There is Something about Russian Naval Traditions in Sevastopol in the Crimean War
Armies all over the world have traditions which have been going across the generations. Naval traditions are special; many of them have been included into regulations. For instance, in the Russian Fleet before the battle the ship crew put on clean underwear and uniform, commonly reserved for this case, and had a due charka (see The War Correspondent, Vol 25 no3, October 2007, page 48) of vodka. This made sense as alcohol brought down pain barrier, while clean clothes served as sterile dressing. Eventually this rite was inserted first in the Navy, later Army Regulations.
With the beginning of the defence of Sevastopol in 1854 sailors from the ships which had been sunk in the Sevastopol Bay went ashore to fight in the bastions. Hence their life and service were to be determined by the Army Regulations. However, on the shore sailors kept observing naval traditions and even had influence on the habits of officers of the shore outfits.
One of them concerned an old naval tradition to strike the bells on the anchored ships. This starts at 8.00 when the ensign is hoisted on the ships as four СdoubleТ bells. A СdoubleТ bell is achieved when a bellТs tongue is moved so as to touch first the left and then Ц the right side of the bell. Although the interval between the two strikes is within a second, one can distinctly hear two bells. Next СdoublesТ strike at a two to three-second interval merging with the sound of previous. The bells strike every half an hour till the sunset. There is a definite order. At 8.30 Ц a СsingleТ (the bell tongue beats only left side), at 9.00 Ц a СdoubleТ, at 9.30 Цa СdoubleТ and a СsingleТ, and so on till 12.00 - four СdoublesТ. This cycle is repeated every four times.
A ship tradition to strike the bells was adopted by land officers in the bastions, though in their own way.
One of the participant of the 1854-55 Defence of Sevastopol Valerian Zarubaev who served as the Commander of the 1st Carabinier Company in the Alexopol Chasseur Regiment wrote in his memoirs: СЕhaving removed to the bastions sailors, this soul of the defence, brought their traditions along. Often it seemed that we were on a ship. For example, after the cannon recoiling there was the command: Сthe gun to the boardТ; sailors were called out of the dugouts by the order Сup the deckТ; there were sailors on duty and the bells struck like on a ship. We, infantrymen, took a kind of bells. Company commanders always were followed by a batman so that not to be unnoticed in case of being shot. The batman shouldered a bag containing snack, a bottle of vodka and two bottles of wine - for all officers in the company. Since it was not allowed to sleep neither in the daytime nor at night and this was exhausting, we did nothing but tried vodka and wine to drive away sleep. Unfortunately, it helped for a minute, and then a wish to sleep became stronger. Making the round of their companies commanders came across and treated each other. Some would ask: what bell is it now? Ц СThe third one, that is the third bottle is being drunk up; it means that dawn will break soonТ. To tell the truth, there were some whose СwatchТ was fast, and their reserve came to an end at midnight. But when itТs already daylight you just try to offer vodka to somebody. You will be given a prompt reply: СWhat for so early, I have not had tea yet?Т
Sevastopol is a city of a rich naval history. Today it is home for two friendly fleets Ц the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and the Naval Forces of Ukraine. In fine weather itТs possible to hear shipsТ bells resounding above the Sevastopol harbour. In unison with this the main city clock on the SailorsТ Club strikes every half an hour and play the melody СLegendary SevastopolТ every hour.
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