The Laws of the Navy – Rear Admiral Ronald Hopwood, CB, RN 1986

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1.      Now these are the Laws of the Navy, unwritten and varied they be.  And he that is wise will observe them, going down in his ship to the sea;

 2.      As naught may outrun the destroyer, even so with the Law and its grip  For the strength of the ship is the Service, and the strength of the Service, the ship.

3.      Take heed what ye say of your seniors be your words spoken softly or plain Lest a bird of the air tell the matter, and so ye shall hear it again.

4.      If ye labour from morn until even’ and meet with reproof for your toil, It is well, that the gun may be humbled, the compressor must check the recoil.

5.      On the strength of one link in the cable dependeth the might of the chain; Who knoweth when thou may be tested?  So live that thou bearest the strain.

6.      When the ship that is tired returneth with the signs of the sea showing plain, Men place her in dock for a season, and her speed she reneweth again.

7.      So shalt thou, lest perchance thou grow weary, in the uttermost parts of the sea, Pray for leave, for the good of the Service, as much and as oft as may be.

8.      Count not upon certain promotion, but rather to gain it aspire, Though the sight-line shall end on the target, there cometh perchance a misfire.

9.      Canst follow the track of the dolphin or tell where the sea swallows roam?  Where Leviathan taketh his pastime, what ocean he calleth his home?

10.  Even so, with the words of thy rulers, and the orders these words shall convey Every Law is as naught beside this one, “Thou shalt NOT criticize but OBEY.”

11.  Saith the wise, “How may I know their purpose?” then acts without wherefore or why:  Stays the fool but one moment to question and the chance of his life passeth by.

12.  If ye win through an African jungle unmentioned at home in the press, Heed it not, no man seeth the piston, but it driveth the ship none the less.

13.  Do they growl?  It is well, be thou silent so that work goeth forward amain;  Lo’ the gun throws her shot to a hairsbreadth, and shouteth, yet none shall complain.

14.  Do they growl?  And the work be retarded?  It is ill, speak whatever their rank  The half loaded gun also shouteth, but can she pierce armour with blank?

15.  Doth the paintwork make war with the funnels?  Do the decks to the cannon complain?  Nay.  They know that some soap or a scraper unites them as brothers again;

16.  So ye, being Heads of Departments, do your growl with a smile on your lip  Lest ye strive and in anger be parted, and lessen the might of your ship.

17.  Dost deem that thy vessel needs gilding, and the Dockyard forbear to supply?  Place thy hand in thy pocket and gild her: there be those that have risen thereby.

 18.  Dost think in a moment of anger tis well with thy seniors to fight?  They prosper who burn in the morning, the letter they wrote overnight:

 19.  For some there be shelved and forgotten with nothing to thank for their fate  But that, on a half a sheet of foolscap, a Fool “had the honour to state.”

 20.  If the fairway be crowded with shipping, beating homeward the harbour to win  It is meet that, lest they should suffer, the steamers pass cautiously in;

 21.  So thou, when thou nearest promotion, and the peak that is gilded is nigh,  Give heed to thy words and thy actions, lest others be wearied thereby;

 22.  It is ill for the winners to worry, take thy fate as it comes with a smile, And when thou art safe in harbour, they will envy but may not revile.

 23.  Uncharted the rocks that surround thee, take heed that the channels thou learn, Lest thy name serve to buoy for another that shoal, the Courts Martial Return;

 24.  Though an Armour plate belt may protect her, the ship bears the scar on her side, “Tis well if the Court shall acquit thee; t’were best hadst thou never been tried.


 25.  Now these are the Laws of the Navy, unwritten and varied they be And he that is wise will observe them, going down in his ship to the sea,

26.   As the wave rises clear of the hawsepipe, washes aft and is lost in the wake, So shall ye drop astern all unheeded, such time as these Laws ye forsake.