Nelsons Tars

Discussion in 'History' started by seafarer1939, Jun 21, 2010.

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  1. I read a great deal of RN history,especially the Nelson and pre. Nelson period.
    It is a wonder to me we did not have more mutinies than we did,apart from being the roughest type of men, they must have been tolerant or fearful of the punishment to put up with such barbarities in ship life.
    A couple of snippets
    1.Although their Beef/Pork jerky was maggot ridden and so rock hard they carved trinklets from them,they had to watch 17 different courses of food go aft for the Wardroom dinner!
    2.One ship had a scarcity of water and the seamen had none to soften their biscuits,but the Captain had his personal cow for fresh milk and that was allowed to drink copious amounts of water each day so the milk was always available for the Captain! A cow drinks 7 gallons a day,enough for 7 messes!
    I know Officers paid for their own provisions but it must have been galling for the common seaman to put up with.
    3.One young midshipman aged 13 years used to call over any seamen and punch and kick them to his hearts content,the seamen just had to take it. He was later killed in battle and the crew rejoiced,what an officer he would have turned out to be.
    You often get snippets like this and there were many happy crews but you wonder how the Nore and Spithead mutinies were the only ones to erupt.
    I personally think it would not have taken much to follow the French and have a Country revolution,I think it was close at times much to the Royals dismay. Probably good we didn't though.
    At least they knew the RN officers were very professional,they had to pass very hard exams to be an officer so they knew the sea.
    Officers in the Army bought theirs even up to high rank without experience,and it showed!

    I was never superstitious in the RN but this one came up.
    One ship in 1800 was drifting along at 2 knots when the seamen on deck heard a voice in the mist
    “Come on lads,pick me up!†they thought it was a sea devil and were fearful,a marine[not Royal in those days] swore it was a mermaid! The voice kept calling and they ignored it.
    The voice again called out,â€Come on lads I can't hold out much longer†eventually they dropped the jolly boat from the stern to find a seaman who had fell from the yards whilst tired!
    They were extremely suspicious in those days but I never saw it in mine.
    Just a couple of tales away from tits and clits in Diamond Lils!
  2. Can't have been that commonplace, surely. I defer to your reading but are you sure the crew didn't supplement their diet with their own provisions? They did get a share of loot and its not like they weren't paid at all. . . And after all, humans is humans. It has been noted even by foreign historians that the average clodhopper/yokel from these aisles was far more likely to put a fist in the face of an offending 'gentleman' than his continental cousin ever was.
  3. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    The mutinies of 1797 were not about discipline at all, mostly about pay. Received opinion is that the good men wanted the dodgy ones brought to heel. As to food, sailors got fed regularly which might well NOT have been the case ashore. Beware of looking at the 1790s with 2010 eyes - the divisions of class were an accepted fact of life, as was the use of corporal punishment ashore, and the death penalty for a huge variety of crimes (although actually applied fairly sparingly and often commuted to transportation). The proof of the pudding is in the eating, in this case in the officers' ability to create a disciplined and professional fighting machine which was absolutely superior to anything else on the planet, and which knew it could wipe the deck with anyone who turned up. In particular what was often an apparent inferiority in numbers of guns was turned quite around by a much higher rate of fire, obtained through thorough training. We also presented a superior standard of seamanship honed by being at sea and not curled up in harbour, which won us in particular the battle of Quiberon.
  4. As Seaweed states, Spithead was mainly to do with pay (which hadn't been increased for over a century) and even Nelson was sympathetic to the cause of the mutineers.

    The mutineers in the Nore Nelson (probably correctly) classed as traiors.

  5. In all the mutinies flogging was not even considered by the mutineers as unreasonable.
  6. In fact the average tar had less trust in a captain who didn't flog than one who did.

    sorry, I meant to post a link in my last post but forgot (Damn you Strongbow!).

    It's only Wiki.

  7. You make the point more clearly than I do. I don't think the emboldened would have been possible with a starved, morale-impoverished and badly abused body of men, nasty exceptions notwithstanding.
  8. I know what the Nore and Spithead mutinies were about,it was pay + to a lesser extent,conditions.
    There were other mutinies that were not so highlighted.The notorious Captain Pigot who threatened,and carried out lashings for the last man to climb down from the riggings.
    Two men fell to their death trying to escape the lash,crew mutinied and Pigot was killed.
    I'm going from memory here but I think it's correct.
    My point is was it fear or respect that stayed more mutinies?I've said the Seamen respected officers because of their knowledge, cruelty can be tolerated and a lot of Admirals tried to stop flogging for less serious charges,Collingwood for one,Captain Codrington of HMS Blake had 144 floggings in 14 months,HMS Gibralter at the same time with 700 men had none!
    The French had a revolution,their ships,but not their gunnery or seamanship, were equal to ours,but the country rose up.
    Why did not we British?times were just as hard here.
    Whoever controlled the Navy controlled the country,in our case it was the Officers and men of the RN.I'm only looking at it from 2010 eyes because I've read the reports in the archives that were not available for public eyes then.
    I'm not condemning officers,just posing a question why it happened.
  9. Apart fom the well known mutinies at the Nore and Spithead, plus the BOUNTY and HERMIONE, there seems to have been "mutinies" on a regular basis, although some of the incidents could be classed as "Mass indiscipline".
    This covers the period 1747 to 1919.
  10. I'm merely conjecturing but maybe it was because when all's said and done, Jack - whilst given to thoughts of mutiny now and then - just couldn't give a $hit about no nation-wide uprising. If he didn't already feel divorced from the land-lubbing world when he joined then he almost certainly did by the time he decided to stay a sailor. Sailors often appear in stories written in those times as near-foreign misfits with bags of cash and cares for little.
    OK so we know they weren't exactly rich but they partied in style when they weren't dying or cheating death in the rigging. . . Something that probably earned them the respect of pongos long before the Naval Brigades in India.

    "The sea-going nature is kind to the shorn lamb"
  11. My final thoughts are that the French revolution was a direct consequence of our earlier Civil war,they saw the rich could be dispossessed and the King could lose his head,it spurred the Radicals on.
    They never knew the sheer boredom of a country under Puritanical rule,no songs etc except hymns.
    Our people realised that we did not want it again,so things never accelerated to that end,besides the old saying is apt.
    "Scratch anyone from the British Isles and Salt water will run!" we are all seaman at heart from a seafaring nation.
    Still they were well rid of Pigot although HMS Suprise hunted them down to face their ends.
    In all my time in the RN I have a feeling I wouldn't have lasted long in that era.
  12. The pint of rum and gallon of ale/mead issue per day would have helped SF.
  13. People have a bit of a misconception re. the drink.
    Grog was only issued if the ship was in the W.Indies station,it was watered down not as we knew but four parts water to one of grog.If the skipper saw drunken seamen,which he did a lot,he diluted it even further up to 8 parts water!
    The water always had green scum on it as the barrels were filled from the Thames if in home waters.Every chance was taken to get ashore to find water but it was very risky.
    Beer was brewed from the spruce pine trees,now I don't know how they did this but it was the only ale they had whilst abroad and it was foul,but better than the water.
    If in the Med they could buy wine known as "Blackstrap" it was the worst type of wine the locals could unload to the men because a shilling would get load of it,but it was foul vinegar as a rule.
    Drunk sailors were punished severely,gay and mutinous sailors were hanged from the yard,gambling was punished.
    They were hard men,and women!
  14. Bit of history that was passed down in my family that might intrest.i beleve my great great grandfather and his brother were pressed into the RN at sea. the story go's, they were fishing for herring, with their sons in type of boat known as a 'dronthiem', clinker built with sail and oars.They were between SW Scotland and the north Irish coast. along comes a RN ship, lowers a boat and takes them aboard, leaving the two boys to take their boat home.the name and type of the ship have been lost in time. given that my grandfather was born in the 1890s i estimate this must have been about the 1820s. they were released/discharged somewhere in England about a year later, and with the wages or bounty they had between them , were able to buy some land when they came home. which is still in the possesion of a member of my extended family.
  15. From our family history.
    As noted by the Reverend John Sampson,chaplain on the Boyne.

    " A Bill of fare for Monday April 20th 1772 on Bd the Boyne"
    ( In Port Royal harbour,Jamaica)

    Cods Sounds and Tongues. ( Cods Sounds is the swimming bladder)
    Mutton Broth
    A Piece of Salt beef and Greens
    A Calipie Hash ( don't know what this is)
    A Leg of Mutton wth Turnips
    A Joint of Mutton
    Potatoes Greens and Pickles
    A Rice Pudding
    Liquors, AniseedWater,Rum, Gin,Madeira and Port Wine

    Probably not a normal meal, as it was to celebrate the end of removing, then restepping the mainmast of HMS Princess Amelia.
    There was no sheer hulk at Port Royal , so Boynes mainmast/mainyard was rerigged to improvise. The mast would have weighed some 7 tons, about 112 feet in length, a vertical lift of about 35 feet was required for the mast to clear the upper deck.
  16. A Cali pie is a pie containing the following ingredients:-

    Tomato, Basil, Mozarella, Parmesan, Fresh Calamari, Olives, and Artichokes.
    I pressume a hash would be on these lines.

    "Yes Johnny I'll be straight back in the kitchen"......... :D :roll:
  17. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    For a 1st hand Lower Deck account of life in the old sailing Navy, try 'Landsman Hay', by Robert Hay ed. M D Hay, Hart Davis 1953. Hay served (intermittently, read about it) 1803-1811.
  18. Sorry but I keep remembering snippets.
    Cabin boys fished for rats down the hatches with a line and oakum on the end,rats bit the oakum and the teeth got caught up.
    Very tasty they were for Jack.Meat was better than biscuits.
    One Marine officer had his chef bake a rat pie and brought in to the wardroom for dinner,all the officers tucked in untill he told them,half then threw up when he said rats are delicious except there was a black mouldy one in the pie by mistake!Marines don't change!
    They did eat a lot of rats though and,to sighs of relief,that is my final Tar story.cheers.
  19. Rob,and SF1939,

    Coincidentally, and oddly enough, I recently came across a brief review of “Landsman Hay†in the archived issue 41 of The Naval Review: 1953 Vol 3 Page 345 (pdf page114) at

    To quote the reviewer:

    <<….His description of life in a man-of-war gives a much less harsh impression
    than is usually the case in such biographies and the senior officers appear in
    much more benevolent guise than is usual. Collingwood had no flogging in his
    flagship, Pellew-later to be Lord Exmouth-was almost patriarchal….>>

    (As I have posted elsewhere, those archived volumes of The Naval Review are a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in RN History.)


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