I have blogged before on the general hatred amongst sailors for coaling. It was dirty, hard work that lasted days and the coal dust penetrated everywhere, both in terms of the sailors and the ship. The diary of Joiner First Class George Michael Clarkson states ‘A shadow would come over the ship as soon as you heard you were coaling.’1 In order to help the hours pass more easily, a few coping mechanisms were introduced. There was always the promise of beer (and presumably women) when the job was done, and sailors recorded that some commanders would circulate with a rating with a blackboard with a picture of a pint of beer on it. Below the picture were the words ‘The sooner you get in, the sooner you can get ashore and have one of these.’2 If two (or more) ships were coaling at once, the sailors would compete to see who could coal the quickest. Special food was served; usually bully beef or salted pork, and cans of lime juice were distributed (although if they weren’t consumed quickly, they would soon fill with coal dust).
HMAS Brisbane Coaling, courtesy of astraltrader (http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/member.php?u=1187)
Perhaps more interestingly, or perhaps bizarrely, were the two methods which I have managed to find pictures of. As I have mentioned many times, the whole process was a dirty one, and thus the sailors could not wear their usual uniforms. It would seem some used this as an excuse to liven up the coaling process by wearing fancy dress. A very camp example is included below.
Lastly, throughout the whole process the marine band played lively songs in an attempt to liven the mood.
Coaling Band, courtesy of emason (http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/member.php?u=13801)