Christmas at sea
Now that December has arrived and our thoughts turn to Christmas, we take a look at those who have spent their Christmas at sea. Seafarers, by the very nature of their work, often found it impossible to be home for Christmas.
This online exhibition of items from the Maritime Archives and Library considers the merchant seafarers and passengers who spent their Christmas at sea and looks at how they brought some traditional festive cheer to the day. Click on each thumbnail to see the full image.
FW Tritton's journal, 25 December 1890
Shown in the first image in the gallery above.
"Beautiful frosty day. Being Christmas Day we had the ship dressed. On each of the masts we had a large holly tree and another on the bows and one on the flagstaff aft. We also had large bunches of holly at the ends of our yards and right from the bows stretching over both masts to the stern we had a long string of flags and pennants which looked very pretty blowing about in the breeze. The saloon was correspondingly decorated. For dinner we had turkey, jugged hare, beef curry, duff or Spotted Dick as the sailors term it, Sipsy cake, peach soufflÃ©, fruit and wines of every description. So you see we could not have done better at home."
Christmas message to 'SS Comedian', Harrison Line
Shown in the 5th image in the gallery above.
"To "British & allied Merchant Ships", All areas.
The following is a gracious message from HM the King addressed to the British Merchant Navy & Fishing Fleets - Buckingham Palace -
Today is Christmas Day, the festival of peace & home, but most of you to whom I send this message, the officers and men of the Merchant Navy & Fishing Fleets, are spending it far from your own folk. It is to them that your thoughts are turning as you stand your watch on the bridge, or at gunstation, in the engineroom, or stokehold, and they too, you may be sure, are thinking of you with gratitude & pride. In that, the whole nation joins them, for there is scarcely one of us on shore who does not know the extent to which the safety of our common heritage of hearth & home depends on you. At this festival of peace, in the midst of a world at war, I send you greetings & pray in the old familiar words that you & the ships in which you serve may return in safety to enjoy the blessing of the land & the fruits of your labours.