Mmmmmm....in my time...Ho...or what sounded like it was in common use on the parade ground. For example "Parade (pause) Parade Ho!
Or when in training etc...Class Ho.....Ho (or what sounded like it) being the equivalent to 'Attention'. That was in the 60's..... Even had occasion to use it myself when an Instructor at Ganges...and when in charge of a class (Class Leader) at such as Sultan on training courses...
As to it's origins, have not got a clue. Seems to have been adopted thru the generations....
The sentries in both Hamlet and Julius Caesar challenge arrivals with the words "Stand, ho" and by this they mean "Halt" ie stop. They then ask "Who is there?".
You will have heard the phrase "Halt! Who goes there?" in films. This would be the more modern version of "Stand, ho. Who is there?"
Edit: Having now read the comments above, I can see why Ho! could be used as "Attention!" "Attention" means "Stop what you are doing - NOW"; as does "Stand, ho!" when shouted by a Shakespearean sentry, who means "stop walking forward - you need to be identified".
As to etymology, I would hazard that this is a corruption of something Germanic.
What has made you think that the phrase is a Naval Drill Command, if I may ask?
Assuming marines did squad drill way before BJ's did... Jack being jack would no doubt take the piss and go **Ho, ho, ho** under their breath every time the red jackets jumped up to attention.
And subsequently, it was differentiate between the Marines calling 'shun and us BJ's calling 'shun once the BJ's started the marching stuff...
Edited: And the definitive answer is above. (prefer my version though.. :twisted: )
Keeping the legs straight, force the left foot 300mm (12 inches) to the left so that the weight of the body rests equally on both feet. At the same time smartly clasp the hands behind the back and place the back of the right hand in the palm of the left, (fingers straight and together) grasping it
lightly with the fingers and thumb and the arms braced to their full extent.
â€˜Squad - Attentionâ€™
Come to the position described in Para 0202, forcing the left foot in to the right.
(My Bold for clarification.)
Never said it, or heard it said by anyone else, in a blue suit.
As a Gunnery Officer I can tell you the correct order is Attention (often abbreviated to 'shun) the previous SCTO was most keen on that. 'Ho became the in phrase but is wrong. The BR has always (and I have several old Drill BR's going back to pre WWII that included Battalion Drill) and all use the word Attention.
Same way Officers wear plastic cap covers not cloth when on parade.
I am sure if anyone wishes to argue the toss that the State Ceremonial Training Officer (WO1(AWW)) would be more than happy to debate it with you.
Also the RAF SCTO equivalent is a Wing Commander with a Flt Lt assistant and two WO1 drill pigs. Not overmanned, no sir, all cut back to the bone the RAF.
In my day (pre-2003), it was always 'Ho!' or, for the more aggressive would-be GI types, "Hah!". However, the pipe on the ship's main main broadcast was always "Attention to starboard/port. Commander-in-Chief/Flag Officer Wotsit/HMS Nonesuch" followed by the piping of the Still or the sounding of the Alert if a bugler was borne. Similar to 'Attention in the roadway. Face the mast and salute. Colours/Evening Colours/Sunset'.
Other than that, I never hear the executive order 'Attention' used for drill purposes on board an RN ship or a parade ground. Perhaps the drill has now been rationalised for 'joint' purposes. Incidentally, does the RN still have 'Off Caps' or is it all 'Remove Head-Dress' now?