three sisters

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The name given to a somewhat sinister, and wholly illegal, badge of office of a master-at-arms or a boatswain's mate in the British Navy, comprising three rattans bound together with waxed twine. They were used indiscriminately on the backs of seamen so as to start them, or make them move more quickly about their work. Unlike the cat-o'-nine-tails it was always an unofficial punishment. It was prohibited by the Admiralty in 1809, but was not entirely eradicated for some years after that.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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