By Lt Cdr Glenn von Zeil, SA Naval Reserves

The Bosun’s Call or Bosun’s Pipe (also sometimes spelled 'Boatswain') was used in days of sail to communicate commands onboard ships, especially to those men in the rigging who were adjusting the sails. In modern navies it fulfils a functional ceremonial purpose used to announce daily evolutions, including sunset, colours, call the hands at “wakey wakey”, summons the officer of the day, announce meals, rounds and pipe down. It is also the symbol of office of a Master at Arms or Cox’n and is displayed on a silver chain worn around the neck.

As in the SA Navy the Sea Cadets use Bosun’s Calls for the same purposes and young Cadets are taught the art of “piping” early on in their cadet experience. There is nothing like the piercing sound of a Bosuns Call piping “Wakey Wakey, rise and shine, heavo, heavo, lash up and stow” or other humorous variations at 0500 to rouse the hands.

As Bosun’s Calls are not manufactured in South Africa these are valued items in both the SA Navy and Sea Cadet Corps.

The ACME Whistle Company in London, England and benefactors, Michael Pinner in London with another mystery benefactor, purchased and donated two Bosun’s Calls to each South African Sea Cadet Unit. Two were also procured and are available to the Zimbabwe Unit, TS Matebele, based in Bulawayo.

The Officers Commanding and Sea Cadets from the South African Units are appreciative of this kind gesture as it ensures that Sea Cadets will have Bosun’s Calls to practice their piping as well as fulfil the ceremonial functions within the units.

This will ensure that Naval and Nautical traditions are maintained and that South African Sea Cadets can participate equally with other Sea Cadets on an international platform.

Thank you to ACME Whistles and Michael Pinner, in London, and the mystery South African benefactor for making this possible.

Photos by LT CDR Glenn von Ziel & SLT Denise Gouws

Sea Cadets from TS Woltemade, lakeside Cape Town, practice piping as part of their formative training under instruction of their Officer Commanding, Lt Cdr (SCC) Paul Jacobs.

Sea Cadets from TS Tiburon, Durban, hold a “pipe off” in order to establish who is the best qualified to use a Bosun’s Call.