If no fresh meat was available, the meat ration would be a pound of salted pork, beef or fish. Salted meat was referred to as 'junk' and required soaking for many hours to remove the brine. Fresh vegetables would be part of this meal if available from ashore, if not, dried peas, rice or oatmeal would be put in with the meat. The cook of the mess during the forenoon could also have prepared a 'duff', this was flour mixed with dried fruit.
It was said that the only men that were allowed to whistle onboard a man of war were the ship's cook, as all the while he was whistling he could not spit into the food. The mess cook could also whistle as when he was preparing the duff, he could not eat the dried fruit at the same time.
At 1230 the mess cook would collect half of the daily ration of drink for his mess. This, depending on where the ship was in the world, could be 4 pints of beer or 1 pint of wine or a ¼ of a pint of rum or brandy. The spirit would be mixed with water and lemon juice, the lemon juice was to combat 'scurvy'. This midday ration should have been consumed as soon as issued, but the men would use it to buy or pay off favours carried out. Some men would save part of their midday ration to be added to the evening issue, so that it would have more effect. It would be men like these, that were worse for wear with drink, who would be tomorrow's candidates for punishment by the "cat-o'-nine tails" if they were caught.
On completion of the midday meal at 1330 (1.30pm) the watch on deck would return to their duties. The remainder not on watch would carry out training; gun drill on the "Great Guns", cutlass drill and so on. If the men were not required for these exercises they could try to mend their clothes or get some sleep between the guns. At 1600 (4pm) supper would be taken, unless some food had been saved from lunch, it was not very exciting apart from the consumption of the second half of the day's alcohol ration. It would be just a ship's biscuit with maybe a little butter and cheese, saved from their weekly ration of a pound of each.
If they had been at sea for any length of time the biscuits could be infested with weevils or maggots. This is why it was usually better to eat the biscuits in your hammock when the lanthorns (lamps) were out.
After supper the Royal Marine drummer would 'beat to quarters', this meant that each man had to go to the position he had been given when going into battle, this ensured that every man knew his position. The officers took this opportunity to inspect the men and their gear to ensure that all was in order.
On completion, 'Down Hammocks' would be piped; the men would go and fetch their own hammock from the position in the netting where they had left it in the morning. This had to be carried out in a very short time, 15 minutes on some ships; it is difficult to imagine the chaos of over 800 hammocks being moved and placed in their correct positions in such a short time.
At 2000 (8pm) the First watch would be set, the watch below could sleep until just before midnight, the idlers and waisters could sleep for the remainder of the night. At around 2100 (9pm) the Master at Arms and his corporals would patrol the ship, ensuring that all lanterns and fires were out and that no men were intoxicated. The Master at Arms did not usually retire until midnight.
For the watch on the deck at night, duties varied according to the weather and sea condition. If sailing plain, or it was relatively calm, one part of the watch would be stood down and sent below to shelter on the upper gun deck and await further orders. On these occassions some men would often take the the opportunity to steal some sleep. In heavy weather. or when wind shifts meant constant sail trimming, all hands would be turned out on deck ready to go to 'bracing stations'. When bracing the yards only a few men went aloft to trouble-shoot snagged ropes, other problems, or to lower topgallant yards or staysails. If sails needed to be reefed, taken in or let out, then the skilled topmen in the watch would go aloft to attend these duties. As this work required many people it was quite common to call 'all hands' for assistance from those off watch below. Working aloft in bad weather could be treacherous; a fall from the masts was often fatal.
Men who had jobs that required a great deal of concentration ie. The helmsman and lookouts were changed at regular intervals of maybe 30 minutes. This did not mean that they could go off watch, they just did another task that required less concentration.
The watch would be changed at midnight and again at 0400 (4am), and at daylight, the daily routine would start again. Although every day was basically the same as described, some Captains drew up orders as to specific tasks that were to be carried out on certain days of the week:
|Mondays||The men were to wash their clothes in the morning and drill with the "Great Guns" in the afternoon|
|Tuesday||In the morning, the hammocks are to be scrubbed, Marines are to exercise with muskets. In the afternoon, the seaman's bedding is to be aired.|
|Wednesday||The boats sails are to be scrubbed, exercise reefing and furling of sails. In the afternoon the Great Guns are to be exercised|
|Thursday||The men are to clean themselves and their clothes and be inspected by the officers. In the afternoon the men will make and mend their clothes|
|Friday||The men will wash their clothes and the Great Guns will be exercised both in the morning and afternoon|
|Saturday||The fire pump is to be used to wash the Poop. If the weather is dry, the Lower Deck and Orlop are to be scrubbed|
|Sunday||Men to draw clean hammocks and then dress in their best clothes and be inspected. A divine service will be held, or the Articles of War are to be read to the men. After this, except for ship emergencies, their time is free.|
Few Captains made detailed lists as shown but the various tasks would have been carried out during the week.
One group of the crew that has not been mentioned so far were the 'boys'. The youngest onboard Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar was 12, Thomas Twitchett. Although age was a big factor in deciding the rate of "boy" it did not necessarily mean that when you reached a certain age, you were no longer a "boy". Boys could enter service in various ways. The Marine Society sent a number of lads to sea each year, these were between thirteen and fifteen and had been given training in the basics of seamanship, could read and write and been given a certain amount of kit before they joined their designated ships. Some were 'recommended' to go to sea by Magistrates for petty crime and vagrancy. Some were beggars, snatching their living from the gutters of the large towns and cities; others could be sold into the Navy by their parents.
They would normally join as ship's "boys", they received £7 or £8 a year this was sufficient to keep them in clothing until they were strong enough to rank as seamen. They were generally put to do all the dirty and trivial work of the ship, such as cleansing the manger, or head (toilets). A number of them would have the dubious honour of being rated as servants to the Wardroom Officers, Warrant Officers and Midshipman. They were treated poorly; especially those allotted to the Midshipman who were not much older than themselves. Those who were not servants were bullied by the sailors who loved to act superior over someone.
If under 14 boys were allowed half the daily drink ration of the adult; they would be paid for the other half. Normally he would use his daily ration to 'purchase' little luxuries for himself. However, if he consumed his ration and got blind drunk, or in any way transgressed the rules of the Navy, he was flogged, not with the cat o' nine tails but with the boatswain's cane. He would normally live with the men as far as food and drink was concerned, but would normally sleep in a designated area away from the remainder of the crew. In action, he played his part, stationed at a gun, with orders to keep the gun supplied with powder cartridges from the magazine. Those who survived the brutality of their shipmates, the horrors of war and failed to desert from the service, in time became ordinary seamen, drawing 25s (£1.25) a month.
"Every man and boy borne on the books of any of His Majesty's ships are allowed as follows, viz. A pound of biscuit-bread and a gallon of beer per day; on Tuesday and Saturday 2lb of beef, or else 1lb of beef and 1lb of flour with plums for a pudding; (frequently four or six messes together, when for every two, 4lb of meat or pudding is allowed) on Thursdays and Sundays, every two has a 3lb piece of pork and each a pint of pease to boil into soup; the other three days are called banian days, in allusion to a people in Asia who always abstain from the use of animal food, and are known by the name of Banians; on each of these days we have 2 ozs of butter and ¼ lb. of Cheshire cheese; and on Wednesdays, a ½ pint of gort or ground oatmeal boiled into burgoo for breakfast, and a pint of pease to make soup for dinner; on Monday we have no pease, but have our burgoo for dinner. When ships are abroad and they cannot get beer, but have an allowance of that sort of liquor which the country produces in lieu thereof, viz. If they are on a long cruise in the home seas and their beer is expended, they have ½ a pint of brandy and 1½ pints of water mixed into grog; if they be in the West Indies, they have an equal quantity of rum-grog; in the East Indies, they, of arrack-grog, but in the Mediterranean seas or at the Cape of Good Hope, the daily allowance is a pint of white wine mixed with another of water, and served out at twice, either at breakfast and dinner or dinner and 4 o'clock in the afternoon." One man's interpretation of the provisions on the ships he served on.
It must be remembered that to idemnify himself against losses the Purser served only 14 ounces to the pound (16 ounces) and 7 pints to the gallon (8 pints). (This was one of the grievances at the mutinies at Spithead and Nore in 1797).