RE: [usshipsoftheline] Re: Ships bells and time keeping
- Thanks for the information! Very enlightening, even to an old sailor.Pete Garrison STSC(SS) retired.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Michael J Brown
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2006 11:14 PM
Subject: [usshipsoftheline] Re: Ships bells and time keeping
--- In usshipsoftheline@ yahoogroups. com, "Brad" <bholderman@ ...> wrote:
>anyone have a summary or reference for time keeping aboard ship
> I posted this question over at the Royal Navy group as well, but I
> thought I would give this quiet group a stir.
> and theringing of bells? Also did this differ from country to
> Last question, were bells solely used for time keeping?
In general, I think the watch and bell systems were common from Navy
to Navy. In the Canadian Navy, the day is divided into 7 watches:
0000-0400 (Mid Watch)
0400-0800 (Morning Watch)
0800-1200 (Forenoon Watch)
1200-1600 (Afternoon Watch)
1600-1800 (First Dog)
1800-2000 (Second Dog)
2000-2359 (Evening Watch)
The First and Second Dog Watches were implemented to ensure that
sailors didn't repeat the same watch every day, instead standing one 2
hour watch every 3 to 4 watches stood.
At the end of first half hour of each watch, the bell was rung once,
at the end of the second, twice, end of the the third, three times,
etc up to eight bells, signifying the end of the watch.
Bells are also used in Canada (and other British Empire countries) for
Christenings (of babies, that is, not ships). The bell is inverted to
serve as the Baptismal Font, usually in the Wardroom.
In some Navies Bells are/were used instead of bos'n pipes to announce
the arrival of a notable on board. For example, in the US Navy, they
would have rung the bell, followed by the announcement "Commander
Canadian Fleet Arriving" to announce the arrival of the Commander of
the Canadian Pacific Fleet (CANCOMFLTPAC) .
I do believe bells were also used at one time as fire, emergency and
Here is a quotation to provide some historical background "Before the
chronometer was invented, time at sea was measured by the trickle of
sand through a half-hour glass. One of the ship's boys had the duty of
watching the glass and turning it when the sand had run out. When he
turned the glass, he struck the bell as the signal that he had
performed this vital function. It is likely that the practice of
striking the bell once at the end of the first half hour of a four-
hour watch, twice after the first hour, etc., until eight bells marked
the end of the four-hour watch, evolved from this practice". [Lt.(N)
Graeme Arbuckle, "Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Navy, p.47,
Commander MARCOM, Halifax: 1984].
Hope this helps.