A Pickle Night supper at home with friends

Costumes, pranks and shanties

(as related to us by Mark and Pam from Fareham, Hants, UK)



Mark told us, 'I served 33 years in the Royal Navy and attended many Service Pickle Nights. To fill the void left by leaving the Service, I now host one for friends annually at my house. We decorate, have food in bowls, sing sea shanties (some very rude) and pass the “Divers Lung Tester Pipe”. We also have our guests read despatches.' 

Mark Fisher - Pickle Night

The Pickle Crew

Rations are served on board HMS Pickle, Mark and Pam style! Image © and courtesy of Mark Fisher, with permission of all featured.

First of all, what on earth is a Divers Lung Tester?

Well needless to say, Naval types do have a pronounced sense of humour, and this is a bit of a prank for the unsuspecting. It is a cleverly engineered pipe, which if blown correctly will spin a little windmill built into the pipe. However if blown incorrectly the user gets a blow-back surprise. Please see this link to a Youtube video to understand more.


Food and drink

As we are hosting at home, we keep it simple.

  • Starter is pâté, French toasts and caramelised onion pickle, served on paper plates (keeping washing-up to a minimum). We do not do the 'same bowl' thing for all courses as we deem it a bit too much for non-military people!
  • Main course is a Spicy beef stew, with bread rolls, served in wooden bowls.
  • Dessert is Spotted dick or apple pie & custard in the bowls from above which have been quickly collected and rinsed through.
  • Cheese & biscuits & port.

Order of events

We start the evening with 'Up Spirits' and a tot of Gun Powder Proof Rum. It's always fun to watch the guests' faces. I give an opening speech which includes an explanation of the 'daily tot':


"The rum ration was originally beer with a daily personal ration of one gallon. When beer was not available it could be substituted with half a pint of rum. After 1850 the rum ration traditionally consisted of 70 millilitres of rum (1/8 pint) given out to every sailor at midday. The last rum issue was on 31 July 1970."


At our events, the rum glasses are gifts for our guests to keep as a memento of the occasion.


Ed: Pusser's Rum, who supply this brand, donate a portion of the sales proceeds to the Royal Navy Sailors' Fund, a charitable relationship they have upheld since adopting the Naval recipe for its rum title in 1979. For more info, read here.


I then keep the evening on track following a set of 'President's Crib Notes'. The 'Despatches' and other deliverables such as words of toasts are pre-printed and placed at the table setting of the appropriate person. Guests are provided with an 'Order of Battle' sheet at each place setting. As well as the sequence of events for the evening, this lists the fineable offences.


A trusted 'White Rat' is appointed to identify offenders and produce a list of fines. Fines are set at £1 per offence."


Mark and Pam also charge a nominal £5 per person to attend. All money raised from attendance and fines goes to a chosen charity for the evening, one that is close to the heart of one of the guests. They usually raise £100+ in the night.

  • You can see a copy of Mark and Pam's full 'Order of Battle' here (editable Word doc).

After the Immortal Memory is toasted, the host delivers a closing speech, awards are given, fines are counted and collected and then the group sings various shanties.


Download a set of shanty lyrics here.


For backing music for the group to sing along to, it's a good idea to search for instrumental versions on Youtube and set up a Youtube playlist which can be played from a tablet or even through a TV set.


Take a look at our templates and ideas page for more Pickle Night inspiration!


Still have a question? If you have decided to host an informal Pickle Night and would like further guidance, please get in touch and we'll try to link you up with someone who can advise.

Do things differently?

Let us know how you organise Pickle Night at home or with friends