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Pompey, Chats and Guz

ORIGINS OF THE NAVAL TOWN NICKNAMES FOR PORTSMOUTH, CHATHAM AND DEVONPORT

PORTSMOUTH - “POMPEY”

• Bombay was part of the wedding gift of Catherine of Braganza to Charles II. Portuguese seaman saw a resemblance between the two ports and may have called Portsmouth “Bom Bhia” which to English ears sounds like Pompey.

• Dame Agnes Weston was describing the murder of the Roman general Pompey at a lecture to a naval audience. A member of the audience exclaimed “Poor old Pompey!” and this phrase stuck.

• A drunkard’s slurred pronunciation of Portsmouth Point (where there are many taverns popular with sailors)

• Ships entering Portsmouth harbour make an entry in the ship’s log Pom. P. as a reference to Portsmouth Point (this being to long). Navigational charts also use this abbreviation.

La Pompee was a captured French ship moored in Portsmouth and used for accommodation. (Captured 1793 and broken up 1817). There is a Yorkshire term “pompey” for prison or house of correction.

• Volunteer firemen in the eighteenth century (known as pompiers) exercised on Southsea Common.

• In 1781, some Portsmouth sailors climbed Pompey’s pillar near Alexandria and became known as the “Pompey boys”.

• The pomp and ceremony connected with the Royal Navy at Portsmouth led to the adoption of the nickname, “Pompey”.

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CHATHAM - “CHATS”

• Derived from an old word for “louse”, implying that Chatham manned ships were lousy.

• Chatham manned ships were referred to as being “happy and chatty” by sailors from other ports (derogative term).

• “Chats” is short for Chatham.

DEVONPORT - “GUZ”

• Short for “Guzzle”, relating to the West Country’s love of c cream teas of scones, jam and clotted cream.

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© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2000 

The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available