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Sailors, Royal Navy, circa 1800-1815

Type: Image

At the time of the War of 1812, sailors of the Royal Navy — like in most navies of the period — had no prescribed uniform. But in 1623, the Royal Navy adopted a system by which sailors could buy ‘Slop Clothing’ at a fixed price. Generally, the seamen's dress consisted of a blue double-breasted jacket, with brass or horn buttons, a short waistcoat — often red but it could be another colour, blue or white trousers, a round hat, a neckerchief — often black, stockings and shoes. Slop clothing was also avaliable in Canada. An advertisement in Halifax’s 'Nova Scotia Royal Gazette' of 24 November 1813 mentioned a ‘Complete assortment of Slop Cloathing, viz, Men and youth's fine Jackets and Trowsers, Scarlet and blue cloth Waistcoats, Woolen and cotton cord ditto [waistcoats], Striped Cotton and red Flannel Shirts, Great Coats, Pea and Flushing Jackets and Trowsers, men’s flannel drawers’, these later items to face the cold North Atlantic weather.

Site: National Defence

The French And British Navies

Type: Document

Both Britain and France needed strong navies to protect their coasts, fishing fleets and colonies. The peak of French naval power was during the 1690s, when it dominated the coasts of England. Defeated in 1692, the French navy declined in quality and strength from that point on.

Site: National Defence

John Cabot embarking in full ceremonial garb on the Matthew at Bristol on 20 May 1497

Type: Image

Sailing west from Bristol in the south west of England in May 1497, Cabot sighted land on 24 June. This was probably Newfoundland but also possibly Cape Breton Island. Cabot took possession of his discovery for England, which gave that country its first claim of trans-Atlantic territory.

Site: National Defence

Advertisement for 'Twin Navy' tobacco, circa 1911

Type: Image

For the Canadians of the day, their new fleet was clearly linked with the Royal Navy. It is worth noting that the warship shown in this circa 1911 advertisement is much larger than anything then in service with the Royal Canadian Navy. Also, McAlpin Tobacco was the Canadian branch of a New York company. (Private collection)

Site: National Defence

Sailors, Marine royale française, circa 1690

Type: Image

These French sailors are working on the running rigging of a warship. During the 17th century, the common sailors of the Marine royale française did not wear uniforms.

Site: National Defence

Sailor, Royal Navy, circa 1807

Type: Image

The dress of British sailors of the early 19th century could have endless variations and embelishments. For instance, some trimmed their blue jackets with white tape at the seams and edges; others had many small brass buttons sewed closely together; the white trousers often had blue stripes; the black tarred hats were sometimes painted with devices or the ship's name painted in white on a black hat ribbon. Shirts could come in blue-striped or checkered versions as well as plain white, red or blue or even white with red or blue spots.

Site: National Defence

Rating in landing order, Royal Navy, 1892

Type: Image

This dress and armament was the standard gear from the 1860s onwards for armed parties sent ashore from ships of the Royal Navy to investigate the occasional piratical activities on the British Columbia coast.

Site: National Defence

English sailor, 1570s

Type: Image

A fur cap and baggy breeches were characteristic items of clothing of English sailors during the late 16th century.

Site: National Defence

Royal Navy officers and midshipmen, 1830s-1890s

Type: Image

The two officers at left wear the scarlet collar and cuffs introduced by King William IV in 1830. The traditional white facings were restored in 1843. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

Rating with a conical-shaped shell, Royal Navy, 1892

Type: Image

The conical-shaped shell was used in the new breech-loading guns, introduced during the 1860s. Breech-loading took some time before it was completely accepted in the British services for various technical reasons, but was reintroduced with improvements during the 1870s and 1880s. By then, other powers such as Germany, France and the United States were commonly using this type of loading mechanism.

Site: National Defence