Royal Navy songs & ditties

Cooks to the Galley

A Brief Look at Naval Scran
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Names given by the sailor to hos food 

With Canteen Messing1 Each member of a mess, would generally take turns to prepare the food for his messmates. For some of the men, this job was a real chore, for others it was a breeze. Like all other activities in his shipboard life, Jack had many one liner rhymes - that he would use when preparing or cooking food, or indeed that he would use when cleaning the mess or mess traps. Very few of these have been preserved and sadly most are now lost!!! Or have passed from general usage or memory. - Unless you know different?

PLEASE - if you remember any rhymes or One-Liners, SPOKEN or SUNG - Get in Touch and Help preserve that small element of our heritage.

EXAMPLES: - Tinkle tinkle little spoon - (as cutlery slid down the gash chute).
                          - Half a pound of flour and lard makes lovely clacker!

Similarly - The RN Sailor - as part of his unique language - also had many 'peculiar' phrases or words, which he used in everyday language to refer to food.

Again in the following tables it is our hope (with your help) to illustrate as many of these as possible, and in particular giving the date or period of the terms usage, as like the ditties and the song, such sayings would shift in and out of fashionable usage or popularity.
Also if you know how the term came into use please let us know.

Naval Recipes - Finally - As we are mostly talking about food within this chapter or section, I include threads to illustrate not only the type of food which was available to the men, throughout the decades: but also to provide information, as to how the scran itself might have been prepared or cooked.

1. A description of Canteen and Cafeteria Massing is available on the - Food & Receipes pages.

Naval Scran- Calls - The Objective of the following list - Is to recall the common names by which various items of food were or are known on the mess deck and - most importantly, to record when these terms were in use. So Once Again Please HELP by adding to this list where you can.

Remember: - The way these terms were used is also very important. - Thus - if you remember the term to be used in a different way or during a different period to that noted : - Please Tell Us.

Many Thanks to Leading Seaman 'Nobby' Hall who submitted a very appetizing list for c.1979-2004
 and equal thanks to Phillip Bamfield for his assistance in respect to terms used below the surface (1971-1995).

(Non Naval readers -may wonder - why we do this or even how all these terms are remembered? - I the first instance it was part of the age old tradition and most importantly the unique language which RN Matelots find themselves indoctrinated with.
Secondly - It served to make the food seem more interesting, this was particularly important when 'Canteen Messing' was in force. For though the ingrediants might be of some quality, invariably the skils of preperation etc was missing. Last of all - A sailor does not use all the terms listed, but would generally have his own preferred or personal list. But even so he soon learns whats on offer, through constant usage and repitiion. When you woprk hard etc. you are hungry thus having these odd terms, takes away the 'I dont like parsnips' statements.

SOME of the NAVAL 'MESS' RHYMES ASSOCIATED WITH FOOD - Are illustrated below -

Action Man Pillows 2000-2010 Submarine Service
Adam & Eve on Raft

c.1960's Poached egg on toast  (Scrambled egg )
BUT SEE - Chicken on a Raft as more generally known
- Was this term in general use or does can anybody help to its particular reference or usage
African Chips 1980's Over fried Chips - that are dark brown and not a golden colour.
Air Ships in a Fog WW2 Sausages in Mash
Arrigonies 1971 - 1995 What appears to be a submariners term for 'Tinned Tomatoes' (Phillip B)
Awning c.WW2 The crust on a pie
Babies Heads

c.1931 to WW2



John Winton in his book Carrier Glorious at p.33. Acknowledge the special variety of Steak & Kidney pudding.

In General Use - The popular name for a very special type of Steak and kidney pudding in a soft suet pastry - were either in individual tins or in standard 15oz tin and halved - Never found a civilian S & K pudding to equal the pusser's variety. A1++++

An ex submariner describes this - ' (the smooth pastry rises like a shiny baby's head)'

Baby Sick or 'Puppy Puke' 1979-2004 Bottled Sandwich Spread originally made by Heinz
Balloons in a Fog WW2 Sausages in Mash
Banjo 1950's See Egg Banjo, Ham & Egg Banjo / Cheesy, hammy,eggy- Banjos always have Fried Eggs. never any other sort
BITS 1990 - 2010  Baked Beans - Term often used on modern Submarines
(BITS - Beeans in Tomato Sauce)
Black Coated Workers WW2 Stewed Prunes
Black on Black 2000-2010 Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Sauce
Black Dick 1960 - 2000 Black Pudding
Bollocks in Blood 1979-2004 Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Bread 1801 - 1805 Fresh Bread or Hard Tack Biscuit ( Dependent on what is available)
Ref- British Mariners Vocabulary, 2nd Ed. 1805 by JJ Moore
Breakfast & Chips c.1980-90's Mixed Grill - Thanks to Bob Talbot
Bum Nuts c.1970's RNZN - Eggs - Thanks to Gordon Cattermole


1979 2004

A Gruel made of Oatmeal or Wheat grits, seasoned with salt, butter & sugar, - (ref: Nautical Dictionary (1863 2nd Ed.) by Arthur Young
A type of Porridge
Porridge - The name said to originate from the use of cracked Burghul Wheat
Cackle Berries WW2 Eggs
Cardiff Virgin c1980's
Particularly HMS Cardiff 1985-87
Welsh Rarebit (Thanks to Martin Read)
Cheesy, Hammy, Eggy WW2

1 piece of toast - With Ham, Cheese and topped with a fried egg. -Thanks Nobby Hall
(In WW2 Fried Eggs were not available for Banjos so powdered egg was utilised in this way, making a mini omelette to go on the toast.)
You can add an awning but this turns it into a Ham & Egg Banjo with Cheese. (BS)

Submarine Service - Where it is Described as 'A Traditional Navy Dish, virtually unobtainable anywhere else, than at the hand of a Pussers Cook. - Welsh rarebit with ham and a fried egg
Chicken on a raft c.1940
Egg on toast - See Raft
Chinese Wedding Cake WW2 Rice Pudding with currants &/or Dried/tinned fruit
Nobby Hall that Devonport ships call currants 'figs'
Clacker WW2 Pie crust or pastry
Comanche Bollocks c.1970's - 2001 Plain Tinned Tomatoes (Submarine Service) - Thanks to Mark Meridith and Phillip Bamfield(71-95), the later of whom also associates the term with 'faggots'
Corned Beef Hash c.1970-90 Tinned Corn beef - mixed into mashed potato. Also see 'Train Smash' where tinned tomatoes are added.
Corn Dog c.1960-90 Corn beef - usually in sandwiches
'Daddyfunk' 18th Century
On sailing ships - English Wheat Bread would stay fresh for several days at sea Whereas Foreign or French Bread would seldom last longer than a day or two before going hard.
After which Hard Tack or Hard biscuit was issued, which could,  like the stale loaves be ground down, soaked in 'Pale Ale' (water) and baked with grease and molasses.  
Devonport Mouth Organ 1970-
Special Cornish Pasty made by Ron Dewdney of Plymouth (Thanks to Bob Talbot)
Diarrhoea or
'Turds in Black Drizzle'
1979 - 2004 Beef Olives in Gravy -
Duchess Fritters 1979 - 2004 Jam Sandwich cu in half and deep fried in batter, served with a sprinkle of sugar and floating in a sea of custard
   (Plum Duff)

18- 19th Century

Originally a plain flour pudding into which raisins, currants or dried fruit(apple) was mixed, boiled in a bag or cloth.

Anything made with Suet Pudding for pudding.
Egg Banjo 1964 - 1986 Fried Egg between two pieces of toast - Self in 1964 & Tommy Young 75-86
Elephants Foot
Spam Fritters
Battered Spam Fritter - In use on modern submarines
'figs' 1979 - 2004 'Cornish' or Devonport Ship slang for currants
Frog in a Bog 1971 - 1995 Toad in the Hole
'Gary Glitters' 2000-2010 Gammon steaks (as in Glitter's song chant "Come on, come on" or the submariners' version "Gamm-on, gamm-on")
Goffer WW2
Also 1970-1990
Soft Drink
aboard HMAS Anzac (Thanks Hal)
Growler 1979 - 2004 A type of pie
Harbour Cotters 1971 - 1995 Those pre-acked 'frozen' Fish steaks in batter (Thanks Philip B.)
Herrings In

WW2 - 1990 Herrings (Pilchards) in Tomato Sauce- In 1960-70's as issued in a large, oval, golden colour tin; with no label, but printed on the lid in the standard black type.  The tins sometimes had attached a standard corned beef type key, but also sometimes not.
Usually 'herrin's in' were commonly issued with ship baked rolls to the messdeck for 'nine o'clockers' .
Cheese was an alternative for this dish, which never seemed to hang around, but in 1969-79, there was often an odd unopened tin of herrings in sculling about in the mess.

Sometimes referred to as 'HITS' - 'Herrings in Tomato Sauce' also see BITS (Thanks to George Sexton (1954-78) for the reminder.)

Janner Kebab 1979 - 2004 Chef's wind-up term for a oggie.
Jewish Ham c.1980's Boiled Mutton
Kai (Kye) WW1 - 1990's Thick Hot Chocolate Drink- usually available to watch keepers and in the early days would be made from solid bars - latterly from cocoa with tinned cow
Labradors Arsehole 1979-2004 Sausage Roll - (look at one end on and imagine.
Loblolly 1863 See Burgoo - An Alternative name
Lobscouse  18-19th Century  what could now be now call hash or in short the origins of 'Pot Mess'. A concoction of meat, vegetables and hardtack  which made up the general diet of the sailor - See Pot Mess
Mackers c.1970's RAAN Term for Nutty
Mermaids Piss 1995-2003

Vinegar - Thanks to John Barker

Mousetrap 1972-1997

Cheese - Thanks to Mike Evans -
This chees appears on ship in Huge Blocks - I remember it being served at '9-o'clockers', If you are lucky with freshly baked 'warm' rolls, small round ones, that fit in a open hand and crusty on top, slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

NATO Standard 1970-1990

[BS] Tea or Coffee with milk and two sugars

Niggers Dick
 - Now known as a
Ethnic Appendage (Phillip B.) or 'Black dick'
1970's-2004 Black Pudding
Niggers in Snow 1950's Currants in Rice Pudding - Thanks to PTI John Elcombe
Nine O'Clockers c.1950'-90's Not a Food type but a meal, or rather a snack issued at 2100 to the messdeck. Often on carriers and other ships with ship-baked bread rolls, (see Herrings-In)
Nutty c.1950'-90's Sweets - As in chocolate bars etc.
Oggie c.1960-90

Otherwise known as a Cornish Pasty - also see 'Rat in a Coffin'

Go to OGGIE more Data Page
Pale Ale 19th century

Keeping of Water Fresh, was a difficult task. The issue od small beer to each man was therefore a requisite, but in hot climates a water cask was open for the sailors to use and often a mug of water was sterilised by a tot of rum or some beer. Therefore water became known as 'Pale Ale' - A term that endured for some time

Pixies Pillows c.1970-90

Tinned Ravioli, as served at the ratings dining area.- Also see Shit in an Envelope - Thanks to Tom McOwat

Plastic Mash c.1970- 2010

See 'Pom' which is more generally used term

Plum Duff 18 - 19 Century  See Duff
Pom c.1970-2010

Reconstituted or Powdered Potato (See 'Plastic Mash')

Pot Mess c.1960-90

A cooked dish as opposed to a type of food - i.e. everything in the caterers hands was tipped into the one pot -
On exped's in the 1970's and 80's, if the stock of tins and 'vittals' had got wet, there was usually no way to tell what was in some tins.(labels missing, although some plain tins were printed on the circumference of the lid.) Everything would be opened and tipped into the pot, on a very wet or cold day even tinned fruit. I remember some absolutely stunning meals created this way under those conditions.

FCPO George Sexton - recalling his time (1954-78), agrees that pot mess were one of the best remembered meals - He recalls that Engine Room Watchkeepers would make superb pot-messes, with anything scrounged from the galley, plus any other odds and ends. (Cans of soup from the canteen) the lads would contribute etc.) The pot was usually started by the 'First watchmen' and finished in the Morning Watch, along with baked potatoes, baked on the boiler casings. - 'Magic!!!'.

Puppy Puke or 'Baby Sick' 1979-2004 Bottled Sandwich Spread originally made by Heinz


c.1940 & 1968

Toast with something on.
Rat in a Coffin 1979 - 2004 Pasty that are not Oggies.

Rat Packs - 24hour / 3day

c.1980 RM / FAA survival ration
Satan's Suppositories 1979-2004 Kidney Beans in Red Hot Chilli Con Carne sauce
Schooner on the Rocks WW1 1916-

Roast Beef surrounded by Roast Potatoes

Sea Dust -or-
Sea Dirt

1965 - 1985
1995 - 2003

As Sea Dirt Known  in FAA
Table Salt - Thanks to Bob Talbot
As Sea Dust, thanks John Barker (See Also Mermaids Piss & Sneeze)

'Seggies' 2000 - 2010

Grapefruit Segments out of a tin

Shit in an Envelope c.1970-90

Ravioli - Hand made by the Duty chef, for the wardroom - Also see Pixies Pillows.

Shit on a Raft


1979 - 2004

Devilled Kidney's on toast - Thanks to Tommy Young etc.

Devilled kidneys on toast or fried bread. Nobby Hall states some chefs added piped mash potatoes around the edge This was then termed 'With Guardrails'
Slide WW2 - 1990 Butter
Snake & Pygmy Pie c.1960 -90 A  NAAFI - Mobile Wagon -  Steak & Kidney Pies
Sneeze 1979-2004 Pepper
Snorkers 1975 - 1980
2000 -2010
Fat Square Tinned Sausages - From Tommy Young
In Submarine Service - Sausages generally
Spithead Pheasant WW2 - 2009
2000 - 2010
As Known in use on Submarines
A Straight Rush WW2 Roast meat on Potatoes with Bisto Gravy
(See Schooner on Rocks)
Teddy Bears Ears 2000-2010 Chinese Prawn Crackers
Tinned Cow WW2 - 1970 Sweetened Condensed Milk in a can - In 1950's could be bought in the shops ashore (A Tin with cream label with blue writing- That was made by Fussels, was always the best at that time. - Thanks to Rob Sowerby for the detail on this.)
Train Smash c.1940
Tinned tomatoes - usually with bacon or sausage mixed in.
Phillip Bamfield (71-95) states a term also given to Ratatoulle as well as Tomatoes & bacon
(George Sexton (1954-78) Tells me that he also knew this dish as Corned Beef Hash where the corned beef was mixed into mashed potato.)
Also see 'Comanche Bollocks'
Turds in Black Drizzle or 'Diarrhoea' 1979-2004 Beef Olives in Gravy
Yellow Peas & Bonsai Trees 1979 - 2004 Sweetcorn & Brocolli
Yellow Peril c.1960 - 90's Smoked Haddock
Zeppelins in a Fog WW1 see Balloons/Airships for WW2

Sausages in Mash

    SOME EXPRESSIONS - Related to Naval Scran
 'Cuisine in a Limousine'

 'Muck on a Truck'

 'Scran on a Van'
  Late 60's -
   Mid 1990's
  From time to time, ships were put in dry dock for repair or deep maintenance. On such occasions the engines are shut down and utility services 'piped' in from ashore. Even the toilets and bathrooms are shut down which means a tedious trip on to the quayside.
The ships crew are billeted shore-side in the barracks, and only essential crew remain on-watch aboard.
This represents in the main the 'fire and security party' who would constantly tour the ship watching for trouble. The greatest danger of which, comes from welding, the heat from the torches travelling amazing distances to kindle flame in remote areas.
For those men scran is brought to the duty watch by transport.
-Often cold and often a bit odd. Hence the phrase. - (Thanks to John Browne for this reminder. and to Phillip Bamfield for adding to the thread)

If you can extend the date for any expression here please contact us.
 'Piping Hot' Sailing Ship Navy and onwards    In the Days (pre 1960) of 'Canteen Messing' (each mess nominated a duty cook) he would prepare the food and give to the galley to be cooked. The chef would be cooking several meals at once. When it was ready and the 'Pipe' Hands to dinner was given, whatever food was collected, delivered to the mess and served instantly. - Only then was it deemed 'Piping Hot', a rare accolade indeed.