At around the same time This England was first published, the Royal Navy was undergoing many changes. Not only were new classes of ships being built and commissioned but living conditions on board them became vastly improved. Cafeteriastyle messing was introduced, stainless steel lockers replaced canvas kitbags, and hammocks, used for sleeping since before Nelson’s time, became redundant to be replaced by fitted bunks and mattresses.
Hammocks Remembered The wardroom steward no longer serves pink gins, Officers’ stripes no longer have colours in between, Sailors would wait for “Up Spirits!” then sink a midday tot, The ship’s cat, or dog, or monkey was allowed to go below. What happened to the hammock? Only Navy sailors know.
Kitbag on your shoulder and hammock safe in hand, When joining a new ship your slinging billet was always first in mind. A stanchion to pull-up on, a mess deck table to put feet down on, Over 80 snugly swinging hammocks, to and fro. What happened to the hammock? Only old salts know.
Lashings, clews and nettles, wooden stretchers carved in vees, Rigid and upright in the netting, pliable and form-shaped when correctly slung, A well-lashed hammock could stay afloat and save your life, In Which We Serve, filmed in black and white, was not made just for show. What happened to the hammock? Only timeless seas know.
Scrubbed with pusser’s hard to make the canvas soft and white, You “slung your mick” before you went ashore, But bunks, and more bunks, were fitted for everyone in rows. The boatswain’s mate no longer pipes, “Wakey! Wakey! Lash Up And Stow!” For hammocks, like cooks to the galley, have gone long ago.