Archive for January, 2007

How Gillette sat his exam…

Maybe someone will catch the plot bunny between the lines. 😀

Taken from “Men Of Honour – Trafalgar And The Making Of The English Hero” by Adam Nicolson, a book I can highly recommend:


In the British navy, the test to become a junior officer, a lieutenant, depended on having spent at least six years at sea as a midshipman and an ability to answer a series of disturbingly sea-based questions. As the standard form of words approving a promotion to lieutenant expressed it, the candidate had to prove that he could

“(…) Splice, Knot, Reef a sail, work a Ship Sailing, Shift his Tides, keep a Reckoning of a Ships way by Plain Sailing and Mercator, Observe by the Sun or Star, find the variation of the Compass and is qualified to do his Duty as an Able Seaman and a Midshipman. (…)”

In May 1805, one young man, William Badcock, was sent forward by his captain Thomas Fremantle of the Neptune to sit his exam. He was in a state of extreme nerves and the three captains on the examining board allowed him to sit quietly for a few moments so that he would do himself justice. Then they began.

“(…) I was desired to stand up, and consider myself on a quarterdeck of a man-of-war at Spithead – ‘unmoor’ – ‘get underway’ – ‘stand out to sea’ – ‘make and shorten sail’ – ‘reef’ – ‘return into port’ – ‘unrig the foremast and bowsprit, and rig them again’. I got into a scrape after reefing for not overhauling the reef tackles when reefing the sails (because unless those tackles were overhauled, the sails would not set fair). However they passed me, and desired me to come again the next day to receive my passing certificate. I made the captains the best bow I could and, without staying, to look behind me, bolted out of the room… (…)”

I can so see this…!

26 January, 2007 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment


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