THE BOATSWAINS CALL AND PIPING|
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The use of the “Boatswain’s Call” is almost lost in antiquity, but we know that the most ancient galley slaves of Greece and Rome kept stroke by a flute or whistle. Its use in English ships has been traced back to about 1248AD, during the Crusades.
The call was usually used as a badge of rank, and as such was worn by the Lord High Admirals of England from 1485 until 1562, after which it reverted to its original use for passing orders. It was known as the ‘Whistle of Honour’ and was made of gold and suspended from the neck by a gold chain. Since 1671, it has been known as a “call”.
In the Royal Navy the “boatswains call” is used to pass orders
· By certain recognised sounds, which is better than the human voice as the sounds are unlikely to be confused
· By sounds followed by a shouted order
· And to give salutes and marks of respect
Piping is really the shouting, or singing out, of the order following the use of the call, and now the whole procedure is known as ‘piping’. Often several calls are used in unison. Nowadays, the sound of piping is broadcast through a chip by means of loudspeakers.