Black Tot Day

Measuring out the tot (diorama aboard HMS Belfast)

The grog tub of HMS Cavalier

Black Tot Day (31 July 1970) is the name given to the last day on which the Royal Navy Issued sailors with a daily rum ration (the daily tot).

In the 17th century, the daily drink ration for English sailors was a gallon of beer. Due to the difficulty in storing the large quantities of liquid that this required, in 1655 a half pint of rum was made equivalent and became preferred to beer. Over time, drunkenness on board naval vessels increasingly became a problem and the ration was formalised in naval regulations by Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740 and ordered to be mixed with water in a 4:1 water to rum ratio and split into two servings per day.

In the 19th century, there was a change in the attitude towards alcohol due to continued discipline problems in the navy. In 1824 the size of the tot was halved to a quarter pint in an effort to improve the situation. In 1850, the Admiralty’s Grog Committee, convened to look into the issues surrounding the rum ration, recommended that it be eliminated completely. However, rather than ending it the navy further halved it to an eighth of a pint per day, eliminating the evening serving of the ration.[2] This led to the ending of the ration for officers in 1881 and warrant officers in 1918.

On 17 December 1969 the Admiralty Board issued a written answer to a question from the MP for Woolwich East, Christopher Mayhew, saying “The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual’s tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people’s lives may depend”. This led to a debate in the House of Commons on the evening of 28 January 1970, now referred to as the ‘Great Rum Debate’, started by James Wellbeloved, MP for Erith and Crayford, who believed that the ration should not be removed. The debate lasted an hour and 15 minutes and closed at 10:29pm with a decision that the rum ration was no longer appropriate.

31 July 1970 was the final day of the rum ration and it was poured as usual at 6 bells in the forenoon watch (11am) after the pipe of ‘up spirits’. Some sailors wore black armbands, tots were ‘buried at sea’ and in one navy training camp, HMS Collingwood, the Royal Naval Electrical College at Fareham in Hampshire, there was a mock funeral procession complete with black coffin and accompanying drummers and piper. The move was not popular with the ratings despite an extra can of beer being added to the daily rations in compensation.


I will Salute


Forty six years ago, I raised my right hand in a room full of strangers and pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I solemnly swore to do so while standing facing the flag that represents this country. For all of the years since then, that flag has played a central role in my life.

I watched her fly as a green recruit and came to understand she is more than just another piece of cloth. I watched her fly from the deck of many submarines and ships at bases all over the world. I listened with pride one night in Yokosuka Japan while a shipmate played Taps as we retired her for the day. I felt the crushing weight of seeing a comrade under her in a casket bound for home. I felt sadness at the deaths of so many veterans who also shared her…

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Ist Raider Battalion, Okinawa

1st Raider Battalion, Okinawa

I saw a man with a Marine Raider pin, Purple Heart, and other pins on his hat at Starbucks this morning. I walked up and said “Semper Fi, we respect your generation.” He told me “Semper Fi, 1st Raider Battalion, Alpha company, Okinawa.” If anyone knows anything about history, they know these men are made from the salt of the Earth.

He began telling me stories of when he got hit. He said he would load specific magazines with tracers because it would light the Japanese buildings on fire. He lit 3 buildings on fire, in a gunfight, and told me “those sons of bitches didn’t like that. They retaliated with a rocket. It killed my squad leader and the assistant gunner loading the belt. All I got was a chunk out of my hip. The Corpsman ran over and started working on me. Then they shelled our position so hard, it killed almost everyone. I don’t remember what happened over the next week of my life. I woke up in a hospital, and a doctor was sucking fluid out of my chest with a syringe. I guess I got hit in the chest with a machine gun. I lost a lung.” He started laughing and said “How does a man live to be 90 with just one lung? Hahaha.”

He then talked about recovery at a hospital in Guam. Two-hundred Japanese paratroopers were dropped and were killing friendlies around the area. He was given 2 choices. Stay and take his chances, or run and hide. He said he took out all the needles attached to his body out, put tape over his wounds, and hid for 24 days. After he was rescued, on a flight back to the US, another Marine handed him a Lucky Strike cigarette. He went to light it, and the doctor saw him. The doctor told him “what the hell is wrong with you? You only have one lung.” They then injected him with so much morphine, he passed out and woke in an American hospital.

He eventually recovered and tried to re-enlist, but he was medically retired. I helped him stand up and walked him to his vehicle, which is a golf cart on steroids. As he got in his vehicle, I shook his hand one last time and told him he was the saltiest Marine I have ever met in my life. He said “all my friends are saltier than I am. I’ve lived an amazing life, and I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing, it was the time of my life.” He then told me, I hope I see you around again young man, so we can bullshit.

This man made my year. This is a living piece of history, and he told the stories raw. I listened to him talk for an hour and a half, even though I had so much to do today. He made it a point to tell me about the bravest man he had ever known, that deserved to be remembered. He spoke of the Raider community doing great things. The last thing he said to me was “Semper Fi, Raiders never die.”

Thanks to the respect and kindness of a stranger in a coffee shop, the legacy of this veteran and his fallen comrades will live on through the stories he told. Next time you see a decorated veteran, make both their day and yours and ask them about their service to our country. You might be surprised what you learn.




This is for the stokers of old

Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea,

And watched the warships pulling out, to keep his country free.

And most of us have read a book, or heard a lusty tale,

About the men who sail these ships, though lightning, wind, and hail.

But there’s a place within each ship, that legend fails to teach.

It’s hot below the waterline, it takes a living soul…

A hot metal living hell, that sailors call the Hole.

It houses engines run by steam, that makes the shafts go round,

A place of fire and noise and heat, that beats your spirit down.

Where boilers like a hellish heart with the blood of angry steam,

Are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.

Whose threat that from the fire roar, is like living doubt,

That any minute would with scorn, escape and crush you out.

Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in hell,

As ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.

The men who keep the fires lit, and make the engines run,

Are strangers to the world of light, and rarely see the sun.

They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,

Their aspect pays no living thing, the tribute of a tear.

For there’s not much that men can do, that men haven’t done.

Beneath the decks, deep in the hole to make engines run.

For every hour of every day, they keep the watch in hell,

For if the fires ever fail, their ship’s a useless shell.

When ships converge to have a war, upon the angry sea,

The men below just grimly smile at what their fate might be.

They’re locked below like men fore-doomed. Who hear no battle cry,

It’s well assured that if they’re hit, the men below will die.

For every day’s a war down there, when the gauges all read red,

Twelve hundred pounds of superheated steam can kill you mighty dead.

So if you ever write their sons, or try to tell their tale,’

The very words would make you hear, a fired furnace wail.

And people as a general rule, don’t hear of men of steel,

So tittle’s heard about the place, that sailor call the hole.

But I can sing about this place, and try to make you see,

The hardened life of men down there, cause one of them is me.

I’ve seen those sweat-soaked heroes fight, in superheated air,

To keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they’re there.

And thus they’ll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,

Amid the boilers might heat and the turbines hellish rear.

So when you see a ship pull out, to meet a warlike foe,

Remember faintly if you can, “The men who sail below.”

By “The unknown Stoker”


What is a Snipe???

I found this in my WHEEL BOOK from somewhere from ’66-’69


Snipes come in assorted sizes, shapes, weights and colors.

They can be found in Fire Rooms, Oil Labs, Engine Rooms, Evaporator Spaces,

Machine Shops, Generator Rooms, Boat Shops and occasionally in their racks

but never above the third deck.

A snipe is happiest with a wrench in his hand, sadness with a salty feed bottom, mysterious as he pours over a blueprint and the hope of the future with sweat on his brow.

Snipes like water, liberty call, NSFO, chocolate cake, lusty broads, coffee, payday,

cold weather, German beer and each other.

They dislike airdales, the tropics, air ops, unrep, flat chested broads, aviators, O.D.’s boatswains

mates and more airdales.

An examination of the contents of a snipes locker will usually turn up of the following objects:

A wallet with $2.00, an ID card, 3 Geneva Convention Cards, 19 pictures of his family, the latest reject from the bureau stating that 11 years sea duty are not quite enough time for shore duty, one screwdriver, some assorted nuts and bolts, a grease pencil with no grease, a “WHEEL” book full of dates decipherable only to him, 2 band aids and a glob of substance known affectionately as “MONKEYSHIT”.

You may lock him out of the log room but you cannot keep him out of your heart—for a SNIPE can raise your strong morals and give you a fresh outlook on life with these simple words:::

“I got the (&*^##(&*&^#!@ thing back on the line SIR”!!

Larry Baasch


The Land That Made Me, Me

Who would have ever believed Seventy Four Years?

The Land That Made Me, Me

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,


July 18, 1944


Before the days of Dylan, or the dawn of Camelot.

There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born,

Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.

We longed for love and romance, and waited for our sense,

Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one’s seen him since.

My two younger brothers and me.


We danced to ‘Little Darlin,’ and sang to ‘Stagger Lee’

And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,

And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see

A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,

July 1961

And when they made a movie, they never made it twice..

We didn’t have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,

Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,

And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,

And Oprah couldn’t talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had our share of heroes, we never thought they’d go,

At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.

My wife and me

Japanese Driver’s License

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,

And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,

My mother, sisters, and me

And Airplanes weren’t named Jefferson, and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,

Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never heard of microwaves or telephones in cars,

And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and ‘gay’ meant fancy-free,

And dorms were never co-Ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We hadn’t seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,

And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,

And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

T-Birds came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,

And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,

And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,

We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea

Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,

And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,

And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we’ve heard them say,

And now instead of Maybelline, we swear by Retin-A.

They send us invitations to join AARP,

We’ve come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,

And wonder why they’re using smaller print in magazines.

And we tell our children’s children of the way it used to be,

Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.







By Garland



Hiraeth (pronounced [hiraɪ̯θ]) is a Welsh word which means ‘nostalgia’, or, more commonly, ‘homesickness’. Many Welsh people claim ‘hiraeth‘ is a word which cannot be translated, meaning more than solely “missing something” or “missing home.”

I ran across this word in one of my sojourns through the dictionary. Yes, I thumb, actually scroll, through a dictionary from time to time. It kinda describes how I feel about our Navy, the ships homeported in Asian ports, and the ports we called in. Just some of the things that come to mind.