Having just finished three years with the modern sailor-man under modern conditions, I am tempted into what may well seem a presumption, namely, a desire to add a few remarks to Admiral Goodrich's article on "Aids to Contentment in the Navy."
Admiral Goodrich is the distinguished leader of those who are endeavoring to bring the laws and regulations for the personnel of the navy, in their opinion, up to and a breast the times. Outside of his own forceful and pertinent remarks and together with them, he has done a good service in again bringing attention to the able article in last December's PROCEEDINGS by Lieut.-Commander McLean. This masterly summary is practically the whole situation in regard to the enlisted personnel.
It should be earnestly hoped by all, that the Department will soon take up these vital matters.
As an "Aid to Contentment" it is not so much the laws and regulations that count, as the way they are administered. This will always be so. However, in order to minimize inefficiency in this direction, we should strive to get those laws and regulations best suited to draw into the navy, and retain there, the present market in young American men.
It is evident that desertion is the plainest expression of dis- content. About two-thirds of all our military offences are desertions, and about one-half these are desertions in the first six months of enlistment.
Remedy.—Have a probationary period of six months, to be in a ship in active service, during any time of which a man can cancel his engagement with the government. At the end of six months the oath of allegiance is taken and the man becomes sworn to the service.
Again, a great deal of discontent is caused, I believe, by the extreme youth of our men. The majority of the mare too young to be well balanced. This is especially to be noted with the coal passers, whose hard work is a man's job.
Remedy.—No coal passers ,and only a smaller proportion than at present, of other enlisted men, to be under 21 years of age.
If the above two regulations were put into force (and they require no legislation), we would have at once in the navy (1) more contented men, and (2) more mature men, with which, by means of perhaps more modern laws and regulations, we could obtain greater efficiency.
Section III of Admiral Goodrich's article is such an entire summary of the necessities of modern conditions, that it is delightful reading. There is one point, however, in which I presume to differ with him, and Lieut.-Commander McLean. I have found from actual experience that "extra duty" is an extremely efficacious punishment, if rightly administered.
Of course it can only be applied to unrated men in certain duties. The plea against this form of punishment has always been that it punishes someone else. This I consider a wrong view of the matter.
The ship's police is not punished when it arrests, confines, or polices prisoners; or inspects decks and localities to prevent infractions and irregularities.
The paymaster's, or ships writer's people are not punished when they have to do paper work connected with punishments, absentees, paying rewards, and so forth.
The executive officer is not punished when he has to attend to numerous matters connected with punishments. Neither is the captain punished because he has to come up on deck out of his cabin and assign punishments. It is all in the day's work, and the enforcement of extra duty belongs to those connected with such matters on board ship.
The fact is that too often extra duty is given as punishment, and then not properly regulated. Its enforcement is more or less haphazard. It is a convenient way of getting rid of annoying small reports.
I fear that this worse than useless method is what has given it a bad name.
In Section IV the Admiral has, I think, not quite gotten in touch with the present spirit of giving liberty that has been in the Atlantic fleet for the past two years and a half.
It is extremely liberal. It is hardly ever dependent on the captain, but on the admiral, who regulates it by signal. The privileged men get generous liberty, whenever circumstances allow. A long step in the right direction, however, would be gained if deprivation of liberty on shore were not a regular punishment. The method of having classes for money and classes for liberty, recommended in the article under discussion, is an old one in the British navy, where it is now used. It could be adopted without legislation, if thought desirable. But is it desirable to keep a man's wages (other than a month's pay) away from him? The system of fines would obviate this.
Certainly to gain an efficient contentment the greatest amount of liberty should be given in ports where it is feasible, and it always is feasible, except where political, sanitary or military reasons make it impracticable.
As regards contentment liberty can also be granted on paper that is almost worse than not going ashore.
Here is a case where a good law may be badly administered. For instance, I have been in ships where, at a navy-yard, the men were made to come back at 6.00 a.m., and if they came back any time during the night they were made to turn out just the same at 4.30 or 5.00, and wash down.
This is a discontent-breeder. Certainly men whose privilege it is to go ashore should be allowed to take their meals and sleep on board. It ought to be better to sleep at one's home rather than in a lodging house. A part of the deck could be reserved for liberty men, where they may sleep in till six bells and where they must sleep if they don't wish to be disturbed.
No lying around the decks in the working-people's way.
In home ports certainly, a "free gangway" (so called) is the thing; and fines for those who abuse it.
"Chronic leave breakers should be discharged." Would it were so! Leave-breaking is a thing that would not be put up with one minute in an industrial concern. In our own navy-yards a man six days absent is discharged. Yet we are always hearing that our ships should be run as a vast industrial workshop. So they should be, but as a military workshop. There is the difference.
If a young man enters the navy voluntarily, he voluntarily gives up certain vested rights. But do not forget that he also gets a hold on his job that he would never have for a moment in civil life. Lieut.-Commander McLean shows how hard and impractical it is to get a man discharged after he is once enlisted.
Let him be anything under a certain degree of slovenliness, stupidity, incompetency, unreliability, intemperance, and a leave-breaker—let him be any or all of these things,in any but a superlative degree, and the laws and regulations give him three good meals a day for four years as a sure thing.
Where is the industrial workshop you can get a guarantee like that?
Is this an "Aid to Contentment" for the vast majority of such people's shipmates, who are well meaning and obedient?
In Section VII Admiral Goodrich discusses what I believe to be as fruitful an "Aid to Discontentment" as anything else on board ship. I refer to the question of "clothes."
And not nearly so much the clothes themselves, as the prescribed occasions for wearing them.
As the Admiral says: " It is high time to put a stop to this nonsense." I suppose that he here refers to the present fleet and deparmental regulations regarding uniforms.
Those that have read Lieut.-Commander Stirling's capital lampoon in the "The Navy," may recall the story of the gunner's mate who rushed momentarily out of the turret to fix the Morris tube gear. He was in dungarees. The" fixing" took a couple of minutes, but unfortunately the man ran in to the captain.
Now the flagship was near and the admiral might have seen this flat disobedience of his positive orders that dungarees were not to be worn insight on deck. Result— "five days bread and water." This is an actual fact.
Such action as this must be due to misconception of what clothes are given to us for.
While speaking about these "Aids," why not the following:
- When working, wear dungarees. "There's a reason."
- 2. When not working, wear ordinary ship's dress.
- 3. When on liberty or dressed up, wear your 11-inch cap and dress up to the limit. Be smart and smiling.
- 4. And as regards head-gear, why not turn hat brims down in the sun so as to shade the eyes? The present regulations require them to be turned up. What are hat brims for?
- 5.Why wear the watch cap at all? What function does it fulfill? In cold weather it is cold. It is always uncomfortable, and it musses the hair! This last reason has been given to me many times by men as a reason why they hate watch caps. It was introduced in 1886, I believe, as a head-gear for topsail yardmen.
- 6. And again this oft repeated tale! Why not have a blue hat like the white hat. Why is it the men like white hats with "blue" way into the cold weather, better than any blue head-gear? Because it is the most serviceable and comfortable of all. It shades the eyes and can be jammed down on the head. And that is what a working hat should be. Look at any civilian workman using machinery and see if those two things are not the prominent features of his head-gear.
- Except for "dress," why wear the most unserviceable headgear ever designed for a mortal to do anything in, but stand around. I refer to the 10-inch stiff grommetted flat cap. For traditional" dress, "however, retain it by all means, but for this only—as it is a very killing thing when properly cocked over the eye.
- And again, why should any but dress sleeves have a positive hindrance-to-work attached to the end, in the shape of" cuffs?" It is incredible.
The working deck-band nowadays, in his ordinary blue undress, in which he has to do all sorts of greasy, dirty work, is not a pleasant nor workmanlike sight. Stained and ragged trousers, dirty cuffs rolled back, neckerchief (an old one of course) tucked in his shirt, shirt with grease stains, and to crown all, a flat cap.
It is absolutely imperative on his officers to make him wear these clothes. They have no alternative. If he had on some kind of working clothes (over old blue of course, if it were cold), he would at least look like a workman doing a man's work.
- In this connection, why should side cleaners wear anything but oil skins or white—to suit their work in other words? I have seen them made to wear "undress blue"—cleaning a white side with soap!
- Why should cooks and hospital men when at work ever wear anything but white as an outside rig? And why should there be any crime against sticking their head above the rail in this costume, even if the regular uniform Of the day is" blue?" Certainly to get the best work out of men you should dress them suitably and for the work in hand.
- Why make men wear infantry marching boots for all purposes? This is one of the most important of all these questions,— as Lieut.-Commander McLean shows.
- Why should there be any objection to C.P.O.'s, and men generally, in home ports, where practicable, wearing civilian clothes? We would get some good men under these circumstances.
- Why not have dungarees (i.e., working clothes) made of khaki material? There is no essential point in blue. We should then have the additional advantage of a suitable landing rig for the men.
The above are the main points that have been thrust at me during a three-years' tour just completed in the fleet.
Personally I am thoroughly convinced that their adoption would be a great "Aid to Contentment" in the service.
Also, I believe there is nothing in the above that would make a crew other than well dressed, clean and smart. These things depend on the officers, not on the regulations. As do also micrometer measurements and the application of the protracter.
Lieut.-Commander Plunkett's idea regarding daily general quarters, is an attractive step towards that efficiency for which we are all striving, but it seems to me five times a week would interfere too much with unit drills and repair work, whose importance is too evident to comment on.
9.15 is an evil time to break into the general and administrative work of the ship, which, to keep her up to the mark as a fighting machine, must always be going on. Breaking off at 9.15 every day to go to quarters, for men actually at repair work and not needed for unit gun drill, is fatal to the good work of all mechanics—electricians, engineers, commissary men, gunner's people, etc.— and impairs the ship's efficiency to just so much. Only about half work is accomplished under these circumstances.
I expect it is this case that the Admiral refers to when he says that he sees no reason for 9.15 a.m. inspection. If he refers to an inspection of the sort that is common in many ships, where everyone must drop everything, dress up, and fall in to see that their shoes are blacked, and then go to a dirty drill in clean clothes—I most heartily agree with him. There is absolutely no sense in this that I, personally, can see. However, I believe that it is necessary to set a time for "Fall in and Muster" (so to speak).
This must be a time by which the ship is usually cleaned up ready for the day. It is the time the muster of absentees is made. It is the definite military pivot, this lining up in ranks, with the officers in charge, and the real progress toward "Fighting Efficiency" about to begin. It instills that cohesion which is the aim of all discipline.
In certain cases when lying at a navy-yard, and there is only an 8.15 muster, and no chance to drill nor line up, the men and everything else get markedly slack.
In fact I see no aid to contentment (and hence efficiency) in " General Quarters" five times a week, and the abolition of a practical forenoon "line up" and muster. As an "Aid to Contentment," in home ports, Sunday should, I believe, be given as a "day off" as much as possible. Let inspections be other days, if needful. I refer to" functions," not the incessant inspections of ship and material necessary to efficiency. For instance, don't keep all hands on board to attend "Articles of War." Have the function with those on board. Everyone reads in these literate days.
And as "Aids to Contentment" how about the number of inconsequential drills? Those that befog the intellect, and waste valuable time. It is a large subject. The unimportant drills are given a prominence and require an amount of practice out of all proportion to their importance. Why? Because perfection in them as to minor points is insisted upon, and lapses or mistakes in them are counted equal with, the "fighting efficiency" of the ship. There a real together too many of them.
But to go back—the greatest "Aid to Contentment" is a well-regulated discipline, practically administered.
Without that nothing much can be done. But poor work in this direction may be minimized, if Lieut.-Commander McLean's admirable summary were acted upon.
Let us hope that something of this sort will be done, so that by a more permanent enlisted force we may be able to better maintain ourselves in line of battle, and that more hits per minute, at battle ranges, may be made than ever before.
Drills, money, punishments, clothes, liberty, food. But the greatest of these is food.