Help required with a naval urban myth

Discussion in 'Royal Navy' started by AlienFTM, Dec 27, 2005.

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  1. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    I have been in an exchange with a retired Cdr USN friend of my brother today. I was putting him right about Hussars and mentioned this website. Here is his reply verbatim:

    So, any naval types care to comment on this urban myth or otherwise? All help gratefully received.
  2. Not one to stir things but maybe I can add to this naval myth?

    When I served in Gibralter I was within earshot of a converstation where a young Naval officer was quizzed as to why in the mess formal greetings to functions were "ladies, gentlemen and officers of the Royal Navy"

    Apparently there are no gentlemen in the Navy becuase of their actions on a ship where they feared mutiny, so they stood down the ship of all duties and in the dead of night the officers cut the throats of all the sailors. On return to shore their treachary was discovered.

    Could be utter bollox but who knows/cares??
  3. this is why naval officers are known throughout the RN/RM as pigs. the wardroom being the pigsty.
    Naval officers also don't carry thiew swords on parade in the same way like pongo and booty officers.they have it on the draw as a a mark of disgrace.

    can't trust em, Pigs .it's true
  4. What do crabair offrs do then? Carry them like the Army does?

    Or don't they trust them with anything sharper than a Crayola? :p
  5. I have to say that is the biggest load of horse manure I've ever heard......

    The Spithead Mutiny came about due to many things. Yes, the white mafia seeing off the rest of the RN was part of it (a tradition they still uphold to this day :evil: ) but probably the main incident which caused the whole incident was when a ships company returned to the UK after two years away, were told that they had to load up with supplies and then set sail again. Understandably, they were not very happy about this.

    The CO of HMS Hermione was basically the biggest cnut around. He always pressurised his crew to do everything. He had ordered sail to be shortened and basically informed the crew, last ones down were to be flogged. In the ensuing panic to not be the last ones down, 2 crewmembers fell to their death. Being a nice CO, Captain Pigot ordered the bodies to be chucked over the side. The crew were so p1ssed at this that they killed the captain and 8 other officers, captured the ship and then proceeded to surrender it to the enemy. The Admiralty had a stroke over this

    The Spithead mutiny in April 1797 did lead to general improvements in the conditions. The Channel Fleet under Lord Bridport mutinied and refused to weigh anchor. There was no violence and no-one was hurt but sixteen battleships, the main defence of the kingdom, remained at anchor until a list of grievances were examined by the Admiralty who, within a week, granted the first pay-rise since 1658 and agreed to better food and provisions. All the mutineers were pardoned. But, the mutiny spread to The Nore where it appeared to some to be a more sinister, politically motivated affair. Here, the mutineers demanded more shore-leave, regular payment of wages, fairer distribution of prize money, removal of unpopular officers and changes in the Articles of War but, this time, they went too far. On the face of it, such demands seemed reasonable enough but the mutineers attempted to blockade the London merchant trade and this provoked both the Admiralty and the government to act against them. For a while it looked as though other British warships were going to engage them and the mutineers soon realised that they were in trouble and, one by one, the ships surrendered including the flagship HMS Sandwich where the mutiny had started. The mutiny achieved nothing and Richard Parker, the leader, was hanged along with others who were seen as activists. Many more were flogged or imprisoned.
  6. Its a popular belief within the RN that officers are known as Pig/Grunters because an admiralty report on the Spithead Mutinies refered to them as "a herd of swine"
  7. so why are the officers known as Pigs and why don't naval officers carry thier swords ?
  8. Never, ever let the truth get in the way of a good dit.
  9. Because the Officers drew their swords to try and force the end of the mutiny. The swords are now hung at the trail so that no Naval Officer can draw his sword as a natural reaction, not without lifting the scabbard and sword to a position of readiness. It's a mark of disgrace, and always gives us a laugh because some junior officer normally manages to sit on/fall on/trip over the sword at some point during a really important event.

    According to "official sources" - 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). (Taken from the RN website, but then again you would expect them to lie, wouldn't you!)
  10. The tale about the swords is complete rubbish, and it is a matter of disgrace that it is still taught as fact at BRNC. The Covey-Crump section of the official RN website says:

    "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)."

    An article on the subject can be found at the RAN's Navy News site

    Here is a portrait of the Commander-in-Chief of the West Indies Station painted 1792, five years before the Nore and Spithead mutinies. Note the sword slings.

    But the most compelling reason to believe that this story is a load of cack is the fact that other services do exactly or almost exactly the same thing. As can be seen from this thread, most mounted regiments in the British army wear their sword-belts under their tunics, from which the scabbards is suspended by slings, just like in the RN. Whereas RN scabbards are hooked up when the sword is drawn, cavalry units even have to carry their scabbards in the left hand when the sword is drawn.

    In the US Navy the sword-belt is exactly the same as the RN pattern and is also worn under the jacket - the only difference is that they cut a slit in the hip pocket lining, pass the hook through the slit and hook the sword up. RN officers only resort to making holes in their jackets if they have to carry the Queen's Colour on parade. There is no reason why the USN would follow such a cumbersome practice if it was supposed to indicate a disgrace which had nothing to do with them.

    The reason why in no. 5 dress we can hook up the scabbard when the sword is drawn but not when the sword is in the scabbard (unless a hole is made in the jacket) is that with the sword-belt worn under the jacket the hilt would be too bulky. This also means that the slings have to be longer, as they have to pass under the hem of the jacket. In the old no. 1 dress (full dress coat) and the no. 3 and 4 dress (frock coat), the sword-belt was worn over the coat and the slings could be shorter. It would have also been possible then to hook up the sword when necessary, although it seems that the sword was usually carried even then. I haven't ever seen a portrait of a naval officer of any era with the sword 'hooked' up - in earlier times it was quite common for the sword to be worn in a frog attached to a diagonal shoulder-belt, but when as now they were attached to slings they invariably just hung from them.

    According to Debrett, officers of and above the rank of Lieutenant RN (and equivalent) are esquires, and commissioned officers below that rank are gentlemen. It is inconceivable that the Duke of Clarence, King George VI, King Edward VIII, King George VI, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York would have become naval officers if naval officers were not gentlemen.
  11. I believed both myths as well (dragging of swords, Officers not being gentlemen) as they were taught to us at BRNC Dartmouth, but have since discovered it to be a total load of cack.

    A good history is here at the BBC .

  12. Sounds like the RN was ahead of the Army in selecting its young gentlemen - or not, as the case may be then.
    How does the mess dress jacket survive the old tailcoat/frockcoat though, it looks nothing like what you'd see for example in Master and Commander?! There were big turn-back gold-and-white facings on the lapels and the cuffs, weren't there?

    And how can anyone use the term "pools of seamen" with a straight face?!!

  13. I,ve believed the story about the swords for the past 22 years, but I must say I,m convinced now!
  14. I was once told the tale that, after a visit by Queen Victoria to a naval officers mess where she found them drunk and debauched. she exclaimed,"These officers are not gentlemen!" hence the term "ladies, Gentlemen and naval officers," I may not have all my facts correct so if someone does have the correct story please share it.
  15. Now hows about the tale from WW II where Mountbattens ship, a Destroyer, was a Devenport, Plymouth based ship.
    The ship retuns to base one morning following a very heavy Luffwaffa attack night before on dockyard.
    Ship is ordered to sea by 'The Admiral' for operational resons and crew refuses, mutines, untill they have checked on their familes. 99% true I understand.
    At this point tale varies depending on who's telling
    Mountbatten speaks to men and ship sails, but ALL crew are posted on return.
    Ship refuses orders and crew are forcably arrested.
    In both cases NONE of the MEN are ever seen again.
    Local tale in boozers in Plymouth when I was a lad. For what it's worth the above was raised in the Daily Mail 'Question & Answers' coloum many years ago. It was only question that never recieved a reply from the "editor".