Search the Collection
Advanced Search

Bosun's call

Date: c 1900
Overall (Measurements do not include chain): 115 x 20 x 22 mm, 46 g
Medium: Metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Sydney Branscombe
Classification:Sound communication
Object Name: Bosun's whistle
Object No: 00045835

User Terms

    Bosun's calls were used on warships to pipe orders throughout the ship before the advent of modern means of communication. This example is dented with teeth marks around the mouth piece and features a three-pronged broad arrow stamped on its pipe and a chain attached to its shackle. This bosun's call belonged to John Crewse Norsworthy Branscombe a member of the Royal Navy who spent many years of his service in Australia.
    SignificanceThis bosun's call is representative of communication methods on naval ships before the use of modern electronic methods of communication.
    HistoryBoatswain's (bosun's) calls - also known as a boatswain's whistle or boatswain's pipe - were originally used by boatswain's mates on warships to pipe orders throughout the ship before the advent of modern means of communication. A variety of tones can be made and each order has its own particular call. The main calls are: to be passed, all hands, boat call, call mates, stand-by, hoist away, haul, belay, heave around, veer, lay up, lay out and piping the side. Their current use is for the ceremonial piping when commanding officers and other dignitaries are on board.

    Each part of the pipe has a nautical name. The mouthpiece is called the gun; the ball is called the buoy; the ring is called the shackle; the leaf (or main body of the pipe) is called the keel. There is a hole at the top of the buoy where the sound is emitted. The boatswain's pipe has the nickname Spithead Nightingale in the Royal Navy - referring to the sounds heard across the waters of Spithead when the fleet was at anchor.

    John Crewse Norsworthy Branscombe served in the Royal Navy and the Royal Navy Fleet Reserve in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He joined the navy at the age of fifteen in 1883 and initially volunteered for a ten year period. Many of the ships on which he served were posted to the Australia Station in the 1890s and early years of the twentieth century. He went on to settle and live in Australia permanently.

    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Boatswain's call or bosun's whistle

    Web title: Bosun's call

    Discuss this Object


    Please log in to add a comment.