Sea History 096 - Spring 2001

Page 31

The Strange Story of the Fouled Anchor An inquiry into the history of a naval symbol by David L. Sills or years I have wo ndered about a n being rep laced by clear anchors, presum- was a first co usin of Queen Elizabeth, ably because of the negati ve associations. whom he served in a number of military, ano maly in rhe customs of rh e sea: W hy is a fouled anchor-an anch o r T he first example is from rhe Royal naval, and civil capacities. rhar has a line or cable wrapped aro und its Navy itself. The section of rhe article enIn 1585 Lord Howard was appointed shank-uni ve rsally and even proudl y dis- titled "F lag" in rh e 1964 edition of the Lord High Admiral. In those rimes, the played as a symbol ofnaval pride? All sailors Encyclopedia Britannica devo ted to rhe perso nal seal of a great officer of stare was know rhar ir is dangerous for a line ro U nited Kingdom was wrirren by C. N orth- often adopted as rhe seal of his office, and become wrapped around an anchor. An co te Parkinson, rhe British historian per- thus rhe fouled anchor passed into British upward pull on a foul ed anchor haps more famous for his 1957 officialdom. In 1588, Lord H oward comcable can easily dislodge rhe anbook, Parkinson's Law ("Work m anded the English fl eer rhar defeated the chor from its hold on the botexpands so as to fi ll the rime Spanish Armada in a great sea battle that to m, allowing it to drag and , available for its completion"). had enormous consequences for the furure quire poss ibly, to cause its craft Parkinso n describes rhe Admi- of Grear Britain. The centrali ry of the fou led anchor sym to collide with another or to go ralty fl ag as a plain red with a agro und. clear [sic] anchor in rhe center bol in th e British naval tradition is dein yellow. H e provides rhe fo l- scribed in the 1976 book, The Oxford ComTo permit an anchor to belowing chronology ofirs origin: panion to Ships & the Sea, edited by Peter come fouled is widely accepted as evid ence of careless or incomRoyal Navy badge, • In 1691, rhe Admiralty Kemp. After describing a fouled anchor in petent seam anship . My effort petty officer, ca. 1870 adopted " a red silk flag with the one sentence, the article continues: "The fouled anchor is also the official anchor and cable therein ." here is to shed light on how this so-call ed "sailor's disgrace" has become an acce pted , • In 1725, " pres umably to m ake rhe seal of the Lord High Admiral of Britain even cherished, symbol amo ng rhe wo rld 's device more artistic, " rhe cable was twisted and another ve rsion of ir is the deco rative navies, yac ht clubs and sailo rs. device on his fl ag, which , unti l the offi ce of around rhe stock of rh e anchor. In rhe U nited Kingdom , where in its • In 1815, the anchor was cleared , bur rhe Adm iralty was merged into th e Minismodern form the symbol of th e fouled " even today rhe buttons of the naval uni- rry of D efence in 1964, was flown day and ancho r originated, a fouled anchor appears form bear a fo ul annight from rhe Admi o n rhe fl ag flown by rhe Queen 's yacht a nd chor. " ralty bui ldin g in Lonis the cherished emblem ofborh the Admidon . Ir is now the perT he second exam pie ..---:i. ....- -···········--····· ( ....llii·~ ...... ralty and rhe National Maritime M useum. of a fou led anchor besonal flag of the Queen, Ir is also on rhe cap badge of all naval ing replaced by a clear who assumed rhe ride officers. Mos t of rhe worl d's navies follow one is rhe Stare of Rhode ofLord High Admiral the British custom. Island, the colony that in 1964. T h is flag, in The Admiraly flag, United Kingdom co njunction with rhe In the U ni red Stares, the fo ul ed anc ho r sent two regi ments m to is perhaps best known for its appeara nce on rhe American RevoluRoyal Standard and the ensign rhar private yach rs and boars fl y tio n . The fl ag of rhe Second Regim ent rhe Union fl ag, is traditionally flown when o n their stern. Ir is also on the cap badge of portrayed "a light blue foul ancho r with a rhe Sovereign proceeds to sea, indicating all US naval officers; iri s ar rh e center of rh e dark blue cable"; rh e mono "Hope" ap- that it is from the sovereign that the office well -known emblem of rh e US Marine peared above rhe anchor. The Stare of of rhe Lord High Admiral derives. The on ly Corps, in accordance with regulatio ns first Rhode Island , howeve r, sub sequ entl y other occasion on which iris flown is at rhe prom ulgated on 24 August 1797. These ado pted a fl agwirh a clear ancho r on irwirh launch of a British warship, being hoisted on a fl agstaff on the hu ll as it goes down the regulations also describe the buttons o n rhe mono "H ope" beneath it. launching ways .... officer's uniforms as "yellow metal, and ro "The use of rhe foul, or fouled, anchor, have the fo ul anchor and America n eagle British Origins o n rhe sam e." The fouled anchor was used o n Scottish an abominati o n to seam en when it occurs Many yacht clubs aro und the wo rld seals as early as 1402, when ir was on rhe in practi ce, as rhe seal of the highest office have a fouled anchor o n th eir seals, rhe ir seal of rhe Lord High Admiral of Sco tland. of maritim e administration is purely on rhe burgees, bl aze r parches, and newsletters. Bur the defearof the Spanish Armada nearly gro unds of irs deco rative effect, rhe rope Commercial uses are also co mm o n; wit- 200 years later was the dram atic eve nt that cable aro und the shank of the anchor givness, fo r exampl e, the trademark of Anch o r propelled its use into the Admiralty, the ing a pleas ing fini sh to the stark design of Steam Beer. Royal Navy, and ultimately navies and an anchor on its own." Ir sho uld be noted rhar this entry gives Ir is quire remarkable how few naval yacht clubs throughout rhe world. dictionaries and other reference works note The ge nerally accepted view of rhe ori- two quire different explanations for rhe use rhe incongruity of rhe fo uled anchor; t hey gin of rhe fouled ancho r as a naval and of rhe fo ul ed anchor by rhe Admiralty: its generally describe ir as if it were a quire maritime sym bol is that ir ca me from the origin in rhe arm s o r seal of Lord Howard normal symbol. T here are two insta nces seal of the distinguished nobl eman Lord and its co ntinu ed use because of its "decothat I have discovered of fouled anchors Howard of Effingham (1536-1624), who rarive effect. "


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