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Captain Mark Garrett reads the history of the Rum Tot
Wtr Josh Geddes, Capt Mark Garrett and LWtr Pete Armstrong raise their glasses for Prince George
“It’s an acquired taste!”
AET Jim Hopkins and Capt Garrett “Up spirits” for the Royal Baby

Culdrose celebrates Royal birth

Published: 23 Sep 2013

Sailors from Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall have toasted the birth of the Royal Baby Prince George in a traditional naval fashion by ‘Splicing the Mainbrace’. 

Personnel from the Base proudly raised their glasses after upholding a custom that has its origins back hundreds of years when the Royal Navy put to Sea under sail and had regular encounters with Her Majesty’s enemies.

In a signal sent to all Royal Navy Ships and establishments across the globe the Navy’s most senior man, First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas KCB DSC ADC said: "I recently had the pleasure of sending loyal greetings and warmest good wishes, on behalf of the Royal Navy, to Her Majesty The Queen on the birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge. Her Majesty sends all officers, ratings and other ranks of the naval service her good wishes and has graciously given her approval to splice the mainbrace. I am delighted that Her Majesty The Queen has recognised the Royal Navy in this way." 

Captain Mark Garrett, Commanding officer of RNAS Culdrose was on hand to explain the history of the tradition and serve the first glasses to Writer Josh Geddes and Leading Writer Pete Armstrong. “It was a proud moment for me”, said LWtr Pete Armstrong. “It’s not every day you get to celebrate the birth of a Royal Prince and being the first person at Culdrose made it even more special. Its good we keep these traditions alive in the Royal Navy”. 

The custom dates back to the days of sail when a ration of rum was issued for sailors who completed the difficult task of splicing the mainbrace. (The Mainbrace was the large rope which held the ships masts upright.) It was one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs on a sailing ship during the heat of battle and as such, sailors were rewarded by an extra ration of rum.

Nowadays only the Queen, members of the Royal Family or Admiralty board can give the official order for a Rum ration to be issued. 

Base Warrant Officer Steve Cass added, “The Rum issue used to be a daily institution for everyone eligible in the Royal Navy up until the early 1970’s. It was abolished after concerns that regular intakes of alcohol would lead to unsteady hands when working modern complicated machinery. It’s Fantastic that we keep the tradition of the tot alive for special celebrations, such as this.”


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