How the Plymouth Command got its two proverbial names !

The Royal Naval Plymouth Command had two endearing names which we sailors always used and with great affection. Unless you choose the word Pompey, the Portsmouth Command has no such cryptic endearments and 'Chatty Chats' for the now long gone Chatham Base was hardly imaginative. Chatham was in the Nore area of the UK and thus was in the Nore Command. The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary.   It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent. However, when you have read this page, have a look at another Naval Command Port - see end of page.

First off, the Plymouth Command itself was called GUZ or GUZZ {the latter the norm when writing the name}, and the Naval Barracks there were called JAGO's. Why ?

1.     GUZ or GUZZ is an Asian word for a measurement - see the O.E.D., - [of rope, of cloth etc] and many such Asian words were used in UK military jargon like for example the colour khaki for uniforms, punkalouvers for air supply in ships, puttee's for gaiters etc. I have in my possession an interesting leather-bound book written in 1894 as the 7th edition, by Captain Frederick George Bedford Royal Navy, called "THE SAILORS POCKET BOOK".  In it, Captain Bedford uses the word Guz as a measurement of ONE YARD, viz, 36 inches.  Note, in a nautical mile there are 2000 yards whereas in a land mile there are 1760 yards.

In the late 19th century, sailors in the west country referred to their homecoming from sea service as coming home to the DOCKYARD.  That in turn was shortened to the YARD and further shortened to GUZ or GUZZ *

2.     As the newly constructed Naval Barracks in Devonport were completed and occupied mainly by ratings [the wardroom took seven more years to build] and called HMS Vivid [later, in 1934 changed to HMS Drake] sailors serving in the west country referred to their barrack accommodation as Jago's.

On the 1st October 1911, Alphonso Jago was appointed Warrant Instructor in Cookery where he remained until his death in 1928. During that time Mr Jago was responsible for a major change in the serving of the food.  The change involved a move away from eating in messes and towards eating in dining halls.  It became known as the general mess system and was officially accepted in 1922.  The system spread rapidly throughout the Royal Navy and it earned HMS Vivid the nickname of Jago's Mansions.

Now, whilst the Pompey Boy's like their up Pompey.....and the Chatham Boy's used to like to talk a lot......Chatty Chats.....we in the Guzz area liked our food and drink.  We were the only boy's who would have a full RAS[L] down Unionstrasa and then, returning to our ships via the Guzz Gates [Yard Gates,,,Dockyard Gates] of St Levan's and Albert, we would take onboard our Lub Oil requirement [bottles of milk] and our RAS[S] [oggies] all the while chanting our war-cry of Oggie Oggie Oggie.  Ooops, so that's three west country words and not just the two, namely GUZZ, JAGO'S & OGGIES.  What a splendid place to have served in.......and then all was lost, because I joined boats and involuntarily changed Depots to Pompey like all submariners did.  However, I was lucky enough whilst in boats to be drafted to SM2 [HMS Adamant] alongside in Devonport to HM S/M Auriga, and much later on, then back in general service, I was appointed to Flag Officer Second Flotilla {FOF2} Staff as a warrant officer sea rider, and our Shore HQ was in Devonport's South Yard, victualled in HMS Drake on the few occasions we were not at sea world-wide in the Flagship either HMS Tiger or HMS London.

Sleep tight and learn from what you have just read.  Why not try Amazon.Com to see if you too could get Captain Bedford's book ? Webmaster Note: That last sentence was a part of my original page. Since writing it, I have altered it a couple of times, but mainly to made the contents a "better read". However, in view of that sentence, today the 8th March 2013, I have visited to find out what they have! This page view comes direct from their site.

The Sailor's Pocket Book

The Sailor's Pocket Book [Paperback]

Frederick George D. Bedford

Price: $33.99 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping. Details
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Book Description

August 31, 2012
This book was originally published prior to 1923, and represents a reproduction of an important historical work, maintaining the same format as the original work. While some publishers have opted to apply OCR (optical character recognition) technology to the process, we believe this leads to sub-optimal results (frequent typographical errors, strange characters and confusing formatting) and does not adequately preserve the historical character of the original artifact. We believe this work is culturally important in its original archival form. While we strive to adequately clean and digitally enhance the original work, there are occasionally instances where imperfections such as blurred or missing pages, poor pictures or errant marks may have been introduced due to either the quality of the original work or the scanning process itself. Despite these occasional imperfections, we have brought it back into print as part of our ongoing global book preservation commitment, providing customers with access to the best possible historical reprints. We appreciate your understanding of these occasional imperfections, and sincerely hope you enjoy seeing the book in a format as close as possible to that intended by the original publisher.

Please read the BOOK DESCRIPTION first - extremely important. The original book [the book/edition I have] is no longer published and instead, some publisher has taken the 7th Edition of the book [1894] which was first published in 1880, and put it through an OCR process, which, according to Amazon, [but we all know anyway] introduces many errors into the new version, so, BUYER BEWARE. Note also in the first line of the 'book description', the recognition that this is a book of "important historical work".

This file shows other editions of the Sailors Pocket Book plus other books of interest to a Victorian/Edwardian naval mariner. Griffin were a famous seller of naval documents, pulications, magazines and books in the 19th and 20th centuries


* There is a book called JACKSPEAK which attempts to define so called naval slang and sayings. It gets many things wrong and one example is its definition of the word Guzz.

"GUZZ is called so because it was a radio callsign in WW2"  -Ugh !!!!!!!!!

Plymouth or Devonport  called GUZZ or Guzzle.  Firstly, there never was a radio callsign GUZZ for anything in the RN, shore or seagoing. Certainly from the early 1920's, Plymouth had just two callsigns: one, at Devils Point was GYO* and the other at Mount Wise was GZX - SEE MAP ABOVE.  Since radio was still in its infancy in those days despite Captain Jackson's experiments in the Diligence in 1898, any callsigns issued {SEE ship radio callsign system pre and post 1912} once issued, would have been kept to avoid confusion until communicators became fully au fait with the new fangled system. As time went by and both the RN and the MN grew in size, callsigns {3 letters for shore and 4 letters for ships} in the range GU** were issued to MN ships only, whilst GU* became the callsigns of civilian coastal stations around the UK. This was the case carried over into the 1950's.  By the late 1960's [1968] one, and one only, MOD ship had a callsign with GU** and that was the RFA Tarbatness GUAJ.  In the 1970/80's, several small warships were given GU** callsigns, and the nearest thing to GUZZ was the patrol vessel LINDISFARNE [P300] with GUYZ  closely followed by the sweeper BRECON [M29] with GUZA  - the frigate PHOEBE [F42] was allocated GAZZ.  Later, just after the end of WW2,  Plymouth's/Devonport's shore callsign changed to MTI - Plymouth's/Devonport's  Local Command Net [LCN] and the Devil's Point station closed leaving Mount Wise.  After WW1 two new events were introduced. First that ships and shore authorities were grouped into AIG's [Address Indicator Groups with a radio callsign] and second that shore naval authorities were given radio callsigns, but only to expedite the delivery of signals from sea in W/T format namely ACP 124.  These authorities did not use the callsigns themselves as they were assigned an MSO [Main Signal Office] only and not a W/T [Wireless Telegraphy] or V/S [Visual Signalling] office.  None of these callsigns began with the letter 'G' {or, but later on, the letter 'M'} and typical of these was perhaps the most famous, namely Admiralty {used before MOD[N]} which was 'HZKC' with S/M2 [Captain of the 2nd submarine squadron] for example as 'BSES'.  There were many hundreds of these authorities both home and abroad, sixtyeight in Portsmouth alone, and each had a four letter callsign which began with a letter other than 'G'.  Finally, Devonport was known as GUZZ long before WW2, and ask yourselves, which of the 50'odd shore authorities [WITH FOUR LETTER CALLSIGNS] in the Plymouth Command was nominated the callsign GUZZ [although NONE is the answer] but to make sense it would have to be either HMS VIVID which became HMS DRAKE or Captain Keyham Barracks [CBC] which became COMBRAX Devonport or ????? etc etc. 

*Devils Point Radio operated on three frequencies. GYO on 2.804MHz CW -- GYO2 on 3.326MHz CW -- GYO3 on 1.111MHz MCW and also acted as a D/F station.

This entry comes from the " Naval Barracks" website QUOTE Over the years there has been much debate about how or why HMS Drake gained the nickname of "Guzz".  During the 1970s it was revealed by a retired Royal Navy Wireless Operator that "GUZZ" was the call sign for the Wireless Station then situated at Devil's Point, Stonehouse.  UNQUOTE.

  This revelation is nothing less than tragic for it has conned many generations of naval folk into believing his story and to say the least, it was a mischievous act of merely wanting something to say, regrettably, the first thing that came into his head. The point to make is that ## Devil's Point ## was a shore W/T station, and all shore W/T stations from start to finish had THREE LETTER callsigns. This picture of callsigns [use your scroll bars when opened and and then click on the BACK BUTTON to close it on completion of viewing to return to the page proper] is taken from the 1930 edition of Indicatifs D'Appel.

## DEVIL's Point ## Of some general interest to naval people especially families of.......! Getting close to warships entering and leaving harbour and especially big ones or exciting ones, nuclear submarines for example, and with our largest warship ever in Portsmouth, the in-build HMS Queen Elizabeth, there is much demand for viewing spaces. There are only two available to the general public, one on the Round Tower at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour [get there early...very very early with coffee, sandwiches and warm and waterproof clothing to hand, and for Plymouth [Devonport] the same applies to Devil's Point although there are generally more spaces[s] available. With a good set of binoculars set to high power the view is stunning, and remember that you might spot your loved one [with the glasses] but chances are that he or she won't spot you so wear something very visible and brightly coloured and relax your inhibition and become ANIMATED!! Your loved one, cannot, unless the XO [the executive officer who is second in command] is in a good and jovial mood, and  knows that the port admiral is away on his/her 'hols and won't be watching [indeed, looking for] procedural errors and unacceptable naval discipline breaches, wear something distinctive or become animated until after the vessel is moored alongside its appointed jetty or pier! That's the time when you can all go wild and enter 'party mode'.

Note the callsign for Devils Point which in 1946 was reassigned to the Admiralty for use by Whitehall Wireless. Commercially, there were several THREE letter callsigns {not shown in this publication but in the 1932-1935 editions onwards] having the letter 'U' as the second letter but the third letter never went beyond the letter 'V' - i.e. GUV. So, no GUZ or GUZZ or any other combination.  It is somewhat disturbing that Sparkers [and some more aware Buntings] many of whom did their Part I training at Ganges, and went into the Fleet to continue Part II and Part III training, where they [Sparkers] were taught [and subsequently used] Morse Code circuits including ship-shore,  local command nets and commercial station working, have gone along with the myth of GUZZ being a WW2 callsign assigned to the Plymouth Command and more specifically to the Devonport Naval Base. Amazing !

My definition of the word GUZZ is also supported by an article in the Warrant Officers Gazette of the 19th century Devonport Edition. And finally, before we move on to 'Play-up-Pompey' what do you think about a more official naval source, which states that GUZ [sic] was named after Cornish/Devon cream teams, of all things.  Truly unbelievable especially for hardened GUZZ men like myself - I am lost for words, EXCEPT for an anagram of DEVONPORT which = N O T   P R O V E D - note, first coined on this website. This is what the RN Museum tells its gullible readers;-

This is their web page

and this is what they say about GUZ {sic} and other ports:-



• Bombay was part of the wedding gift of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II. Portuguese seaman saw a resemblance between the two ports and may have called Portsmouth “Bom Bhia” which to English ears sounds like Pompey.

• Dame Agnes Weston was describing the murder of the Roman general Pompey at a lecture to a naval audience. A member of the audience exclaimed “Poor old Pompey!” and this phrase stuck.

• A drunkard’s slurred pronunciation of Portsmouth Point (where there are many taverns popular with sailors)

• Ships entering Portsmouth harbour make an entry in the ship’s log Pom. P. as a reference to Portsmouth Point (this being to long). Navigational charts also use this abbreviation.

La Pompee was a captured French ship moored in Portsmouth and used for accommodation. (Captured 1793 and broken up 1817). There is a Yorkshire term “pompey” for prison or house of correction.

• Volunteer firemen in the eighteenth century (known as pompiers) exercised on Southsea Common.

• In 1781, some Portsmouth sailors climbed Pompey’s pillar near Alexandria and became known as the “Pompey boys”.

• The pomp and ceremony connected with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth led to the adoption of the nickname, “Pompey”.


• Derived from an old word for “louse”, implying that Chatham manned ships were lousy.

• Chatham manned ships were referred to as being “happy and chatty” by sailors from other ports (derogative term).

• “Chats” is short for Chatham.


• Short for “Guzzle”, relating to the West Country’s love of c cream teas of scones, jam and clotted cream.

© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2000 

The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available