Customs of the Navy


By Lieutenant Commander A.D. Taylor, C.D., R.C.N.

There is a wealth of fascinating lore behind many of the routine practices of our naval profession of which many serving officers and men are not aware, or at least do not appreciate. In this small volume are recorded some of the more interesting of the nautical customs and traditions - their origin, development, and present form.

It is hoped that this book will in some way help to check the present tendency noted in civilian circles and in the press to condemn our allege unswerving allegiance to "the traditions of Nelson's day". A custom that has no apparent basis is quite meaningless and therefore might be reluctantly observed. If these pages should serve to enlighten, to make at least some of the naval customs and traditions meaningful, they will amply serve their purpose.

In the Queen's Regulations and Admiralty Instructions is an order that "...every all respects conform himself to the established customs and practices of Her Majesty's Service at Sea". This is not strange and unreasonable if we realize that the customs and practices referred to are the naval equivalent of the unwritten common law of the nation.; we are legally bound to conform with the law of the land, of which a large part is not recorded in statute form. The naval enrolment form includes an obligation "to comply with the usage's and customs of the Royal Canadian Navy".

The study of naval customs and traditions, like the study of the larger body of history itself, is not an exact science, and much material that has been stated as fact is actually little more than opinion substantiated by some evidence. Although treated dogmatically by some writers, much of what they have recorded is open to question. If this volume should provoke discussion, whether on matters of opinion or outright errors, it's production will have been justified.

A.D. Taylor

at Portsmouth, England.
15 May 1954.


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