What Is A Matelot

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by Peewee Hunt, Nov 1, 2013.

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  1. (From my Ark Royal Diary 1963)
    Cloaked in the anonymity of a uniform, classified in the ledger as a number, yet possessing a unique individual opinion of his own. He is ruled by regular editions of QR and AI's and the state of the Barons on board, irrespective of clan, race, or religion, he nevertheless contrives to rise above it all and emerge as an individual. Uniquely different from his neighbour in the same rig, able to wear his uniform in a thousand different ways, all frowned upon by their Lordships, yet all inside the law, he is the living lie to the adage that regimentation is soul-destroying. He is controlled directly by the officers and indirectly by the proximity of a pay day or a Full House at Tombola. He will drip, moan, and howl, about his job, his ship, and the service, yet should an outsider dare to run down those same things he will demolish the critic with a flow of invective as picturesque as it is blistering.
    A matelot can be all things to all men at all times. In a messdeck argument he will don the profundity of a lawyer and discuss at great length and detail, subjects about which he knows nothing. A piped order can change him without pause for breath or alteration of tone from a happy optimist to a cynical pessimist. On board, ashore, on duty, or on leave, awake or asleep, he seems to be at the mercy of a mysterious "dozen", the explanation of which he will lightly, sadly, winsomely, soothingly, or frantically entreat to roll-on, and when the twelve years have duly rolled, he goes to the ship's office and asks for another ten. This being granted to him, he returns to his mess and ever after raises the cry "roll on my pensh".
    He can be found in, around, out of, beneath, on top of, and swarming upon, ships of every shape and size, above or below the sea, yet his appearance never changes nor does his face portray any appreciation of his worthy tasks. He has money invested in shares with handles on, has an amazing capacity for consuming liquid, and a cast-iron stomach which digests Oggies and pussers' Bangers. In his ship there is none so hard done by as him. He will voice this sentiment as he performs some difficult or dangerous job for which he claims some bloody blank blue pencil browned him off. Yet, if discreet enquiries are made it will be generally found that, unknown to anyone, he had quietly volunteered for the job in the first place. If, however, he finds that his chum working with him has volunteered also he will go into fits of laughter and deliver a long lecture about never volunteering.
    When ashore a matelot is, by his own lights, a paragon of virtue. He seeks lurid experiences and strange adventures, not so much for his own satisfaction but for the subject of conversation at the breakfast table the next morning. If he doesn't find them, he makes them up.
    A matelot dislikes pussers' boots, caps, lanyards, dhobying, blankets, paybooks, station cards, efficiency tests, duty watches, inspections, pulheems, messbills, kitmusters, wakey-wakey, night watches, haircuts, Crushers, and returning from leave. He likes very much the rum call, uckers, quarterly settlement, lurid books, Reserve Fleet drafts, long leaves, mail, make-and-mends, paydays, duty free fags and tickler, and the party up the line. G.I's find him maddening. His interpretation of the Rig of the Day can resemble last months tablecloth, while his apparently accidental footprints across the whiteness of the Quarterdeck can bring grey hairs to a raving buffer.
    His locker consists of beer labels, pussers' yarn, marline spikes, old letters, photographs (some properly attired), bars of soap, tickler, and request forms. Like a midshipman's locker everything is on top and nothing handyh. He relies on his oppo's sense of comradeship when borrowing clothes, collars, silks, and shoes to get ashore, but never seems to remember from whom they were borrowed. He is a subtle combination of applied indifference and patriotic concern.
    He is a jack-of-all-trades, and master of them all. He is a dishwasher and a plasterer, a model-maker and an electrician, a midwife and a dressmaker, a cook and a child's nurse. When a job comes along about which he hasn't the faintest idea, he will tackle it with a curious amount of common sense and pure brazen flannelwhich will convince any onlooker that he is watching the original inventor at work. The one phrase which a matelot never uses is "I don't know". He is a born navigator and takes his bearings from naval tailors and public houses. The phrase "Out of bounds" intrigues him greatly and no mater what obstacles the authorities may place in his path, such places will draw him as steel filings to a magnet, to find out just why they were out of bounds.
    He lives for the first boat ashore and wonders who is making a payday out of the suppers he does not eat. He is convinced that he and his kind are being perpetually seen off, but the matter of fact is that the business expert who can put one over on Jack has yet to be born. He is a man whose nautical upbringing and training has coated him with a shallow veneer of artificiality, but beneath this - and it is never far below the surface - is a deepness not found in other men. Who can deny that it was a fitting gesture that men of his own service transported the last King on his last journey. There were many proud hearts and willing hands that day.
    You see, a matelot, despite his faults, would be the first to lay down his life for those that love him, and those that dislike him.
    He is Britannia with a shabby cap tally, and baggy trousers, he is, my friends,

    A Matelot
    • Like Like x 1
  2. This one seems to have been modified slightly since the last time I saw it - probably to take the other French words out.

    Of course it could be that the above is the original and the copy I have is the modified version . . .
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Roll on my pensh?? ROMFT.
  4. Mmm, read it as you will. I started by saying it was from my Ark diary of 1963. The part that you suggest should be ROMFT had already been referred to as the "dozen" which was always expressed as 'Roll on my ****in' twelve.' and then the next ten years which would result in a pensh. I agree that ROMFT could also be construed as 'Roll on my ****in' time,' but I did not write it, I simply posted what I had read (and still have original copy of) written in 1963). Think you are just nit picking.
  5. It is someone who is in the navy to earn a living.

    That is all.
    • Like Like x 4
  6. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    "It's a job, not a way of life".

    Anybody who thinks otherwise clearly has no life.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Interesting as I joined not because it was just a job.
  8. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    So not lifted from page 12 of Derbyshire Submarine Association Branch Newsletter from June 2011 then? Like Dredd, I have seen this passage posted here and on other sites over the years. Obviously somebody somewhere wrote it and it is possible you are the author but, if as you say, you have the "original copy" (!!) then you can offer up a scan of it... :thumbleft:
  9. exJenny

    exJenny War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

  10. In the 60s both ROMFT and ROMFD were in general use.
    ROMFT roll on my time
    ROMFD Roll on my Duz (matelots signed for 12 years then 9 in and 3 reserve)
  11. Trying to think of the group in the 60s that the guitarist had ROMFT on his guitar???? Used to make us all smile !!!
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  12. interesting to see those who claim it is just a job are amongst the most prevalent posters on Rum Ration (or Navy Net as it is now).

    Slim, I think it was the Spinners (UK folk not the US R&B band)
    • Like Like x 1
  13. The mob was more than a job, it was a way of life. Ups and downs and all. It produced well grounded, sensible, hard working and loyal OD's, who can stay OD's forever and into their next life.
  14. How can living in a metal box with 100+ other people not be a lifestyle (way of life). For 18 years it was my way of life, now I have moved on and I have another way of life. Maybe those who say it wasn't, were the malcontents or just had a job they disliked?
  15. Cum bye yah, my Lord, cum bye yah.
    by Terry » Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:34 am

    Cliff Hall: Singer with the pioneering multiracial folk group The Spinners died on Friday, 27 June 2008.

    The obituary says:

    Among their many achievements, The Spinners was the first multiracial singing group to have a major success in the UK. Cliff Hall, their West Indian singer and guitarist, brought many songs from the Caribbean to their repertoire and although they are known as a Liverpool folk group, only one of The Spinners, Hughie Jones, was born in the city.

    In the 1970s my mum used to make us watch the Spinners Show on telly on Sunday nights and I thought they were a load of mamby pamby shite. However, I have since recognised the significance of a multi racial band in the 1970s and learnt to respect them. My respect increased when I joined the merchant navy and discovered that the "ROMFT" sticker on yer man's guitar was a seagoing acronym meaning 'Roll on my ****i*g time' which jolly jacks would say to express their desire to be discharged from the ship and go home.
  16. I have already said that it is in my Ark Royal diary. If you take just a couple of minutes to Google, HMS Ark Royal 1961 -1963
    you will see one of the headings which continues, Diary 1962 May 2nd Manila Bay 5th Subic Bay, Cubi Point beach etc. Click on that one and it will open a section of the diary. Then just scroll down a couple of pages and you will find WHAT IS A MATELOT
    • Like Like x 1
  17. sgtpepperband

    sgtpepperband War Hero Moderator Book Reviewer

    Found it:


    ...and the subsequent entry is signed "A. Matelot". That site is owned by David N Axford, yet you have already identified yourself with another name elsewhere in RR (nice website, by the way. But why not link the article to your own website, not Mr. Axford's?). As I said, I am not saying you are or you aren't the author of the original piece but I am not entirely convinced either way.
  18. Hi sgntpepperband. Can I try again to clear this up. I have in my possession my Ark Royal commissioning diary 1961 -1963 that was compiled by a team on board and then sold to crew members as a souvenir. I bought one. The article, WHAT IS A MATELOTis in it but I do not know who originally wrote it and it was certainly NOT me. Mr Axford may own the site that portions of the diary are published on, but he would certainly not be the originator of the article in question. The article is not signed, A MATELOT, it ends with - he is my friends, A MATELOT. I innocently posted it on this site because I thought it a nice thing to do, and might be of interest to those who enjoy the romantic notion of how Jack Tar is perceived (and there are many). I did not think it would cause such a fuss. Hope we have it sorted now PW :thumleft:
  19. I think that you jumped the gun their SgtP.
    At no time did the originator state that he was the author of said piece.
    I was on Eagle in 65 and the same item ws published in the ships paper, most of the old and bold 3 badge killicks said that it had been around for years.
    There are a number of other articles that have been written in the same vein including one containing advice to wives on how to treat a matelot retuning from a two year deployment. two year deployments were the norm in the early 60s, luckily the longest I ws ever away was about 12 months
  20. Got a copy of that somewhere Slim, I will try and find it and type it out :( (scanner is tits)

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