Rules of the Road (revised)

Date Posted: 06/04/2011

As occasionally happens, I was very lucky today to be sent a previously unpublished – and very little read, I suspect – naval diary.

This one was written on board the armed merchant cruiser HMS Virginian in the new year of 1915 cruising out of Liverpool up towards Iceland. Miserable weather and very frightening.

The diary is far too long to transcribe, but the author, J. Clarke, wrote a rather good, tongue-in-cheek version of the rules of the road, which is produced below.

Rules of the Road at Sea (Revised)

If a mine you see ahead
Say your prayers, you’ll soon be dead
If to starboard smoke appears
Do not give three hearty cheers
It may be the ‘High Seas Fleet’
So turn about for life is sweet
If upon your port is seen
A German cruiser light of green
Do not get up shot and shell
But hard a port and steam…

When at anchor safe you lie
Keep your blinkers on the sky
And if up there a Zepp you see
Say your prayers lie down and dee
Both in safety and in doubt
Keep your neckbelts well blown out
If a periscope you sight
All is lost! So give up hope
If in action you must go
Do not shed bitter tears of woe
But on your knees Marconi bless
All is lost, send out S.O.S