There is a nasty buzz running round the Fleet that the Royal Navy is having yet another of its traditions changed in the face of Equality and Human Rights Commission.
For years, before Nelson was a boy, Royal Navy officers’ Saturday night toast has been “Our Wives and Sweethearts” – which brings the unofficial reply of “May they never meet!”
However 23 years after women began serving at sea, that toast has been consigned to the history books and replaced with the more inclusive “Our Families”.
The change comes at the instruction of Second Sea Lord Vice-Admiral David Steel in a bid to reflect the changing gender balance of the navy’s Senior Service.
The traditional Tuesday night toast to “Our Men” has also been changed to “Our Sailors”.
A MoD spokesman said: “To reflect cultural changes and our modern and inclusive Navy, two of the Naval Toasts, used at mess dinners, have been updated.” “The Royal Navy values the diversity and range of its personnel and it is only right that its traditional toasts should reflect the fact that women have been at sea for over 20 years.”
In a Royal Naval wardroom the loyal toast is drunk seated, a tradition harking back to the days of low deckheads (ceilings) when standing to drink would have been painful.
The other daily toasts are:
Sunday “Absent Friends”
Monday “Our Ships at sea”
Tuesday “Our Men”
Wednesday “Ourselves (as no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare)”
Thursday “A bloody war or a sickly season”. (Thursday’s toast reflects the fact that during wartime or times of epidemic, there was more scope for promotion.)
Friday “A willing foe and sea room”
Saturday “Sweethearts and Wives (May they never meet)
Sunday “Absent Friends”
The Ministry of Defence via the Second Sea Lord have now issued the edict that Tuesday Toast must now be for “Our Sailors instead of “Our Men” and on Saturday the Toast must be “Our Families” (He did not make it clear if they should still use “may they never meet”.
One wag in the Andrew who was in agreement posted “Now before the old farts have a seizure, the thinking is sound. Our Sailors is OK, as we now have men, women and even Welshmen serving. Wives and Sweethearts, well in this case it removes the obvious gender issue and more importantly I feel means the families as a whole get a mention and thought. After we do bugger them around a lot.
My own feelings don’t really come into it as although I have served with quite a few Welshmen, I have never served aboard with women and was probably missing something. My only comment should be “haven’t they better things to do”? It does remind me of a great Sea Shanty:-
Well, me father always told me, when I was just a lad,
A sailor’s life was very hard, the food was always bad.
But now I’ve joined the Navy, I’m aboard a Man o’ War
And now I find a sailor ain’t a sailor any more.