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The Chatty Girls and How to Make their Acquaintance

An Officer’s Stripes created quite a debate. A lot of old Seadogs believed that too many cruise ship personnel are now classed as officers.

"Everyone appears to be wearing epaulettes from the shop assistants to the security staff."

According to Stephen on Facebook

There has been great inflation in the use of the word 'officer'. Now everyone is an officer. Soon, I suppose, everyone will be a captain with catering captains, wardrobe captains and medical captains.

I, on the other hand, was third, second then first mate. I only became a captain when I received a commission. Not even when I commented a ship as I was then a ship master.

By making everyone an 'officer' it will not have the desired effect of adding esteem to their positions as it will be common as muck.

John Martin recalls Zig Zag Stripes

The Zig Zag Stripes of

Elder Demster Line

When I first went to sea the Catering Dept. officers (As opposed to the Pursers) I wore a zigzag braid. I was told that when the Steward's dept. started recognising Chief Stewards as officers they were assigned such braid as the sign of Aquarius

from their original nick-name of piss-pot carriers 🤔

On the passenger ships, Chief Stewards wore three gold, Second Stewards two, Cabin or 2nd. Class Chief Stewards two, Extra Second Stewards one. Chief Barkeepers, Accommodation Supervisors, Baggage Masters wore a single silver. If you see any old photos of passenger shipping, especially trans-Atlantic, of catering crews there will be the occasional zig-zag amongst them in their pea jackets.

John Martin with a passenger table - Starship 'Oceanic' November 1990

John also recalls the dubious pleasure of hosting a table in the dining room, as he did the shipboard Booze allowance for such duties. I still have many photographs of 'tables' accompanied by a number of letters of gratitude for my 'social skills'. It made working on cruise ships as a purser/hotel officer a lot more interesting. I thought it safer to ask the Headwaiters to have a mother/daughter combination assigned to my table. That occasionally created its own problem!.

Not all passengers had the desire to sit at the Captain’s table as John recalls his duty as Chief Steward.

Before sailing I had to scrutinise the passenger list with the captain. Although the company suggested VIPs who could be invited to the Captain’s Table, it was he who made the final decision as to whom he wished to have as company. It was then my duty to write up the invitations, seek the passengers out and extend the invitation. I did have one refusal. A self-made millionaire Yorkshire businessman who responded

“What lad, when I go on t’buses I don’t sit up with driver– give me a table for two out the way”.

Although Back in the day a gold bar or two would help you pull the girls, they were not necessary according to

David Page while working on Oronsey in 1971

David Page presumably heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge

I was the tourist class swimming pool attendant on the Oronsay on the world cruise in 1971. At night I doubled up as PRS on the public decks. Once the officers were off decks at midnight we too could “wheel them in “ against the rules! I paid a Goanese bedroom steward to let me have access to an empty cabin during a relationship I had with a passenger between Honolulu and LA. The officers were after her but I was in there first. Forbidden fruit, but I had to look out for the Master at Arms when going down to tourist accommodation at 2am. It was segregated from first class then.

The Chatty Girls according to Jamie Shedden

Jamie Shedden and maybe Two Chatty Girls

Each Shipping Line had its own version of "Wheeling In". On Shaw Savill, the Purser’s officer took a different approach Jamie Shedden remembers "The Chatty Girls"

The Pursers on Shaw Savill took the following approach to charm the girls.

As new pursers staff, we were trained to spot the charming young ladies at embarkation, and we each had a ‘chatty’ notebook, where we would record the name and cabin number of the attractive young girls. Once at sea, we would send an invitation to the cabin, to invite the girl to a cocktail party in one of our cabins. Initially, we would get the girls to assist sell tickets for sporting activities or for entertainment such as bingo or the daily tote. Some would eventually become "Boxed Off" for the voyage, and provided good company for lonely purser staff!!

"Boxed Off" was this just a P&O term ?


If you worked at sea you will be familiar with Polari.

It would be Bona to hear your

funny stories about "Polari"

please send them to

More stories by Jamie Shedden

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Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson
23 oct 2022

The term "Boxed Off' was used on all the ships I worked on including Cunard! We used tell the new staff on World cruises "Get boxed off early or you will become an alchoholic!"😀

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