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Marines Aloft, 21st July

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Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:32 am

Thompson was at the foot of the main-mast with a group of Marines, half of whom were (like Thompson himself) in their red uniform jackets and hats and half of whom were in their white canvas off-watch drill jackets and forage caps. He looked around at the nervous faces of those in the white jackets, the younger, less experienced men, such as Whyte and Terelly.

The idea had come to him before but he had only made up his mind about it a couple of days ago and he had approached Sergeant Quinn and then Lieutenant Sewell.

In his first ship, it had been a Corporal named Davies who had first made him go aloft, back in the days when he had been a young Marine. If it hadn't been for Corporal Davies and an older experienced Private named Thwaite, Thompson didn't think he would have the stripes now.

"Right, how many of you have ever been aloft before?" he asked, looking specifically at those in the drill jackets, not expecting any of them to put their hands up.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:27 am

MacTavish, here because his loud Scottish mouth and tendency to brawl had earned him a sentence of being Thompson's assistant in this instead of larking about in his spare time, rather sheepishly raised his hand.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:55 am

Thompson noted MacTavish's hand. "Right. Anyone else?"

Robinson, Grattan and McEwen likewise put their hands up and Thompson tried not to roll his eyes. Of course they'd been aloft before; that was the reason Thompson had requested they be here too.

"Any of you new lads been aloft before?" he said, wondering off-handedly when his fellow marines had got so dense that he needed to specify things that minutely.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Fri Dec 13, 2013 9:57 am

Terelly shook his head cautiously, testing whether that would be acceptable.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:02 am

"That's all right, Terelly, there's a first time for everything." He couldn't help grinning at them. "You know, there was a time when I hadn't been up there either."

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Terence Whyte on Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:00 am

There was no way he was going to leave the deck. No way he was going to go up there. They could stuff it right up theirs if they wanted, the whole length of the mast too, but he was not going to go up it! He tried to look disinterested and as unnoticeable as he possibly could.

That way perhaps he could get away with not having to climb anywhere. That would be perfect. They were marines anyway. If he had wanted to climb masts he would have joined the sailors! But, lo and behold his uniform was red, well, not presently as they've been told to dress in those drill jackets, but it was red or white, certainly not blue or a shirt only.

He shifted back a little. There, now all he needed to do, was to wait it out.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:02 am

"I was about fourteen - a bit younger'n you, Whyte - an' in me first ship, an' me corporal made all of us newcomes go aloft, up to the fightin' top, three times each in the first month. An' if we didn't want to do it ever again, we didn't have to." He paused, making sure they were all listening to him.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Terence Whyte on Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:23 am

He huffed. Well, just as well if he was younger than him, but that made it no more convincing for him to try. No, in fact, he did not want to go. It was high, it was dangerous and even if the ship did not rock back and forth like a wild horse, it was still very, very, very high!

He glanced at Terelly then at the other men that were in 'his' group. He could just keep skipping to the end of the line and then at one point slip over to the one that 'had done it already'. Right, the plan had as many holes as swiss cheese, but he would still want to attempt it!

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:28 am

"There's nothing to be scared of," Thompson said firmly. "We are all going up to the top - just there and no higher." He grinned again. "Mister Sewell has given me permission to let the most confident climbers take a couple of shots from up there, with the chance to win a couple of shillin's if you can hit the barrel towin' alongside." He pointed to where an empty beef cask was being towed from a line from the fore yardarm.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:03 am

Terelly bit his lip at that and looked at the shrouds with a kind of determined apprehension. While he still felt pretty nervous at the thought of going up there, he told himself that all sailors and the older marines had done it and come down without being the worse for it nearly all of the time - and that a few shillings might buy a pretty ribbon or something for his sweetheart in Portsmouth.

----

Sewell kept well out of sight - it was enough that most of the new men were probably nervous of the height. Having an officer around might make them even more so, and if one slipped on the first try, the others might never feel perfectly comfortable to go up there again.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Sat Dec 14, 2013 4:53 am

Thompson had given his talk. Now it was time to demonstrate. He could get one of the other experienced Marines to do this, but he wanted to do it himself.

"Right, I'm goin' to do it meself, and then I'll come back down an' one of the others'll go up an' I'll explain about how it's done." He reached out to take one of the muskets from MacTavish; the muskets needed to go up anyway and he wasn't about to give one to a man going up for the very first time.

He loosened the sling off; they were stored with slings tight, and had the slings tightened for parades, inspections and when issued to men on sentry, but for this sort of thing, a tight sling was no use. He slipped it over his head so that it was worn diagonally across his back, out of the way, and stepped up to the rail, keeping his hands on the shrouds at all times.

He began climbing, steadily, never looking down. He was not as quick as a sailor, but that didn't matter. When he got to the narrowing of the shrouds, there was a choice of paths: he could either keep going up and go through the lubber's hole or he could take the sailor's route, the backward-leaning path of the futtock shrouds. He chose the latter, with no hesitation, transferring his hands to the outward slanting shrouds as his feet kept going up the inward leaning ones, until there was a moment when he was completely on the futtock shrouds. Still he didn't pause, keeping going until he could swing round into the top.

He was rather glad he'd chosen to wear his red jacket for this demonstration; anyone watching could see that a Marine could do that just as well as a sailor could.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:46 am

MacTavish had handed over the musket grinning, and grinned even more when the precarious moment came where the corporal had to transfer his weight away from the inward slope of the main shrouds.

"Nah, if you fall down, that will be the moment ..."

Terelly blanched to rival his jacket.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Terence Whyte on Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:43 am

Money, fear, money, fear and common sense. He could not decide now. There was a chance of getting some pretty penny, should he start climbing and then perhaps shoot at something and hit it, but then that still meant he had to go all the way up and that was dreadful, awful, dangerous. He sighed. Could they not fire from here where they stood? Or get shillings for the effort?

He watched the corporal and his stunt and groaned. There was no way they could do it the same. There was just no way one would not fall, if doing this and his arms would most certainly NOT hold him. He did not trust them.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:45 am

MacTavish (who admittedly wanted to show off a bit) called out:

"Shall we come up now, too, Corp? Show them a few more examples?"
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Sat Dec 14, 2013 12:02 pm

Thompson put the musket into the rack that was there for them, careful to remember the bar to keep it in place, before he swung back into the rigging to make his descent back to the deck, taking the same route down as he'd taken on the way up.

He heard MacTavish's question but chose not to answer until he was back on the deck.

"Right. MacTavish, as you're so eager to get goin', you can take your musket an' head up. Just you, though." He turned to the watching recruits. "You watch how he does it, only moves one hand or foot at a time so he's got three points of contact all the time."


Last edited by George Thompson on Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:06 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Sun Dec 15, 2013 7:59 am

MacTavish, who would otherwise have gone up rather more careless, for he firmly believed that He was not put on this earth to end his life falling from a rope - in whichever shape it came in -, now took a deep breath and slung the musket he still held with exaggerated care over his back to show how it was done, then very very deliberately started climbing.
Only when he reached the futtock shrouds, he suddenly started to show off and - with his red hair and red coat looking like a rather demented squirrel with a sticklike musket-tail swinging behind him - dashed up the last bit and swung onto the top, where he gave a cheerful wave.

"Shall I leave the musket up here, corp?", he called down, suddenly playing at being all business-like again.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:12 am

That was not quite how he'd meant for the demonstration to go, but never mind. "Yes," he called back up. "An' then come back down."

If he was going to keep moving at that speed, he was going to wear himself out, which might not be a bad thing. How Thompson was to keep him working rather than skylarking, though, was beyond him.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:30 am

MacTavish quickly stored the musket next to Thompson's, then clambered down once more, at the last moment dipping up again to check the bar. As he came closer to the deck, he once again climbed very slowly, carefully and always with three points of contact, but rather carelessly hopped down from the railing to the deck.

Tossing an isolent salute at Thompson, he reported:

"Musket stored and secured, corp!"
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Terence Whyte on Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:24 am

Alright. Excellent. The muskets were safely secured up at the top of the mast. That was though only have the trouble a man would have, when wanting to earn a spare shilling. The other would be, that such a man had to climb all the way up and there was no way he was going to the top in the same fashion as the two that had demostrated, did. It was impossible and would have him slip and fall and he was too young to do that and break his neck at the deck or drown in the sea. While he believed that perhaps another of the mermaids might help him, he doubted that they were always at hand and doubted even more that one would have swum up just for him.

So, there was an option to lie low, hope that he would not be sent to the top. If he was, he would certainly not be the first, he would protest, but if that did not help, he would see to it that he tried firing the musket too. He wanted a shilling for such a grand sacrifice. And if he did not need to climb he was sure to remember who won the shooting competition and play cards against them. Winning a shilling in such a fashion would be like taking candy from a baby, a slightly bigger, uniformed baby. He sighed. Why did man build ships with such tall tree like things? Sure they needed to catch wind but could they not figure out a different way, or perhaps just row real hard?

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:32 am

"Right, who's going to be first to come up?" Thompson said, looking among the white-jacketed men. "You're all going to do it - though I won't make you use the futtock shrouds just yet. Nor you ain't a-doin' it on your own, neither."

He wasn't going to make them take a musket up, either, and every man that went up would have a more experienced Marine with him.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:12 am

Terrelly took a cautious step back and tried to fade into the background - a manouver that certainly would have been more successful if he had been the only one to do so.

After a moment of awkward silence, MacTavish burst out: "Oh, come on, lads! It isn't any harder than going up stairs! And your mother let you do that when you were wee barns!"
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:19 am

"If I don't get a volunteer, I'll pick one," Thompson said warningly. "You've seen me an' MacTavish do it, an' I ain't expectin' you to go up on your own - or take a musket up with you."

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Sebastian Sewell on Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:37 am

Terrelly tried to fade even deeper into the background. MacTavish, however, who felt a bit responsible for the other, who was not much younger in years, only in experience, had other ideas: Knowing that he might get off easier and would leave a positive impression if he dared to go first, he grabbed Terelly's upper arm and pulled him forward, telling Thompson:

"Here, Terelly wants to go first! He's just a bit stage shy!"

Poor Terelly was stunned into silence more by these words than by the warning squeeze on his upper arm, and stared at Thompson wide-eyed.
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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  George Thompson on Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:57 am

"All right, Terelly, you'm a-comin' up with me. Do exactly what i say, you'll be fine, got it?" Thompson smiled encouragingly at the lad.

"First things first, if you go anywhere that ain't flat on deck, you hold on. These are the shrouds." He indicated the thicker tarred ropes that led up. "You need to hold on to these all the time."

He took a grip and gestured for Terelly to do the same.

"Now, up on the rail with you," he said, indicating the broad rail that was the very first point in going aloft.

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Re: Marines Aloft, 21st July

Post  Nathan Allen on Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:18 am

Standing nearby, Allen shook his head as he watched Thompson explaining things to Terelly, who looked quite unsettled by the thought of going aloft. Had he himself ever been that bad off, Allen wondered. Going aloft was second nature to him now--he simply could not recall ever having felt otherwise. But obviously everyone had to start somewhere, so there must have been a time when he had been as nervous as these youngsters. Still, he could not resist a little gibe at Terelly's expense.

"Jus' follow the corp'ral's lead, Terelly, an' you'll be fine. 'Les o' course you really want t' go swimmin'!"

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