Naval Customs and Traditions



Naval Customs and Traditions and how they are applied to daily life will vary from base to base and ship to ship.  These ancient rules, regulations and guidelines influence the daily life of a sailor - with many not even knowing why things are done as they are.  The origins of some of the Navy's customs and traditions are lost to time but a few documents survive to give us an idea of the life of our predecessors and why we do, act and talk as we do.  The documents below will hopefully help keep the history of these customs and traditions alive for future generations.


A Few Naval Customs, Expressions, Traditions, and Superstitions Second Edition by Cdr W.N.T. Beckett, M.V.O., D.S.C., Royal Navy

Barber Pole (The) - Information Note: 22 Jul 2020 (RUSI(NS))

Battle Honours - Canadian Battle Honours for the RCN

C&POs Mess Dinners

Customs and Traditions for the Canadian Navy - 1981

Customs of the Navy - 1956 by Lt A.D. Taylor, RCN

Heraldry on the High Seas

Manual of Canadian Naval Etiquette by David Lowe

Naval Customs and Social Usage by Cdr F.E. Grubb, RCN

Naval Mess Dinners by Commanders F.M. McKee and A.B. Harris, RCN

Neptune's Notes (Venture Training Manual # 1)

What You Always Wanted To Know About Naval Traditions (but were afraid to ask) by Bob Allan, Capt (N), ret'd (original source link RUSI(NS))



Customs and Traditions of the RCN as explained by

The Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia


RUSI(NS) Website


Below are links to research papers, articles and information notes that have been published by RUSI(NS). They have been included on For Posterity's Sake for their value in explaining some of the various customs and traditions on the RCN from Keel Laying to Paying-off and those sometimes confusing ways the Navy does things in between.


Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment - Information Note - 12 Dec 2017

Badges or Crests - a definitive answer - Information Note - 22 Mar 2018

Barber Pole (The) - Information Note: 22 Jul 2020

Canadian Warship Acceptance - Information Note: 15 Jul 2020

Keel Laying- Information Paper - 10 Jan 2020

Paying-off of HMC Ships - Information Paper - 14 Oct 2016

Royal Canadian Navy Ship's Badge - Information Note - 22 Mar 2018

Warship Orthography - Conventions in Writing Warship Name - Information Note - 08 Jan 2020



A Royal Navy Tradition Comes to an End



Britain's Naval Bosses Chuck Out Bosun's Pipe

The Vancouver Sun 14 May 1963


Click on the above article to view a larger image




Royal Navy Abolish Boatswain's Call

Move Surprises RCN

The Hamilton Spectator 15 May 1963


Click on the above article to view a larger image


Courtesy of Eric Ruff, FCMA, Yarmouth County Museum