M. ship dressing ship
in foreign waters, or in foreign honour, wears the ensign of that country at
Maritime slang name for the Sea. Synonyms are the Ditch, the Pond, the Oggin.
Naval slang word (verb and noun) for continual grumbling.
Naval name for a Marine bugler (drummer), for whom the traditional nickname
Naval slang expression meaning "for all time".
Naval name for any kind of steamed suet pudding, whether or not it contains
An old naval slang name for Ward room guest night.
The naval name for a trial or practice in which all the motions are gone
through but nothing else. E.g., in a gunnery dummy run all the motions of
laying, setting, loading and firing are gone through meticulously but the gun
is not actually fired. The expression is therefore freely used in the Navy to
mean a rehearsal.
Technically, packing material used to protect or wedge in cargo or stores;
maritime slang for a person's clothes and/or baggage.
Traditional nickname for a junior member of the victualling staff, also known
Old maritime name for a German (i.e. Deutsch) ship; a Dutch ship was referred
to as a "Hollander".
THE DUTCHMAN'S ANCHOR
An old naval synonym for anything that has been left behind. The expression
derives from an apocryphal Dutch captain who explained after his ship had
been wrecked "Oh yes, I had an excellent anchor: unfortunately I left it at
home that voyage".
A simple method of measuring speed in slow moving ships. An object which will
float is throw overboard and the time it takes to float to abreast a mark 47
feet 3 inches further aft is noted: 28 seconds for this distance equals one
knot - 14 seconds equals 2 knots.
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