HMS NEW ZEALAND|
Crossing the Line Ceremony 1919
The most illustrious novice, Lady Jellicoe, was graciously excused homage, as she was suffering from the effects of a most ferocious and wanton attack by an Ampère, which had leaped upon her from an electric fan and bitten her severely on the hand. But, as will be recorded later, Lady Jellicoe played her part in the proceedings right nobly.
At this stage His Majesty was pleased to cause it to be ordered that, owing to the extensive wave motion set up in the bath by the pitching of the ship, novices were to be hove or pushed in. The bath constantly lost water, which plunged over the sides on to the deck, and left insufficient to make safe the use of the ducking stool.
The first novice to mount the scaffold was Commodore Dreyer, who had the full benefit of the Court's experience - in fact, it may be said, he made quite a good splash.
Other officer novices were then dealt with most successfully. Many old sea-dogs insisted on re-initiation, and almost everyone in the ship either qualified or re-qualified. Several of the Royal retainers were so moved with emotion at meeting the rosy-cheeked Gunroom officers that they could not be restrained from taking the water with them, the Barber's Assistant being particularly extravagant in this form of enjoyment. The ship's company followed in swift succession, so rapid indeed that the Court well justified the Royal Motto, which, as the world knows, is " Hustlers-Us and Forked Lightning " - not that this rapidity was attained at the expense of efficiency -it was the result of careful organisation and attention to detail. As each candidate appeared on the platform, he was presented to Their Majesties, had his name ticked off by the Judge's Clerk, was examined by the Judge of the Royal Court, and was passed by the King's eminent Physician, who further fortified him for the ordeal by administering a bitter tonic or a soap pill - occasionally both in bad cases. This wise man was also armed with a fine stethoscope, new to medical science, though strongly reminding one of the instrument of torture worn by many sight-setters and the like through the dark nights of the past four years to enable them to detect the tune sung by Angelic Hosts aloft (in Control Positions). The Doctor also sounded backs and chests with a wooden mallet. He sounded, too, a number of heads ; all of which seemed to be phenomenally thick.
The candidates then passed along to the Barbers, under contract by Royal Patronage from the firm of Sweeney Todd. The Lady Barber massaged the head, while the other two were lathering and shaving. It appears that Messrs. Sweeney Todd make a speciality of removing tattoo marks. Sometimes they used an enormous pair of scissors for hair-cutting. The Royal Hairdressers' gentle ceremonies at length completed, and the candidate now cleansed and in a seemly state to proceed with the further rites, he parted more or less reluctantly from them, and descended rapidly, and sometimes inelegantly, into the bath and the mauls of the Royal Bears. With care and solicitude, they baptised the aspiring candidate in the salt and sacred waters of His Majesty's Dominions, and the taste was none the less distressing for the oily and odorous substance, resembling Stockholm tar, which exuded from the hairy skins of the Bears. Splashing, gurgling, appreciatively, and giving forth other signs of manifest joy, the candidate at last emerged from the bath, no longer a novice, but a complete and honoured subject of His Majesty. Soaked in the sacred water, and a trifle bedraggled, but flushed and exhilarated, and thoroughly clean for once, the initiated one went drippingly away to change his damp garments.
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