BRNC - COLLEGE LINGO. AN AGEING OUT's REFRESHER: Here we have a retrospective guide to the (then) newly discovered words, phrases and sayings liberally bandied about during Term One. As if we did'nt have enough to worry about, we had to learn a new language too.
This guide has been drawn up to assist those of us who may now only have a vague memory of our time at BRNC, despite all that counselling though, some words and phrases live on in the memory and can be trotted out at will to confuse the average civilian......
It has been illustrated using a "virtual" Midshipman, for arguments sake let’s call him Mr Grise, and let's set the scene. He is probably best placed in Blake Division as a safe repository for those aspiring naval officers blessed with ambition, purpose, good humour and an underlying sense of general bewilderment.
In alphabetical order then;
“Adrift” – Being late for anything in the Andrew. During Weeks 1 - 4 this word, previously used only to describe Robinson Crusoe’s situation, became well known to every new entrant. E.g. “Mr Grise was adrift for Divisions Chief, as he had one too many pints in Floaters.
“Andrew (The)” – An Informal name given to the Royal Navy. Used extensively by seniors during our early days at BRNC to impress the new entrant with their accumulated knowledge and command of naval slang and terminology.
"Bimble (V)" - To bimble was one of the most heinous crimes for New Entrants at BRNC. Bimbling involved moving oneself anywhere in a casual style befitting that of a civilian. I.e. no purpose, no zeal, no style and no order. Basically then it's a casual stroll or amble if you will, but casual strolling/ambling = bimbling = increased liklihood of being adrift!
“Bulling” – A ritual in itslef, bulling is a service method of polishing boots and shoes which was passed on to Midshipmen by their Upper Yardie colleagues. Bulling involves the application of spit, Kiwi polish, a very black finger and weeks of practice. After bulling one’s shoes to the perfect shine, they would normally be trodden on by a colleague within seconds of mustering to march on for Divisions. See Hands to Punching Stations.
“BZ” – Pronounced “Bee Zed”, this is naval terminology for a job well done. BZ is short for "Bravo Zulu" - from the NATO signal book of 2 letter codes. Rarely, if ever, heard mentioned during any activity involving Midshipman Grise. For example, among others, see entry under Fenders!
“Charlies” - A punishment routine involving early morning physical activity (not the good kind), late night study, odd additional uniform embelishments, (see White Webbing) and lots of doubling around the college. Surely a badge of honour amongst all Midshipmen? No self respecting first termer would be spiritually complete without the experience of a good dose of Charlies.
“CJH” – Similar to other degenerative brain diseases such as CJD, CJH (or Caspar John Hall to give it it's scientific name) was a state of comatose inactivity during which the brain shut down and incontrollable snoring and drooling resulted. CJH usually only afflicts midshipmen for periods of around 1 hour although it has been known for some to spend most of a day in this condition. Usually CJH was cured by a further dose of Charlies.
“Dhobey” – A term used for washing oneself or one’s clothing. Used extensively while at BRNC as just about everything in the college was subjected to a degree of dhobeying throughout the term. Midshipmen could buy magical Dhobey Dust from the NAAFI with which to ensure their battledress uniform maintained its crisp polyester sheen and indeed could be used neat to scrub the heavy duty white cap covers which were in fashion at the time.
“Divisions” – Initially a confusing routine of standing around in a group, facing in similar directions, forming a line, marching and shouting. Once the basics had been mastered, further confusion was had by providing midshipmen with weapons - such as rifles and swords. Oddly enough, after several weeks of hilarious mishaps, we became quite good at Divisions. Stand fast Blake Division. Stand Fast Mid Grise.
"Dog Robbers" No, nothing to do with stealing a beagle or your DO's standard issue black lab. This, as we all found out at the charming lecture about an officer's wardrobe (which should never contain denim, the devils cloth) was a smart civilian ensemble combining slacks, smart shoes, stripey (other styles available) shirt, tie and blazer or sports jacket. Standard rig for stepping ashore, Mid Grise and others had more than a passing resemblance to a Kays Catalogue photo shoot. Circa 1972.
“Doubling” - Marching at speed, often with a SLR held over one’s head when engaged in Charlies. Doubling was often made more difficult by the wearing of parade boots. These were designed and hand crafted using Crimean War inspired materials and ergonomics and could give you a blister simply by looking at them.
“Eva” – A local legend known throughout the college as a sympathetic shoulder to cry on after a busy day being in the right place at the right time AND in the right rig. Often the end result of a bit too much relaxation fuelled by several ales down at Floaters. E.g. (To be stated in a defensive tone by Midshipman Grise) “She was a nice girl and I liked her a lot”. And he did, frequently.
“Fenders!” – Advice shouted/screamed from Sandquay to the aspiring naval officer afloat on the Dart regarding the positioning of impact absorbing rubber cushions. Usually given forlornly about 10 seconds after the OUT in question has collided with a pontoon, jetty or whaler. Confusingly, a similar shout/scream would be forthcoming if you had planned well in advance for future collisions by leaving said fenders out and at the ready. There's just no pleasing some people.....
“Five minute rule” – A legend in time keeping paradox. Broken only by fools, this is being where you should be exactly on time when in fact you are already adrift as in reality you should have been there five minutes ago. Arguing that you were (according to your chunky 1980's digital watch, sychronised with Greenwich) well on time and able to start the lecture/drill along with your classmates was futile and would lead only to yet another dose of Charlies.
“Floaters” – The nickname for the public house found at the Upper Chain Ferry between Dartmouth and Kingswear, “The Floating Bridge.” The closest civilian drinking establishment to the main gate and within easy bimbling distance of the college. It was the usual meeting place for 1985's new entrant Midshipmen looking to escape from Life in a Blue Suit. And quite possibly still is.
“Hands to Punching Stations” – The settling of an argument or debate using physical violence. See Life in a Blue Suit, Bulling,etc. E.g. In a situation when the Guard was about to march on to the parade ground. “If Grisey puts the butt of his SLR down on my parade boot one more time, it’s hands to punching stations…”
“If you can’t take a joke you shouldn't have joined” – Cheerful, if infuriating, advice given by your peers to those of us who received two days Charlies for being exactly on time for a lecture or activity and then realising all too late that one is adrift. See Five Minute Rule. The only plus point being that within 48 hours it would be you quoting the same chipper phrase to the irritating smart arse previously dishing it out......
“Life in a Blue Suit” – Annoying retort by anyone from a senior term, or from those in your peer group, when Midshipmen were complaining about anything from the price of Websters Bitter to recieving 21 days Charlies. If said by any individual more than once in any one hour, this could often lead to Hands to Punching Stations.
"Muster" - To muster was to formally get together with fellow new entrants in order to undertake some activity or other. Due to issues with the space -time continuum for new entrants, these musters always seemed to be happening at a time and in a place furthest from your current location. If you were to muster on the Quarterdeck at 1730, you would be in a whaler 500 yards from Sandquay at 1725. If you were to muster for river duty at Sandquay at 1600, you would somehow be at the NAAFI sports pavilion on the playing fields at 1545. The ability to muster thankfully improved dramatically over time during the first term.
"Negat" - The RN word for negative (pronounced Kneegat) This word can be inserted as a descriptive before any noun to illustrate that an action or behaviour might be missing or is not required. "Mid Grise turned up adrift at Sandquay negat lifejacket and had to double back to the dorm to retrieve it". Sadly Mid Grise's DO would often accurately be desctibed as having negat sense of humour too as a result of these actions.
"PLX" - Ah, no problems I imagine recalling this one. The Practical Leadership Exercise or PLX involved a delightful mini-break away from the college enjoying the sights and scenery of Dartmoor. Unless of course the fog was down, then you could barely see the end of the rope you were carrying with (what you assumed) was another midshipman at the other end. According to Mid Grise, if you were really good, you got to do PLX twice. To finish on a high, the final evolution was to row down the River Dart in a whaler. What's not to like?
"Rig" - To the new entrant, rig was the exciting new term for uniform clothing. One's rig was issued from a draughty naval warehouse somewhere near Plymouth early in the first weeks. Being in the right rig at the right time was difficult in the first weeks. Many could be forgiven for simply sleeping, playing sport and showering in their battledress so they had a better than average chance of not being caught out.
“Scranbag” – A dishevelled heap of soiled or crumpled clothing, sometimes containing a naval officer, or a mess. E.g. When coming in exasperated tone from the Blake Divisional Chief Petty Officer. “Mr Grise, your battledress looks like it has been used to dhobey out the beagles’ kennels, you are sir, in short, a complete scranbag!”
“Stand fast” – Instructions given to the majority but excluding a minority, the exact context of which can only be guessed at by a privileged few in any one manoeuvre or order. E.g. – “Class dismissed, stand fast Mr Grise who will report to me in the Guard Office.” Hearing the word standfast would always lead to a sharp intake of breath by many, only to be relieved when your name/division did'nt then follow!
“Upper Yardie” – Not to be confused with Jamaican Gangs, Upper Yardies were sailors who had been selected for officer training and knew everything there was to know about The Andrew. They frequently chieved God like status with their knowledge of bulling and divisions and their ability to play the system.
“Whaler” - A crude sixteenth century long boat propelled either by 8 midshipmen (and their oars) or by a 2 horsepower 1930's lawn mower engine. No reliable steering to speak of. Could easily cause confusion in new entrants by having no “blunt” end and two “pointy” ends which could make judging the direction of travel difficult. This in turn would lead to cries of “fenders”every 60 seconds or so during weeks 1-4 of river activities. Turning circle and stopping distances are similar to a modern super tanker.
“White Webbing” – This additional uniform regalia was worn by those undertaking Charlies. The snazzy combo consisted of a white belt and white gaiters which had to be kept in pristine order of whiteness to pass inspection at many random times daily. This could only be achieved dhobeying them with “Blanco”, a bizarre form of fabric tippex sold only at the BRNC NAAFI and no where else in the UK. Wearing this fetching outfit frequently led to cheerful taunts sung along to the tune of a Billy Idol hit popular at the time: “It’s a nice day for some.....White Webbing”. See (yet again) Hands to punching stations.
Editor’s Note: If you feel that there are words or phrases missing from this hastily prepared refresher, please contact the Committee who will be pleased to add to and improve the current Lexicon of BRNC Terminology.