There are many customs and traditions associated with the Royal Navy (RN) and many of these are carried on by other Commonwealth Navies, like the RAN, RCN and RNZN.
The Toasts of the Royal Navy are a set of traditional drinking toasts that take place during formal dinners and on particular days of the week.
The main toast, and the first one given following the completion of the dessert course at a formal dining in night, is the ‘Loyal Toast’ to the Sovereign. This toast was originally made seated, apparently due to the danger of low deckheads on wooden sailing ships, rather than potential inebriation!
There then follow special toasts dependent on the day of the week. They are:
- Sunday – “Absent Friends“
- Monday – “Our Ships at Sea“
- Tuesday – “Our Men“
- Wednesday – “Ourselves” (as no one else is likely to be concerned for us!)
- Thursday – “A Bloody War or a Sickly Season” (and a quick promotion!)
- Friday – “A Willing Foe and Sea-Room“
- Saturday – “Wives and Sweethearts” (may they never meet)
In 2013 the RN changed the Tuesday and Saturday toasts to reflect the fact that women had been at sea for nearly two decades.
Officially the Tuesday toast is now “Our Sailors” and the Saturday toast is “Our Families“*. However, apparently the majority of personnel prefer the traditional toasts and they are still widely used.
Toasts are made from port glasses and typically given by the youngest officer present at a Mess dinner, in their capacity as Dining Vice President or ‘Mr Vice’.
The port is ‘passed’ in decanters to each person at the dinner to then fill their glass. Naval tradition is that the decanter should be passed along the table, as lifting it a on moving ship could result in spilling the precious liquid!
* – in the Royal Australian Navy the wording of the Saturday toast is slightly different – ‘Our Partners’. Since 1999, in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) the Thursday toast is ‘Our Navy’ and the Friday toast ‘Our Nation’.