Time and Watches:

The Royal Navy uses the 24-hour clock and the day is divided into seven periods called 'watches'. The day starts at midnight and the time is recorded in four figures, of which the first two denote the hour and the last two the minutes. Below, is shown a table of Watches, Naval time and Civilian time:

Name of Watch

Naval time

Civilian time

Middle 0000 to 0400 Midnight to 4 a.m.
Morning 0400 to 0800 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Forenoon 0800 to 1230 8 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.
Afternoon 1230 to 1600 12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
First Dog 1600 to 1800 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Last Dog 1800 to 2000 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
First 2000 to 2400 8 p.m. to Midnight

The purpose of dividing the period between 1600 and 2000 into the two 'dog watches' is to provide an odd number of watches in the 24-hour day so that the Port and Starboard watches will keep a different watch each day.

The easiest way of learning the 24-hour clock system is to either add or subtract 12 from the civilian time, i.e. If it is 1p.m. add 12, making 13.00hrs. (p.m.) deducting 12 makes it 01.00hrs. (a.m.) and so on.


Ship's Bell:

The time is indicated by striking the hours and half-hours on the ship's bell throughout each watch, except in silent hours and during church services. The time indicated is called 'one bell', 'two bells' etc., according to the number of times the bell has been struck.

First half-hour 1 bell Second hour and a half 5 bells
First hour 2 bells Third hour 6 bells
First hour and a half 3 bells Third hour and a half 7 bells
Second hour 4 bells Fourth hour 8 bells

This sequence is repeated in each watch, with the exception of the last dog watch: seven bells, for example, can indicate 0330, 0730, 1130, 1530 or 2330, so when quoting the time by this method the name of the watch is added. 1130, for example, is described as 'seven bells in the forenoon'. Time in the last dog watch is marked as follows; 1830 by one bell, 1900 by 2 bells, 1930 by 3 bells and 2000 by 8 bells.