Sailors celebrate crossing Equator – Nostalgia

For any naval servicemen and women, crossing the Equator for the first time was always a day of great celebration.

By Bob Hind
Friday, 10th May 2019, 4:56 pm
I wonder how many of my readers were awarded a certificate of Crossing the Line (the Equator) when in naval service? Photo: Neil Comlay.

Neil Comlay sent me a copy of a certificate, right, awarded to his late father, Frederick, when he Crossed the Line, as the ceremony is called, on June 8, 1939. At the time he was serving in HMS Manchester, a Town-class cruiser.

In the days of coal-fired boilers Trincomalee, then in Ceylon but now Sri Lanka, was an important coaling station for the navy. It was always shortened to Trinners.

The smartest naval officers and men in the navy always went to Gieves, later Gieves and Hawkes, to have their uniforms made to measure with top quality cloth.

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In days past any officer worth his standing would purchase a made to measure uniform from Gieves.

Few ordinary sailors could afford a made-to-measure square-rigged uniform, although my pal Barry said he once did.

Many of you might remember the branches on the Hard, Portsea and in Palmerston Road, Southsea, both now closed.

The firm, once as British as the navy, is now owned by Hong Kong conglomerate, Trinity Ltd.

Thomas Hawkes set up the first business in London in 1771, in Brewer Street. Most of his clientele were army officers. 

Here we see a group of former artificers at the reunion.

In 1835 James Gieves was employed as a tailor in Portsmouth and later formed a business partnership with James Galt. In 1887 Gieves bought-out Galt to form Gieves & Co.

In 1912 Hawkes & Co bought No1, Savile Row and in 1974 Gieves acquired Hawkes & Co and the company was renamed Gieves & Hawkes.

Although Portsmouth is the premier naval port in the Royal Navy, the nearest branch is in Winchester. The advert, below left, dates from 1937.

Artificers were a very select band of mechanics who were trained for a long period of time in the Royal Navy. It was sometimes years before they actually went to sea. 

Here we see the class of 1959 artificers at their passing out parade. Artificers never wore square rig always for and aft suits.

They never wore square rig with collar and bell bottoms, always for and aft rig – a suit with the creases down the trousers.

A group of Royal Navy veterans and their families recently visited the Marine Engineering Museum at HMS Sultan as part of a class reunion.

The five ex-service personnel were part of the HMS Fisgard Series 35 Class who joined the RN at HMS Fisgard as Artificer Apprentices in January 1959, pictured below right, and were reunited to commemorate the class’s 60th anniversary, pictured on the opposite page. 

An Artificer 151 Dinner for all those who trained as Tiffs will take place at HMS Sultan on June 29. For further information visit

 If you are an ex-tiff and not a member of the Fisgard Association, visit