pollywogs_and_shellbacks_19_october_1943
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CROSSING THE LINE – POLLYWOGS AND SHELLBACKS
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The “Crossing the Line” ceremony commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the equator, Latitude 00000. This maritime rite of initiation has its origins in veteran sailors testing their new shipmates to ensure they were capable of handling long harsh times at sea during the era of sail. During the era of steam it continued to serve as a maritime rite of passage.  Sailors who have already crossed the equator become (Trusty) “Shellbacks”, sometimes referred to as “Sons of Neptune” and those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) “Pollywogs”.
King Neptune escorted by his Royal Court, typically including his first assistant and scribe Davy (Davey) Jones (commander of all the evil spirits of the deep) and her Highness Amphitrite (goddess of the sea and the wife of Poseidon) and other various dignitaries, usually characterize by the highest ranking seamen, officiate a ceremony during which the Pollywogs undergo a number of increasingly abhorrent rituals chiefly contrived to entertain the Shellbacks.
These rituals traditionally included but were not limited to;
  • Wearing heavy weather gear for hours in the sweltering equatorial heat.
  • Walking, crawling, rolling, sliding, or being pulled, pushed, or dragged through, or simply being doused with a stinking miasma of rotting food, spent and new machine lubricants, elements of laundry duty gone bad, anything that fit the label “disgusting”, including a large amount of substances whose origins were never revealed.
  • Getting a custom haircut by the Royal Barber.
  • Being stationed in a Gig for a few hours dresses in a Pea Coat and watch cap.
  • Being flogged by socks filled with who knows what.
  • Getting the Royal Electrocution by the electric prod of the Royal Electrician while lying prostrate on a salt water saturated mattress atop the steel deck or sitting in a chair in similar condition to assure good continuity.  
  • Kissing the Royal Babies grease filled navel.

The Pollywog, now a Shellback, is issued a Shellback certificate. This is not an official Navy ceremony and there is no offical Navy Shellback certificate, they are all of private design, the Shellback certificate you see on these pages shows to be designed by H.R. Flint and was printed or adopted in 1929 by H.A. Jones and seems to have been requisitioned in large numbers and issued to the combat vessels during World War II and to date is the only design I have seen issued aboard a combat ship during the War.
If you know any of the history of this Shellback certificate design, artist H.R. Flint, the H.A. Jones Company please contact me using our contact page at the following link, CONTACT.

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THE SHELLBACK AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE
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The "Shellback" above belonged to my Uncle who crossed the line twice. On 19 October 43' he received "The Treatment" and this certificate. In August 44' he dispensed "The Treatment" thus having the experienced the ceremony once as a Pollywog and once as a Shellback.
His Shellback reads...
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IMPERIUM NEPTUNI REGIS
TO ALL SAILORS WHEREVER YEA MAY BE: and to all Mermaids, Whales, Sea Serpents, Porpoises, Sharks, Dolphins, Eels, Skates, Suckers, Crabs, Lobsters, and all other Living Things of the Sea
GREETING: Know ye: That on this 19th day of October 1943, in Latitude 00000 and Longitude 166º 19’ W there appeared within Our Royal Domain the USS BAILEY bound South for the Equator and for South Pacific Areas and contact with the Japs
BE IT REMEMBERED
That the said Vessel and Officers and Crew there of have been inspected and passed on by Ourself and Our Royal Staff
AND BE IT KNOWN: By all ye Sailors, Marines, Land Lubbers and other who may be honored by his presence that
Coy C. Vandiver, Sr, USNR
Having been found worthy to be numbered as one of our Trusty Shellbacks he has been duly imitated into the
Solemn Mysteries of the ancient Order of the Deep
Be It Further Understood That by virtue of the power invested in me I do hereby command all my subjects to show due honor and respect to him wherever he may be
Disobey this order under penalty of Our Royal Displeasure
Given under our hand and seal this October 19, 1943
Davey Jones
His Majesty’s Scribe
  Neptunus Rex
Ruler of the Raging Main
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A warning to all Pollywogs can be read in the ships newspaper “The Daily Bailey” can be read HERE.
An official summons from Neptune delivered to Lt. Stan Hogshead can be read HERE.
In the summons Hogshead is accused of the following;
  1. Being a Pollywog
  2. BLOWING THAT *#$*/ CORNET
  3. SHOOTING DOWN SLEEVES TO SLOW UP GUN PRACTICES
  4. FOR DROPPING FROM FOUR STRIPES TO ONE
    FOR TAKING A HONEYMOON IN YOSEMITE INSTEAD OF VALLEJO
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WAR RECORD OF THE USS BAILEY DD-492
NAVY DEPARTMENT HISTORY OF THE USS BAILEY DD-492
POLLYWOGS AND SHELLBACKS - CROSSING THE LINE, 19 OCTOBER 1943
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BASIC BUREAU OF SHIPS BLUEPRINT PLATE SET USS BAILEY DD-492
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