Royal Navy traditions

Royal Navy traditions

For an organisation that’s been protecting our nation’s interests since 1660, the Royal Navy is packed with tradition. From the ceremonial to the social, saluting to sports, these traditions are an essential part of what makes the Royal Navy unique.    

Some examples


A mess room staple for down time, this two- or four-player board game will make many friendships, though beware of the inter-branch differences in rules that may just as easily break them.


As its name suggests, this on-deck team game involves a bucket and a ball (which is usually homemade, in case it’s thrown overboard). Cited by some as ‘angry netball’, it’s part of the at-sea fitness regime that encourages a good deal of healthy competition.


Part of everyday Naval life, a salute is always made with the palm facing in. Why? Because sailors’ hands were generally covered in tar from sails and rigging, and it was deemed unsightly to show an officer or member of the Royal Family a dirty palm.

Rum ration

Each day at midday, every sailor was given one-eighth of an imperial pint (about 70ml, so just short of three shots) of overproof rum. Known as a ‘tot’, this popular tradition was abolished in 1970, as it was deemed unsafe for sailors to use heavy machinery after their tot. 

Splicing the mainbrace

If a crew hears this order, they’re issued with an alcoholic drink. It came to symbolise the celebration that followed the successful completion of one of the most difficult repairs on a sailing ship. Only the King, a member of the Royal Family, or the Admiralty Board can issue the order.


In days gone by, whistling was a sign of mutiny. The only crew member aboard the ship allowed to whistle was the chef. It meant he wasn’t eating the crew’s food.