I’m an occasional reader of The Duffel Blog; it’s sort of like The Onion, but for us military enthusiasts. As such, it provides me with not but a few chuckles on those days when I find it hard to find humor in my job leading sailors. So when I saw an article poking fun at the Naval tradition of piping over the 1MC, I about fell on the floor laughing.
Now as much as I love the traditions and pageantry of the Navy, the shrill sound of the boatswain’s pipe is one that I could easily do away with. It’s a special hell waking up from a short post-midnight watch nap to the sonorous sounds of the boatswains mate of the watch piping chow as loud as he can. But like most traditions, it comes with plenty of history. Before the advent of the 1MC with which we can now announce to the whole of ship’s company that it’s time to knock off work for lunch or that they may now dump trash over the starboard side. Before the days of electronic bliss, the boatswain’s pipe was the only means with which to inform the entire crew at once of important events throughout the day. It was also used to announce the embarkation or debarkation of important visitors.
We also still use it for ceremonies, such as piping aboard the official party at changes of command and graduations. We also use it for more solemn events like funerals. It’s one of those things that as annoying as it may be at times, it provides us a sense of who we are, where we’ve come from, and esprit de corps as men and women of the Navy. But, I could still do without it.