In Reply to: Two, Six Heave posted by Victoria S Dennis on January 28, 2010 at 14:14:
: : : : : : Interesting discussion re the 2-6 Heave. As an ex British matelot, I pulled hawsers and ropes to this many times. I agree that it would be impossible for 2 guys to pull in a heavy pounder alone.
: : : : : : Here's a thought ...
: : : : : : Toutes = ALL (all of you/all together)
: : : : : : Six = Six (ALL six of you)???
: : : : : : Haler = Haul (French nautical term for haul) (pronounced 'ale)
: : : : : : So ... Toutes Six Haler = All six together, heave.
: : : : : People have been puzzling for decades over the origin of this phrase. It doesn't seem to make any sense in terms of Numbers Two and Six of the gun crew, and the idea that *any* command in the Royal Navy would have been given in French is just fantastic. The Royal Navy as we know it today came into being in the 18th century, during which (from 1701 to 1815) Britain was more or less permanently at war with France. (VSD)
: : : : There are some French terms used in the British Navy and many in the English language. e.g. All British sailors are known as Matelots. The French Navy were most powerful in the 1600-1700's. At that time it was the English Navy - prior to the British Navy, before the union with Scotland. France and Britain were allies 1721-1733. It would be nice to believe that 2-6 were the gun crew numbers and that the phrase is British but I cannot believe that two men even with good blocks and tackle could alone pull a 32-68 pounder. Also the fact that numbers 2 and 6 were on the same side of the gun? Marines and Sailtrimmers were often used to assist in the hauling of the gun because of its sheer weight. Mine was just an idea about the French. Anyone got any other thoughts??
: : : Further ...
: : : The gun was served by a six man crew - known by numbers to make orders easier in the noise of battle. Number 1 was the Gun Captain who aimed and fired the gun. Number 2 used a long spike to turn and raise the barrel; Number 3 loaded the gun and rammed the shot and powder home. Number 4 sponged out the gun, ensuring that no burning powder or waste was left to cause premature ignition of the new charge. Number 5 worked opposite 2 to move the gun whilst Number 6 was the smallest and youngest member of the crew - the powder monkey. Often young boys. I cannot see a 9-10 year old lad heaving such a gun.
: : Further ... I may have a logical answer ...
: : Number 1 was the gun captain - he shouted the commands. He would not shout 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Heave - He would shout 2 (through) 6 Heave - meaning - EVERYBODY HEAVE. Just a thought another thought. (Kelvin Tonks)
: Not a plausible thought, though - because the construction "two through six" is native to the US, and still sounds vaguely foreign to most older Rightpondians. As for "matelot", that's jokey slang, which can come from anywhere, unlike regular commands. BTW, I have never encountered any usage of the phrase pre-WWI, and I don't know anyone who has, which certainly makes it unlikely that it had anything to do with the sailing navy. (VSD)
I would like to disagree slightly with VSD: I think the construction 'two through six' sounds VERY foreign to Rightpondians.