No. 11 AREA

 Crossing the Line Ceremony

Ancient Tradition

According to the ancient tradition, the ship's company of a Royal Navy vessel is required to pay homage to King Neptune and his Royal Court as the ship crosses Lattitude Zero from the Northern into the Southern Hemisphere.

Lt/Cdr Peter Slater, R.N.
Did nourish a viper in his bosom, the feeding of which did cause great distress to the messmen as the said viper was not victualled.

Shall be fed with appetising pills, shaved, and washed in the bath for his sins.

Surgeon Lt Dennis Hampton, R.N.
Did cause many to be brought to the Bay of Sickness for vile potions, injections and inspections.

To be operated on with special instruments, lathered right royally and flung to the Bears.

Lt (S) Stewart Johnstone, R.N.
Did disrespectfully, and in a treasonable manner, claim to have crossed the line before His Majesty had shipped.

Shall respectfully kiss my Jester on both cheeks, and receive special attention of barbers and Bears.
The ancient naval ceremony is held when a vessel crosses the equator, during which those who have not previously 'crossed the line' must pay homage to King Neptune and his royal court - usually by means of trials and punishments, most of which are smelly and foul in nature.
The ceremony usually starts the day before the ship passes over the equator. In HMS Montrose's case, as she was en route from Gibraltar to the South Atlantic on 23 October, a signal was received from an equatorial transmitting station which read:

To Her Majesty's Ship Montrose.....          From His Majesty King Neptune

My Atlantic Ocean Porpoise Patrol reports that Her Majesty's Ship Montrose is proposing to enter my domain for the first time. Queen Amphitrite and I are very much looking forward to your visit and my Bears are delighted to hear of the large number of uninitiated.
We shall come on board at 0930 Wednesday, 24 October for the Ceremony of Initiation in accordance with the Custom of the Seas. Please make adequate preparations.

The following signal was sent in reply to H.M. King Neptune via the transmitting station:
To His Majesty King Neptune.....               From HMS Montrose
We thank your Majesty for your gracious message and all who have been initiated into the solemn rites of your Kingdom send their best wishes to you and your Queen. All preparations are being made for the many uninitiated to become true sons of your realm in accordance with Ancient Custom.
Arrival of King Neptune's Ambassador

At about 2000 on 23 October was heard the low measured tones of the Chief Herald and Ambassador of King Neptune who hailed the ship after which the following dialogue ensued:


Ship ahoy. Ship ahoy. What ship are you and whither are you bound?

Her Majesty's Ship Montrose from Devonport bound for the southern seas. Who are you?

I am Dolphinius, Chief Herald and Ambassador of His Maritime Majesty King Neptune, Father of the Seas, Lord of all Oceans.

Lt Mike Williams, R.N.
Did fail to produce His Majesty's No. 1 chariot, causing him to drive in state in a bone-shaker.

To be thoroughly shaken up by medical staff.

S/Lt Steve Short, R.N.
Did flout His Majesty's Court in that on two previous occasions he crossed the line without paying due respect to His Royal Person.

Shall salaam humbly before my Majesty three times and be shaved and cleaned.

S/Lt Peter Dennison, R.N.
Did attempt to grow a beard and failed dismally in the attempt.

Shall receive a beard from my apothecary, shaved off by the barber, and improved in the bath.

S/Lt (S) Jim Banks, R.N.
Did fail to pay the ship's company often enough nor did he give enough money at any one payment.

Shall be branded as a userer, and be given a generous supply of lather and water.

Midshipman (O.U.T.) Geoffrey Scott, R.N.
a)  Once spent 10 minutes on watch without sending away for food.
b)  Did eat seventy four bars of chocolate in one month in a time of war.

Shall bite upon a stinking fish, be fed with anti-chocolate pills and all food stopped for twenty four hours.

CPO Stoker Colin (Barney) Barnes
Whilst at Ascencion Island did cause noxious gases to fill the ship by opening up the drains of the stoker Senior Rates bathroom.

Shall be sprayed with an odious concoction, and thoroughly shaved and washed.


By what right do you challenge me on the High Seas?


By the powers invested in my noble master King Neptune. By the grace of mythology, Lord of the Waters, Sovereign of all Oceans and Lord High Admiral of the Bath whose Dominions you are about to enter.


I crave His Oceanic Majesty's pardon and request permission to enter his equatorial domain.


His Majesty is well acquainted with your wishes and bids me to read His Royal Message:

Whichever of you would enter our Dominions,

We care not what his rank or opinions,
We cannot him respect, however bold,
Unless our Royal Document he hold.
Our state is founded on time honoured laws,
And ye must learn each paragraph and clause,
For you must know that any craft who'd feign,
Enter the Great Sea Lord's own domain,
Must pay the tribute that King Neptune wishes,
And be received by mermaids, bears and fishes.
Our Herald has been sent to warn you all,
That on the morrow we ourselves will call,
And then let those who are not of our order,
Come well prepared to cross the Royal Border.
And here's a warning to those who skulk,
They'll get it in the neck, what e'er their bulk,
At nine tomorrow when the sun is high,
To this ship in state we both shall hie,
To see the gentle ceremonies due,
Are executed by our retinue.


Assure King Neptune that we are all honoured at the meeting; and will you convey to the depths below our loyal greeting.


And now, Sir, please see that you prepare,
The bath, the platform and the barber's chair,
The whole of the ship's company so brave,
Shall greet the ruler of the Ocean Wave,
And to him homage must be paid,
Of their own free will, or they will be made,
All are to give him his rightful due,
With the exception of the chosen few,
On whom that honour has been conferred,
The bond of Neptune, his solemn word,
Until tomorrow at the hour of nine,
I'll do my best to see that it's fine,
Good night, good Captain, we'll be with you in the morn,
And anyone who shirks will wish he'd not been born.

Royal Party Piped On Board

On the morning of 24 October, the 'still' and a fanfare of trumpets heralded the arrival of the Royal Party amidships by way of the accomodation ladder. His Majesty was piped on board and the 'carry on' sounded.

The Commander advanced and greeted the Royal Party:

Our humblest duty, Sire, I bring,
To you, the Ocean's greatest King,
All here on board submit today,
To your most just but dreadful sway.

Their Majesties then left their chariot to inspect the Royal Guard and accompanied by their retinue proceeded to the dias where the Captain was waiting to greet them supported by the Commander and Commander (S).

Engine Room Artificer John Simpson

Has the distinction of being the smallest Artificer on the ship.

Shall be laid upon the operating table and be induced to grow.

PO Stoker Tony (Bungy) Williams
Was heard to say that by way of refreshment he had disposed of more salt water than His Majesty had ever sailed over.

Shall receive special salt water treatment at the hands of my Bears.

PO Cook Fred Perry
Has crossed the line many times but failed to pay his respects.

Shall salaam three times before my Majesty, assisted by Jesters, and pay his respects to barbers and Bears.

LAEM Sam Mason
a)  Is the smallest THING on the ship.
b)  Did make himself into a pull-through and crawl down the muzzle of a 30mm cannon.

Shall be fed with special fattening medicine and thrown to the Bears.

RPO Steve Unwin
Did accuse the Clerk of the Court of not crossing the line.

Shall salaam three times to my Clerk of the Court, and be lathered down to the line, then receive water treatment.


Your Majesty is very kind,
Such humble folk as we to mind,
This day we will present to you,
About a hundred of the crew,
Who have not had the honour great,
To meet you and your gracious Mate.

King Neptune:

Captain Smythe, Officers and crew,
We're very glad to welcome you;
For Montrose has long sailed the seas,
And is very dear to me.
My log reveals that to this day,
Few of your class have passed this way,
We note with great and royal glee,
That many novices in the ship there be.
My Bears are getting very grumpy,
To get at 'em before we return to Pompey,
Honoured we that they cross our path,
And may they all enjoy the bath,
My Bears, I know, will treat 'em rough,
They're a hungry lot and very tough.
Now down to business we have much to do,
Before this Royal Court is through.
Clerk of the Court hand me the orders,
For those who cross our Royal Borders.


The first is for Captain James Philip Smythe, Commanding Officer of Her Majesty's Ship Montrose.
King Neptune:
Captain Smythe, it is our desire to honour you, Sir, in recognition of many years faithful service upon the seven seas. I therefore bestow on you the Order of the Flying Fish.


The next is for Commander Paul Chapman, second in command of Her Majesty's Ship Montrose.

King Neptune:
Order of the British Restaurant with a Green Card.


The last order, your Majesty, is for Commander (S) Simon Waterman, Distinguished Service Cross.
King Neptune:

If I can be heard above this din,
I think the crew are rather thin,
But still, no doubt, it's through the heat,
I'm sure you give them lots to eat,
Receive this order, it is a ripper,
The Order of the Golden Kipper.
King Neptune's Welcome

PO SA Joe Locke
Did pipe a slop issue in the dog watches thereby taking away good sailors' recreational time.

Shall be shown a new form of physical execise by our alchemist.

Able Seaman Dai Jones
Did pipe 'Special Sea Dutymen' in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean thereby raising the hopes of his messmates for a run ashore.

Shall be treated by my doctor and thrown to the Bears.

Leading Seaman Tom (Bamber) Bacon
Did cause concern and wonderment among the ship's company by piping 'Hands to make and mend'.

Shall be sawn into several pieces, and thrown to the Bears.

Canteen Manager Phil Rogers
Did endeavour to delay the entry of the ship into the Royal Domain by producing 10,000 bags of pickled walnuts at the gangway five minutes before sailing.

Shall be liberally slapped by a big fish, specially dieted, the scales removed by barbers and Bears.

JMEM Martin Nicholson
Showed ignorance in the pastime of the Oceans by asking, "What's this Tombola all about then?"

Shall be taught to say "full house" and "line" to the satisfaction of my Jester and receive his winnings in the bath.

AEM Ian McDonald
During a flat calm, was stricken with a strange malady called sea-sickness.

Shall make a vomiting noise and receive anti-sea sickness medicine.

Writer Steve Jones
Did say at dinner time, "Don't bother about the salt - let me breathe over your scran".

Shall receive a special mouth treatment, lathered from top to bottom by the barbers, and annointed by the Bears.


Pray silence for the King.

King Neptune:

I, King Neptune, Lord of the Sea,
Welcome you all, who e'er you may be,
My laws are strict but have no fear,
If only you will persevere,
To attain the freedom of the seas,
As recognised by our decrees.
Here are the Bears, the soap, the bath,
This is the only certain path,
For all who wish to cross the line,
And be enrolled as sons of mine.
My surgeons here will do their part,
They'll feel your pulse and sound your heart,
My police are strong and will not spare,
Those who avoid the ducking chair.
My Bears have had no food for hours,
Beware then all their mighty powers,
Of mauling novices they will not stint,
When to their Chief I give the hint,
In order, then, as we command,
Before us then let each novice stand,
Test the waters, Chief Barber, and report thereon.

Chief Barber:

Your Majesty's orders have been obeyed,
The bath is over-proof, the soap cream laid,
The pills and tonic strong and undiluted,
The razor keen, the water well polluted.

King Neptune:

Now see that none do take offence,
Let loose the Bears, sound the 'commence'.
The Court took their places, seated around their Majesties, and the initiations commenced.

A number of offenders with serious charges were dealt with first. Charges were read by the clerk of the court from a voluminous scroll; His Majesty King Neptune pondered over each charge carefully and delivered an appropriate judgment on each case.

The first of the many was the ships Padre, the Rev. Andrew Vickers, who was followed by six other officers who had not previously crossed the line. Owing to the large number of Officers and Ratings who had not crossed the line before an afternoon session was necessary. PO Bates, a conscientious objector, was the first to enter in the afternoon. He had his objections removed by the Surgeon and his conscience cleared by the barbers and Bears. He was followed by Lt. Simpson and two other officers on serious charges. The number of ratings who paid their respects to HM King Neptune that day and initiated into the company of ‘Shellbacks’ was about 90.

Punishments were varied. The Surgeon had very efficient assistants and equally efficient although weird instruments, which they wielded with skill born of practice no doubt. Victims of the operating table in company with others were all cleansed before entering the bath by the vigorous lathering received from the barbers whose brushes and razors were of no mean size. The Bears were in good form all day and without doubt their appetite was satisfied.

Few skulkers were to be found in the ship’s company. The police staff dealt with such low people. Certainly King Neptune must have been impressed by the keenness with which many of the ship’s company rushed to be initiated.

The ceremonies concluded at 1530 when King Neptune with his Court entered the bath and disappeared.

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