{taken from the NAVY AND ARMY ILLUSTRATED Magazine dated 1st October .   Written by Cicely McDonell  114 years ago,  in the 19th century.

We are told that "a sailor's wife a sailor's star should be," and surely this is a possible possibility.  It must seem to the married sailor that he is always looking at his wife through the wrong end of a telescope; she is generally so far off.  He has a wife, it is true, but, compared with other men, only a "little one."  On the other hand, a sailor's wife has an unfair proportion of honeymoons. 

Why do women marry sailors? Jack certainly has a breezy freshness about him that is very captivating, but when we remember that he is credited with a wife in every port the legal distinction is a very great point  But so many things are said which are not true.  The soldier loves and rides away; the sailor cannot, perforce, see much of his wife, but, like the proverbial parrot, he doubtless "thinks the more."

Sailors are sentimental souls, and in the long night watches many tender thoughts turn to the dear woman at home, who are anxiously awaiting news of their safety, and to the children, to whom "father" is a little more than a name.

Sailors ought not to marry - their superior officers say so, and they must be right; but what will you?  After a long voyage how delightful to feel that a pretty woman listens with breathless interest, with beating heart, and with parted lips to your tales of peril and adventure! Fairy tales, probably, but none the worse for that.  "Men are deceivers ever" and who can say "That is not true"?

Besides, the best of husbands can degenerate into shocking bores, and the occasional absences are bearable. A captain's wife once remarked; "John is an old dear when he's away, but it is hard to keep him in good temper when he's at home!"  Of course it is, because belaying-pins are not handy.

Seriously, a woman who marries a sailor must be prepared for a simple, frugal, and somewhat lonely life.  The pay is small, and the ship's commission generally three years; so for three years she cannot see her husband, unless she can afford to follow him at their own expense, and settle in the station to which he has been ordered.  Once there, however, the officer's wife has a really good time.  Her position is assured, and the residents hasten to call  upon her, she is made truly welcome and is invited everywhere. Life abroad is, somehow, brighter and easier than here in England.  "It was rather amusing," said a paymaster's wife, "when I was visiting in the States.  I was continually being introduced and announced as 'Mrs Chose of the British Fleet', just as if I had been an admiral, and no amount of explanation could remove the misconception.  But the kindness I met with was beyond praise, and all the time my husband's ship was at Vancouver Island, I had the happiest experience, and made many delightful friends."

A sailor's wife may not live onboard.  She can only go as a visitor to her husband's ship, and this is one of the great differences between the Services.  The Navy is strong, but has no "strength"; the wives are practically ignored, though officially provided for by pension should their husbands die in active service, but not necessarily in action.  Should the husband die in action, or within three months after from wounds received, his wife gets a higher rate of pension.

A bluejacket joins the Navy for twelve years, and if on completion of this term he enters for a fresh period of ten years, it may be safely assumed that his prospects are good - that he means to rise.  It is probably at this critical juncture that his manly heart begins to glow, that he feels a desire to marry and "range" himself.  We have heard of sailors marrying nice girls and leaving them a few hours after the ceremony, knowing full well they will not meet again for several years.  Indeed, not so long ago, as a sequence to one of these strange matches, the young wife went down to Portsmouth to welcome back her errant husband, after three years more or less long.   With anxious glance she scanned the ship; so far as she could see, her husband was not there.  As she waited on the landing-stage he passed her, she looked at him, and neither recognised the other!  And no doubt  this is only one instance of many.

It has been remarked that sailors' wives enjoy things easily, that they are not exigenters.  No doubt this is because they have to make their own life and take things as they come. They are not so dependent on their husbands for amusement and companionship as other women, and when they do meet again, there  is so much to talk about, so many outside topics of interest, that Mary  or Jane fall into insignificance, and the usual monotonous topics of children and servants do not, thank Heaven, "come aboard Sir !"

The mere fact that they themselves are here, their husbands there, make the letters written and received worth having.  The rate of foreign postage [small as it is]  limits us to so many sheets of paper, and there is no need to write trivialities.  Surely, it must be much nicer to get a letter telling of life in a foreign country than a business slip to the effect that one's husband is "sure to be late this evening, so don't wait dinner.  Awfully busy; go to your  mother's without me.  Can't bother about theatre to-morrow,  Yours in haste. James."  Residents in the East, say Hong Kong or Calcutta tell us that almost everyone they meet is interesting; either just arriving or just going away, with  many adventure's to relate, full of topics of all sorts, not merely talking of the weather or the latest craze in art.

And, āpropos of marrying, how much more important  and romantic does a Service wedding seem compared with the ordinary everyday affair.  Think of the distinction lent by the uniforms of the bridegroom and his friends, and then of the extremely prosaic effect of the ordinary frock-coat and grey trousers.

Without prejudice, one may be pardoned for thinking that the manly forms contained in those smartly epauletted coats and pledged by solemn oaths loyally to serve Queen and country - disciplined to obey even the most uncongenial  orders without demur - must be tenderer and more chivalric in their bearing where women are concerned than the cool, hard-headed man of business.

Think of the delight of the bride-elect while planning the details of the all-important ceremony which is to lift her out of the money market and deposit her in the Royal Navy .  "Money is cheap today," in her estimation, as compared with glory and renown.

"Jack will wear his uniform, of course," we can almost hear her saying to those who don't know, "and my bridesmaids will have white serge yachting dresses trimmed with narrow gold braid and caps with my name on the band, 'Miranda'  - won't it be sweet ?"  And the admiring friends declare that the idea is "quite too perfectly sweet," and that they long to see Jack in his finery.

"Oh! his uniform's a dream," ejaculates Miranda and straightway lapses into a rapt contemplation of her happiness.

The longed-for day arrives ; and who shall say [whatever comes after] it is not the happiest in a young girl's life.  The church is full of well-wishers; the bridesmaids are pretty and self-consciousness; father and mother agitated; Jack handsome and a little nervous; the groomsmen [officers too] debonair and ready for conquest.  If near enough to the port or station, the side is probably lined with men from the ship; and it is safe to say that any one of them would willingly, and at a moment's notice, "shiver his timbers" for the pretty bride who is about to enter the Services.  Only the remembrance of the sacred building deters them from giving way to the well known man-of-war's man salute  as the young couple come down the church , "spliced" in a knot there's no undoing - at least, so Mr W.S. Gilbert said, some years ago.  "Oh! happy young hearts."  May God's blessing go with them!  The organ rolls out "Rule, Britannia!" [in addition  to the conventional "Wedding March"], and there is an appropriateness in thinking that Britons, meaning doubtless sailors' wives, never shall be slaves; for they can do as they like during certain periods, whether they wish to or not.  The wedding cake is adorned with a sugar ship; the table decorated with floral anchors or flags, and the voyage of wedded life is begun under the most auspicious surroundings;  and when the happy pair depart for the harbour where they fain would be they leave behind them good men and true, competent to play havoc with the hearts of the bridesmaids in the most approved fashion.

Then how delighted it is to be able to draw one's husband's pay.  No shakes and quakes as when one has to say "Oh! John, I want you to give me a little money to-day," and the rejoinder [in a voice like a thunderstorm[ is, "Money again!" or words to that effect.  The Admiralty is reasonable enough to argue that a wife must have money, so every facility is given, within limits, for a wife to draw a proportion of her husband's pay. If she spends it all at once, tant per pour elle - she cannot get any more till the next time.

Sailors are generally tender-hearted and chivalrous where women are concerned, the best of good company, ready to amuse or be amused, to sing, dance, or play.  When the moment of danger arrives there is little time for aught but action, or, harder still, a passive inaction.  To meet the inevitable  with a brave face needs all the courage at our command, but sailors are brave men.  Let all who are spared such experiences be reverently thankful.  The bitterest pang of all is the remembrance of those dear ones at home, on whom these crushing blows fall with such heart-breaking force.  If only we could help them bear the shock - if only we could see them once again !

Life is made up of partings and meetings, and the return of the ship is eagerly watched for.  There is much to tell on both sides; let us hope [unlike Miss Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride and Prejudice"] there is not "much to conceal."  A sailor's wife may become a sailor's widow, but not destitute, for a small pension is allowed by Government for her and her children, and in most cases this amounts to a sum equivalent to the maintenance of a modest home.  Whatever it is, it is certain, and there are educational privileges that can be obtained, and generous  purse-strings are loosened when occasion arises.  To help the widow and the orphan is a noble privilege, though perhaps not sufficiently appreciated; but all can remember the ready  response to the "Victoria"   Fund and the good intentions of the donors.

A sailor's wife, too, has sometimes troubles to face alone, that none but her husband can adequately share.  He is perhaps on a voyage or away on the usual commission;  the tiny babe, that he has never seen,  sickens - and dies.  God's ways are the best, but sometimes difficult to understand; and the poor young mother, stricken with grief, by the little one's empty cot, knows there is only one on earth who could comfort her, and he is o'er the seas.  Occasionally it happens that a change of station enable her to join her husband for a time, and the different conditions of life abroad, and new friendships, bring sunshine where all was sorrow and shadow.

Sailors are foremost in deeds of daring; and the poet tells us that they have a special little cherub doing duty on their behalf up aloft.  With regard to women we are assured in the most specific language that "they all love Jack"; and though that statement is open to argument, it is certain that many do, and, while fully realising  the conditions of such a union, are proud to become sailor's wives.

{Please note that I am not responsible for the writing technique which might be the way the Victorians did it, nor for the use of many French or classic quotes.  Nevertheless, I am proud to share the story with you for I believe that we RN'ers, past and present, male and female, are SPECIAL PEOPLE].