Term: Gundecked / Gundecking

I did wonder what it was about naval gunners that made them more prone to falsifying records but looks like it is related to midshipmen working out celestial sights:

From here:https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/o/origin-navy-terminology.html#

In the modern Navy falsifying reports, records and the like is often referred to as “gundecking.” The origin of the term is somewhat obscure, but at the risk of gundecking, here are two plausible explanations for its modern usage.

The deck below the upper deck on British sailing ships-of-war was called the gundeck although it carried no guns. This false deck may have been constructed to deceive enemies as to the amount of armament carried, thus the gundeck was a falsification.

A more plausible explanation may stem from shortcuts taken by early midshipmen when doing their navigation lessons. Each mid was supposed to take sun lines at noon and star sights at night and then go below to the gundeck, work out their calculations and show them to the navigator.

Certain of these young men, however, had a special formula for getting the correct answers. They would note the noon or last position on the quarterdeck traverse board and determine the approximate current position by dead reckoning plotting. Armed with this information, they proceeded to the gundeck to “gundeck” their navigation homework by simply working backwards from the dead reckoning position.

First time I recall hearing it was regarding finishing up a form with missing info: Something along the lines of:

E- 6:" I need that form right now."

E-4 “I haven’t finished filling it out yet:”

E-6 “Just gundeck something in there, I need it now”

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That’s the US Navy version of “pencil-whipped”.

Huh… didn’t think folks worked it backwards in that day and age… shortcuts made by cadets/midshipmen seems to feel like a more modern occurance.

Probably thinking this way because an old KP grad from 1962 was sailing with me once and he became quite shocked and disappointed when he found out our cadet was working sights backwards. He claimed back before calculators there was nothing to do but suck it up and work the sights out. Even on the TSES the older instructors seemed disturbed by this fact, claiming 50+ years ago it was unheard of.

Guess since hearing them say all that I imagined it was this slick new technology that was responsible for slick games with navigation. It always seemed like more work doing it backwards anyway, since celestial is really only difficult if you’re sloppy with your work and lose track of your calculations/numbers.

I should have used the term “pencil-whipped” but I was thinking it applied more to checklists not to filling out forms. I couldn’t think of any term equivalent to gundeck.

I sometimes tell people to “just high-speed it” meaning don’t waste time looking for information that’s hard to find and is likely not needed anyway. A combination of filling out properly, gundecking and pencil-whipping.

Pencil-whipping sounds like it’s more devil-may-care than gundecking. Often when you gundeck something you want the right numbers, you just don’t have them.

My celestial instructor told us about when he was a cadet he was constantly trying to get his rights to work out to a perfect pinwheel like the chief mate’s did and always failed. One day he took the chief mate’s worksheets and replotted his plots and discovered that the CM was fudging his plots to be a perfect pinwheel all along.


While “pencil-whipped” would have worked I personally liked the colloquialism of “Gundecked/Gundecking”. I suppose it just goes to show I am an old-timer.

I just use “bullshitted” so no one is confused about what is going on.

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Don’t get us started.

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It does sound better than lying in writing. :grinning:

I don’t know of any gun deck on a British warship that didn’t carry guns and ships were designated by the number of gun decks that they had. A 1st rate ship of the line had three decks below the main deck with progressively heavier calibre the lower one went.
Midshipmen lived in the gunroom rather than the wardroom and in the days of sail so did the highest rated noncommissioned officers and the sailing master. Gunrooms for junior officers and warrant officers were found on capital ships and cruisers up till my time in the navy but the introduction of females and different social norms have changed things .today.

In the Navy we used it usually to mean signing off for maintenance that wasn’t done.

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Or procedures/spill protections the dockman signed off on while loading that are allegedly already checked off. 1st time I heard that term was when he was signing off while USCG showed up after a problem.

Concur. Pretty silly to go for looks rather than firepower.

I’ve never heard the term ‘gundecked’ or equivalents. I concur with you on the connection in the Queen’s navies, between midshipmen and their being messed in the gun room, not gun deck. I was told the origin of that term was that the midshipmen in days of yore were trained by the gunner and that due to their continual presence in his company and in his space they eventually took over the place. Doesn’t sound true but there you go.

My first ship as a full midshipman (I’d been a cadet midshipman till then) was HMAS SYDNEY, an old aircraft carrier, and we were messed in the gun room, essentially our private mess, bar, lounge etc. It was an enjoyable time with lots of mates. We had the best parties in port as, being young, handsome and dashing, we were able to scoop the best looking girls from the cocktail party and whisk them below to our mess. More senior officers would request (beg) entry to our throbbing space but only got admitted after close vetting. Smaller ships had no separate gun rooms and so midshipmen messed in the wardroom. And no more gun rooms in today’s ships sadly.

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The first explanation is not plausible. I left it in to provide context for the second, more plausible explanation.

A more plausible explanation may stem from shortcuts taken by early midshipmen when doing their navigation lessons. Each mid was supposed to take sun lines at noon and star sights at night and then go below to the gundeck, work out their calculations and show them to the navigator.

It is interesting how language evolved and American English differs from English and in turn Australian and New Zealand English.
I have a copy of Websters and two Oxford English dictionaries, one English, one New Zealand.
It seems that in the future dictionaries will only be available on line.

My two nautical dictionaries (Oxford Companion & Cornell Maritime Press) make no mention of gundecked or gundecking.

Today’s dictionary editors are the gatekeepers to newspeak. They are constantly adding words, changing meanings of words and tagging some as offensive. No paper dictionary can keep up.

We knew the meaning of lots of words until yesterday it seems, for example now a person with testicles can certainly be included in the definition of a woman, and there’s hardly a university professor anywhere who would disagree. :smiley:

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The irony here is that those who are traditionally powerful, even in petty ways, have often been the gatekeepers of language. They’ve always changed the meanings, tagged some as offensive, and coined new ones to no-one’s great surprise or protest. The OED is a hymn to the constantly changing meanings of English words.

Its a living language, spoken by all kinds of people all over the world. Most English speakers are gonna be different from you. Expect them to continue to change the language in ways that are gonna be weird for you. But don’t blame the dictionaries, and don’t pretend it hasn’t been like this since before Beowulf was first penned. You’re gundecking the history of your own language if you do.


FWIW, from here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00253359.1969.10659512?journalCode=rmir20


It’s a query not an answer but it cites “to gundeck” in both a report and a position. It also refers to it as an “American naval expression” which would explain it’s absence from references from the Royal Navy branch.

That was always the surprising thing. If you got good at doing a day’s work backwards, you actually became really good at celnav.