Gateshead Sea Cadets
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Ships Routine

A Unit or Ship's Routine is based on the Customs and Traditions of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and is essential for the smooth running of the Unit. You will find many routines that may seem strange at first but as time goes by, you will understand their reasons. Here are some of the routines you will encounter. 


1. The reasons for the Colour Ceremony dates back many hundreds of years, when the only way to recognise friend from foe was by visible recognition, some ships having been captured were used by the enemy, this could be dangerous. 

2. Captains of ships would fly their own flag, sometimes a Red, Blue or White flag or with a symbol emblazoned on it, a crown, a cross, or a rose. Sometimes Captains would fly a Black flag with a skull and crossed bones emblazoned on it. They were of course Pirates of the Sea. It was therefore important that Kings and Queens of countries made sure that their ships were recognised. At sea, ships will fly their flag or ensigns, day and night even today for the same reason, recognition. In the home port or country of a ship, it wasn't necessary to fly your ensign at night. Therefore, each morning each ship would hoist their ensign to make sure that an enemy ship had not entered the harbour during the night At the end of the day each ship would haul their ensign down. When ships were in company with an Admiral or a senior captain, it was important the ships did not hoist their ensigns before the Senior Officer present, so ceremonial routine was established. 

3. The Senior Officer will hoist a Preparative pennant (or Prep as it is called), after a period of time to allow the Captain to come on deck, (about 5 minutes), the Preparative would be hauled down, a Boatswain (pronounced Bosun) Call would sound the Still (the name of the call) and all ships present would hoist their ensigns at the same time. The same ceremony would be carried out at sunset and the ensign would be hauled down. 

4. The same routine is carried out in the Royal Navy by ships when in harbour and Naval establishments ashore. Since the early 1970's the Prep is hauled to the half‑masted position, this was to ensure that the Senior Officer present had completed his ceremony before the rest of the ships in company, when his Prep was hauled down, so did the remainder of the ships. Sea Cadet units carry out the same ceremony using the same procedure, except the Sea Cadet Corps only wait one minute after the Prep has been hoisted.


1. Prayers will be conducted for the various religious faiths in the Unit. Prior to these occasions, the Church Pennant will be hoisted. A tradition that has been handed down to the Royal Navy and Royal Marine, and the Sea Cadet Corps. 

2. The Church Pennant (or sometimes called the "Padre's Pennant") in the only pennant in a warships flag locker that has ONE single meaning. "The Ship's Company is at Divine Service, reduce speed, pass with caution" It must always be "hoisted" slowly and reverently and is never "broken" It may be flown by a vessel or craft when carrying a body or ashes from shore to a ship for a committal at sea or by a vessel carrying out a committal. 

3. The Church Pennant is flown at the "starboard" outer yardarm, (in a Warship, if there are other hoists in the air, they will be hauled down for the duration).



Spoken: Church Pennant 


Written: Church 

1. The Church Pennant is derived from the "English flag" (the Cross of St. George superimposed on a white background) and the "Dutch flag" (Red, White and Blue stripes laid horizontally) 

2. During the Dutch wars of 1654 to 1664, Admiral van Trompe and Admiral Blake, both devoutly religious, came to an agreement, that when it was necessary to carry out burial of the dead, or conduct Divine service, the ship concerned, would 'hove too', 'let fly' and hoist the flags of both countries, flown both together at the outer yards where they could be seen by the other.

3. Admiral Kempenfelt devised a system of signal flag codes, which included a "Church Pennant” which remains the same Pennant we use today. It is used by many foreign Navies including the Royal Netherlands Navy (the Dutch Navy). 


There are many unit duties which you will be expected to undertake: Quartermaster, Bosuns Mate, Colour Party, Side Party and many more. You will be trained to take charge of a squad or division, you will learn how to clean ship and make your part of ship ready for rounds. They all have very good reasons for being carried out, security, fire prevention, honouring a very important person and keeping your unit clean and Ship Shape. 


1. The Quartermaster is appointed to look after the ships gangway (entrance of the unit). He or she will keep the ships log, recording every person that comes onboard or goes ashore (leaves the unit), record all activity that happens and ensure that the Ship's Routine is carried out in accordance with the Ship's Standing Orders. 

2. The Quartermaster will be helped to carry out his or her duty by a Bosun's Mate, a cadet of a lower rate, who will be expected to carry out the messenger duties required by the Commanding Officer and Duty Staff. He or she will act as the relief to the Quartermaster when necessary and carry out duties at Colours and Evening Colours. 


The Quartermaster is like a Receptionist, he or she will be the first person a visitor will meet, it is important that the high standards of the Sea Cadet Corps and the Unit is reflected in the manner in which the visitor is received. The Quartermaster will be expected to greet visitors with correct marks of respect, laid down in regulations and standing orders. The Quartermaster should be in best blue uniform and wearing Bosuns Call and Chain, the Symbol of Office of the Quartermaster.