Cheers, ma’am: Navy chief issues rum order in honor of Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

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First rum issue, Junior Rates onboard HMNZS Endeavour, 1988, provided by the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Royal New Zealand Navy

First rum issue, Junior Rates onboard HMNZS Endeavour, 1988, provided by the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Sailors were in high spirits at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland as staff were ordered to drink shots of rum to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

Things understands Navy Chief Rear Admiral David Proctor issued the order to “hitch the main accolade” this week, which is traditional Navy jargon for drinking rum.

The term refers to the age of sailboats. The main brace was a vital element used to sail a ship and had to be repaired if damaged, even during the heat of battle.

National Navy Museum researcher Michael Wynd said the repair was known to be hard work and so often an extra ration of rum was given when completed.

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To date, when the order is given, Navy personnel are allowed a tot of rum — the equivalent of an eighth of a pint or about three standard drinks, Wynd said.

Delivering rum aboard HMNZS Taranaki on October 16, 1964.

Royal New Zealand Navy

Delivering rum aboard HMNZS Taranaki on October 16, 1964.

Officers are allowed to drink the rum straight, but ships’ hands are given a watered down version called “grog”.

Wynd knew about this week’s order and had his cup ready.

The Devonport base houses 2,500 personnel on duty.

Wynd has been ordered to imprint three times in the 15 years since joining the Navy as a researcher.

The last time was in December 2020 when Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy gave the order to celebrate the commissioning of HMNZS Aotearoa.

JASON DORDAY/STUFF

The commissioning of the Navy’s newest vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa, at Devonport Naval Base, Auckland. (Video published in July 2020)

The Governor General also made this order in 2009 when the Navy won a Gold Medal from the Business Excellence Foundation. Celebrations were held in the gymnasium.

“Usually I’m not a drinker, but I like tradition. I have to say the rum was strong and we had to drink it right away,” Wynd said.

By tradition, sailors must consume their rum immediately under supervision. Indeed, in the days of daily rum rations, the Navy wanted to prevent sailors from saving their rations to get drunk.

Only NCOs and NCOs were allowed to take their rum to their quarters.

The New Zealand Navy was the last in the world to stop giving its sailors a daily ration of rum, only ending the practice in 1990.

The question of rum was daily in 1964.

Royal New Zealand Navy

The question of rum was daily in 1964.

Wynd said rum rationing was debated in the 1950s after the Treasury complained about the cost, but the government at the time felt it was tradition that should be left behind.

Sailors who preferred not to drink could instead accept payment. In the 1960s, it was recorded as three cents a day, which would still be only about $10 a week in today’s value.

“However, it was ultimately considered that having a daily ration of rum was inconsistent with the Navy’s expectation of personnel to operate the machinery,” Wynd said.

Have you ever attended a “splice the main splint” celebration? Contact [email protected]

Wynd said rum rations likely started as a way to entice people to serve in the navy and just got stuck in modern times.

When the tradition began in 1731, rum was given in equal parts morning and evening and the daily ration was 300ml.

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