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Boatswain’s call


This silver boatswain’s call was recovered from the main deck of the Mary Rose. The silk ribbon is original.

Despite the colloquial term we used above, not all calls were worn by boatswains (sometimes spelt ‘bosun’). During this period, the call whistle was worn as a badge of office by officers such as the quartermaster, all the way up to captain.

When George Carew was created admiral of the Mary Rose the night before she sank, he was presented with a gold call, to show his high office. Sadly, we’ve never recovered this item. Despite this usage to denote rank, the calls on the Mary Rose appear to have been personal property, rather than standard issue. The call displayed here is the only one to feature an arrow mark, which had recently been introduced to indicate objects were government issue, yet it is very roughly done, suggesting that rather than being an official mark, it’s an identifying symbol, much like the other personal marks found on the ship.