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Sail - Swords
SAIL Sailcloth
The specification for naval sailcloth in 1794 (the heyday of sailing ships required the material to be made of the best flax, unbleached, with a small mixture of hemp.

Names of Parts of Boats' Sails
Head ... upper edge (Peak to Throat).
Luff ... foremost edge (Throat to Tack).
Leach ... after edge (Peak to Clew).
Foot ... lower edge (Clew to Tack).
Roach ... curve in the foot or leach.
Throat (or Knock) ... upper foremost corner (between Head and Luff).
Peak ... upper after corner (between Leach and Head).
Tack ... lower foremost corner (between Luff and Foot).
Clew ... lower after corner (between Leach and Foot).

SAILS The inevitable general nickname for a Sailmaker rating.
NEAR ENOUGH FOR A SAILING SHIP Naval expression meaning as near as makes no odds = Approximately. Sailing ships, unlike steam ships, are unable to forecast their time of arrival in port to a minute, being dependent on the vagaries of the weather, and so have to leave generous margins.

The Naval Salute
Saluting with the hand was introduced into the Navy by Queen Victoria to take the place of uncovering the head as a mark of respect. Saluting with the left hand, alternatively to the right hand, was abolished in 1923 out of deference to India.
When going on board an H.M. Ship it is customary to salute when going over the side whether the gangway leads to the quarter-deck or not. See QUARTERDECK

Rogue's Salute
Naval slang name for the single gun fired at "colours" on the day of a court-martial. See GUN (COURT MARTIAL)

SALT Salt Horse
Naval slang name for an executive officer who has not specialised in Gunnery, T.A.S., Navigation, Signals, etc.
SALTASH Saltash Luck
Old maritime expression meaning No success at all. It is said to be derived from the many anglers who sat on the bridge at Saltash for hours and caught nothing but colds.

The scarlet sash worn by Royal Marine (and army) sergeants and above is a relic of the linings of their cloaks, used for transporting wounded.


Sir Francis Drake -
There's plenty of time to win this game and to thrash the Spaniards too. (20th July, 1583)
I must have the Gentlemen to haul and draw with the Mariners, and the Mariners with the Gentlemen; let us show ourselves to be all of one company. (11th August, 1578)

Lord Nelson -
Westminster Abbey or Victory! (14th February, 1797)
I really do not see the signal. (2nd April, 1801)
Thank God I have done my duty. (21st October, 1805)
One volunteer is worth ten pressed men. (?)

Sir John A Fisher -
Sack the lot! (letter to "The Times", 2nd September, 1910).

Viscount Cunningham -
It takes the Navy three years to build a new ship - it would take three hundred years to build a new tradition. (?)


Scale Punishment
The authorised routine punishment for leave-breaking (QR 1970) is one day's pay for each three hours (or part of three hours) of improper absence for the first 36 hours of the absence; thereafter one day's pay for each six hours (or part of six hours) absent.

SCANDALISE Scandalising Yards as a Sign of Mourning
Probably the last occasion on which one of H.M. ships followed the old practice of scandalising her yards to denote mourning was in 1908 when H.M.S. EXMOUTH did it at Lisbon as a sign of mourning for the murdered King of Portugal. Main yards were sloped down to starboard, fore yards sloped down to port and lower booms were drooped. The practice had also been followed at Tientsien in 1894 on the death of the Tsar Alexander III; a Russian ship set the example which ships of other nations present (British, German, French, American) followed. See COCK: MOURNING
SCANDIWEGIAN The general maritime slang name for a man or ship from Norway, Sweden or Denmark. Sometimes "Scowegian" or "Scandihoovian".
SCEND The vertical movement of the sea's waves, or of a ship or boat because of it.
SCHOLARSHIP The Royal Naval Sponsorship Scheme
Introduced at the end of 1954 this scheme provides financial assistance (and guaranteed entry) to suitable boys who intend to make the R.N. or R.M. their career, to remain at school until they reach the necessary age for entry to the Britannia R.N. College, Dartmouth. Up to 75 scholarships (plus 15 honorary scholarships for those not eligible for financial assistance) given annually in three competitions. The age limits (between 15? and 16 on 1st January, 1st May or 1st September) allow a boy one chance only; failure to win a scholarship in no way militates against subsequent attempt to enter Dartmouth. Payment of scholarship money is subject to satisfactory work at school. Scholarship in two parts - maximum of £50 p.a. towards maintenance plus maximum of £100 p.a. towards tuition - on sliding scale proportionate to parents' income.
SCHOOL "The School of Wind"
Slang name for the Royal Naval School of Music, at Deal (Kent), where Royal Marine Musicians are trained.

(1) A sailing vessel normally with two masts, but there have been schooners with up to five masts; it is fore-and-aft rigged on all masts. A Topsail Schooner has a square topsail on the foremast. Of the origin of the name, the old story says that when the first vessel of this type was launched (at Gloucester, Mass., USA, in about 1713) a bystander who was impressed by the way the ship rode the water exclaimed "Oh how she scoons!", to which the builder (Andrew Robinson) replied "A scooner let her be". The word SCON is used in parts of Scotland to mean making flat stones skim and skip along the surface of water, but there is no evidence that this word was in use in America at that time.
(2) In Australia, a schooner is a heavy-based beer glass of capacity about ? pint.

SCHOONER ON THE ROCKS Old sailors' slang name for a roast joint of meat with roast potatoes round it.
SCORP The customary abbreviation of (Rock) Scorpion. See ROCK


Any piece of metal, wood, leather, canvas, etc., used to prevent chafe or wear.

SCRAN The Scran Bag
A bag (nowadays usually a cupboard or locker) in which all articles of clothing found lying about on the mess decks are put; to redeem these articles a fine of one inch of bar soap is (was) levied. The scran bag is usually in the charge of the Petty Officer of the Messdecks or one of the Regulating staff; the soap is used to supplement the official issue for cleaning various compartments of the ship. Scran is a general slang name for food; the original scran bag was probably a bag in which unwanted food was put, for re-use, to prevent waste.
SCRATCH "Scratch" or "The Scratcher"
Officers' slang name for the Secretary - Captain's normally but very occasionally Admiral's.
SCRIBE Sailors' slang name for a Writer rating, also known as "Scribbles".
SCRUB To Get Scrubbed or To Receive a Scrubbing
Naval slang for Receiving a reprimand.
TO SCRUB BOUND Naval slang for To avoid (from the course pursued by some chairwoman - and other wielders of a scrubbing brush).


Naval slang for Killed. In the days of sail, if a man on deck was washed into the lee scuppers by a heavy sea he was almost certain to sustain at least serious injury.
SCUTTLE DRILL A gun room evolution wherein junior midshipmen are stationed one at each gunroom scuttle when the ship is at sea to open the scuttles to admit ventilation into an otherwise very fuggy gunroom, and, most important, to close and secure them when a wave is seen approaching.


Scylla and Charybdis
Land either side of the Straits of Messina (between Italy and Sicily). Scylla was a female sea monster with six heads, twelve feet and a harsh voice, who lived in a cave and was wont to snatch sailors out of passing ships. Charybdis was also female: her habit was to suck in and spout out seawater three times daily, forming a dangerous whirlpool. According to Homer Odysseus sailed through this strait and Scylla took six of his sailors.

SEA LAWYER Naval name for a sailor who is fond of arguing and would have one believe that he knows all the regulations. Usually an excellent example of a little learning being dangerous.

Naval expression for a man's face devoid of any expression - or a woman's face devoid of beauty.

THE SEA CADET CORPS The oldest pre-Service movement for boys in Britain, its origin dating from the time of the Crimean War in the mid-XIX century. As an organisation it was sponsored by the Navy League in 1899. The aim of the Sea Cadet Corps is to give technical training to, and instil naval tradition in, boys under the age of 18 who intend to serve in the Royal and Merchant Navies and also to those sea-minded boys who do not intend to follow a sea career but will, given this knowledge, form a valuable reserve for the Navy. It also aims to provide for the social and educational welfare of the cadets and develop character and good citizenship. Estimated strength in 1954-55 about 2000 cadet officers, 1100 CPO instructors and 22000 cadets.
SELBORNE The Selborne Scheme
Introduced December, 1903 by Lord Fisher; Lord Selborne was then First Lord. Among other things it aimed at common entry for cadets - executive, engineer and Royal Marine. It reduced the entry age for cadets to 12? years and increased to 13? and the public-school entry (age 17? to 18?) was introduced. See OSBORNE
SEMAPHORE Admiralty/Portsmouth Semaphore Signal Stations
The following is a list of the Admiralty signal stations that existed in 1845 for the passing of messages between the Admiralty and Portsmouth. They were manned by retired naval ratings and on a clear day a message could be passed the whole way in seven minutes.
Admiralty: Chelsea: Putney: Kingston: Esher (Coopers Hill): Cobham (Chortley) Heath: Guildford (Pewley Hill):

Godalming (Barnmill Hill)- Healemere (Harte Hill): Midhurst (Beacon Hill): Petersfield (Compton Down): Bedhampton (Portsdown Hill): Portsmouth.

THE SENIOR Common name for the United Service Club (opposite the Athenseum) in Pall Mall, London.
SERGEANT "Sergeant's Alley"
Officers' slang name for the row of cabins in a ship where officers of Commander's rank are lodged; sometimes referred to as "Snobs' Alley". See SOB.
SERVE "Serving"
Serving a rope consists of binding it with close turns of spunyarn, with a special "Serving Mallet", in the opposite direction to the lay of the rope.
A rope, or part of a rope, is wormed, parcelled and served to protect it from chafe, to make it less liable to chafe other ropes and, with wire rope, to protect the hands of men handling the rope. See PARCEL: WORM.
SERVICE Divine Service
Attendance of officers and ratings at Divine Service is now voluntary, but persons under the age of 17? years may be ordered to attend unless they have obtained formal permission to be absent on grounds of religious scruples. Voluntary attendance was introduced in the latter part of 1946. See Q.S. and A.I. Art. 4414. See FANCY: PRAYERS.

A full set of moustache, beard and side whiskers. See PERMISSION.

SEVEN To Knock Seven Bells out of a Man
An old naval expression for the giving of a sound thrashing (the nautical equivalent of "Knocking a man for six"); presumably to knock all eight bells out of a man would be to kill him!
SEWN Sewn Up
Said of a man who is completely drunk and incapable - so much so that he might just as well be sewn up in his hammock and tripped over the side.
SHAGBAT Affectionate F.A.A. nickname for a "Walrus" aircraft, otherwise known as a Pusser's Spitfire.
SHAKE The Shake Book
The book in which is recorded the names and whereabouts of ratings requiring a early shake in the mornings (e.g., the duty baker who turns-to long before the hands are called.

Expressed of anything in which there is a suspicion of short measure. E.g., a rating may say that he received a shaky tot, meaning that he thinks his rum ration was of short measure.

SHALLOO Jack Shalloo
Old naval name for a boaster, or braggart. As an epithet applied to a ship it denotes slackness.

The Queen's Shallop
Built 1689 for Queen Mary II by King William III. 41? ft long, 6? ft in beam; beautifully carved and decorated adornments. Now in National Maritime Museum to whom it was presented by King George V in 1930, though the Museum could not accommodate it. The last survivor of the old State Barges once used by Royalty on ceremonial journeys on the Thames. Used by King George V at Henley 6.7.1912, at Eton 16.6.1913, and at the River Pageant on 4.8.1919. Repaired at Messrs. Cory's yard at Charlton 1953 at expense of Messrs. Cory (as a tribute to Sir James Caird, one of the firm's directors, by whose munificence the National Maritime Museum was largely brought into existence) before being housed in the Museum.

SHANNON The Shannon/Chesapeake Action
1st June, 1813, at Boston, Mass. The SHANNON (Captain Broke) was a little smaller than the CHESAPEAKE (Captain Lawrence) but was better handled. Fire was opened at 50 yards range. An ammunition store on the CHESAPEAKE's deck exploded and the SHANNON's crew boarded and took the CHESAPEAKE, a midshipman leading a boarding party across the interlocked rigging. Both Captains were badly wounded. (SHANNON British: CHESAPEAKE American).
SHEER Sheer Nasty
Naval slang for Sheerness - often described affectionately as "The last place God made".

Sheet Anchor
A third bower anchor formerly carried by all big ships (DANAE class cruisers and above) but, since about 1942, now only carried by battleships and fleet aircraft carriers. The sheet anchor was the same size as the bower anchors - kept as a reserve anchor for use in extreme necessity.

In H.M. ships it was carried on the starboard bow, immediately aft the starboard bower anchors, since H.M. ships normally operate for the most part in the northern hemisphere where the prevailing winds and gales are south westerly in the southern hemisphere the opposite prevails, which explains why H.M.S. CANADA (built for Chile) had her sheet anchor on the port bow, see ANCHOR: KILLICK.

SHIP Correctly, a "ship" is only a three-masted sailing vessel, square rigged on all three masts.

H.M. Ships may only correctly be described as "H.M.S. So-and-so", or "The So-and-so" or "The cruiser So-in-so;" the name of the ship without any prefix is by old custom, an Admiral's method of referring to the Captain of that ship in person. The same rule applies in the French navy; the Marine Nationale found it necessary in 1934 to issue a memorandum to this effect: at the same time they established rules for the gender of the definite article to be used. British ships are invariably feminine, whatever their actual names.


Admiral Mahan wrote "In naval biography and history, distinguished ships have a personality only less vivid than that of the men who fought them." See GENDER.

SHIPSHAPE "All Shipshape and Bristol Fashion"
This expression may well have had its origin in the XVIII century when Bristol was the second most important commercial port in the United Kingdom. In those days (Bristol's docks were not constructed till 1804), the high range of tides experienced at Bristol necessitated ships berthed alongside there being left high and dry at the fall of the tide and so ships regularly trading to Bristol had to be of specially stout construction.

"To Shoot a Line"
To boast or to tell a bragging (or 'tall') story. This expression does not in fact originate from anything to do with a line-throwing gun, which is a comparatively recent innovation into the Navy: to shoot a line or net is a fisherman's term meaning to lay out a line or net from a fishing vessel. Nevertheless, due to current association of ideas, a certain naval Captain (1930 period) was nicknamed "Coston", from the Coston line-shooting gun, because he "shot such a pretty line" in the tales he was want to tell.


"To Shove One's Oar In"
Old naval expression meaning to interrupt, to break into someone else's conversation.


A word often used in naval circles in circumstances when a civilian might refer to a "Do-hickey", a "What-not", a "What-do-you-call-it".

SICK Sick Bay
The custom of calling the sick berth the 'Sick Bay' originated in the early part of the XIX century. A sick berth was first introduced by Lord St Vincent when C. in C. Mediterranean in about 1798; he directed that a sick berth was to be prepared in each ship of the line under his command, which was to be 'situated under the forecastle with a roundhouse enclosed for the use of the sick'. At this period, the term sick bay was not used, but later, with the introduction of the rounded bow, the sick berth found itself in a bay comparable to the bay window in a room and the worn 'bay' begun to be used instead of 'berth'. See BOTTLE
SICK BAY SHACKLE Sailors' slang name for a Safety-pin.
SIDE Manning the Side
It is customary for the officer-of-the watch to order "Man the Side" when receiving other officers on board. At this order, the quartermaster, corporal of the watch, sideboys, and quarter-deck messengers fall in on the quarter-deck athwartships at the top of the gangway, to "receive" the visiting officer.
This custom originated in the days when ships were fitted with sea gangways which were used by junior officers and all ratings for entering and leaving the ship in harbour, and by everyone at sea. This gangway consisted of narrow wooden steps permanently secured to the ship's side, each alternate step being longer than the ones either side of it; on these longer steps stood the sideboys and to these they clung when ordered to man the side for passing the manropes into the hands of the person boarding the ship. In doing so, the sideboys were clear of the gangway and were literally manning the side (literally being sideboys, too).
Sea gangways continued to be fitted in H.M. Ships built up to 1905, many of which took part in the 1914/16.
SILK The "Silk"
The sailor's black silk "handkerchief" worn round the throat, is of far greater antiquity than as a sign of mourning for Lord Nelson. Originally it was worn in action either round the brow to prevent sweat running into the eyes, or as a general purpose sweat rage, or as a pad to cushion the body against hard knocks or chafe. Nowadays it is only a traditional piece of uniform clothing.
Commonly known as a "Silk", it was, until 1935, a square of black silk 36" square, worn with two diagonally opposite corners knotted together (the knot being worn at the back of the neck beneath the collar, and bight (known as a "Duff Bag") being secured in the tapes of the jumper), so that a drowning man's rescuer would have an efficient handgrip. The new pattern silk introduced in 1935 measures 50" x 12"; since 1942 it has been made of rayon. The uniform regulations require the ends of this scarf to be stitched together, thus forming a loop, for the same reason as the old square silk was knotted into a loop.
SIMONSTOWN Simonstown Naval Base
57 miles from Capetown by sea, 22 by road, the base has an overall area of about 100 acres, including 28? acre tidal basin. One dry dock (780 x 95 x 36) constructed early in XX century, named after Lord Selbourne. Some storehouses established in 1795; yard closed 1803, reopened 1806.
Base handed over to Union of South Africa July, 1955, with the agreement that in future R.N. ships would be "paying guests", welcome at all times, in this South African naval base, instead of the precise opposite as heretofore.
SIMPSON The Rear Admiral Simpson Memorial Prize
A prize of books and/or instruments awarded to the officer who obtains the best results of the three terms of the Marine Engineering Specialist Course passing out each year from the R.N. Engineering College, Manadon. Prize instituted in 1954: relatives of the late Rear-Admiral (E) T.H. Simpson, M.V.O., gave a sum of money for this purpose to commemorate his memory.
SINK Rats Desert a Sinking Ship
Although disliking rats on board ship, most sailors believe that if rats leave the ship before sailing, bad luck will overtake the ship and she will be lost. It is said that the ship's cats who had previously religiously stayed on board made many attempts to go ashore when H.M.A.S. SYDNEY was last in port before her final voyage in February, 1942.

A sip from a messmate's tot of rum or grog; an illegal practice that started in the 1939?45 war and became a customary birthday gift to a lucky sailor from all his messmates, often with disastrous results. But compare the wardroom birthday practice whereby the birthday boy provides drinks for his messmates! See BIRTHDAY.


A sultry oppressive southerly wind which blows into the Mediterranean from the North African desert.
It is associated chiefly with Malta, where it is a recognised explanation for ill-temper and resulting misbehaviour.

SIXTEEN Striking Sixteen Bells
Midnight 31st December/1st January is marked by the striking of 16 bells - 8 for the old year and 8 for the new. The youngest officer on board has the privilege (sic) of doing this. It used to be a custom to play practical jokes on this officer, such as smearing the bell-rope with marmalade (but not jam), or even connecting up electricity so that the lad got a mild shock when he grasped the bell-rope.


This word comes from the Dutch Schipper, meaning "Captain". It is used occasionally, as slang, in the Navy referring to the Commanding Officer; in the Royal Navy Reserve it is a title of rank. See CAPTAIN: FATHER: MASTER: OWNER.
SKYLARK The official naval word, verb and noun, for Frolic, Playing about, Ballyragging. In sailing ship days the order "Hands to dance and skylark" was sometimes given; this was probably as a form of physical training, to liven the crew up after a period of dullness, the 'skylarking' perhaps referring to races run in the rigging. Probably the only occasion when this order is to be heard in modern times is before a dance on board when the french chalk on the "ball room" deck needs to be rubbed in.
SLAVE "Slavery"
The suppression of traffic in slaves remains one of the duties of the Royal Navy. B.R. 73 (handbook on the subject) is supplied to H.M. Ships on Africa, Persian Gulf and East Indies stations. According to Admiralty Records, the last recorded interception of a slave ship at sea by the Royal Navy was in the Red Sea in 1922.
See Christopher Lloyd's book "The Navy and the Slave Trade" (1949).
SLEEPING ON WATCH Always a reprehensible habit, in the time of King Henry VIII, "If any man within a ship had slept upon his watch four times and so proved, this shall be his punishment: the first time he shall be headed at the main mast with a bucket of water poured upon his head. The second time he shall be armed, his hands held up by a rope and two buckets of water poured into his sleeves (In Nelson's time, this was known as Grampussing). The third time he shall be bound to the main mast with gun chambers tied to his arms and with as much pain to his body as the Captain will. The fourth time being taken asleep he shall be handed to the bowsprit end of the ship in a basket with a can of beer, a loaf of bread and a sharp knife, and choose to hang there until he starve or cut himself into the sea".
The current naval discipline act (section 9) imposes dismissal with disgrace as the maximum penalty.
SLIP Patent Slip
A sloping runway of masonry which reaches well down into the water and has rails laid on it on which travels a cradle. The cradle is run down to receive the boat or vessel and when the vessel is resting in it the cradle is hauled up the slipway on the rails by means of winches. Called a MARINE RAILWAY in Canada and the U.S.A.
SLOOP Sailing vessel - see CUTTER
Steam vessel - the forerunner, in the 1920's, of Frigates and Corvettes. See HERBACHEOUS


Naval name for any article of clothing (ready-made) which can be purchased from the ship's clothing store. Slops were introduced into the Navy in 1623.
The compartment in a ship where slops are kept and issued is called the SLOP ROOM. The intending purchaser indents for his requirements on an established form called a SLOP CHIT; this name has come to mean metaphorically the amount of work a man has to do or responsibility he assumes, in the phrase "It's on your slop chit now".
Mobile slop room introduced at Portsmouth in July, 1954. See UNIFORM (Ratings)
SLUSH "Slushy"
Old sailors' nickname, now obsolete, for the ship's Cook.
SMART "Smart Ticket"
Old name for a Hurt Certificate, given to any officer or rating who suffers injury during his service career, and which he produces subsequently if wishing to claim any form of disability pension. This name was used officially at the end of the 18th century.
SNAKE " The Snake Pit"
Formal naval officers' slang name for the ladies' lounge of the Union Club, Valletta, Malta = a favourite haunt of the Fishing Fleet. See FISH
SNOB Naval name for a boat-repairer.
SNOPG " Snopgee"
Senior Naval Officer, Persian Gulf.

A device for drawing air into a submerged submarine, thus enabling the submarine to remain submerged for a long period: a Dutch invention; from the German word SCHNORKEL. H.M. Submarine ANDREW crossed the Atlantic submerged in June, 1953; H.M. Submarine TALLI-HO in June 1954.

SNOW "Floaters in the Snow"
Sailors' slang name for Sausages and Mashed Potatoes.
SOB " S.O.B's"
A wardroom expression used to refer to officers of Commander's rank; it is said to stand for "Silly Old Buffers", but is always used as initials only.? Equivalent to "Brass Hats". See BRASS
SOFT "A Soft Number"
Common slang expression meaning a Sinecure - an easy job.
SOLDIER (The) Soldier
The common wardroom nickname for the Royal Marine Officer. At one time by custom a Lieutenant H.M. was referred to and addressed as SOLDIER and a Captain H.M. as (the) Major. The nickname JOBY is affectionately given to any H.M. officer (though seldom to his face !) If 2 Lieutenants in a ship the junior one is referred to as Young Joe. See FLUTE
SOLEBAY The Battle of Solebay
Third Dutch war - 28th May, 1672, off the Suffolk coast. 65 British (under the Duke of York) and 36 French ships at anchor in Sole Bay off Southwold. Scots did not see the enemy and De Ruyter with 90 Dutch ships took the Allies by surprise. Allied ships cut their cables and put to sea leaving many officers and ratings ashore. Fight lasted about 14 hours with the French taking very little part. Honours about even - three Dutch ships sunk and two taken: four British ships burned. Casualties very heavy on both sides.
SOO The Staff Officer Operations, included in the staff of nearly every Admiral. Often addressed in the wardroom as "Soo" (to rhyme with "Moo").
SOUTHERN LIGHTS The Aurora Australia.
SPARKER Naval nickname for a Telegraphist rating.
SPEAK "To Speak a Ship"
Old navalease for to communicate with another ship, or with a shore signal station, by visual signalling methods. In this context the verb needs no preposition after it - i.e., one speaks such-end-such a ship, not to it.
SPIT "To Spit Brown"
An old naval slang expression implying that the person referred to is an old-time sailor who chewed his tobacco instead of smoking it.
SPITCHER Naval slang work meaning "Finish" - used as either a verb or a noun. From the Maltese word of that meaning.

" Spithead Pheasant"
Old-time naval slang name for a Kipper; sometimes also called a "One-eyed steak".


A large saucer-shaped receptacle about one foot in diameter used as a cigarette ash-tray. Originally wooden spittoons, they are now made of galvanised iron. The pipe "Place spitkids" denotes the start of a smoking period: "Clear out and stow away spitkids" the end of that period.

SPLICE "Splice the Mainbrace"
An extra issue of one-eight of a pint of rum to each officer and man of an over the age of 20 who desires to take the rum: lemonade to others. The rum is mixed with water into grog for all ratings below Petty Officer. Ratings marked "T" in the ship's books may draw rum or grog or lemonade when the main brace is spliced; no money payment in lieu is allowable. See Q.R. & A.I. 4923. The order to make this extra issue may be given only by the Sovereign (or a member of the Royal Family) or by the Admiralty. Splicing the main brace is the only occasion when officers may be issued with service rum.
The name arose from the reward customarily given in sailing ships to men who carried out the task of splicing the main brace. As the main brace had to be led through blocks, a long splice (as opposed to a short splice or a knot) had to be made in it when repair was necessary, and the ship had to remain on the one tack until the job was completed. Thus the work had to be done at great speed and in whatever conditions prevailed at the time since the ship could not be steered effectively with a broken main brace. The ship's best Able Seamen normally were chosen to do the work under the supervision of the Boatswain. The VICTORY's main brace was of 5?" hemp.
SPLIT "Everything on a Split Yarn"
Old naval expression meaning 'in every respect ready'. From the practice of having gear all ready and secured in place by a piece of thin twine, or a split yarn, which could be easily and swiftly broken or out, thus releasing the gear at once all ready for immediate use.

A platform built out from the side of a ship.

THE SPRINGER Naval nickname for the Physical Training instructor or officer; this is officers' slang rather than ratings'. At one time (notably 1914/18 war) the P. & B.T. officer was commonly known in the wardroom as BUNJIE or the INDIA-RUBBER MAN. See also CLUBS


Naval nickname for a New entry. The word is often therefore used by a man when referring to his own small son (or, less often, daughter).
SPUNYARN Spunyarn Major
Wardroom slang name for a Lieutenant-Commander (a Lieutenant-Commander ranks with an Army Major).
SQUARE Square Rig
General naval name for the uniform worn by men dressed as seamen; "Class II rig" is the official title. This uniform is bell-bottomed trousers surmounted by a jumper, the whole topped by a round flat cap. Square rig is opposed to "Fore-and-Aft" rig - the jacket and trousers uniform worn by Petty Officers and others not dressed as seamen. An old naval slang name for Class II rig was "Free and Flowing". See BELL: FORE: UNIFORM (RATINGS)
SQUEEGEE A rubber 'blade' set in a holder at the foot of a broom-handle, used for wiping water off decks.
SS S.S Engagement
The "Special Service" engagement by which a man engages to serve in the Royal Navy for seven years followed by five years in the Royal Fleet Reserve. See RFR
STANCHION Barrack Stanchion
Naval slang name for a rating who has served in a naval barracks for a long period = so long that he is regarded by some people as one of the supports of the place.
STARBOARD Port and Starboard
In the earliest ships there was no rudder and the ship was steered by a "Steerboard" (large car or sweep) sited over the right-hand side of the stern; hence that side of the ship came to be known as the Starboard side. The other side of the ship was in consequence used for going alongside for embarking or disembarking cargo through the 'loed-ports'; the left hand side of the ship therefore became known as the "Loadboard" side, the "Larboard". As the use of this latter word inevitably caused confusion with the word Starboard, the word Port came to be used instead.
By some authorities, the Venetians are given the credit for the origin of "the word" - 'board' comes from the Italian 'Borda' meaning side; the side with the steering oar was 'Questa borda': the other side was 'Quella boarda'; these two expressions would rapidly become adapted into Starboard and Larboard.
STARBOARD LIGHT Wardroom nickname for Creme de Menthe, otherwise known as "Sticky Green".
STEERING ORDERS Until 1933, steering orders given to the helmsman gave, by long established custom, the direction in which the tiller was to be moved, i.e., the opposite direction to that in which the ship's head (and the rudder) was to move. On 1st January, 1933, direct steering orders were introduced in the Royal Navy, with a six months' transitional period in which the words "wheel to" were to be included in the order. E.g. the former helm order of "Starboard 20" became "Wheel to port 20" on 1st January, 1933, and "Port 20" on 1st July, 1933.
STEEVE The upward inclination of a sailing ship's bowsprit. See BOBSTAY
STICKS Nicknames for a Royal Marine bugler. See DRUMMER
STICKY Dockyard slang name for a sailmaker - from the sticky concoction of beeswax and tallow which he rubs on his twine before sewing with it.
STICKY GREEN Officers' slang name for Creme de Menthe. See STARBOARD LIGHT
STOKER The rating of Leading Stoker was introduced into the Royal Navy in 1842; Stoker-and-Coal-Trimmer in 1844; Second Class Stoker and Coal Trimmer in 1860 (this became "Second Class Stoker" in 1864); Chief Stoker appeared in 1964 but ceased at the end of 1868 on the introduction in 1869 of the rating of Engine Room artificer. Chief Engine Room Artificer came in 1877 and Chief Stoker (again) in 1885. "Stoker and Coal Trimmer" became "Stoker in 1900 and Stoker Petty Officer appeared in 1907. "Stoker Mechanic" replaced "Stoker" in the rating titles in May, 1947 (a "non-substantive" rating of Stoker Mechanic was in existence from 1872 to 1907). "Stoker Mechanic" in the rating titles was replaced by "Engineering Mechanic" in March, 1955.
THE STOKE'S FRIEND Old Sailors' slang name for the Ace of Spades in cards.
STOP "Stop a Glass Ringing..."
It is an old tradition that a 'ringing' glass must be silenced without delay; the old saying is "Stop a glass ringing to save a sailor drowning".
STORES Queen Anne's Act of 1704 (3 Anne Cap. X. "An Act for encouraging the Importation of naval-stores from Her Majesty's plantations in America") contains the following words: * .. The Royal Navy and Navigation of England wherein, under God, the Wealth, Safety and Strength of the Kingdom is so much concerned, depend upon the supply of Stores necessary for the same".
An illuminated copy of these words ornaments the mantel in the office of the Director of Stores at the Admiralty. See CENTRAL
STOW " A Harbour Stow"
An old naval expression signifying something which would not be disturbed for a long time. It comes from the normal naval practice of making up the sails tightly and neatly, with sail covers on, preparatory to a period in harbour. Its modern counterpart is "Finished with main engines".
(Up) The Straits

Naval slang for (in) the Mediterranean sea.
STRATEGY Strategy and Tactics
The aim of naval strategy is the manipulation of naval forces for the control of sea lanes and the denial of these lanes to the enemy.
Tactics is the art of disposing and handling forces in contact with the enemy.


Affectionate F.A.A. nickname for a "Swordfish" aircraft.
STRIP "To Tear off a Strip"
Naval slang expression for the giving of a reprimand. Possibly derived from the raucous sound made by tearing a strip of calico (as Smee does in "Peter Pan").

Pre - 1955 officers' slang name for an officer of the executive branch - from the absence of coloured cloth between the gold stripes on his sleeves.

STRONGERS A bucketful of strong soda water, used for cleaning paintwork, etc. Usually referred to as a drop of strongers.
STROP Jack Strop
An old naval expression used to mean a good hand in the mess or in a public house, but of little use at his work.
STROPPY Slang for Obstreperous.

Books on Submarines

Evolution of the Submarine Boat M.S. Snetter, (1907)
One of our Submarines, E. Young (1952)
H.M. Submarines, P.K. Kemp (1952)
Unbroken, A. Mars (1953)
The British Submarine, F.W. Lipscomb (1954)
Above us the waves, C.E.J. Warren and J. Benson (1953)
SUCK "To Suck the Monkey"
According to Captain Marryat ("Peter Simple"), working parties of naval men on shore in Jamaica used to buy coconuts from the local inhabitants and suck the milk there from to refresh themselves. The real coconut milk had however already been extracted by the natives and rum inserted in its place. The officer in charge of the working party was puzzled to find his men so affected by coconut milk!
SUN " The Sun is Over the Yard Arm" or "Fore Yard"
SUPPLY Supply Officers
From the XIV century to the middle of the XIX century, Supply officers in H.M. Ships were called PURSEERS (as they still are in the merchant navy). Originally they drew no official pay but feathered their nests out of their office; on certain commodities they were allowed to claim one eight (thus a "passer's pound" was 14 ounces only, and hence the old nick-name of "Mr. Nipcheese"). No examination as to qualifications was required before 1813 but a surety had to be lodged - as much as £1200 for a big ship.
Pursers were Warrant Officers till the latter part of the XVIII century; in 1814 their status was fixed as "with but after" Lieutenants. Until 1824, the pay of a Purser depended on the class of his ship, but from 1824 to 1852 all pursers drew £7 per month.
The rank-title of Paymaster was introduced in 1852; Assistant Paymaster followed in 1855; Fleet Paymaster in 1886. The rank-titles introduced in October, 1918, were Paymaster Rear-Admiral (vice Paymaster Director General), Paymaster Captain (vice Paymaster in Chief), Paymaster Commander (vice Fleet Paymaster), Paymaster Lieutenant-Commander (vice Staff Paymaster), Paymaster Lieutenant (vice Paymaster), Paymaster Sub-Lieutenant (vice Assistant Paymaster), Paymaster Midshipman (vice Clerk) and Paymaster Cadet (vice Assistant Clerk). These titles were changed in October, 1944, when the word Paymaster was deleted and the symbol (S) inserted after the rank; at this time the title of the branch was changed to "Supply and Secretariat", with the title "Director-General, Supply and Secretariat Branch" for the head of the branch replacing "Paymaster Director-General". The symbol (S) in the rank-titles was dropped in March 1955; white cloth between the rows of gold distinction lace was discontinued at the same time.
The curl in the upper gold stripe of distinction lace was authorised for officers of the Accountant branch (and for other non-executive officers) in 1918; at the same time the plain gold braid on the cap-peaks of senior non-executive officers was replaced by embroidered oak=leaves, and the plain gold anchor in their cap-badges replaced by the silver foul anchor. See NIPCHEESE: TIZZY
SURFACE "To Surface" or "To break surface"
Naval slang expression meaning to wake up or turn out of bed. It comes from the Submarine service.
SURVEY "Surveying Ships"
The Surveying service is an integral part of the Royal Navy. All are named after famous bygone navigating/surveying officers - COOK, DALRYMPLE, DAMPLER, OWEN, SCOTT, SHACKLETON, VIDAL.
SWEEPER The man responsible for the cleanliness of a compartment - not solely with the aid of a broom. His nickname is "Dodger" (but a turret sweeper is known as a "Turret Rat").
SWING "Swing It"
Slang naval expression meaning "Don't worry about it," "postpone" or "cancel". The motto of the VERNON is irreverently quoted as "Swing it till Monday".
SWING THE LEAD Naval slang for to Malinger. Derived from the leadsman in the chains going through the motions of taking soundings without actually sounding.

The Queen's Sword
A sword is presented by H.M. the Queen each cruise to the best all-round Cadet on passing out of the training ship. Award of the sword is open to all cadets of all branches irrespective of whether they have entered by the Dartmouth or the Special Entry system. See Telescope. Naval Swords
There is no official reason why RN officers wear their swords lower than in other services - it is dictated by Dress Regulations which have undergone many variations but which contain nothing to substantiate any links between the swords and mutiny (a folklore tale). The present arrangement dates from 1856 and a full account is given in The Naval Officer's Sword by H.T.A. Bosanquet (London:HMSO, 1955) and even more exhaustive details in the 2-volume Swords for sea service by W.E. May & P.G.W. Annis (London: HMSO, 1970).