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Gibb Sahib Chanteys in Royal Navy? (96* d) RE: Chanteys in Royal Navy? 29 Apr 19


Ged Fox,

The custom of applying the practice of singing chanties to work tasks at sea seems to have been nearly exclusively confined to merchant vessels, particularly square-rigged ones with mostly Anglophone crews. (So, the answer is no -- neither Britain nor other nations's navies.***)

That isn't to say *a* chanty was *never* sung by *anyone* on a navy vessel, but that the custom seems to to have been adopted. I personally don't think that has as much to do with lack of need (e.g. the argument that there were too many crew on a military vessel to necessitate applying chanties to work), as much as with the work-culture in such vessels and what was deemed appropriate.

As discussed, some forms of vocalization may have been viewed as more or less appropriate and even customary in the military vessels, but these don't match the generic form of chanties.

On the other hand, chanties were sung from dawn to dusk at various jobs on the waterfront, with greater frequency than they were sung at sea. Think of that work environment, and the people who were involved, and then just shift this work-space to sea (merchant ship). Singing chanties was a practice shared across this work environment/community, whether its members were on land or at sea.

On the other other hand, if singing chanties was not part of the discipline of being in the military on land, then why expect it in the military environment on the sea? To expect that, I think, is to make an error of assigning "on the sea" as a high-level defining feature of chanty genre. I suggest this was rather more incidental.

***Footnote: I'm not talking about latter-day practice of singing a chanty during leisure on navy ships.


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