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Waister - W/T
WAISTER This word, now often but incorrectly spelt W-A-S-T-E-R, comes from the fact that only the best hands in a sailing ship were employed aloft in the rigging: the others were employed in the waist of the ship. Thus the name "waister" came to be implied reproach on a man's efficiency or experience. Even as late as 1900 the word still appeared in the quarter-bills of H.M. Ships - referring to stewards, bandsmem and artificers whose action stations were in the waist of the ship, armed with boarding pikes ready to repel boarders or to board an enemy ship.
WAKE The line of water astern of a ship through which she has just passed: the opposite to GRAIN (q.v.).
WALCHEREN The Assault on Walcheren Island Made by the Royal Marines on 1st November, 1944.
WARDROOM The Naval officers' mess in a ship or Naval establishment, except in ships carrying a sufficient number of subordinate officers to justify the provision of a separate junior officers' mess, known as the GUNROOM (q.v.). The name is said to derive from WARDROBE - the space below decks in the after part of the ship where booty was stored. The ship's officers' personal cabins opened on to this space and they used to foregather in it for conversation. Later - about 1750 - the Wardrobe became the officers' mess (hitherto they had eaten in their cabins) and the name eventually became WARDROOM. Branch officers (formerly "Warrant and Commissioned Warrant Officers") became full wardroom officers in 1949.
WARM "Warming the Bell" or "Flogging the Glass" Old Naval synonyms for being early for an appointment or doing anything earlier than had been arranged. The phrases originate from the days when watches at sea were measured by a half-hour sand-glass; each time the glass was turned the bell was struck denoting the time. In those more leisurely days, measurement of time to the nearest half-hour was sufficiently accurate for much of life's affairs, in fact "near enough for a sailing ship".
WART A word commonly used by officers when referring to Midshipmen - "the lowest form of life, excrescences on the face of the earth".
WASH WASH-OUT (1) Naval (now common) slang for "Erase" or "Cancel". From the use of slates on which signals were recorded before the introduction of pencils and signal-pads. (2) An officer's cabin which, through someone's inefficiency with the scuttle, has suffered flooding by sea-water, is said to have been "washed out", not "flooded out".
WASTER An incorrect spelling of WAISTER (q.v.).
WATCHES Watches in the Royal Navy are named as follows: First Watch8pm to midnight2000 to 0000 Middle WatchMidnight to 4am0000 to 0400 Morning Watch4am to 8am0400 to 0800 Forenoon Watch8am to noon0800 to 1200 Afternoon WatchNoon to 4pm1200 to 1600 First Dog Watch4pm to 6pm1600 to 1800 Last Dog Watch6pm to 8pm1800 to 2000 The "Relieve Decks" is worked by the Officer(s) of the Watch only from 0730 to 0800. Each watch is of four hours, except the "dog watches" which are two hours. A bell is rung every half hour, and the total number of bells in a watch (except the "dog watch") is therefore eight. Eight bells announces the end of a watch. One bell announces that half an hour has passed, and so on to its end. Members of a watch can then tell, from the number of bells sounded, just how much of their watch has passed. Dog Watches The name probably comes for DODGE WATCH: by making in this way a total of seven watches to the day, men would be enabled not to keep the same watch each day. The suggestion that the name DOG comes from a dog watch being a watch cur-tailed is too frivolous to be authentic. A dog watch being two hours long while all other watches are of four hours' duration gives rise to the common Naval expression of derision to a junior: "You've only been in the Navy a dog watch". The custom of striking 1-2-3-8 bells in the last dog watch, instead of 5-6-7-8, is said to have originated in 1797; the mutineers at the Nore timed their mutiny to start at "five bells in the dog watches" on 13th May, 1797, but the officers got to hear of this and directed that five bells should not be struck then. Since then, one bell has been struck at 6.30pm. Some foreigners still carry out the old routine, but most have come into line with us. In the Royal Navy, the two Dog Watches are the "First" and the "Last" not the "First" and the "Second". In everyone's mess but nobody's watch An old Naval expression used to describe a man who talks a lot but avoids actual work as much as he can - a good hand in the canteen but never available when there is work to be done.
WAVY The Wavy Navy Generally accepted slang name for the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve; it is usually assumed to have derived from the waved rank-stripes the officers on their sleeves, but in fact it came from the waved rows of white tape originally worn by R.N.V.R. seamen round their blue jean collars (which gave the collars the Naval slang name of "Rolling Motion Dickeys"). Waved distinction stripes for R.N.V.R. officers were discontinued in April, 1951, in favour of the usual straight (R.N.) stripes with the letter R inside the curl (A for Air Branch officers); this letter is not worn when R.N.V.R. officers are mobilised for service. Temporary R.N.V.R. officers have the curl of their uppermost stripe made of waved narrow lace (i.e. the old pattern R.N.V.R. curl) and do not have any letter inside the curl. see TAPE.
WAY To Get Under Way A Naval expression meaning to get moving. "Way" means progress - of a ship, therefore, movement through the water. A ship is said to be "under way" when her anchor is free of the sea bed. The word is not to be confused with WEIGHing the anchor, which is the physical operation of hoisting the anchor from the sea bed to the hawse pipe.
WAYHI The customary Naval verbal appellation of the port of Wei-Hai-Wei in Northern China
WEB Webs Sailor's slang name for his feet.
WEDDING Naval Wedding Customs Bridegroom in bluejacket rig wears white silks taped to his jumper; best man and other officials may do the same. Garland is hung between the masts of a ship one of whose officers is being married that day. (See GARLAND) Sailors tow an officer-bridegroom's car from the church to the reception, or a token part of that journey.
WEED To have Weed On Sailor's slang for having a grievance and dilating on it.
WEIGH Weigh Off Naval slang for awarding punishment. Clearly this use of the word comes from the idea of the scales of Justice.
WET (1) Adjective... common slang for stupid, half-witted. (2) Verb... naval slang for celebrating an occasion with a drink.
WHALES Sailors' satirical slang name for Sardines.
WHIPPING A binding of twine round a rope, normally to prevent the end unravelling. The Common Whipping has its ends worked inside the whipping: in the American Whipping the ends are tied together in the centre of the whipping in a reef knot: the turns of a West-Country Whipping are half-knotted each side of the rope and finished off in a reef knot: in a Sailmaker's Whipping the twine is passed through the strands of the rope.
WHISTLING Whistling in a warship has always been strongly discouraged and as late as 1910 was a punishable offence in Training Establishments. The reason is fairly obvious - in the old days not only were all orders passed by means of a bosun's pipe (or whistle) and so whistling could lead to confusion, but also was a superstition that whistling brought wind which was not always welcome. Even nowadays, when becalmed in a sailing boat, an old sailor will stick his knife in the mast and whistle "for the wind". There was one occasion when whistling was allowed, even encouraged: custom ruled that a cook of the mess should whistle when stoning raisins or prunes when preparing a pudding, etc., to show that he was not eating them, but with the disappearance of cooks-of-the-mess, this too has lapsed.
WHITE White Caps Admiralty orders in April, 1940, directed that white cap and cap-covers were not to be worn during the war by officers and ratings on shore in the U.K. or on board H.M. ships in home waters; their wear was reintroduced on 1st May 1946.
WIDOW Widow's Men By an Act of George II, the Purser was authorised to bear on the ship's books two imaginary ratings per hundred of the ship's complement. These men were given "pusser's tallies" (i.e. imaginary names) and were known as "Widows' men"; the wages accruing to these men were paid to the "Widows' Fund", a Fund which provided relief for indigent widows of officers. The practice lasted from 1760 to 1832.
WIFE Lot's Wife Sailor's slang name for domestic salt (from Genesis xix, 26).

The request at a Naval dining table to "put a wind (or a fair wind) behind the butterdish" is a request that the butter should be passed.

SOUTH WIND A receptacle that is empty is sometimes said to "have a south wind in it".
THE SCHOOL OF WIND Familiar slang name for the R.N. School of Music.
BETWEEN WIND AND WATER A vital spot. The part of a sailing ship's sides which, normally above the water line, is beneath the waterline when the ship is heeled over on a tack; this is one of the worst possible places where a ship's side could be perforated by a cannon ball.
WINDWARD To Get to Windward Naval expression meaning to gain an advantage. In the days of sailing ships, warships when going into action would try to get the windward position, as that was the most advantageous for a squadron, fleet or ship in that it gave freedom of action. In sailing races, the vessel to windward has an advantage over her opponent. Also termed the Weather Gauge.
WINGER Any young rating who has been 'adopted' as his particular friend - taken under his wing - by a senior rating. The word was not a complimentary one, though with the passage of time its original insinuation is probably nowadays seldom appreciated. W.M.P. Entertainment reply signal meaning "With Much Pleasure"; the alternative reply is M.R.U. (= Much Regret Unable). These two replies are to the invitatory signal R.P.O. (= Request the Pleasure of your Company); to reply N.C.D. (= No Can Do) is not polite: to reply "Regret N.C.D." is verbose: to reply "Regret M.R.U." is tautological. See R.P.C.
WOBBLY The Wobbly Eight Familiar name for the eight battleships of the KING EDWARD VII class - 3rd Battle Squadron in the 1914-18 war. Unwieldy and unsteady, there were also sometimes known as the BEHEMOTHS (Job x1, 15-24). The ships were AFRICA (1905), BRITANNIA (1904), COMMONWEALTH (1903), KING EDWARD VII (1903) and ZEALANDIA (1904, ex NEW ZEALAND). (Dates in brackets are dates of launching).
BLACK-COATED WORKERS Common slang name for Stewed Prunes.
WORM Worming Worming a rope consists of filling in the spaces between the strands with lengths of spunyarn or small stuff laid along 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 a wire rope, to protect the hands of men handling the rope.

Worms The Naval nickname for a gardener in a Naval establishment. The branch officer responsible for the upkeep of the grounds of a Naval shore establishment is known as the WORM GUNNER.

W.R.N.S. W.R.N.S. - The Women's Royal Naval Service Started 29th November, 1917; disbanded towards the end of 1919. Re-started September, 1939. Peak numbers in period 1917-19 rather over 7,000: 1953-54 numbers about 4,600.

W/T Branch The W/T branch was established in 1907 for operators; the men being transferred from the V/S Branch. Maintenance of the apparatus remained with the Torpedo Branch until about 1930.