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Two, Six Heave

Posted by Bill Anderson on March 15, 2006

Two, Six Heave

Conventional lore holds that 'two, six, heave' refers to old great gun crew positions two and six heaving the loaded gun back into battery.

I have several problems with this. First, according to long standing naval custom, odd number positions would have been on one side and even numbers, on the other. Two and six would have been on the same side. This is substantiated by a drawing in the National Maritime Museum, London collection of an 1802 18 pound gun crew in the frigate Amazon. Second, these guns were very heavy. A 32 pounder, for example weighted about 3.5 tons. Two men, regardless of what type tackle they used, could hardly have hauled such a massive gun back into battery in a timely fashion. Finally, I have found several web sites showing the powder monkey in the number six gun crew position. The powder monkey would have been a young lad 10 to 13 years old.

I had heard that there was a French connection to the 'two, six heave' command. I asked a French acquaintance if anything French would sound like 'two, six' She came up with 'en tous sain' (or saint). Don,t hold me to the spelling; my knowledge of French ends with fries. To me, 'en tous sain, (all together), heave' being sailored into two, six heave makes more sense.