No. 11 AREA

 Naval Traditions and Customs

Crossing the Line Ceremony

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.

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.

Most ships have a tradition of handing a specially-commissioned certificate to each member of the Ship’s Company to mark the occasion. It was once possible to purchase generic certificates from the old naval tailors in Portsmouth but these are no longer available and modern day computer generated versions are substituted instead....          [read more]


Uckers is a two or four player board game traditionally played in the Royal Navy. It is believed to have originated in the 18th/19th centuries from the Indian game "Pachisi" although the first reference to it in print does not appear until 1946. It is mentioned in a diary by EJF Records in 1937 as "Huckers".

Uckers is generally played using the rules stated, but they vary from one branch of the Navy to another. It is similar to the board game Ludo and is based on the same principles; getting your four pieces around the board before the opposition.

However, the whole point of Uckers, and this may vary according to personal preferences, is to get all your pieces home without your opponent getting any home at all. This is known as an “8-piecer”.

The ultimate win is when you get all your pieces home and your opponent has all their pieces still in the base.

Splice the Mainbrace

A ration of rum a day was standard issue in the Royal Navy until 1970, when concerns over crew members operating machinery under the influence led to the rum ration being abolished. Restrictions were placed on those who could "Splice the mainbrace": any man or officer over the age of 20 who desired to take it received an extra issue of one-eighth of a pint of rum. Lemonade was issued those who did not wish for the rum.

The rum was mixed with water to make grog for all ratings below Petty Officer. Only ratings marked "G" (for Grog) in the ship's books could draw rum, grog or lemonade when the main brace was spliced and no payment in lieu was available. Those under 20 were marked "U.A." (for ‘under age’) in the ship's book; they were similarly barred from drawing the daily rum ration. "T" stood for Temperance.          [read more]

Pussers Rum

Rum was issued to sailors of the Royal Navy for over 300 years, going back before Lord Nelson’s time. That rum was Pusser’s Rum blended to the specification laid down by the Admiralty. Pusser’s is a corruption of the word ‘Purser’ who was responsible for issuing the daily rum tot.

In the 17th century the daily drink ration for English sailors was a gallon of beer. Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of liquid that this required in 1655 a half pint of rum was made equivalent and became preferred to beer. Over time drunkenness on board naval vessels increasingly became a problem and the ration was formalised in naval regulations by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 and ordered to be mixed with water in a 4:1 water to rum ratio and split into two servings per day.          [read more]

Blue Nose Certificates

For centuries sailors have marked their first crossing of the Arctic Circle. In the Royal Navy there is an elaborate ceremony and certificates are given to recognise the event. The wording on a typical Blue Nose Certificate is often as follows:

All sailors, wherever and whoever ye may be….

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Naval Ensigns

An ensign in British maritime law and custom, is the identifying flag flown to designate a British ship, either military or civilian. Such flags display the United Kingdom Union Flag in the canton (the upper corner next to the staff), with either a red, white or blue field, dependent on whether the vessel is civilian, naval, or in a special category. These are known as the red, white, and blue ensigns respectively.

Outside the nautical sphere, ensigns are used to designate many other military units, government departments and administrative divisions. These flags are modelled on the red, white, and blue naval ensigns, but may use different colours for the field.

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Loyal Toast

The privilege accorded to the Royal Navy of remaining seated while drinking the Sovereign's health is of long standing but obscure in origin. There are different beliefs about this.

In most of the Ships of the Line it was almost impossible to stand upright between decks except between the deck-beams; in ships having a pronounced 'tumblehome’ (the narrowing of a ship's hull with greater distance above the water-line) anyone seated closer to the ship's side would find it difficult to stand at all.

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