THE Royal Navy has an expression that originates from the old days of sailing ships and always evokes memories and satisfying smiles from wizardly old seafarers to young greenhorns alike.
That Order is “Spice the Mainbrace”. The Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton carried out the order recently to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year in true naval fashion!
Base Warrant Officer Steve Uzzell and his willing band of helpers exchanged their 21st century uniforms for traditional Victorian period costume to issue the “tot” to personnel from across the base.
“The Rum issue used to be a daily institution for everyone eligible in the Royal Navy up until the early 1970’s," he said.
"It was abolished after concerns that regular intakes of alcohol would lead to unsteady hands when working modern complicated machinery. The tradition of the tot is reserved for special celebrations when the occasion arises."
The order dates back to the days of sail when an extra ration of rum was issued for sailors who completed the difficult task of splicing the mainbrace.
The Mainbrace being the large rope which held the ships masts upright. It was one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs on board during the heat of battle and as such, the sailors were rewarded by an extra ration of rum.
Only Her Majesty the Queen, members of the Royal Family or the Admiralty Board can give the official order – on this occasion it was given by the Queen to thank the Senior Service for their contribution to the Jubilee celebrations.
In a personal message to the Naval Service, Her Majesty said: “Please convey my warm thanks to all those who serve in the Royal Navy for their kind message of loyal greetings, sent on the occasion of my official birthday and the 60th anniversary of my accession to the throne.
“In this Diamond Jubilee year, Prince Philip and I send our good wishes to you all. Splice the mainbrace.”
The first tot issue is usually reserved for the youngest eligible member of the Ship’s company.
The privilege on this occasion went to Air Engineering Technician Sam Lyndon, 19 from Horndean near Portsmouth.
Sam joined the Royal Navy 10 months ago and comes from a long line of sailors who’d seen service ashore and afloat.
Both his father who had seen action in the Falklands and granddad, who served during World War 2, had experience of the daily rum ration.
Sam said: “It was surprising to be the youngest in HMS Heron and I wasn’t prepared for all the attention I received.
"It was an enormous honour to be part of its history and carry on the tradition.”
Sam will complete his training on the Lynx helicopter before going onto 702 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton.