Royal navy flogging


  • An Introduction to Punishment in Aubrey’s Royal Navy
  • Jackspeak – Naval Slang
  • How the Royal Navy kept order, Through Caning, Flogging, and Hanging
  • Wellcome Images images wellcome. Wood engraving by W. But to take punishment out of the context of the times is to miss the comparison between life on land and life at sea during the Georgian period.

    The Georgian code of justice was known, with good reason, as the bloody code. On land a man could be given a long jail sentence or transported for life for relatively minor offenses, he could be hanged for stealing as little as a handkerchief. Newgate prison routinely kept its prisoners 20 to a cell measuring twenty feet by fifteen. At sea the rules that the men obeyed were known as The Articles of War.

    A man could only be hanged for mutiny, treason or desertion. Sodomy was also a capital offense, but few men were prosecuted or hanged for it, and it seems likely that it was a rare occurrence on a war ship the open living space of the men providing few opportunities for privacy. At sea discipline was relatively easy to maintain. The sailors knew that their lives depended on working together to stop the ship from foundering or being taken by the enemy.

    This may partly explain why it was possible for a 20 year old to command a ship of experienced seamen: Nelson was not quite 21 when he was made a post captain, and he was not an exception.

    In port the job was harder, and frequently senior officers would think twice before going below decks. It was used as a quick punishment for a man not thought to be pulling his weight or moving fast enough once an order was given. The practice of starting was greatly resented by the men, its use was arbitrary and very dependent on the captain. The Admiralty banned its use in , after the court martial of Captain Robert Corbett.

    In fact most captains had already ceased the practice by then. Flogging In theory a captain could only order a maximum of 12 lashes; any more was supposed to be dealt with by a court martial.

    This rule was routinely broken quite openly, with captains writing in their journals the number of lashes awarded for each flogging. Up to 72 lashes would be unlikely to attract the attention of the Admiralty. The men accepted this; the punishments handed out by court martial tended to be much more severe, possibly as a deterrent to asking for a court martial. George Melvin of the Antelope received lashes for desertion from a court martial. The limit on captains was removed in The cat itself was heavier than the version used in the army, made of a rope handle about two feet long and an inch in diameter to which the nine tails of line were attached.

    The line was a quarter inch diameter and about two feet long. The whole thing weighed just under a pound. Once finished it was put into a red baize bag until needed. The flogging began with the order for all hands to muster aft to witness punishment.

    The offender was generally lashed to an upturned grating. The officers stood to one side in full dress uniform and the marines lined up aft.

    The captain would read out the Article of War that the offender had broken and then the order would be given to lay on the dozen lashes. The force of the blows can be shown by the fact that a standard cat of nine tails was easily capable, when wielded by an average man, of breaking a one inch by one inch length of knot free pine in half. The effect on the victims back was said to resemble scorched and blackened meat.

    The severest form of flogging was a flogging round the fleet. The acceptance of flogging by the sailors to maintain discipline is hard to measure. In the Great Mutinies at the Nore and Spithead, flogging was not mentioned in the sailors list of complaints. In fact whilst the ships were under control of the mutineers, they ordered floggings to be carried out. But Samuel Leech in his memoirs spends much time railing against the injustice of flogging.

    Hanging A seaman could only be hanged for mutiny, treason or desertion. Hangings, possibly due to the shortage of men, were rare events. A mutineer would be hanged from the Yard arm of the ship. If he was well liked his crew mates might be able to haul him up fast enough to break his neck.

    Occasionally a man would jump overboard to avoid the slow strangulation of the noose Richard Parker, the Nore mutineer, jumped rather than strangle. Other Punishments For a thief the favored punishment was to to run the gauntlet. Thieves were particularly unpopular with the men, who had nowhere to lock up their possessions.

    The offender was walked slowly through two lines of men who were armed with ropes with a knot in the end. They would then beat the man as he passed down the line. Major theft was punished by flogging, and only for this offense was the cat knotted, three at three inch intervals. They were bent over a cannon and caned on the backside.

    A man could also be seized up to the shrouds, that is tied up in the rigging and left to the mercy of the weather, for however long the officer who ordered the punishment felt the man should remain there.

    Reference no. It has now come to mean taken by surprise or given a shock. All at Sea — one is said to be all at sea if you are in a state of confusion or bewildered — it is derived from the position of a ship that has lost its bearings.

    Awash — nowadays this term has a positive connotation, but the term means the precise moment when a ship becomes so submerged that its decks become awash with water. Batten down the hatches — this term is used now to mean making preparations if trouble is looming.

    It comes from of securing the hatchways, the opening in the deck and their covering was known as the hatch. So if the ship was facing a stormy sea, the hatches would be closed tight and covered with a piece of canvas secured by a thin piece of wood called the batten to prevent water entering the ship via the hatchway.

    Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea — in a sailing warship the devil was the outermost seam between the planks of the deck and hull. The word relates to the loud retorts which are heard as the straining sails and sheets are eased.

    On a ship, dressing down means to Dress or apply a preservative to the rigging. This unpleasant and dangerous job may have been assigned as punishment for a wayward sailor. Dummy Run — this term for a practice comes from torpedo training when runs were made with torpedoes fitted with dummy warheads. Dutch Courage — this term came into use during the 17th century during the Anglo-Dutch Wars.

    Give them a wide berth — the term for avoiding someone or something comes from the practice of giving anchored ships in harbour a wide berth to avoid collision. Hard to Fathom — a fathom is an old nautical measurement used for distances and depths. The Admiralty defined as 6. In the doldrums — this is a term that may have come from the shore into naval use in the days of sailing warships.

    The doldrums are the equatorial regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Know the Ropes — on a sailing ship it was important to know what the function and name of each rope aboard ship. Only from the precise position that ropes were secured on deck could they be identified.

    Naturally this rope would become used up and had to be disposed of. Naturally sailors, always on the lookout for extra income would sell the rope ashore for some quick and easy money. Oggin — this jack speak for the sea has two possible origins, either a sailor mispronounced the word ocean, or from the slang term hogwash, the swill that was fed to pigs. Out of the Blue — something totally unexpected. A naval example is HMS Eurydice. She was a few miles out of Portsmouth on a calm sunny day with clear blue skies when a squall struck and she was sunk with the loss of men.

    Thirty minutes after the sinking the weather had returned to near-perfect conditions. Over the Barrel — a term that has come to mean a person is placed in a predicament from which there is no escape. The term comes from the practice of tying a sailor who was to be flogged over the barrel of a cannon. Shanty — the custom of singing work songs aboard ship is a custom that goes back to the 15th century. Songs could be of differing tempos depending on the work being performed aboard ship i. Skyscraper — this term was first used in the nineteenth century and used to describe anything that was taller than normal e.

    This mutated into describing buildings as they sprung up in the early 20th century, for instance the Empire State Building.

    The term has a nautical origin. This design was to stop food falling off the plate and to set a limit on the amount of food taken. It comes from the task aboard ship of dropping a sounding weight made of lead over the bows to determine the depth of water.

    It was seen as a way to avoid the more arduous tasks involved in bringing a ship into harbour. Taken Aback — A ship is said to be taken aback when through a sudden wind shift or careless steering the sails billow in reverse.

    However there was one exception.

    The men accepted this; the punishments handed out by court martial tended to be much more severe, possibly as a deterrent to asking for a court martial. George Melvin of the Antelope received lashes for desertion from a court martial.

    The limit on captains was removed in The cat itself was heavier than the version used in the army, made of a rope handle about two feet long and an inch in diameter to which the nine tails of line were attached.

    The line was a quarter inch diameter and about two feet long. The whole thing weighed just under a pound. Once finished it was put into a red baize bag until needed. The flogging began with the order for all hands to muster aft to witness punishment. The offender was generally lashed to an upturned grating. The officers stood to one side in full dress uniform and the marines lined up aft. The captain would read out the Article of War that the offender had broken and then the order would be given to lay on the dozen lashes.

    The force of the blows can be shown by the fact that a standard cat of nine tails was easily capable, when wielded by an average man, of breaking a one inch by one inch length of knot free pine in half. The effect on the victims back was said to resemble scorched and blackened meat. The severest form of flogging was a flogging round the fleet. The acceptance of flogging by the sailors to maintain discipline is hard to measure.

    In the Great Mutinies at the Nore and Spithead, flogging was not mentioned in the sailors list of complaints. In fact whilst the ships were under control of the mutineers, they ordered floggings to be carried out.

    An Introduction to Punishment in Aubrey’s Royal Navy

    But Samuel Leech in his memoirs spends much time railing against the injustice of flogging. Hanging A seaman could only be hanged for mutiny, treason or desertion. Hangings, possibly due to the shortage of men, were rare events. A mutineer would be hanged from the Yard arm of the ship. If he was well liked his crew mates might be able to haul him up fast enough to break his neck.

    Occasionally a man would jump overboard to avoid the slow strangulation of the noose Richard Parker, the Nore mutineer, jumped rather than strangle. Other Punishments For a thief the favored punishment was to to run the gauntlet. Thieves were particularly unpopular with the men, who had nowhere to lock up their possessions.

    Jackspeak – Naval Slang

    Dummy Run — this term for a practice comes from torpedo training when runs were made with torpedoes fitted with dummy warheads. Dutch Courage — this term came into use during the 17th century during the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Give them a wide berth — the term for avoiding someone or something comes from the practice of giving anchored ships in harbour a wide berth to avoid collision. Hard to Fathom — a fathom is an old nautical measurement used for distances and depths. The Admiralty defined as 6.

    In the doldrums — this is a term that may have come from the shore into naval use in the days of sailing warships. The doldrums are the equatorial regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Know the Ropes — on a sailing ship it was important to know what the function and name of each rope aboard ship. Only from the precise position that ropes were secured on deck could they be identified.

    How the Royal Navy kept order, Through Caning, Flogging, and Hanging

    Naturally this rope would become used up and had to be disposed of. Naturally sailors, always on the lookout for extra income would sell the rope ashore for some quick and easy money.

    Oggin — this jack speak for the sea has two possible origins, either a sailor mispronounced the word ocean, or from the slang term hogwash, the swill that was fed to pigs. Out of the Blue — something totally unexpected. A naval example is HMS Eurydice. She was a few miles out of Portsmouth on a calm sunny day with clear blue skies when a squall struck and she was sunk with the loss of men.

    Thirty minutes after the sinking the weather had returned to near-perfect conditions. Over the Barrel — a term that has come to mean a person is placed in a predicament from which there is no escape. The term comes from the practice of tying a sailor who was to be flogged over the barrel of a cannon. Shanty — the custom of singing work songs aboard ship is a custom that goes back to the 15th century.


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