Crossing the Line
Crossing the line Ceremonies. Photos and details of the ceremony of crossing the line on naval ships. Details of the ceremonies that take place on naval ships when they cross the equator, or 'cross the line'.
The details of the ceremony below are from HMS Ajax on its cruise of 1935 - 1937, on the occasion of crossing the equator off the west coast of South America, 1st September 1936. We have several photos throughout the site taken from various crossing the line ceremonies on many ships.
Crossing The Line Ceremony
The Night Before
Herald. Ahoy there. What ship is that and where are you bound?
Captain. His Britannic Majesty?s Cruiser Ajax from Bermuda bound for south American Ports. Who are you?
Herald. I am the Herald of his Oceanic Majesty, King Neptune, and I wish to come aboard.
Captain. I will stop the ship. Stop both. My engines are stopped.
(Herald appears and bows to the bridge)
Captain. By what right do you challenge us upon the High Seas.
Herald. By command of my Royal Master, Lord of the Ocean.
Captain. I crave His Majesty?s pardon, and request permission to enter His Equatorial Domain.
Herald. Royal Neptune bids you welcome, together with your crew, but will demand the homage, which is due. For he Decrees that all who cross the Line must first be shaved and then baptized in brine; save those who having passed this way before and in accordance with our Ancient Law, have shared in our time honoured Mysteries and been presented with The Freedom of the Seas. Are you prepared to swear to our Recorder, that everybody?s papers are in order?
Captain. Nay, Sir Herald, this I cannot do for there are novices among our crew. Yet everyone is keen to play his part when the good King Neptune gives the word to start.
Herald. Tis well. His Majesty commands that you will cause a muster of all hands to greet him and his court from down below, tomorrow at 0-nine-double-0, at that hour with his Queen Exquisite. My Lord and Master come to pay his visit attended by his bears and retinue, to see that every novice has his due.
Chief of Police. Avast. Belay, and likewise stop the bus. Thus far you seem to have forgotten us King Neptune?s Maritime Constabulary, of whom we warn all persons to be wary. My satellites and I will search the ship to see that no one gives our bears the slip. All papers will be subject to close scrutiny, and woe to him unwise enough to mutiny.
Herald. Silence, Bears. And now hear one and all, at nine tomorrow we shall pay our call, and so we leave you with this greeting Farewell! To our next merry meeting.
The next day
0845. Clear lower deck. Everybody aft. Officers athwart ships, immediately abaft ?Y? turret. Captain and Commander in front.
0900. Procession starts from starboard waist. R.M. Band and Buglers on ?X? gun deck. When the head of the procession reaches the quarterdeck, Buglers sound the ?Still.? Band begins a Processional March and continues until court is assembled in position.
Captain. (Bowing of Neptune.) Our humble Duty, Sire, may we with one accord welcome you and your lovely Queen onboard. May I crave pardon for my gallant crew for being nearly twelve months overdue in making our appearance at your Court, to pay respectful homage as we ought; but we have been preoccupied of late with certain little business of State, which took us to a much more hostile region where we enlisted in the ?Foreign Legion.? That work completed, we are back again seeking once more to enter your Domain, so bid your Bears ?Lay On,? you?ll find us tough, and damned be he who first cries, ?Hold, enough.?
Neptune. Well spoken, Ajax, I give you hearty greetings for many moons I?ve waited for this meeting. Upon this Day of days do I renew old friendships, and make friendships new. Since you sped eastward at your King?s behest I?ve watched you with the keenest interest. In all your journeying in Eastern waters, in all your dallying with Egypt?s daughters, in all your games, from the day you beat the Hood, I?ve seen you-knew you to be good. And though tis true you never won a pot from all that fleet, they chose you to be yacht, for no less person than the C-in-C, oh Queen Elizabeth what a blow to thee. You made firm friends with Officers and Ranks of t? gallant Twentieth, the Fusiliers from Lancs; while everywhere you?ve been, when you departed someone, somewhere, has been left broken hearted. And now you?re back once more upon this Station in work and play keep up your reputation, so, when you meet your Admiral and the rest, you?ll impress upon them who is really ?Best.?
(Bears growl noisily.)
Neptune. Silence, ye Bears, forgive the dreadful pun, I know you?re anxious for your little fun. (To Ship?s Company.) But ere we start upon our royal sport, methinks I?ll introduce you to my court. First, me behold. Neptune is I, the Might, and then my Queen, the peerless Amphitrite. Now mark ye well my famous Chief of Police. Who?ll never countenance a breach of peace. The Motto of his Force is ?Get your Man? and tis their boast they carry out their plan. Nor rank nor size can cause them to desist in arresting any persons who resist. These will they carry by the shortest path before my Court of justice, then-the Bath! But meet my Doctor, who, with tasty pills will keep you fit and cure you of all ills, and then our barbers, who with soap and brush, will leave your skin just like a maiden?s blush. (To Amphitrite.) Speaking of mermaids, where are our girls today?
Amphitrite. I know the Ajax, so bade them stay away. These fellows here, their fame has travelled far, and Neppy dear, you know what sailors are. There is a chance, too, that the pretty dears might give the younger element ideas.
Neptune. Ah well, my dear, no doubt you?re quite correct, in all we do we should be circumspect, and this is not the time nor yet the place to be distracted by a pretty face.
(To ship?s Company.) My introductions are not yet complete; my bodyguard are hungry for their meat.
(Bears growl noisily.)
Then when the preliminaries are braved and every trembling novice has been shaved, we pass them from our famous Rocking Chairs to the tender mercies of our Bears.
Who everlasting seeking for a meal will do their task with energy and zeal. So, when our Ancient Mysteries you?ve learned and by your grit and courage you have earned our approbation, then it shall us please, to confer on you ?The Freedom of the Seas.?
(Fanfare of Trumpets.)
But other matters we would now attend bring Captain Thomson, an old and trusted friend.
(Herald brings Captain Thomson before Neptune. Announces:
Captain Colin Sinclair Thomson, Royal Navy.)
Captain Thomson I am very glad to meet you at my Court again, my lad. Indeed, I?m proud to clasp you by the hand and compliment you on a very fine command, but in addition to my greetings warm I have a pleasant duty to perform, this being the twelfth time you?ve crossed my border, I now invest you with this Ancient Order.
(Presents Captain with ?The Order of the Trident.?)
Herald. Commander John Edmund Sissmore, Royal Navy.
Neptune. A Commander?s thankless task, what? ere his plans is usually to carry someone?s cans; but I appreciate your heart of gold, disclosed when yards of flannel are unrolled, so, in return for all your deeds untold, I give you just another can to hold.
(Presents Commander with ?The Order of the Periodical Can.?)
Herald. Commander (E) John Frederick Ward Tamplin, Royal Navy.
Neptune. The normal duties of a Chief I find are of a very wide and diverse kind; steam, water, oil, electric power supply and catapults to help those men who fly; addicted to the Cine-Camera, and so to show you how it pleases me I invest you with the Cine (E).
(Presents Commander (E) with ?The Order of the Cine (E).?)
Herald. Paymaster-Commander B. H. Bowen, royal Navy.
Neptune. Fish is fish and ?pi? is ?pi,? and ne?er the twain shall meat. So try to keep them separate and give the lads a treat; and trusting that in future, to do this you will try I invest you with ?The Most Exalted Order of Fish Pi.?
(Presents Paymaster-Commander with ?The Order of Fish Pi,? with ?Roll Collar.?)
Herald. Major E. J. O. Ellison, royal Marines.
Neptune. The rumour that has just been going round says, very shortly you?ll be Homeward bound; and though, before, an unkind fate delayed yer I?ll do the best I can for you, dear Major. This little ship comes from your faithful Corps who wishes you many happy days in store.
(Presents Major Ellison with ?The Blue Funneller.?)
Herald. Flight-Lieutenant John Dalyell Stead.
Neptune. Often when I?m sleeping in my bed I?m roused by hideous noises overhead, and as tis you who causes me to rise to see a strange contraption in the skies, to make your takings off less difficult, I present to you this little Catapult.
(Presents flight Lieutenant Stead with ?The Order of the Catapult.?)
Herald. Petty Officer Harrison.
Neptune. By boats of divers things, both real and feigned, a certain reputation you have gained, for when a story teller?s yarn is done you usually cap it with a bigger one; instead of giving you the ?Outsize Crumpet? I shall bestow on you this little trumpet.
Herald. Able Seaman Parrett.
Neptune. From the time this strange old World began I?ve always loved the hearty trencherman. A man to whom his food is such a joy, he?ll go the second time round the buoy. Good men like you are few upon this planet so please accept ?The Order of the Gannet.?
(Presents A.B. Parrett with ?The Order of the Hungry Gannet.?)
Herald. Shipwright Pilcher.
Neptune. As Lord of all the Seas, upon my throne I have to lend an ear to many a moan; invariably the answer that I give, ?To err human-tis noble to forgive,? So gaze on this, you?ll find it well worthwhile, the order of the everlasting smile.
Herald. O Mighty Neptune, the Ocean?s rightful Lord, this ends the list of those you would reward; the court must to the Bath; each at his station all ready to perform initiation.
Neptune. From here then, to the Bath, where I will wait to give a welcome to each candidate unless he misbehave; in that event, severe but just will be his punishment. And when my Court and I have done our task a favour, Captain Thomson, I would ask, that to your merry crew you will extend, today, the privilege of a ?Make and Mend.?
(Fanfare of Trumpets.)
In Position Lat. 00-00 North
Long 80-35 West.
WARRANT NUMBER 3.
Whereas it has been represented to me by a Competent Member of King Neptune?s Maritime Police, that H. STRUDWICK, Leading Seaman:
CLASS FOR CONDUCT?IRREGULAR
CHARACTER ASSESSED TO DATE?BOLD AND BAD CLASS FOR LEAVE?ALWAYS OVER THE SIDEDED Act in a manner to the prejudice and good order and Oceanic discipline in that he had attempt t disguise himself with a view to evading His Majesty?s bodyguard, by removing from his face his natural chin covering of seaweed.
I hereby adjudge him to be GUILTY and sentence him to BE REFUSED ADMITTANCE TO ANY UNDERSEA CABARET FEATURING SHRIMPS AND NYMPHS TO BE LATHERED IN PINK AND TO BE STEEPED IN BRINE UNTIL HE IS BLUE.
Before awarding the foregoing Punishment, I did NOT investigate the matter, and heard NO evidence in support of the Charge, nor what the accused had to offer in his defence, but I consider the Charge to be substantiated against him. Taking into consideration that this is the SECOND Offence registered against him in the Conduct Book, I adjudge him to be punished as afore stated.
Given under my hand onboard H.M.S. Ajax, at the Equator on the First Day of September 1936.
E. J. Dale.
(Chief of Police and Maritime Judge.)
Neptune S.P.O. Diment
Amphitrite A.B. Dunning
Herald Mr E.H.H. Rampling, Warrant Engineer
Chief of Police P.O. Dale
Doctor Lieutenant-Commander Lambert
Doctor?s Assistant Musician Cook
Clerk of the World R.P.O. Warrin
Assistant Clerk of the World Leading-Seaman Dollery
Barbers Chief Shipwright Neville
Barbers Assistants Chief Yeoman Signals Harper
Court Trumpeters Musician Marks
Policemen Chief Cook Babey
Sergt. Hand, R.M.
Sergt. Towill, R.M.
Cpl. Ambridge, R.M.
Bears Surgeon-Commander Davis
Paymaster-Commander B. H. Bowen
Chief O.A. Brittain
Makers of Regalia Plumber Fletcher (Crowns and Trident)
Painting Painter Curtis
Staging, etc (which collapsed) Mr Butler (Warrant shipwright) and Staff
Court Costumiers Cpl Ambridge
State Chariot Shipwright?s Staff
Mr Swales, Commissioned Gunner
Below are photos from various crossing the line ceremonies, taken from our other pages, with links to the original page where they were lifted
HMS Anson - 1945 Click to View HMS Anson page
HMS Africa Click to View HMS Africa page
Crossing the Line Ceremony on HMS Africa.
HMS Revenge - 1941 Click to view HMS Revenge page
NEPTUNE VISITS H.M.S. REVENGE
the occasion of her crossing the ?Line? on Thursday, September 4th,
1941, H.M.S. Revenge was honoured by a visit from His Most Mythological
Majesty King Neptune of the Deep, an event which, for forty-eight hours
had been looked forward to with great anticipation, and it must be
confessed in some cases with great trepidation.
At 18.00 on the previous evening His Majesty?s Herald arrived with a message of welcome to His Majesty?s Domain , and to inquire into the state of the ship?s ledger. This last proved to be in a deplorable state, as no less than nine hundred men had failed to make the crossing. The Herald also gave permission to keep going without stopping the engines, this was greatly appreciated, especially by the Engine Room Department, who were thus saved the bother of starting them again.
King was expected to arrive on board at 10.00, and at 09.30 the Guard and
Band of the Royal Marine Messdeckdodgers? Association was paraded under
the command of Colour Colonel Jackson.
This officer is very well loved by his men, who appeared to be
afraid that he would tire himself out during his inspection.
This observation is based on the fact that several of them were
heard to remark, ?Sit down, Tom!?
the inspection, an ?exhibition? slow march was given by the Band, and
what an exhibition it was. Never
in the annals of history has it ever been done before as it was done that
day. The mass of spectators
looked on in amazement, and everyone agreed that the Band had brought the
difficult art of slow marching up to a high standard of inefficiency.
the sweet strains of the troop were filling the air, the Guard were
proving to all and sundry that they were true individualists.
This they were doing by means of the many and varied forms of stand
at ease they were using. The
only ?Wren? among them, Cpl. Dorothy
Dix-On, looked very graceful at the end of the line, but she rather spoilt
the effect by having her ?Teddy Bears? too loose, thus affecting the
usually svelte lines of her figure.
As the Guard began to look bored, the gallant Colour Colonel decided to give them a march round. He inquired whether the Band could play up 73rd. St., but the Bandmaster informed him that he thought there were only 52 of them so it was decided to just march round the Quarterdeck. At the debonair officer?s sharp word of command the members of the Guard moved smartly, some in one direction and some in another, but the C.C., being an expert card player, soon shuffled them out again, and they moved off behind the Band, which was playing the march ?H.M. Jollies,? at least so I am informed. The general effect of the march was somewhat marred by a sudden rain storm which came from a hose in the hands of an over enthusiastic ?matloe,? who apparently was unaware that there would be plenty of water for everyone before the day was out.
at 10.00 King Neptune, accompanied by his beautiful (and plentiful) Queen
Amphitrite, arrived on board, followed by a large retinue of Courtiers,
Police, Barbers and Bears. His
Majesty went straight to the Bridge, where he welcomed the Captain and
invested him with the Order of the Whistle While You Work.
This is an unique order and has seldom, if ever before, been
presented to a British Naval Officer.
leaving the Bridge the King made his way to the Quarterdeck, where, amid
much cheering, the Guard managed to present arms.
The Band played the salute (?You?d be far better off in a
home?) twice, once before the present, and once after it.
This was done to assure his Majesty that they really meant it.
Their Majesties then inspected the Guard, the Queen stopping to
whisper into the shell-like ear (sometimes known as the flop-lug) of our
the inspection was finished, the King mounted the dais which had been
erected for the occasion. This
awe inspiring structure had been built by that well known firm of
contractors, Messrs. Martin & Co., Unlimited.
It was a magnificent piece of work, being modelled on the famous
gallows at Pentonville, a place well known to many members of the firm.
pleasing addition to the structure was the model swimming pool at the
rear, which, whilst not quite up to Beverly Hill standards, was at least
capable of holding a lot of very wet water.
Upon mounting the dais His Majesty immediately held an investiture, the first name called being that of the Commander. Amid loud cheers, he was awarded the Order of ?The Hairy Marys, 1st Class,? an order which he really deserves. After the presentation the Commander made a short speech and called for three cheers for Their Majesties. These were given with a will, the King receiving them with his usual dignity, whilst the Queen acted with a becoming modesty seldom seen outside the purlieus of the Old Kent Road.
next name was that of Lieut.-Commander Wright, who, having crossed the
Line on thirty-eight previous occasions, was very fittingly presented with
the ?Freedom of the
Seas.? Alas, the honour was too much for this hoary old shellback.
Taking his freedom too literally, he kissed the Queen.
This act of ?lese majestie? caused a loud cry from the Police.
With a rush and a scramble, these gallant lads, under their able
Chief Wilkie, appeared on the scene and arrested the cringing culprit, who
later received the punishment he had earned.
On looking through the records, it appears that the offender is a
hopeless character, as it has been found necessary to duck him on each of
Allen, being the oldest man in the ship, was awarded the Order of the
?Hairy Marys, 2nd Class.? This ?venerable old gentleman,? as the
Clerk of the Court described him, tottered up to the platform leaning
heavily on the arms of some of his young messmates.
In a quavering voice, made more tremulous with. emotion and pride,
he thanked His Majesty for the honour bestowed upon him.
There was loud applause as the dear old fellow retired to his wheel
next award was a ?Learners? Badge,? which was presented to A.B.
Sherlock, who had served for twenty-eight years without once crossing the
Line. After being told that
he should be ashamed of himself, he was passed into the bath, there to
receive his first lesson at the hands, or should it be the paws, of the
Royal Bears. This was the
last award to be made, and the King declared his Royal Court of Justice to
The first case before the court was a very serious one. The First Lieutenant was charged with having dropped his anchor close to the Royal Heads, thereby affecting His Majesty?s health in an unpleasant manner. The accused did not deny the charge and so it was found proved. After being dosed by the Royal Physician and being lathered and shaved by the Royal Barbers to make sure he did not pollute the water, he was sent to join his anchor at the bottom of the deep.
second case was that of the Paymaster Commander who, by failing to keep a
sufficient supply of ?spuds? in the ship, had caused the Queen to go
very short of ?gash.?
This case was proved with ease. One
look at the Queen?s wilting form was enough to show that she had gone
short of something. Just as
sentence was about to be passed, the Queen, who is full of the milk of
human kindness, was heard asking in clear flute-like tones for a reprieve.
Some malicious persons started a rumour that she was afraid she
would go still more short if punishment was inflicted, but we prefer to
believe that it was her womanly instincts coming to the fore.
Her plea did not avail. Neptune
with his usual high regard for duty, decreed that the punishment should be
carried out. Just as the
ordeal was about to commence, the Queen leaned forward and kissed the
trembling prisoner on the brow, thus insuring herself against a further
appeared in the dock a fine strapping youth.
It was the Chief Physical Training Instructor.
It was pitiful to find such a fine figure of a man charged with the
heinous crime of causing a self-inflicted wound upon his person, but such
was the case. It seems that
whilst giving a display of sword swinging, he did, without consideration
for the feelings of his audience, cut himself so severely that the blood
flowed. Far from showing
shame, this base creature actually looked proud of his deed, and it was
with a feeling of great satisfaction that we saw a very fitting punishment
meted out to him.
fourth case was that of S.C.P.O. Ralph Pochon.
This treacherous caricature of Uriah Heep had supplied four bales
of cleaning rags, each one of which weighted half a ton.
Naturally, this had caused consternation and dismay among the
stokers, who had to carry as well as use them.
Also, he failed to make use of the time honoured naval term
?ain?t got none,? an expression he could have quite easily used, as
it generally comes automatically to his lips.
It was obvious that the prisoner had dressed himself with care for
the occasion, hoping no doubt to influence the court in his favour by
these means. If such was his
intention, it failed, and he went the way of all transgressors, much to
the apparent delight of several of the crowd.
sensation was caused when the name of Supply P.O. Phillipson was called.
He did not answer the summons, so Chief Wilkie and his men at once
set out on the track of the miscreant, and it was decided to proceed with
the next case, which was that of the Chief Yeoman of Signals.
note of drama was now introduced into the proceedings.
Information was laid against the Commissioned Gunner and it was
decided to charge him. Although
this desperado was known to have a secret stronghold, complete with Lewis
and Machine-guns, ammunition, bombs, etc., somewhere in the bowels of the
ship, Chief Wilkie and his intrepid men went forth bravely to apprehend
him. This they did without
bloodshed and everyone was so surprised that they forgot apparently to
make the charge, but as they carried out the punishment, everyone seemed
the hour of noon the King adjourned for lunch.
During this a certain person who had been observed religiously
carrying a certificate of crossing everywhere with him, is rumoured to
have used the said certificate in mistake for a table napkin.
lunch the court reassembled and proceedings were resumed.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was when the Police appeared
with a man lashed up in a hammock. It
seems that he refused to get out and accompany the Police, so they calmly
lashed him up in it and in consequence the hammock as well as the man was
cheers were given when a young fellow with his arm in a sling volunteered
to be initiated. On this
occasion the Bears showed a depth of feeling and consideration that was
almost human, if such a term can be applied to such ugly, uncouth beasts.
Incidentally one of the Bears, seemingly overcome by the amount of
salt water he had imbibed, imagined that he could fly.
Gracefully he rose out of the bath into the air, only to make a
precipitate one point landing on the deck.
He did not damage the deck, so all was well.
afternoon ended by the Queen making an involuntary swallow dive into the
bath, with most of the court landing on top of her.
It was called a swallow dive on account of the amount of water left
after she had finished.
the whole it was a very successful day, the Police only had one failure
recorded against them. This was when they failed to SHORT-CIRCUIT the
Torpedo Officer. Chief Wilkie, who was on the Quarterdeck keeping in touch
with CURRENT events, SWITCHED his men from POLE to POLE.
Time after time they would get a WIRE and would start out POSITIVE
that they would get their man. Time after time they came back to SHOCK us
with a NEGATIVE report. Although
they were inFUSED with zeal, it mattered not what LINE they took, they
could not run him to EARTH, so eventually they had to leave him to stew in
his own JUICE.
we congratulate Lieut.-Commander Wright and his able body of helpers on
the splendid way in which everything went off.
They had, very little time at their disposal, but in that time they
achieved perfection. A.J.S.
Published in The Magazine of H.M.S. REVENGE. Vol.1 June 1942 No. 2
Donated by Len Rose who was a member of HMS Revenge ship?s company