The birth of a princess, a happy event when we need good news

Former Navy man recalls the birth of Prince Charles

Congratulations to their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of Princess Charlotte, a little sister for Prince George.

In 1948, I was a 20-year-old seaman supply rate in the Royal Canadian Navy aboard HMCS Ontario. We were tied up at A jetty in Esquimalt. It was a Sunday morning, two watches of the crew were ashore enjoying the weekend. This left the duty watch and several hundred officers and men still on board. In mid-morning an announcement came over the ship’s intercom, “To splice the main brace.” Throughout the fleet in celebration of the birth of a Royal baby, Prince Charles.

“Splice the main brace,” an expression meaning by special permission, “Double the normal rum ration to be issued to eligible men only. Eligible men were ordinary able seamen and leading seamen 20 years of age who elected to go grog.

Grog was a two-and-a-half ounce of neat Pusser rum, mixed with five ounces of fresh water.

The rum issue was a ritual, anachronistic, adopted from the Royal Navy. At 11:30 daily at sea or in port, the bosom pipe would sound “up spirits.”

As the duty rum-issuing stores rating, I would accompany the duty officer of the watch, the regulating chief our petty officer to the quarterdeck then descend two decks below to the ships’ spirit locker wherein resided the run. We drew off the required rum for the  issue which took place at noon at the trilling of the bosun pipe announcing the rum issue and hands to dinner.

The grog was mixed and served from a large oaken tub inscribed HMCS Ontario, “The King God Bless Him.”

I had send my seaman helper with two large buckets for fresh water. All pipelines in ships are colour-coded. Fresh water pipes are blue, saltwater pipeline is red used for firefighting. My helper came back with the water, we were running late and were urged to get on with it.

The duty officer, a young officer cadet, tasted the grog with a shocked look, said “salt.” While this officer was nominally in charge, the regulating petty officer and myself the issuing store man, should have tested the water before mixing with the rum. My helper, new to the ship, was entirely blameless. The regulating petty officer with the officer cadet reported the circumstances to the senior executive officer on board. He gave the order to dump the salty rum and redraw the required amount. This we did very carefully ensuring the water was taken from the blue fresh water line and tasted.

Monday, the next day the officer cadet, the regulating petty officer and myself faced the commander’s wrath. We deservedly had a strip torn off us and were confined to the ship for two weeks performing extra duties.

That little episode ensured we would not forget the birth of Prince Charles, Prince of Walaes.

The rum ration is long gone. Unlamented, except for a die-hard few. There is no place for alcohol in a modern navy where people must be at the ready at all times.

That said, we salute the little Princess Charlotte and wish her a long and happy life.

Lorne E. Pattison

Sooke

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria liquor stores see spike in sales amidst COVID-19

Customers are buying go-to products in larger quantities

Spring shift in service includes no weekend late night bus services in Greater Victoria

Annual shift into spring sees additional decrease in frequency on multiple routes

UVic Vikes new basketball coach on the fast track

At 26, Shalie Dheensaw assumed head coaching role

Excess activity damaging Saanich golf course – despite being closed

Cedar Hill Golf Course manager reminds people of the 170 parks available in Saanich

‘Small python’ found in vacant Cook Street apartment

Snake taken to CRD Animal Shelter to be claimed

VIDEO: ‘Used gloves and masks go in the garbage,’ says irked B.C. mayor

Health officials have said single-use gloves won’t do much to curb the spread of COVID-19

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Number of COVID-19 deaths in B.C. rise to 35, while hospitalizations fall

B.C. has 498 active confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

B.C. senior gives blood for 200th time, has ‘saved’ 600 lives

There was no cutting of cake for Harvey Rempel but he’s challenging youth to start donating blood

Most Read