Think of a naval thing that has always confused you as to why it was named so.  Why "SLOPS" for Naval Store Clothing for example, when most of us associate that word with food left overs we feed to the pigs [when ashore] and to the shitehawk's when at sea.   Another use of that word, belongs to over-filled dhobi buckets standing on the deck during a spell of roughers, or, perhaps more vulgarly,  to the forward seaman's mess when they are supping their soup <applies to Canteen Messing of the old days>!

There are many other names which are naval house-hold words [phrases and sayings] whose origins are unsure, and have ended up at being guessed-at in books such as 'Jackspeak'. 

As all my pages on this site are well researched, I decided to look for that time honoured expression "pea do" <said the same,  but often spelt differently> meaning the Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and by association, the Royal Marines medal too.  That I thought was a good subject for a cameo, just enough to fill a small page.

Research, whilst not costly especially when one lives in the premier naval port and can camp for many a long hour free of charge, in the Portsmouth City Reference Library {an establishment without peers outside Greenwich and possibly the RN Museum <library> in the Portsmouth Dockyard} is time consuming and demanding.  It is also fulfilling, especially when one turns up the necessary information to "put meat on the bones" of the project.

Armed with a pile of books, my scanner and my notebook {computer}, I set about looking for the authoritative definition of those two words [or possibly one word],  and as the hours wore on and turned into a couple of working days, I was no where near to finding the answer as to why a Naval LS & GC Medal was called a pea do [or pee doo - or indeed anything like that].  I had drawn a blank which rather disturbed me for the types of books I was researching were the Navy Lists, the victualling and stores department chronicles, medals and ceremonies, ratings condition of service, special gratuities, ratings of pre Continuous Service period and the post Continuous Service period, King Williams IV Navy, the Regency Navy, Queen Victoria's Navy,  and a whole host of anecdotal material written by officers specialising in ratings matters/welfare, and by very senior officers writing about pan-navy subjects ranging from punishments to rewards, and from conditions of service to burial at sea <thrown overboard the minute they were struck down> for those unlucky enough to die in action especially in the 19th century. Nothing - not a mention!  The closest thing I could associate [P Do] with sailors during the period 1800 to 1850, was a piece of their uniform.  The prototype of today's jacket, coat and waistcoat was an article called a "doublet".  Soldiers wore a padded doublet with short sleeves as part of their body armour, but sailors wore a long sleeved doublet known as a pea-doublet <modernised to pea-jacket], as part of their dress uniform.  Claiming full poetic licence here, and stretching the mind to breaking point, it could be argued that the word doublet was shortened to 'do', making the piece of uniform on which they wore the LS & GC, the sought after 'pea-do'.  I don't believe that and I am not going to try to sell it to you.

I knew, as do all others, that the naval LS & GC was instituted by King William IV in 1830, but that was the first mislead because, pedantic or not, the year was 1831, just 6 years before Victoria came to the throne as our Queen. In those days and all the days before it back into antiquity, despite what we are told about Henry VIII starting the professional navy [or was it King Arthur or even Alfred], the Royal Navy was part-time, and in the case of the ratings, only a few seamen gunners could sign-on full time.  All other ratings were part time <see my page RN OFFICIAL NUMBERS [RATINGS]> and this period was known as the NON CONTINUOUS YEARS. Very few officers cared  about ratings and their welfare and the King was a champion amongst these couldn't-care-less, upper-class upper-deck highly selfish people.  It was put to the King that a reward for IRREPROACHABLE BEHAVIOUR should be given to the sailors who had served 21 years, but in any one ship,  only one man in every hundred was recommended by the Captain to receive this recognition.  Unbelievable generosity !  With it came the princely sum of 15 for a petty officer [no chief petty officers in those days] or a sergeant Royal Marines, and 5 for seamen and marines.  These were truly large sums and in the case of a seaman it more than equated with his monthly wages. The LS & GC Medal was worn attached to the third button of the sailors tunic jacket and  the obverse of the medal bore an anchor and crown surrounded by an oak wreath.  On the reverse side was engraved the recipients name, rating, ship and years of service within a circle surrounded by the words "For Long Service and Good Conduct".  Simply worth a fortune today if you could get one! 

Before moving on, first I must tell you that ratings had never, up to that time, been considered worthy of a medal for any reason, and in the most famous battles of our history starting with the Glorious 1st June and finishing with the war of 1812 against the USA, Admirals and Captains received fine gold medals from the Admiralty, but junior officers and ratings got absolutely nothing, except that for some of Nelson's famous battles, The Nile and Trafalgar in particular, rich civilians wanting to record the time for all posterity <and to get their name in on the act> paid for the minting of medals [gold for Admirals and Captains - silver for junior officers and either bronze or brass for ratings] but the Admiralty did nothing, absolutely nothing. Trafalgar medals are available today on the open market but they were all privately made; Nelson's medals, for example, are not available on the open market and they are Admiralty official medals. The Naval LS & GC was therefore a medal which in itself created naval history, but, as I have said, to only a very few seamen: a naval force of 15000 seamen would perhaps have 2500 only [17% approx] who had served for 21 years or longer, so the medal uptake would be 25 around the Fleet.  It was Queen Victoria who decreed that all, officers and men, should receive war medals and many were issued in the second half of the 19th century for a whole host of wars and campaigns, chief of which were the Crimea, Indian Mutiny, Boxer Uprising, African wars other than against the Dutch white farmers, wars again Muslim countries and the Boer Wars.

Despite the 'taming effect' of the harsh days of the last quarter of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century where punishments were over-harsh and didn't fit the crime, few were under any illusions that by the ebbing years of the Regency Navy, discipline could, and did, break down at any time and drunkenness was rife both ashore and afloat.  For those who did qualify by having served their 21 years [and over] there was a good chance that their discipline record was such that they were debarred from the selection process. 

In the Georgian/Regency Navy, there are references to the letters PQ as applied to naval ratings and Naval Warrant Officers. For example, for the seamen,  their top uniform garment was called a 'pea-jacket/pea-doublet' and they wore a pigtail which was called a 'queues'.  The pigtail was tarred, so they had to be conscious of this and to avoid the queues spoiling the uniform, thus P and Q went together. There are references to 'mind your pints and quarts' [P&Q]; 'mind your prices and quality' [P&Q] both referring to the pusser, a warrant officer, taking on stores from disreputable local chandlers. When sailors danced, as they did do when sober [and not so well when drunk] they referred to 'mind your pieds and queues' <pieds being French for feet> meaning to be careful of deck objects <they were bare footed> and the weight of the tarred pigtail could do damage to the mans head/neck region whilst jigging: another [P&Q] Association.

However, there is also good, nay, excellent reason to believe that P&Q was uppermost in some sailors minds and indeed in all Captain's minds, but in this case, behaving themselves so at no time would they "blot their copy book" and risk losing the LS & GC Medal with that much prized 15, or 5 gratuity.  In the early 19th century [it is a 17th century phrase] P&Q, also meant 'mind your P's and Q's' <peas and kews> and it was a well established and a much used phrase.  A man on his best behaviour minded his P's and Q's both in his actions and in his words especially those transparent to his officers. 

There is therefore, good evidence that the expression 'pea do' <however spelt> was a corruption of the expression 'pea kew' or 'pea qu', which, as more and more men received the ultimate accolade, became a familiar medal and moreover, a medal all aspired to receiving given their time served.

It wasn't until 1848, some seventeen years later, and just a few years before the Crimean War [1854-5] that Queen Victoria ordered a change in the style of the medal [the ribbon, the obverse and the reverse as it is today in 2006 except for Queen Elizabeth's head] and the qualifications for it, reduced from 21 years service to 15 years service but the gratuity stayed the same.  The award was still restricted in numbers, and in 1860, the navy got generous by allowing other LS & GC Medals to be awarded in addition to what had started in 1831, but these without a gratuity. See the attached Circular No 440 in this extract from the 1860 Navy List.

It COULD BE BELIEVED that it is more likely that P QU became to be known as P DO over the many years it has been issued, and as in the case of many other instances, named by the lower deck with no mention of it in any official [and therefore officer or Admiralty] sponsored documents wherein it is ALWAYS referred to as the LS & GC Medal. 

BUT it would be a wrong belief. In short, the expression PEE DO [however spelt or pronounced] has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a set of initials however tempting it is to manipulate them for our own ends.

Wars, all wars, are unkind in so many different ways, even for those who survive wound-free, be they physical or mental, who are able and very willing  to continue serving when the war has been won. No war has been more unkind than WW1 [billed as the war to end all wars] to this group of people, men and women, the vast majority of who lost their careers or were left, isolated, in a navy which was going nowhere with very little chance of promotion. You will remember that the WRNS were disbanded at the end of WW1, only to be reinstated when WW2 came along. Admiralty records are rich in the era of post WW1, all telling of the poor morale manifest on both the upper and lower decks, but particularly on the upper deck.

Before I continue, you need to know that pea soup was served on a daily basis to all serving in the royal navy especially pre, during and post WW1. The ingredients were easily stored, the contents of the bags [dried peas] filling-out every piece of available space acting as a self-malleable stores item which was available all year round. This web site explains the food value in pea soup   http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=56 and if this site is ever taken down, you can find exactly the same data in this web page THE_GOODNESS_IN_PEA_SOUP

Apart from the goodness in pea soup, the menu item was to say the least boring and never ending, the same old thing with never a change, day after day, year after year.  Little wonder then that in much of this Admiralty data of post-WW1, the expression "pea soup" is used as a 'do-down' expression of forlorn no hope, and it became used throughout the Fleet by all personnel. There is so much mention of it in Admiralty files, that I have decided to move away from them on this occasion, and instead use a well known book of WW2-time called "The Navy of Tomorrow" written by Captain Frank H Shaw R.N., Rtd [a WW1 officer]. It is the story of the WW2 carrier HMS Illustrious [of sink the Italian Fleet fame] in which Captain Shaw was embarked specifically to write the story of a modern carrier operational in WW2 [but after the famous and dare-devil attack on Taranto], Captain Shaw having written several other books on naval history. It was published by Werner Laurie Limited of 187 Piccadilly London W1 and the copyright date is recorded as 1950. In my copy, given to me as my first naval book by my siblings in 1953 on joining the navy at HMS Ganges as a 15 year old boy, there is no ISBN number. In his book, on page 55 whilst telling how the Captain of HMS Illustrious at that time, one Captain Eric Clifford R.N., joined the navy and how he was trained eventually to command this mighty and highly successful aircraft carrier, he mentions the period "after 1919" in the last paragraph on the page: the last sentence beginning with 'Yet the outstanding'.....concludes on page 56 by his saying......captains of 1939-45 achieved their rank and ability during these seemingly lean and sterile years. Another naval miracle!

 One of the greatest sadness's I have come to accept in my years of research is that just about everything in print about the navy is written by officers and usually about officers [or at least the running of the navy] and rarely puts over the lower deck point of view even when the subject is wholly about ratings. Rather like women were sidelined and often made persona non grata so too were ratings, for I feel sure that out of the many thousands, a handful at least were capable of penning their thoughts and experiences. As far as I know, the first non-upper- decker [an ex rating but now a WO and as such, a middle-decker] to do this was a Mr Capper who got the ear of Admiral Fisher and the Admiralty started to listen. See this page 


As the upper deck were bemoaning their lot post WW1 [and rightly so], the aspirations of the lower deck were not as grand [of course] and instead of looking for promotions, many of the senior ratings were looking for other rewards. One of those tangible rewards was the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal [LSGC] and I have already mentioned that above in this story. However, for EXACTLY the same reason as officers viewed 'pea soup' for their promotion, ratings took onboard the saying for their LSGC, only now rewritten to the effect that the more plates of pea soup you ate, the nearer you got [should you be recommended of course] to the award of the LSGC, and once you had got it, retirement was not that far ahead, just seven short years. The bit pertinent to officers re 'too old for retirement as a comparatively junior man' didn't and couldn't apply to ratings anyway.

Thus, pea soup became analogous with the LSGC as a timing device, a living eating working calendar if you like!

Finally why "pea do" and not "pea soup"?  As the morale collapsed,  officers and ratings became much closer to one another, far more so than was the custom even taking into account the extra camaraderie brought on by war and in this case total war, but not of course World War as was the case in 1939-1945. Officers took the initiative as superiors [but in flippant mode] to use the expression "pea soup" whilst ratings assumed the "pea soup ditto".  Soon afterwards, the word 'soup' was dropped and the word "ditto" was represented by the initials "do" which all good dictionaries will tell you is an official abbreviation for the word ditto.  Officers would tell ratings that they had been recommended for a "pea do" and the expression was widely used by all concerned from the 1920's on to this very day.