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From: "Ian Westergaard" <>
Subject: Re: [DK] Dates and Time
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2003 07:01:21 +1300
References: <>

Hi Bart

There are eight bells in a watch of four hours

The first watch starts at midnight and the bells are struck every half hour.

0030 = 1 bell, 0100 = 2 bells, 0130 = 3 bells and so on up to 8 bells at
0400 (struck in four sets of two). The sequence is repeated each four hour

The bells are first struck on the bridge or at the conning position and then
answered by the lookout. If the lookout does not answer someone goes to
check whether he has fallen asleep or overboard.

As the lookout was commonly on the forecastle (fo'c'sle) and the crew slept
in the f'c'sle they were woken up every half hour if they were not kept
awake by the lookout walking up and down trying to keep awake. You got very
tired with "four on four off watches" especially if you were called out
between your watches to trim sails. Of course the officers and petty
officers slept down aft or midships where they were not disturbed so much.

Ian Westergaard
In Cloudy & Mild Central Otago
New Zealand

----- Original Message -----
From: "Bart Hansen" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 2:35 AM
Subject: [DK] Dates and Time

> The great beauty of the military system is that, as Leslie suggests, it is
> unmistakable. You simply cannot err by using a date like 1 Dec 2003.
> You can write 1-12-2003 or 12-1-2003, but most will not be able to
> decipher your intent. Similarly, you can write 20030112 or 20031201
> and be in the same boat of uncertainty.
> Like Rock, I learned this better system in the military many years ago.
> I still use that system and am happy that genealogists find it better,
> I also use the military time when writing notes to myself; "yogurt ready
> at 1300 Tuesday" but that's another matter.
> Bart, who admits having forgotten how to tell time with bells. I vaguely
> recall a four-hour cycle.

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