Recalling Christmas at sea in years gone by

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CHRISTMAS at sea was a far less comfortable affair than it was 100 years ago, a Royal Navy sailor writes.

Chief Petty Officer Clinton Hume from Portsmouth-based HMS St Albans has written an essay comparing conditions today with 1915, to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland.

CPO Hume wrote in the piece: ‘We are currently at the start of a nine-month deployment, which isn’t an easy prospect, but they could have been away from home for a couple of years at least.

‘With e-mail and welfare telephone calls we can contact home almost instantly – most of the time.

‘A century ago they would have had to rely on letters that could have taken months to arrive.

‘When it comes to Christmas I read somewhere that it was quite regulated 100 years ago.

‘There would have been a compulsory church service in the morning and then the captain and officers would go round each mess deck, sitting at each dining table to sample the food.

‘I’m pleased to say our Christmas at sea will be much less formal. As we’ll have a chaplain on board for Christmas there will still be a service in the morning that I’ll be going to, but attendance is voluntary now. Everyone will be wearing party hats and Christmas jumpers, so it should be a good laugh.

‘From all of us on board HMS St Albans, we wish everyone back home a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.’