Why is a ship a "she"?
and Bits & Pieces

The Merchant Navy Man | The unusual dog Bamse | Did you know?

We always call a ship a "she" and not without a reason.
For she displays a well-shaped knee regardless of the season.
She scorns the man whose heart is faint and doesn't show him pity.
And like a girl she needs the paint to keep her looking pretty.

For love she'll brace the ocean vast, be she a gig or cruiser.
But if you fail to tie her fast you're almost sure to lose her.
On ships and dames we pin our hopes, we fondle them and dandle them.
And every man must know his ropes or else he cannot handle them.

Be firm with her and she'll behave when skies are dark above you.
And let her take a water wave - praise her, and she'll love you.
That's why a ship must have a mate; she needs a good provider.
A good strong arm to keep her straight, to comfort her and guide her.

For such she'll brace the roughest gales and angry seas that crowd her.
And in a brand new suit of sails no dame looks any prouder.
The ship is like a dame in that she's feminine and swanky;
You'll find the one that's broad and fat is never mean and cranky.

Yes ships are ladylike indeed, for take them altogether
the ones that show a lot of speed can't stand the roughest weather.

(Author unknown)

The Merchant Navy Man

This was found in an old magazine, which said it was written by an unknown Englishman early in the war, probably 1941/'42. I've since been told by a visitor to my site that in Bill Linskey's book "No Longer Required" there is a very similar version of the poem, credited to an Alfred Benjamin, of Newfoundland, Canadian able seaman deceased 1941.

You have seen him in the street, staggering on groggy feet,
you have seen him clutch the pavement for support.
You have seen him arm in arm with a maid of doubtful charm
who was leading Johnny "safely" into port.

You have shuddered in disgust as he grovelled in the dust,
you have shuddered when you saw him on the spree.
BUT - you haven't seen the rip of his lonely dismal ship
ploughing furrows through a mine infested sea.

You have cheered our naval lads in their stately iron-clads,
you have spared a cheer for Tommy Atkins too.
You have shuddered in a punk when you read: Big Mail Boat Sunk",
but you never cared a damn about the crew.

You mourned the loss of every steamer, and the cost it made you brood,
but you never said: Well Done, Sailor" to the man who brought you food.
He brings your wounded home through a mine infested zone,
he ferries all your troops across at night.
He belongs to no brigade, he is neglected, underpaid,
BUT he's always in the thickest of the fight.

He fights the lurking Hun with his eighteen pounder gun,
he will ruin Adolf Hitler's little plan.
He is a HERO - He is a NUT, he is a blinding limit - BUT

See also Michael Homboe's poem A Medal with the wrong side up (external link - it can be found in Norwegian on my own website).

The unusual dog Bamse:
It's well known that many ships had pets on board. Bamse was a St. Bernhard dog who 'lived' on the minesweeper Thorodd, and belonged to Erling Hafto, captain of Thorodd. Bamse (meaning bear or teddybear) was the largest dog in the allied naval forces. If he was not allowed to come ashore with the sailors he would take matters in his own hands, wander down to the bus stop at Broughty Ferry Rd. and simply catch the bus into Dundee. He knew where to get off, namely near his friends' favourite bar, the Bodega Bar. If he didn't find them there he would catch the bus back to base. On occasion he would run across some of his pals who had perhaps had a drink too many, and had his own special way of taking care of them. If tempers were brewing, with resulting fights, Bamse would gently put his paws on the mens' shoulders and calm them down, then lead them back to their ship.

He died on one of the ships in Montrose (not far from Aberdeen, Scotland) on July 22-1944 and that's where he's buried. The locals take good care of his grave, which has a large, white cross with his name painted in blue and the text depicting him as a faithful friend to all who served aboard Norwegian ships. In connection with the 40 year anniversary for his death, Scottish newspapers had several articles about him, with pictures of him and his grave. He's also mentioned in a book about ship animals, entitled "Skipshunden Bamse og andre hunder" (The Ship's Dog Bamse and other Dogs) by Ottar Obstad.

On Sept. 30-1984 he was post humously "awarded" Norges Hundeorden (a special award for dogs) for his war services on Thorodd from Febr. 9-1940 until his death on July 22-1944. He had previously been awarded the English Dickin Medal (the animals' Victoria Cross). See also my page about Thorodd and this posting to my Ship Forum.

Here's a similar story (external link)

Did you know....
that "Mayday, Mayday" originates from the French "m'aidez" which means "help me"?

that seagulls were protected by law in Gt. Britain after the 1st world war because they could "report" the presence of a U-boat by the way they flocked together above it?

that the term ‘displacement’ comes from Archamedes principle, which states that the upthrust on a vessel is equal to the mass of the volume of water displaced, and until the mass of displaced water equals the weight of the ship, the ship will sink. The displacement will decrease or increases according to what is placed on board, or taken off the ship, so that it's virtually impossible to quote a 'correct' number. That's why different sources often give different displacement values.

that the question of awarding Norwegian war medals to British citizens came up in 1982 and 1983, but was categorically rejected both times by The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, saying it was "a decision taken personally by the Sovereign based on traditional honours policy which indeed dates back four centuries to Queen Elizabeth I". However, in 1984 Australian authorities gave their citizens permission to receive the Krigsmedaljen and Deltagermedaljen (see my War Medals page), but on condition that these are regarded as private, and are not to be worn for official appearances.

that the word "knot" (as in a ship doing 10 knots) originates from...

and when did the custom of using champagne to christen a ship start? Answer is here..

Merchant Fleet Main Page


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