Military Organisation and Structure
RAN: Stations and Watches
Every member of the crew of a naval vessel has a job to do when the vessel is in danger or going into action. This job is called a sailor's "action station". When "action stations" is piped every sailor must report to his or her action station, alert and ready to perform their allocated tasks.
A sailor will usually have several different stations to which he has to report in the case of other situations, such as boat stations, defence stations or harbour stations.
Sounding action stations over the public announcement system aboard HMAS Hobart near Borneo, 1945.
The crew of a naval vessel are also divided into two groups called watches: port and starboard. Each of these watches is in turn divided into the first part and second part. This system allows the ship's officers a high degree of flexibility in the management of their crew. Depending on the situation, and whether the ship is at sea or in port, the crew can be worked as two or four watches, and the system allows three-quarters, a half or a quarter of the ship's crew to be used at any one time. Equal numbers of sailors from the various branches are usually allocated to each watch. As well as the watch system, there is the Duty Watch. Sailors are rostered onto the Duty Watch and are responsible for carrying out various tasks to ensure the safety and integrity of the vessel at sea, or in harbour while the ship's company are ashore.
The crew can also be grouped into two categories: watchkeepers and daymen. Watchkeepers are those personnel who do their jobs in accordance with a duty roster and are just like civilian shift workers, working a given shift, or watch, at any time of the day or night. Daymen, as their name suggests, are those personnel whose job requires them to work at set times, usually during daylight hours. A ship's cooks are just one example.
The watch timings on a ship are as follows:
|Noon to 4 pm||Afternoon watch|
|4 pm to 6 pm||First dog watch|
|6 pm to 8 pm||Last dog watch|
|8 pm to midnight||First watch|
|Midnight to 4 am||Middle watch|
|4 am to 8 am||Morning watch|
|8 am to noon||Forenoon watch|