A question on British Navy slang

Discussion in 'History' started by Jimmy Riddle, Sep 10, 2016.

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  1. Hello all,

    I'm doing a little research into the family tree, one of my ancestors was a RN Captain, and later on Rear Admiral by the name of Samuel Brooking, who served for the most part in the Carribean around 1800. The only account of him i can find is from the memoirs of one of his peers, who appears to have not enjoyed serving under him, and described him as a 'tarter'.

    Is this a Naval term? Any Idea what it means?

    I first thought maybe it meant he was a good lad, and enjoyed the company of a tart or two, but seeing his rank and career assumed this might not be the case.

    Much obliged if can help :)
  2. I would imagine a "Tartar" would be a hard man, as in strict disciplinarian. A stranger to the milk of human kindness.
  3. Thanks Streaky, i think with the date and location that would sound quite fitting :)
  4. janner

    janner War Hero Book Reviewer

    I'd go along with Streakys description, I think it was a term in general usage rather than peculiar to the RN.
  5. As Streaky suggests, I think "tarter" is more likely to be "tartar", which is a term referring to a fierce asiatic/eastern people. "Tartar" can be written as "Tatar", and if you Google both terms you will get more information.

    You could also search for HMS Tartar. The last was a 60s Tribal class frigate which was sold to Indonesia in the 80s, and the one before that was a 30s Tribal class destroyer which served with distinction in WW2.

    Slang takes you in a different direction. "Tater" is an old slang term for a potato. "Taters" can either mean potatoes or cold, as in "it's bloody taters, mate." As far as I can see, it originated from the cockney rhyming slang phrase "taters and mould" = cold.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  6. Surely it is a misprint? With the surname of Brooking, his nick name would have been 'Trevor'.

    Is that my taxi?
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  7. Trevor is indeed a relative of ours :)
  8. Trevor and Samuel, a terrific Good cop, Bad Cop combo by the sounds of it!


  9. From the description of the captain/admiral, it seems he was brooking no dissent.
  10. Wow thanks so much Polto, never seen that before. Much appreciated :)
    • Like Like x 1
  11. A question on that text: When it says 'he returned home and was super-anuated as a Rear Admiral', what exactly does that mean? Was it like retirement 'honour' bestowed in name only, and not actually in active service?
  12. By the way it reads it looks like he made the rank of Captain through active service, but when his health failed him he was put out to pasture, as a Rear Admiral, or some would say promoted to a desk, where they could use his mind if not his body.

    So he was A Rear Admiral, and I believe back then Admirals did not retire?
  13. Thanks very much to all.

    It says he became Lieutenant 'expressly for his ability as commanding a gun-boat on the Hudson River' during the American Independence War. What kind of rank would he have been before that? It says he went to sea at 12, does this mean it's likely he rose through the ranks from the bottom up, or did kids of that age often go as part of being trained for a commission?

  14. I suspect he would have joined as a midshipman before passing his exams for lieutenant. I think it was possible to be promoted from the lower deck, either by working up to be a master's mate or by serving as a volunteer. If you read the novels of Patrick O'Brian ( or if you have seen the film Master and Commander) you might get an idea of the system in place at that time.

    Sumo: I think rear-admirals did indeed retire. Drawing from information in the Patrick O'Brian novels, rear-admirals worked through the levels of being of the "red, white and blue" before making vice-admiral. Same again before being admiral. I don't know if admirals were ever retired. If, however, you were a post-captain and didn't quite make rear-admiral, they could appoint you as a "yellow" rear-admiral. Which meant that you could call yourself an admiral but in fact you were out on your ear.
    In more recent times, admirals of the fleet did not technically ever retire. But I think they were on half pay.
  15. My ancestor's naval career began in 1793 when he joined as a 'Lieutenant's servant'. Later that year he is recorded as an Able Seaman. By December he is noted as being an Able & Clerk. In 1795 he is apparently a Midshipman. 2 years later a Midshipman & Master's mate. In 1799 he was promoted to Lieutenant. I don't know if this was normal or what or indeed how the son of a glovemaker from Oxfordshire became an officer...but in any event his career was curtailed somewhat in 1801 when he took a bullet to the shoulder whilst on the sloop Busy in the Caribbean. He ended up as a resident of Greenwich hospital until he died in the 1830's.

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