Now, we are all 'people of the world' so my start to this page should not offend [that certainly is not my intention] or embarrass any reader. When I was a boy, I was often told off or clipped around the ears for using the swear words bloody and bugger. Believe it or not, these were the only 'swear' words used in the public domain in the late 40's early 50's.  Moreover, my strict Methodist parents were not averse to using such words when the going got tough for them. If you look in a dictionary for the word bugger, it is a far most offensive word with its meaning than is the 21st century common swear word, the word beginning with the letter 'f' with its meaning, although I think that many of us [I am sure] find the coarse swear word, which appears to be used by both genders {very young and old} in all venues at all times for all reasons, offensive.

Fortunately, to date anyway, I know of no situation where the f-word has sent journalists hurrying to get out their pad and pencils to record for posterity the use of the word which has caused either offence or interest worthy of public note. In many ways that is a sad statement, for it amplifies that the use of the f-word is so common nowadays that society does not even flinch when the word is used. We hate the use of the word, but try walking down any street and you will not avoid overhearing its utterance.

The word bugger however has 'hit the headlines' and on more than one occasion, whilst the word bloody was famously used by Admiral Beatty at the Battle of Jutland [in which we lost three battlecruisers] in 1916, when, after the destruction of HMS Queen Mary as this quote shows, he said -

At 4.25, soon after we had resumed our position ahead of the Princess Royal, the third ship in the line, the Queen Mary (Captain Prowse) blew up exactly as had the Indefatigable. I was standing beside Sir David Beatty and we both turned round in time to see the unpleasant spectacle. The thought of my friends in her flashed through my mind; I thought also how lucky we had evidently been in the Lion. Beatty turned to me and said, "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships to-day," a remark which needed neither comment nor answer.

Perhaps the most famous use for the Nation, is that said by King George V when he said "bugger Bognor". There are several stories of how this came to be [or did it?] and I am not going to go down that route, save that after his death, Bognor was rewarded with a Regis, becoming Bognor Regis, an association with Royalty and there are several of them dotted around the country Bere Regis in Dorset being another example. Whatever the reason for use [if it was used] the word and its user are recorded in British history in print for posterity.

The second use of the word bugger, again in National terms, involved the case of Asil Nadir of Polly Peck, a leading British company which fell from grace from the Footsie 100 allegedly because of Nadir's money mis-management. He fled to Cyprus to avoid a British trial and was reputed to have been supported by Michael Mates, the Conservative MP for East Hampshire [my constituency at the time] who subsequently was forced to resign in shame. Mates sent Nadir a watch in which he had had engraved the words "Don't let the buggers grind you down", clearly supporting Nadir which wasn't the thing to do. Nadir stayed in Cyprus until 2010 when he returned to the UK and was placed under house arrest.  His trial is due to start this year in 2012.  

The third case for the use of bugger started off as a naval matter, but very soon became, as did the first two uses, a National matter, which brought ridicule on the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines and ruined quite a few naval careers into the bargain.

Before I tell this story, have in mind the following story.  I am not going to ruin my street 'cred and spell out the extremely funny but highly crude and vulgar naval saying about the chefs [cooks] of years ago {food is undoubtedly excellent in today's navy so present day chef's and caterers please do not take offence}, when a derogatory remark was made about their culinary skills, counter balanced by a remark asking who called [the derogatory remark] a cook!

Ever heard of the name COLLARD, Bernard St George Collard, a naval officer? His name crops up in contemporary naval history every now and again, and his name came into the foot lights on two occasions separated by twenty three years, once in a shore station and once in a capital ship.

As a gunnery lieutenant in 1905, he bullied a group of stokers.  By so doing, he nearly caused a full mutiny on the lower deck by his insensitive and irascible behaviour and that story I tell on this page   At his court martial he escaped a real punishment.

His name followed him around the Fleet, St George, a part of his name [pronounced as 'singeorg'] being used with sarcasm the "sin" bit being emphasised with contempt.

Whilst it is not written on the line [nor beneath the lines for that matter] there is a good reason to believe that this very able officer was a loner and that he neither desired or made good friends as he climbed the ladder. By the third quarter of 1928, Collard had attained Flag Rank and was appointed a Rear Admiral as the Second in Command of the 1st Battle Squadron under the Command of Vice Admiral Sir John Kelly.  Collard's Flagship was HMS Royal Oak. Collard had a reputation of upsetting people, or put another way, of purposely not getting on with his subordinates whilst playing the lap-dog to his superiors. In Royal Oak, the top management were not happy, and whilst the Captain and the Executive Officer got on well together, neither got on well with the Admiral. Just around the corner, a mutiny was brewing, not the normal mutiny involving ratings but a mutiny involving very senior officers.

In 1928, HMS Royal Oak was part of the Mediterranean Fleet. On the 12th January the wardroom threw a dinner dance whilst the ship was in Grand Harbour Malta. Rear Admiral Collard was one of the chief guests that evening and many ladies from ashore, some wives of serving officers, were invited. Like all capital ships, the ship carried a Royal Marines Band as well as a Royal Marine Detachment who traditionally manned the main armament and always aft; more often than not the 'X' turret but sometimes the 'Y' turret.  As per normal, the Executive Officer, as President of the Wardroom, had organised the dance and all was set fair. The band played, the guest danced and socialised. After a while and in full view of the guests and of course wardroom members, Rear Admiral Collard stood up and approached the Royal Marine Band led by Bandmaster Percy Barnacle [yes, seriously, Barnacle]. Evidently, he told the Band to stop playing, told them to get off the stage calling the Bandmaster a bugger and an amateur, and demanded a jazz band to replace the Marines. He insulted the Captain, told the Executive Officer that his dance organisation was a sham and further order them to get the Marines off the ship. The 'party' continued but in a marked lack lustre fashion with amazed guests and stunned wardroom members, but terminated prematurely with boats [not carriages] returning grossly insulted guests back ashore. Collard went on to say that the music was unmelodious, discordant and impossible to dance to, in short, a din! Not a criticism one would levy at a RM Band. No mention is made of the Admiral's state of sobriety.

The ship returned to sea, the ill-fated dance being treated as an internal ship's episode and if not that, a purely naval episode but with the same continuing ill feeling between the Admiral, the Captain and the Executive Officer, obviously affecting the many mid-rank ship's officers into the bargain. 

A few weeks later in March 1928, the Captain and the Executive Officer each wrote a letter of complaint about the Admiral's behaviour and these were given to the Admiral in person.  Sensing a mutiny, Rear Admiral Collard passed these letters straight onto his superior Vice Admiral Sir John Kelly {flying his Flag in the Warspite} who in turn [too hot to handle syndrome] passed them onto his superior Admiral Sir Roger Keyes C-in-C Mediterranean. He stopped a major Fleet exercise which was about to get underway and convened an immediate Board of Enquiry. The outcome of the Enquiry ordered Rear Admiral Collard to strike his Flag in the Royal Oak and to be dismissed as the Second in Command immediately, and with immediate effect both the Captain and the Executive Officer of the Royal Oak were dismissed their ship and ordered home to the UK. They were later transported to Gibraltar in a merchant ship where their courts martial were convened in the carrier HMS Eagle. It is reported that the Captain of HMS Royal Oak conducted his own case and had the opportunity to cross examine Read Admiral Collard under oath. He repeatedly asked Collard whether he had called Bandmaster Barnacle a bugger and on each occasion he avoided the question. Later, Collard was heard to say "who called the bugger a bandmaster". The story got out to the press in Malta, very soon got back to the UK and hence onto Gibraltar for the trial.  The dance episode got to be front page news in every paper and edition which motivated Parliament to do something about it. As that was happening, the King had already been advised and he had sent for the First Lord of the Admiralty the top man, and not the First Sea Lord a senior Admiral or an Admiral of the Fleet who was subordinate to the First Lord. The King was angry and wanted answers. The press reported this as a major upper deck mutiny which was taken far more seriously than a lower deck mutiny. Obviously, despite the serious nature, it made the navy a laughing-stock and much scorn was poured upon its now heavily tarnished image. Predictably, many junior rates on the lower deck joined in the wardroom bashing sessions little knowing that their civilian peers included all in the navy to blame whether upper or lower deck sailors.

Rear Admiral Collard got his just deserts, was placed on the retired-list and went into obscurity, whilst the Executive Officer of HMS Royal Oak {Commander Henry Daniel RN} resigned and tried his hand at other things. The Captain of HMS Royal Oak {Captain Kenneth Dewar RN} stayed in the navy, but was humiliated by being given small back-water commands when his seniority and experience demanded his time in Capital ships or 'driving' important desk at the Admiralty. Just as he was about to leave the navy on completion of his career he was promoted to Rear Admiral {the day before he left the Service} and much later on, whilst in the Reserves, to a Vice Admiral. The C-in-C Mediterranean, Sir Roger Keyes, a very important naval officer much mentioned in British naval history and very much an enigma, had been hoping that on his home coming he would be appointed as the First Sea Lord vice Sir Charles Madden, but Parliament and the First Lord decided otherwise considering Keyes to have handled the so-called mutiny badly, and in the event, wasn't considered fit to carry out the cuts in naval expenditure ordered by the Labour Government. . The Mediterranean Fleet was not the flavour of the day back in Whitehall. Sir Roger considered that he was the victim of intrigue, but he soldiered on becoming one of our very famous Admirals of the Fleet, and I dare say, hated the very words 'Royal Oak' for the rest of his life. After the navy, Sir Roger became the Conservative MP [for Portsmouth] and busied himself, often annoying serving officers, in politics being a good friend of Churchill. Vice Admiral Sir John Kelly's career was unaffected by his number two's faux pas and went on to be the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet as a full Admiral and then Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth. He achieved the rank of Admiral of the Fleet and died in 1936 - see this file HMS Collingwood - keeper of a working burial gun carriage   The OIC RM in Sir John Kelly's Flagship {HMS Warspite} visited the Royal Oak and found nothing wrong with the Royal Marines in that ship which included the Band and Bandmaster Barnacle. Thus, they stayed with their ship and naturally became the heroes of the lower deck.

I've added this bit on to the story because I am rather proud of this nautical piece.


For many a long year now I have had a piece of naval history sitting outside my dining room which I purchased for 20 from a local follies shop.  I have always been very proud of it and my dear wife has kept the brass work gleaming, just as it would have been when the piece was operational.  I own many naval antique pieces and recently, whilst taking an inventory prior to moving house, I took detailed notes, and, as it were, studied the artefact with a zeal as never before.  Over the years we have used the dinner gong [?] to call the family to dine in the dining room [especially at Christmas times] and I have always wondered about its origin, the stewards who would have banged it and the officers who would have responded to its call.  However, today [6th September 2002] it 'hit me'.  The very top bar shouted at me.  It is clearly and without doubt two oak leaves set either side of an oak apple, and can only belong to HMS Royal Oak.  Since the last Royal Oak was sunk at Scapa Flow and is a war grave, one assumes that no artefact has ever been removed from her hull.  Therefore did it belong to the 1892 Royal Oak which was scrapped in 1914?  The gantry for the 'gong'  is made of heavy thick solid brass and the 'gong' itself is a 4"shell casing.  The striking piece lays horizontally across the shell casing towards the top supported by two hook/arms mounted on each vertical upright.  The whole thing sits on a sturdy wooden base which is again, clearly the original.  The original striking piece is missing and we use a realistic alternative piece.  Petersfield in Hampshire, the town in which I purchased this item, is well known for the many admirals who lived [and still do] in the surrounding villages.  It is conceivable that this piece was taken as a keep-sake by a senior officer in the Royal Oak, and upon his death, sold to a buyer who was not au fait with what he/she had purchased, and thus it became a folly instead of a naval antique.  The shell casing has the following markings. There is a WD Arrow underneath which is the letter N and below it a figure 2 and below that the date 8   12   03 [well spaced out].  Then on the other side of the shell cashing there is CFRRF where the letter C is larger than the FRRF: KN where K is larger than N: the letter A inside a circle: a strange letter N followed by a figure 8 and a strange E without its top [or an upside down and back to front F] followed by a 3.  I assume that this shell comes from the turn of the century and was never fired in anger. I am attaching three photographs for any visitor to study.  They are big pictures [in excess of 1.2MB] on purpose as a thumb nail would not be clear enough.  I would love to know whether or not my observation is correct!  Please use scroll bars as necessary.  Incidentally for historians per se,  the background to the pictures [taken in my kitchen] is the original Victorian lincrusta dating from 1898.


Recently, in very early January 2007, I decided to ask the experts about the shell case used to form the 'gong'.  I emailed the Curator of the Naval Explosion Museum at Gosport Hampshire. What she told me could change all my understandings of what I own, and it is now HIGHLY PROBABLE that this is a wardroom dinner-gong used on the 1916 HMS Royal Oak which was sunk at Scapa Flow in 1939.

Here is what she told me:-

From this official information we see that the shell, manufactured in 1903 was fired and re-used several times before being discarded as scrap ready to melt down for a new casting. Now since the 1892 Royal Oak was decommissioned in 1912 and scrapped in 1914, and the shell casing used to make the wardroom dinner-gong could have easily survived [firing, four re-filling stages, four further firings, abandoned and awaiting scrap/re-casting etc] the 13 year period between manufacture and the building of the new Royal Oak, it is more probable that the shell case was used to make the gong for the 1916 Royal Oak than for the 1892 Royal Oak

I knew that it was a naval dinner-gong and that it had been made either by the Royal Dockyard as a "rabbit" [a non Service article made by Dockyard engineers/craftsmen in return for a private sum of money or gifts of duty free goods] or by the engineering Naval artificers aboard the ship it was made for, and thus probably commissioned by the Wardroom Mess President [in the case of a large vessel, the ships number two in Command, the executive Commander].   Clearly, this is a device made for and used by HMS Royal Oak.  Had it been made for the 1892 Royal Oak [but later on of course many years after 1903 and the shells useful life as ordnance and thus near to the end of the ships life - which doesn't make much sense!], this device was taken home by a ships officer  only to end up in a shop many years later as unwanted and uncared for.  Alternatively, it is more probable that it once adorned the Wardroom Flat of the 1916 Royal Oak, and had left the ship between commissions which were many between the dates of 1916 and 1939. Any Commander in any of those commissions who had paid for that "rabbit" had the right to take it with him at the end of his commission in the ship.