NAVAL AND MILITARY
36. Flags and Banners originated in the Ensigns or Standards borne at the head of a barbarian host while marching into battle. When the Goths went to war, they sacrificed their horses to the gods and then cut off their heads, which they bore upon staves and spears as ensigns in the field. After their subversion of the Roman Empire, they bore the stuffed skin of a bear, in imitation of the Romans, who had their Eagle, the royal ensign of the ancient kings of Persia and Babylon, and of the Ptolemies of Egypt. Prior to the Cimbrian war the Romans had as ensigns in addition to the eagle, the wolf, the horse, the boar, and a multitude of other devices; but Marius retained only the eagle as the ensign of a legion, relegating all the rest to the cohorts. Thenceforward each cohort bore its own device emblazoned on the bucklers of its men (see 4). At the close of the war these bucklers were deposited in tents and magazines, but the cohort that had distinguished itself most in battle claimed the privilege of having its bucklers suspended for a time in the temples. The eagle is borne by the Emperors of Germany and Austria, and the Czar of Russia, who claim descent from the Csars. The Two-headed Eagle was first assumed by the Emperor Constantine, in token of his sovereignty over the Eastern and Western Empires; and next by Charlemagne, for the like reason. The second eagle in the imperial standard of Russia denotes the acquisition of that of Poland. The ancient Phrygians chose for their ensign a sow, the Saxons a horse, the Flemings a bull, and the Mongols a Dragon, which is the device of the Emperor of China at the present time. The Crescent, the device of the ancient city of Byzantium, now Constantinople, was the symbol of sovereign power among the Greeks and Romans; to-day it is the ensign of the Turks. The Red Flag was the Roman symbol of war, and the accepted token of a call to arms. The White Flag, on the other hand, was the symbol of peace, and as such has from time immemorial been employed to proclaim a truce. In their civic processions the Romans invariably caused banners to be carried inscribed with the letters S.P.Q,R. These were the initials of the sentence, "Senatus populus que Romanus" ("The senate and the people of Rome "). In all representations of Roman life such banners are noticeable.
37. The Royal Standard of Great Britain is a flag emblazoned with the Royal Arms, and totally distinct from the "Union Jack," with which it is often confounded. The Union Jack is a combination of the military ensigns of St. George's Cross for England, St. Andrew's Cross for Scotland, and St. Patrick's Cross for Ireland. This combination was effected at the formal union of the three kingdoms in the year 1801. So much for the first part of the name. The origin of the second has always been a matter of dispute among antiquaries. By many it is thought to be a corruption of Jacobus or Jacques, i.e. James, in allusion to the union of England and Scotland under James I. Others, again, derive it from the jacque, or surtout of wadded leather strengthened by pieces of plate armour, and charged with the red cross of St. George, as anciently worn by all English soldiers. The latter is by far the more likely derivation. Let us just look into this for a moment. When our soldiers were engaged in the field they wore the Jacque both for protection and distinction. If, however, they had occasion to go on board ship, their Jacques were placed close together along the bulwarks, exactly in the same way as the Romans and the Northmen disposed of their shields on board their galleys. Behind these Jacques, then, they found protection from the arrows of their assailants, while the device upon them proclaimed their nationality. With the exception of the king's own ship of war, which had the royal arms embroidered upon a silken sail, no other indication of the nationality of a vessel was ever afforded. Now, although we are without any documentary evidence to prove to us in what particular manner these Jacques came to give their name to the flag now flown from the bowsprit of a vessel, it is reasonable to assume that when in course of time the Jacques no longer found a place along the bulwarks, a solitary Jacque was displayed at the bowsprit, perhaps more for the sake of ornament than aught else; and this afterwards gave its name to the flag that superseded it. At all events, it is significant that the flag itself was called the "Jack," and the staff from which it was flown, the "Jackstaff," long before the union of the English and Scottish crowns called the designation "Union Jack" into being.
38. The Tricolour of France, as adopted by the National Assembly at the outbreak of the Revolution of 1789, is red and blue, the colours of the city of Paris, and white, the ancient colour of France, derived from the angel supporters in the royal arms. The selection of the lastnamed colour was due to M. de Lafayette, when it was pointed out that red and blue were already the colours of the House of Orleans. The flags of Italy, Belgium, and the Old North German Confederation were all three formed on the model of the French tricolour.
39. It is not true that the Stars and Stripes composing the American flag were taken from the arms of the Washington family, as seen on a brass in Brington Church, Northamptonshire, where the ancestors of George Washington lie buried. This similarity is merely an interesting coincidence. The flag of the American Union grew quite naturally out of the Union Jack, the same colours being retained from the first. In order to utilize the red field and the white saltire the field was cut up into thirteen stripes of alternate red and white, corresponding to the thirteen states or colonies, while the "constellation," or field of stars, was the outcome of a requirement for the remaining colour, the blue. Not before the year 18 18 was the idea of adding a star for every new state formally adopted, although two new stars had been added to the original thirteen after the admission of Kentucky and Vermont to the Union on May 1st, 1795. The resolution of Congress establishing the Stars and Stripes as the national ensign was dated June 14th, 1777, but it was not officially promulgated until the 3rd of September following.
40. When we see a Broom Tied to the Masthead, we are given to understand that the vessel bearing it is for sale. This singular method of announcing a ship for sale is generally ascribed to the fact that Van Tromp, the celebrated Dutch admiral, displayed a broom at the masthead of his vessel to signify his intention of sweeping the English from their own seas. That he did display a broom in this manner is unquestionable, since, in retaliation, the English admiral tied a horsewhip to his own masthead, expressive of his determination to give the Dutchman a good thrashing. From this horsewhip the flying streamer or Pennant which now distinguishes all English ships of war has been derived. But the broom was a very old device at the time when Van Tromp made use of it. "The Friscans," writes John Evelyn, "greatly infested the Danes, and those of Flanders, especially under William, the son of John, Count of Holland, and in the time of William the Good, Duke of Normandy. They were the first that bore the broome when, anno 1438, they had cleared the Levantine Seas, and subdued the Genoese." Here we have the origin of the broom at the masthead in the sense in which it was employed by Van Tromp; but the idea of an article sold being literally "swept away," is a little too far-fetched to satisfy us. Let us just see if the symbolism of the broom in connection with a ship for sale cannot be explained on more logical grounds. Looking around us, we find that at the periodical hiring of servants, which now takes place in country towns at Martinmas, but which formerly was intimately associated with what was called a Mop Fair, those servants who have not yet found a new master are distinguished from the rest by wearing twigs or small boughs in their hats. Now, the ancient Gauls always placed boughs on the heads of their slaves exposed for sale in open market, and from this custom other objects exhibited for sale came to have boughs fastened to them. Moreover, since these boughs invariably consisted of the broom-plant, the constant use of the term "broom" was easily mistaken in the course of time for the name of that article of domestic utility with which we are all familiar. As a matter of fact, the household broom received its name from its bristles being originally made of the broom plant. Hence the designation, "Mop Fair," by which was meant a fair exclusively held for hiring and selling, without any recreative adjuncts.
41. The Fleur-de-Lis on the Mariner's Compass was the cognizance of Charles d'Anjou, the reigning king of Sicily at the time when Flavio Gioja, the Neapolitan navigator, effected his improvements in the instrument first introduced to Europeans by Marco Polo some forty years previously. It was in compliment to this king that Gioja adopted his cognizance as an ornamental indication of the direction due north (see 4).
42. For a very good reason there are always Three Men stationed on a Lighthouse off the British Isles. Formerly there were only two, but on a certain occasion one of the twain shut off from the world in a towering edifice constructed on the stormy rock-bound coast died, and, as frequently happens during the winter, since no boat could come near for some time, the survivor was obliged to keep the dead body of his comrade beside him until it had become putrid-a condition of affairs which almost drove him out of his mind. Had he disposed of the body by casting it into the sea, he would in all probability have been charged with murder, as he well knew. Happily, owing to the measures now adopted, such a terrible experience is not likely to again befall a British lighthouse-keeper.
43. That diverting marine saturnalia which, within living memory, always took place on Crossing the Line, when a vessel had "boys" on board who were passing from the north to the south latitudes, or vice versa, for the first time, was nothing more than a burlesque of certain religious observances of the ancient mariners as they sailed out of the Mediterranean past the "Pillars of Hercules" into the broad Atlantic. In their time the exploration of that vast watery waste was supposed to be attended with peculiar dangers, which could only be averted by invocations to Neptune, the god of the sea, in much the same manner as they were accustomed to invoke him in their temples on the 3rd of December, the day set apart for a festival in honour of Neptune and Minerva. Consequently, in modern times, Neptune always came on board attended by his wife, to baptize those "youngsters" who could not boast of having crossed the line before. On such occasions the fun ran fast and furious, though the victims doubtless held a different opinion. The introduction of steam navigation has been the chief factor in the abolition of this time-honoured revelry. In the old days, when a sailing vessel would be wind-bound under the equator, some diversion was needed to vary the monotony.
44. The nautical Ahoy, or, as it appears in old MSS., "aoi," was the battle-cry of the Norse and Danish vikings when they rushed their galleys upon the enemy.
45. When sailors on board ship indulge a tuneful " Heave-oh! "or "Oh-yeigh-oh!" to assist their labours at hauling in a cable, or while running round the capstan, they have no idea probably that this was the manner in which the slaves of the ancient world were inspirited to draw heavy burdens. Among the Egyptians, for example, we find from pieces of sculpture which have survived the ravages of Time, how huge blocks of several thousand tons' weight were drawn from the quarries to the places where some architectural work upon a grand scale was in progress, by hundreds of slaves yoked together in different rows by ropes to the sledge. On the top of the stone-block, or if it was a carved figure, seated on the knees, there was a kind of foreman or director, who, when a certain cadence of the song that he sang was reached, clapped his hands together as a signal for them to make a simultaneous forward movement In the intervals of these exertions, a small body of men poured the contents of grease-jars upon the planks in front of the sledge, while others were in attendance to supply the labourers with water to drink. How true is the saying, itself as old as the time of Solomon, that "there is nothing new under the sun!"
46. Among the ancient Egyptians every soldier was compelled to wear a ring upon which a Scarab, or sacred beetle, was engraved. The object of this was to make him valorous in battle, the scarab being the symbol of regeneration or resurrection (see 432).
47. Some of our Military Observances have an interesting significance. When a Salute is Fired in honour of a person of distinction, it means that the peaceable nature of his visit is so well understood, that there is no need to keep the guns charged. Similarly, when the rank and file "Present Arms," they virtually offer to deliver them into his hands, in recognition of his friendly disposition towards their commander; just as the Lowering of Swords by a mounted regiment expresses a willingness to stand unarmed before the distinguished person to whom honour is being paid. In active warfare, a superior officer on being taken prisoner Surrenders his Sword into the hands of an officer of corresponding rank on the enemy's side in token of submission, and that he places his life entirely at his mercy; but the sword is always as courteously returned to him.
48. The Military Salute, exactly as we now have it, has been in use in the British army from the very commencement of its history. Originally introduced at the tournaments of the Middle Ages, this raising of the hand to a horizontal position over the eyebrows expressed a compliment far more forcible than words. As soon as the "Queen of Beauty" had enthroned herself on the scene of the day's sports, all the knights who were about to take part in them filed past the dais for her inspection, and as they did so, shielded their eyes from the blinding rays of her loveliness.
49. That interesting military display known as The Trooping of the Colours, was a device on the part of the Duke of Cumberland, when colonel of the First Foot Guards, to reform the uncertain gait of his officers on parade. In his time the hour of parade was six in the morning, and whenever he put in an appearance on the scene, he expressed himself highly scandalized at the unmistakable indications that his officers had not quite recovered from the effects of their previous night's potations. Accordingly, he invented a series of manoeuvres, in the following out of which each officer would be required to walk slowly and separately in a straight line to a given spot, the least unsteadiness or irregularity being instantly detected. Though the necessity for such a test has long since ceased to exist, the parade has been retained as an annual ceremonial on the Queen's birthday.
50. The true origin of the nickname Lobsters, as applied to a British regiment, is given by Lord Clarendon in his "History of the Rebellion." In describing the stirring events of the Civil War during the year 1643, he says: "Sir William Waller received from London a fresh regiment of 500 horse, under the command of Sir Arthur Haslerig, which were so prodigiously armed that they were called by the King's party 'the regiment of lobsters,' because of their bright iron shells with which they were covered, being perfect cuirassiers, and were the first seen so armed on either side." The commonly accepted idea that our soldiers received this nickname on account of their red tunics is incorrect; the more so since a red-coat is popularly denominated A Boiled Lobster, in contradistinction to a policeman, who is A Raw Lobster.
51. The word Lieutenant was originally pronounced as it would be if spelled "lewtenant," until by a printer's error the letter v was unwittingly dropped into the place of the u and suffered to remain. Thus in the "Colonial Records" relating to the State of New York, the word is spelled "lievtenant." It is the function of a lieutenant, conformably with the two words lieu, place, and tenant, holding, to supply the place of a superior officer in his absence.
52. Until recently, all the Hussar regiments of Europe wore the Right Sleeve of the Upper Tunic Hanging loose and useless down the back. This was in imitation of the custom of the original Hussars raised by Corvinus, King of Hungary, in the year 1445, for the national defence; the term Hussar being derived from "houtzar," which in the Magyar tongue means a twentieth, for Corvinus ordered all his people to furnish one man out of every twenty to the service of the State. The Magyars are justly regarded as the finest body of light horsemen in the world. Strong, hardy fellows, accustomed all their lives to the saddle in charge of large droves of cattle on the broad Hungarian plains, their sinews find active scope for development when, for the excitement's own sake, they employ themselves by capturing and taming wild horses. In this and their ordinary occupation they buckle their mantle under their right arm, so that the latter shall always be free and untrammelled. This, then, is why the right sleeve of the outer tunic of the original and all succeeding Hussar regiments never encased the arm. The oft-told story to the effect that a certain Hussar regiment was ordered out of camp to drive back a surprise party with such haste that the men had not time to get both arms into their coat sleeves, and that in commemoration of their success they allowed the right sleeve to hang loosely down the back ever afterwards, cannot be accepted seriously for one moment. To say the least of it, it is most unlikely that all the men of the regiment, or even the greater part of them, would have been left-handed (see 54). It may be conveniently added that the Scarlet Cloth Attachment to the Hussar Busby is all that is left of the long narrow bag which the Magyars in battle allowed to fall over their left shoulder as a protection against sword slashes.
53. The Broad Arrow which appears on all Government stores, and which is used also to indicate points whence measurements in connection with the Ordnance Survey have been taken, was the badge or heraldic device of Henry Viscount Sydney, afterwards Earl of Romney, at the time when he held the position of Master-General of the Ordnance Department. It was he himself who originally caused it to be employed as the distinguishing mark for military stores.
54. In time of war it is the custom for military men and officers of state in Turkey to assign the left hand as the Place of Honour instead of the right. This is because the sword-arm is supposed to be always available for defence at such times. In this connection it may be asked, How came Mankind to be right-handed? The answer is very simple. When once it was discovered that the region of the heart was the most vulnerable part of the body, every man engaged in battle directed his blows upon the left breast of his adversary, who was naturally his vis-âvis. Thus, arrows were shot from the right shoulder, and javelins were hurled with the right hand, while maces, battle-axes, and swords were dexterously wielded in opposition to the bucklers, whose primary object was to shield the heart from attack (see 73).