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Russian sailing navy

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Watched my old time favorite, "Maksimka". http://www.youtube.c...feature=related It's a patriotic movie from the 50s, about Russian people been the best.

So I researched a little about Russian Sailing Navy customs and a suprise !

British Navy was recruiting staff from volunteers, luring them with wages. Merchant sailors related to Navy with disdain. Merchant seamanship was better because merchant wages were better. Discipline in the Navy was harsh, food bad, living conditions appalling. Sanitary absent. British officers were rough, tough and hardy. Mutinies were common. Craftsmanship of the ship builders was very good which resulted in older ships making the majority of the fleet.

Russian Navy was built artificially, literally overnight. So...

Sailors were recruited from peasants who never saw the sea. The poor guys served 25 years and had to be trained from the ground up (but the benefit of returning home was high - freedom and pension).

Officers were recruited from nobility, trained in Navy Academies and took their aristocratic habits to the ships: piano, Chopin, bathing etc. Their social distance from sailors was enormous.

Bathing on British ships was prohibited. Don't know about this regiment on Russian.

Russian ships weren't built as good, but the regular regimented crews, trained from the ground up and undergoing constant military training, were very good, disciplined. Mutinies were rare. Ships were maintained in perfect order, squeaky clean.

Quality of ropes and sails was outstanding.

Birth of the Navy coincided with another revolution: Peter the Great lifted ban on musical instruments. It is accepted that most talented wood workers, who were recruited to build ships, were also instrument makers.

Don't know about concertinas, but balalaikas, accordions for lower ranks and guitars, violins (up to pianos) for higher ranks were common.

It supports the rumor that officers were hiring fiddlers to help with the rhythm of work, but probably for their own money.

Anything I missed or misinterpreted? I was especially shocked to read about mediocre seamanship of British Navy crews compared to merchant Fleet.

Edited by m3838
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The harshness of life in the Royal Navy in the days of sail is well know to most historically interested Brits! There were practically no volunteers, and recruiting was carried out by "press gangs," which descended upon the dockside taverns and had the authority to abduct anyone who looked like a sailor, or fit enough to be made into one.

The US navy was not much better, and we have a very graphic decription of it from the novelist Herman Melville, who hired as a seaman on a frigate for the trip from California to New Egland via Cape Horn around 1845. His book "Whitejacket" contains many amusing and philosophical anecdotes of life in the Navy, but also scenes of cruelty, oppression and deprivation, and of the rigid social divide between officers and men that ran counter to the RIghts of Man as enshrined in the American Constitution. At one point, he comments that Southern gentlemen made the best officers - because they were accustomed to dealing humanely with slaves on their plantations back home!


When "Whitejacket" appeared, a copy was presented to each member of Congress, who were so shocked that they liberalised the Rules of War governing the treatment of Naval ratings at sea.


Now, a lot of us Cnetters are folkies and songwriters, and can only dream of making money with our music. But back in the Nelson era, a songwriter actually received a government pension for his work! His name was Charles Dibdin. I'm sure a lot of you "nautical" concertinists are familiar with his songs, which present a very romantic, even heroic picture of the "jolly Jack Tar." The Admiralty recognised that these very popular ditties did a lot to counteract the negative image of Navy life among the populace, thus improving the recruitment figures, and awarded Dibdin the said pension.


Just something to bear in mind the next time you perform a Dibdin song!




Edited by Anglo-Irishman
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A couple of thoughts occur:


The seamanship in the Royal Navy must have been pretty good -- if you've ever sailed in the area around Ushant (where they kept the blockade off Brest)-- all fog, gales, tides & rocks; lee shore exposed to the Atlantic -- even with a modern yacht with an engine it's intimidating, in those old square-riggers with years of weed growth on the hulls it's astonishing what they did. The skills would have been different -- the RN always had plenty of men, needed for the guns of course, so the rigs were different and they handled them differently but they must have known their business. Also, the officers joined as mid-shipmen -- very young -- and a good many became consumate seamen.


And also, most of the time most of them must have been drunk. A gallon of beer and a half pint of rum (so strong as to be almost pure alcohol) was the daily ration -- Admiral Vernon ("Old Grog" because of his grogram coat) as First Lord ordered that the rum should be diluted with at least four times as much water, so diluted the rum ration equalled little less than two bottles of 70 proof per man per day. -- and with all that, they still wiped the floor with the French & Spanish fleets.


Chris Mason

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