Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

JACKSPEAK The Pusser's Rum

Guide to Royal Navy Slanguage

By Rick Jolly &Tugg

For Jack and Royal - On whose broad and willing shoulders the destiny of this island nation has so long depended.

Author's Preface

This book is the direct result of a hobby which began on a sunny Mediterranean morning in 197 1, very soon after I had joined the Royal Navy as a rather young and green Surgeon Lieutenant, My memories of that first patient are still embarassingly clear; a tall and very fit-looking Royal Marines Corporal told me he had caught the boat up. As Mr. Dom Mintoff was then in the process of kicking us all out of Malta, I presumed that my customer was delighted to have been chosen for a sea voyage back to England - or had he been selected for service in submarines?

Those of you who are familiar with Naval slang will no doubt understand his total confusion at my proffered congratulations! I had to excuse myself rather hurriedly, then pop out to the front office and question the Sick Bay 'tiff. This splendid character slid under his desk for laughing, and then dined out on the story for the rest of his career. I returned to the consulting room, sorted my patient out in the conventional manner, and then decided never to be caught out again. What you are about to read is the final result of those highly enjoyable labours, and the computer-collated presentation of those hundreds of scribbled prescription pads and bar chits that have been accumulating since Day One in Sliema.

During a very recent two year stint as the Principal Medical Officer at the Royal Naval Air Station, Culdrose, I finally had a chance to sit down at the keyboard and punch this data in during the long hours that the airfield remained open for night flying. Of course, if I'd known then how much work was going to be required for completion of this little project, I would have baled out there and then! It therefore says a lot for the resilient humour of my Sick Bay manager, CPO Medical Assistant Sarn Parker, that the Boss was never allowed to flag. A constant stream of new suggestions came in, from him as well as the other stalwarts of the Chief's Mess at HMS SEAHAWK, and I owe him a great deal for that cheerful support and encouragement.

My Commanding Officer, Captain Paul Bootherstone DSC, also played a vital part - by writing to the 2000 plus UK members of the Fleet Air Arm Officers Association, This round robin led to an unprecedented response. Nearly 700 copies of the book were purchased over the Christmas period, and the limited charity edition of 1000 was soon sold out. We now had a figure of 2300 in the bank towards a special building project, but then the letters started coming in, from people who had enjoyed the book but wanted to help in the never-ending task of correction and improvement. 1 remain particularly grateful to Lord Kilbracken DSC, Commander David Yates, Captain David Husband OBE, Captain Derek Oakley MBE RM, Major Alan Marsh RM, Hector Mackenzie and Alan Jefferson who all provided good advice. My Brigade Commander during the Falklands campaign Major General Julian Thompson CB OBE - also came up with the goods (again!), as did Hugh Layton, Bill Morton, Alan Clifford, Ted Whitley, Commander Derek Shone, and Lieutenant Commanders Peter Bracelin, Terry Jane, Rick Sandover and Nick Butler. For the Submarine Service inputs I am totally indebted to Commander Howard McFadyen RN.

Tugg's wonderful cartoons need no real introduction from me. They sum up, in just a few sharp pen strokes, the very essence of Jack's wry, witty and often self-mocking observations about life in the Andrew. Some of the drawings are originals, the others are taken from the JACK cartoon strips that have been appearing continuously in the NAVY NEWS since the first in February 1973:

I am very grateful to the Editor of NAVY NEWS, John Tucker, for his permission to use these, and for the arrangements that we have made under the laws of copyright.

In revising the text I found that the number of words and entries had nearly doubled - from 47,000 to 92,000 and from around 2,000 to nearly 3,500 respectively! The problem has still been what to leave out - gross obscenity of course, because the sort of mindless swearing in which every seventh word must be copulatory in order to communicate is a form of speech that has no place in an anthology of this kind. However, neither Jack nor Royal are angels, and they still display a healthy interest in the nether regions of the opposite sex - which accounts for the many relevant phrases and descriptions that are in daily usage!

I was also guided by the working principle that this book should contain something for everyone, from the grizzled veteran of the Murmansk convoy runs, to the fresh-faced new boys and girls just starting their careers in the oldest and finest fighting service in the world. In this respect I am grateful to my professional head of Branch, Surgeon Vice Admiral Sir Godfrey Milton-Thompson KBE QHP, for drawing my attention to a number of words and phrases with a maritime or Naval origin that have since come ashore to a wider general usage. Any analysis of Naval language is also a potted history of the British Isles; no doubt the new entries will also bring with them the slang terms of their own area and upbringing, expressions which may suddenly catch on and spread like wildfire - or just sputter away in one ship or establishment without making that crucial jump into the darkblue vernacular of the future.

What worries me more is the prospect of our slang and usage falling into oblivion as a direct result of neglect. In the good old days of the Tot, messdeck conversation was witty and vital, stimulated by the daily infusion of Nelson's Blood. Now, that inevitable glass nipple in the corner projects its mind-numbing videos and game shows to an equally glazed audience, and four hundred years of living, dynamic and constantly changing history is in danger of withering by atrophy.

May I ask your help in continuing to prevent this? Please let us know if there are any significant errors of fact or omission, and Palamanando Publications will try and incorporate all valid suggestions into a future edition. There are a small number of blank pages at the back to help you in this task, Tugg and 1 are now working on further cartoons for this, as well as drawing up preliminary plans for an edition of TOT TALES that stemmed from a competition run by Michael Fogg of Messrs. PUSSER'S RUM LTD. Like their donation to the Tot Fund, we also intend to continue reserving a royalty of 109,6 for Royal Navy and Royal Marines charities from the sale of this, and all future books. It gives us enormous pleasure to report that, at the time of our second reprint, this charity figure is approaching 10,000.

Finally, may I thank the hard-working people who helped to bring this First Edition of JACKSPEAK to press. Responsibility for the design of the cover has rested on the talents of Anthony Denham, while general layout is the province of his wife, Louise; the remainder of the DELTOR team, ably led by Alan Shannon, have always been the model of kindness and tolerance to this amateur enthusiast. Janet Lockett, Judy Martin and even James Jolly helped with text preparation, and all the staff at Palarnanando Publications, without exception, have been most supportive.

University College London

November 1989


We must all have tales to tell about misunderstandings during our Naval Years, my first was the opposite to the reason this book began, as a very young Junior Seaman I visited the sick bay and was asked by the Medical Officer, why I don't know, "When were you last exposed to danger?" I said that I had travelled to work on my motor cycle - I thought he was going to explode, however seeing my face he calmed down and asked the Sick Bay Tiffy to explain the facts of life to me.

My Cousin, who joined the Navy before me, thought he was giving me good advice when he said I should buy my "Rabbits" on the way back in Gib and not on the way out. I thought he must be some sort of idiot to want to bring back Rabbits from abroad, so I just said, "yes". As it turned out, we had a rabbit store on my first ship, there wasn't room for them all in the messdeck. Mind you it can happen outside the Navy, when on a coach trip I was very taken back when a young Aussy girl informed me she didn't feel well, she had gone to bed, but had been up all night with "the wog". Apparently it means being sick in Australia, those who watch the well known TV show may not have come across that one, it probably sucks anyway.

I am sure you will enjoy this book