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Felix C

The watch system used on British ships

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Felix C

Was the following used in the Great War? This is the Napoleonic System I believe. 

 

the Afternoon Watch was from noon to 16:00 (4 p.m.)

the First Dog Watch (2 hours) was from 16:00 (4 p.m. to 18:00 (6 p.m.)

The Last Dog Watch (2 hours) was from 18:00 (6 p.m.) to 20:00 (8 p.m.)

The First Watch was from 20:00 (8 p.m.) to midnight

The Middle Watch was from midnight to 04:00 (4 a.m.)

The Morning Watch was from 04:00 (4 a.m.) to 08:00 (8 a.m.)

The Forenoon Watch was from 08:00 (8 a.m.) to noon

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seaJane
Posted (edited)

It's still the same today :).

 

Small terminological correction: I believe the proper usage is first dog and last dog (no need to add "watch"); but I can't find a reference right now, except for ex-RNR husband.

 

The reasoning behind the half-length watches is to produce an uneven number, so that nobody gets stuck in the least-popular watch as the hours go round.

 

[edited: second dog is not correct, last dog as in OP is correct]

Edited by seaJane

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Felix C

Thanks Jane. I recall how tiring it was from 2am onwards to about 4am. 

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seaJane

I enjoyed the middle watch when crewing Lord Nelson and Tenacious; not so keen on the morning and forenoon watches.

 

 

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KizmeRD
9 hours ago, Felix C said:

This is the Napoleonic System I believe. 

Tell that to Nelson!

This is the standard system of keeping watches at sea i.e. four hours on, eight hours off (apart from the dog watch change-over).

Other systems do exist and were used in wartime (at the discretion of the Commanding Officer), for example the Defence Watch system is six hour on, six hours off - meaning half the crew are closed up at their part of ship at any one time. This was often used when an encounter was likely (but no enemy actually sighted) and was a stage short of bringing the entire ship’s company to Action Stations.

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Lawryleslie
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, KizmeRD said:

Tell that to Nelson!

This is the standard system of keeping watches at sea i.e. four hours on, eight hours off (apart from the dog watch change-over).

Other systems do exist and were used in wartime (at the discretion of the Commanding Officer), for example the Defence Watch system is six hour on, six hours off - meaning half the crew are closed up at their part of ship at any one time. This was often used when an encounter was likely (but no enemy actually sighted) and was a stage short of bringing the entire ship’s company to Action Stations.

Not necessarily though as it depends whether you are in a 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 rota. I did both during my career, when 1 in 3 there was no expectation to "turn to" in your part of ship except forenoons or if there was a problem. We also did 1 in 3 West Country which gave you a full night in after the the dogs but also meant you had to do forenoon after the middle and do both dog watches to cater for this. 1 in 4, although sounding luxury, you had to "turn to" off watch during the day, the only exception was the afternoon following the middle watch the night before. As your next watch would be the 1st dog. Many COs sanctioned swapping of the dogs to give you extra time in your pit.  This also gave the "all night in" watch time off from 1800 until the following forenoon watch. Defence watches 6 on 6 off required you to be at your your watchkeeping station for 3 hours and part of ship for 3 hours.

All very complicated for the Chief Stoker running the ME Watchbill.

Edited by Lawryleslie

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KizmeRD

According to Admiralty Manual of Seamanship Vol. II, the ‘normal’ war state for warships at sea is the two watch system (one in two) In periods of sustained operations ships may be at Defence Stations for long periods of time and men must have the opportunity to be fed and to have five hours of unbroken sleep, hence six hours on and six hours off is perhaps the easiest system to operate (but there are other variations such as 7,5,5,7). Defence watch organisation allows for ship’s weapon systems to be ready for immediate use and also for damage control stations to be manned.
Obviously the number of men on watch at any one time depends upon the type of ship, whether she is at sea or in harbour, and the duties in which she is engaged. A four watch system (one in four) might well have been deemed appropriate for ships at Scapa Flow, but when they sailed off into the North Sea it is likely that they shifted to a two watch system due to the unseen threat of U-boats and mines. The standard peacetime three watch system (one in three) does not normally provide sufficient manpower for all ships systems, sensors, armaments and damage control stations to be up and running.

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Lawryleslie
6 hours ago, KizmeRD said:

According to Admiralty Manual of Seamanship Vol. II, the ‘normal’ war state for warships at sea is the two watch system (one in two) In periods of sustained operations ships may be at Defence Stations for long periods of time and men must have the opportunity to be fed and to have five hours of unbroken sleep, hence six hours on and six hours off is perhaps the easiest system to operate (but there are other variations such as 7,5,5,7). Defence watch organisation allows for ship’s weapon systems to be ready for immediate use and also for damage control stations to be manned.
Obviously the number of men on watch at any one time depends upon the type of ship, whether she is at sea or in harbour, and the duties in which she is engaged. A four watch system (one in four) might well have been deemed appropriate for ships at Scapa Flow, but when they sailed off into the North Sea it is likely that they shifted to a two watch system due to the unseen threat of U-boats and mines. The standard peacetime three watch system (one in three) does not normally provide sufficient manpower for all ships systems, sensors, armaments and damage control stations to be up and running.

I very much doubt that a 1in4 watch system would have been the norm when in cruising state during WW1 particularly for the marine engineering watchkeepers. This is because the old steam ships watch below was very manpower intensive and would require a very large engineering department to operate this. The 3 watch cruising system was gradually changed to a 4 watch system as ships started to have control rooms and engineering spaces were not fully manned during cruising states. As I was leaving the RN in 2003 the first ships to operate an on call Engineering Officer of the Watch was just coming in. HMS Scott was the first followed by Echo and Enterprise. I would imagine that an on call EOOW would be the norm with modern technology and more reliable equipment.

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Felix C

Auxiliary Patrol maintained the merchant system as that is what the civilians would be accustomed to?

 

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Matlock1418
Posted (edited)

Any variation(s) when operating in extreme climates?

e.g.when operating in polar regions - thinking especially of high North Atlantic and Arctic oceans [Operations to north Russia as a prime example - and as were undertaken in a later WW]

I seem to think on the exposed the open bridges and lookout & gun positions etc.of the period then shorter duration rotations might have been necessary / implemented [for at least some of the crew] to combat the risks of hypothermia and even death from the environmental conditions [i.e. extreme cold and/or wet]

[or even likewise / conversely in the heat & humidity of the tropics for trimmer/stoker/engineroom crew perhaps?]

And if so, how managed.

???

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418

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KizmeRD

The regulations simply state that a watch should be kept at all times. It’s up to the commanding Officer to determine how he implements the watch regime on his own particular ship. Much depends on type of ship (available manpower), what it’s tasked to do, What the threat level is, whether the ship it in harbour or at sea etc. 

During the age of sailing ships the royal navy operated a standard two watch system with each watch was sub-divided into two parts. One part generally on deck at any one time. This carried on into the Victorian navy and even beyond. At the start of the war (then) Captain William Reginald Hall RN (Blinker Hall) did a lot to encourage the take-up of a three-watch system as standard in larger warships.

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Matlock1418
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, KizmeRD said:

The regulations simply state that a watch should be kept at all times. It’s up to the commanding Officer to determine how he implements the watch regime on his own particular ship. Much depends on type of ship (available manpower), what it’s tasked to do, What the threat level is, whether the ship it in harbour or at sea etc. 

During the age of sailing ships the royal navy operated a standard two watch system with each watch was sub-divided into two parts. One part generally on deck at any one time. This carried on into the Victorian navy and even beyond. At the start of the war (then) Captain William Reginald Hall RN (Blinker Hall) did a lot to encourage the take-up of a three-watch system as standard in larger warships.

Thanks for that insight / clarification.

Having worked in various places around the globe on deck at sea, much in the north North Sea, as part of a specialist team [and thus somewhat separate and not truly as part of the ship's own crew] I have previously worked many 12 hour 'shifts' and have to say that the 1800-0600hrs one was always the most liked [if not always enjoyed - for a number of reasons] but that there are significant differences according to season
Summer with an often colourful dusk, short darkness and colourful dawn was usually generally delightful.

Winter with its almost perpetual dark night was certainly much, much grimmer.
Regardless the 0200-0400hrs period was almost always however the hardest time at sea, especially in winter [and is on land too, having been there and got that t-shirt too] - humans' circadian rhythm certainly does not seem evolved to work especially well at that particular period of the 24 hours.
At least I didn't have to look out in a waning / poor light for actively hostile enemy ships, submarines or aircraft who had an intention to result in my likely demise [when darkness would actually commonly a friend to you instead]
[I got off lightly compared to my father's experiences in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean with the Merchant Navy in a later period.

I think I recall from my childhood, long ago, hearing him reflect quite a lot on being on the Middle Watch (Midnight to 0400hrs) I think - a lot as an Apprentice, and I think later as a 3rd Officer (Deck), and of it being a particularly grim one too

In peacetime certainly I think there was [is?] a definite pecking order in which the MM/MN  deck officers took their trick = Have I got that timing right for a 3rd Officer? - now got a feeling it is different = 0800 to noon & 2000-midnight - Different in wartime? [certainly as circumstances and the skipper dictated I am sure]

And of being under the keen eye of the Captain and the first Officer too, especially for training in noon sights - but a different tale of his I think

And of him learning to man only a 20mm Oerlickon with which to defend his ship, his mates and himself :-/

Got off very lightly I have]
= Respect for the RN & RM, and especially for the MM/MN of the period and later too!!!

:-) M

Edited by Matlock1418
clarify & typo correction

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