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You are at - Home : Song : Bugle Calls

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Thanks to Robert Park for indirectly suggesting this page.


Relevant naval seamanship manuals and other handbooks, illustrate examples of the different pipes and calls, that are used aboard HM Vessels, to direct the sailors in their general routines. These are made using the boatswains whistle, bugle, drum or ships bell. They use these because in days gone by, shouting the time or instruction from deck to the top of the mast was futile. Thus with these standard aids everybody aboard would know the time, routine or instruction required.

The principle reference used here for the bugle calls or tunes, is The Gunnery Drill Book for HM Fleet 1889. which illustrate many of the principle calls, used to call the ships company or part of watch to action etc. - For more modern or unusual items, these have either been added from memory, or from the assistance of an ex RM bugler colleague.

However the point of this page is not to illustrate all the various tunes used to send us scurrying about the ship, but to record the rhymes and ditties, which sailors used to help them remember what each bugle call meant.

In fact the author has been led by observation to consider that most if not all the bugle calls (tunes) do have have ditties and rhymes associated with them. Indeed so essential was this aide memoir that the author suspects, that when the music, itself was written in the first place, the composer simply followed the typical vocal call patterns of earlier days.

Sadly, with the run down of RM bands, only major ships are able to use their services, and thus for the majority of current sailors, many of these calls have faded from memory. - UNLESS you know different - Please send in your memories or fragments to assist in completing this page.


  • Words to all bugle calls or even Boatswains Calls if they exist
  • Particularly Action Stations - Boarders etc.
  • Does anyone recall words to the Last Post

Illustrated below are some examples, many of which were commonly used in jest or derision to remark on the daily situation. In particular it was common for the PO stokers on HMS Ark Royal in the mid 1970’s to sing out the words to an unexpected call to Flying Stations, and watch the chaps who had come into the mess for stand easy, scuttle away to their duties.

If you know any other words - that are or were attached to bugle calls, please contact me

ALL Other Words Gratefully received

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Daylight ~ Reville

In 1889 this was called Daylight but later it was known as Reville, or referred to by the men as ‘Charlie, Charlie’

Over the decades there have been various sets of words, particularly for the second part, but, unfortunately,  these are mostly unknown today. - Please help recover them.

Charlie, Charlie, lash up and stow, me lads; Charlie, Charlie, lash up and stow.
Cocoa and biscuits, cocoa and biscuits, Cocoa and biscuits, lash up and stow.
Wakey, wakey, lash up and stow, me lads, Wakey, wakey, lash up and stow!


Hands to Flying Stations

A dit commonly sung aboard aircraft carriers by general service off watch men in a derisory fashion (1960-1990).

‘Airy fairy,‘airy fairy , to the flight deck you must go.
‘Airy fairy, ‘airy fairy, to the flight deck go!


An additional 'G' played at the end of the tune, indicates the pipe is for Limers

Lucy, Lucy, don’t say no,
Under the bedclothes we must go.
Up with your petty coat, down with your drawers,
My little winkle just fit yours.

Hands to Dinner

From my youngest memories, I recall my Grandfather singing 'Come to the cookhouse Door Boys, Come to the cookhouse door'. Though he served with the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment in World War 1, a regiment with a strong tradition as ship-born marines. It cannot be said those words were representative of the RN. - Therefore many grateful thanks to Commander Mohan of the Indian Navy, who contributed this example as used by that service.
and..  As always, given a set of words, when I first circulate them for comment, back came the 'Oh Yes - remember that'...but we said galley and something else on the second line..'

 So'ooo back to you shipmates. What did you sing any more thoughts?

Come to the kitchen [galley] door, Boy, Come to the kitchen door.
Fill your belly with a lump of jelly, Come to the kitchen door!

The Indian Navy, Royal Navy
and the Bombay Marine

  The Indian Navy can claim descent from the fleets employed by certain empire and state rajas. But it was with origin of the East India Company in 1600 that the story truthfully begins.

The company obtained its charter from Queen Elizabeth in that year, and quickly began to assert itself in the region.  It essentially was formed for the purposes of trade, in commodities such as Cotton, silk, indigo, salt tea and was a conduit for the opium trade, which it used to barter for goods in China.

Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and aristocrats, with the British Government having but peripheral or indirect control. In consequence the Company had a vast army and came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative control of the region.

  In addition to controlling the lan the company established the Bombay Marine in 1612. A service established on British tradition and establishment. Over the years it underwent, many changes and was subsequently to be known from Victorian times as Her Majesty's Indian Navy, Her Majesty's Indian Marine and the Royal Indian Marine, until being renamed the Royal Indian Navy in 1934.
During the Second World War, it was greatly expanded to cope withthe Japanese threat, with many men from the British Navy being seconded to that group. Following Independence and partition in 1947. Its assets were divided between the new Royal Pakistan Navy and about two thirds of the assets to the Royal Indian Navy. It was the later which became the navy of the Union of India until at independence on 26 January 1950. It was then renamed as the Indian Navy. Although having worked for a time with a detachment of that service, I can state it continues to hold many of the same traditions as the Royal Navy.

Indeed as Commander Mohan states: 'whatever we use in the Indian Navy is a relic from the RN.

Officers Dinner Call

The following words are known in use from at least the Edwardian era to modern day.

Officers wives eat puddings and pies, But sailors wives eat skilly.

Second Line - ????? Can you Please Help with a Naval Version

Thanks to Ldg Tel John Marsdon, who notes the The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment), formerly the 3rd Regiment of Foot uses the following as a second couplet-

Our old cook she fell in the soup, and burnt a hole in her pinny


The Buff's & The Royal Marines

  The reader might recall that the Navy as we know it today was created by Charles II, at his reformation in 1660. This being the date when the first permanent group of officers were appointed.

  The first 'official' unit of infantry to serve with the Royal Navy was originally called the Duke of York and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot or as it was soon to be known the Admiral's Regiment, from its association with the Duke of York, the High Admiral, who was Captain General of the Regiment.

   It was formed on Tuesday, 28 October 1664, with an initial strength of 1,200 infantrymen, divided into 6 companies.

   Additionally, the Holland Regiment was raised shortly after to serve at sea. Both of these "Naval" regiments were paid for by the Treasurer of the Navy by Order of Council of 11 July 1665 and differed in complement to other Regiments, in that no 'pikemen' was carried and that every man was armed with a musket. The Holland Regiment remained on the naval establishment until May 1667, and was subsequently to known as The Buffs

The name "Marines" as it first appeared in official records in 1672.


The Admirals Regiment was disbanded in 1689.


Various other Regiments were raised as Marine Regiments as required, but were disbanded or landed as needs dictated. We note two from 1690 to 1696. Others serving for the War of Spanish Succession, and in particular in the capture of Gibraltar, distinguishing themselves in the attack on the mole, while the sailors of the Royal Navy took the rock itself.


On 5 April 1755, His Majesty's Marine Forces, fifty Companies in three Divisions, headquartered at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth, were formed by Order of Council under Admiralty control. Thus the Royal Marines was formed.

Whilst it is to The Buffs and its successor The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment that the honour of being the oldest constituted Marine Regiment falls. 


If you wanna have a Shit! (Piss!)Go now. font>

(Thanks to H.A.'Tug' Wilson and (Kevin Bailey)



Played when a ship is in Port, at lights out. Or on ceremonial occasions etc.

Only played at sea for a funeral.


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