Splice the Main Brace; The Royal Navy at RAF Marham Honour the birth of HRH Prince George

Navy splice the main brace in recognition of Prince George
“Splice the Main Brace” is an order given on board naval vessels to issue the crew with a drink.

This ‘Splice the Main Brace’ was to celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge to Prince William and Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Royal Navy personnel based at RAF Marham were issued with the Order and kindly invited personnel from across the Station to join them in partaking in their tradition. The event was held in the Junior Ranks Mess and a ration of rum was available to those not driving or returning to work, with the alternative cola on offer. The short ceremony began with a brief history about the tradition (for the non-Navy present) and continued with the Order being read out. ‘Heart of Oak’ played in the background setting the scene and the rations were duly issued.

The term to ‘Splice the Main Brace’ originally came from an order for one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs aboard a sailing ship. The rigging was commonly aimed for during battle, with the main brace being the prime target. If the main brace was destroyed, it deemed the ship uncontrollable without it; therefore it was necessary to repair it during the engagement. Splicing a rope is to form a semi-permanent joint between two ropes or two parts of the same rope by partly untwisting and then interweaving their strands. It was one of the most difficult tasks on board ship. Splices are preferred to knotted rope, since a splice is capable of attaining a rope’s full strength. To those that “Spliced the Main Brace”! went a double issue of rum.

A ration of rum a day was standard issue in the Royal Navy until 1970, when concerns over crew members operating machinery under the influence led to the rum ration being abolished.

Eventually the order “Splice the main brace” came to mean that the crew would receive an extra ration of rum, and was issued on special occasions: after victory in battle, the change of a monarch, a royal birth, a royal wedding or an inspection of the fleet. In cases where the whole fleet was to receive the signal, it would be run up with a lift of flags or signalled by semaphore.

Permission to issue the order to splice the main brace is heavily restricted. The following may issue the order;
a. Her Majesty the Queen, or members of the Royal Family.
b. The Admiralty Board on special occasions of celebration or national rejoicing.
c. Governor Generals when acting as viceroy to Her Majesty the Queen.

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