USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

What the Heck is a Fiddleboard!?
and Related Minutiae
by Max Crow with a lot of help

In the course of preparing a slide show, I came across a photo taken back in 1945 by a young Ensign onboard the USS O'Flaherty DE-340.  ENS Sid Marrow was an experienced photographer and darkroom technician when he entered the Navy during WWII.  After the war was over he secured his Commanding Officer's permission to take a series pictures around the ship, both below decks and topside. One of those pictures was taken in the Chief's Quarters and showed a strange looking board leaning against the bulkhead while a group of chiefs sat around their mess table.

Chief's Mess USS O'Flaherty 1945

A note on the photo called the contraption a "Fiddleboard".  This "One hitch" sailor had never seen or heard of such a thing so I decided a bit of research was in order. A Google search turned up a reference to a fiddleboard on a sailboat.  It too had something to do with a dining area. A second hit seemed to be getting closer to the answer. 
I finished the coffee and placed the cup in its hole in the fiddle board.
Leaving the wardroom,  From History of DE-419 in Typhoon Cobra
Now Typhoon Cobra was "Halsey's Typhoon of December 1944" so that is a pretty strong clue.  But I decided to ask the older and more experienced men among my e-contacts.

Sid Morrow, who started this in the first place :<), answered my questions as follows. His answers are in red.
Do you recall using a Fiddleboard in the wardroom?
Definitely yes.  And do you know whether the enlisted men's mess had such a device? I am sure they did not. In the early 50s Whitehurst did not have them in the enlisted men's mess.  I don't know about the Chiefs or Officers. Yes, the Chiefs had the one showing in my photo. I'm trying to determine whether the fiddle board was regular navy equipment or something manufactured on board as needed.  I am not sure where ours was made but as I recall it - it had a very professional appearance so I am supposing it was original equipment.   My minds picture says it had approx 1/4 x 4" side pieces that overlapped the edge of the table and the connected center was also approx 1/4 thick covering the the table top.  That center piece had holes that fit the dinner plates and I believe there were some holes about the center of the top to hold the serving plates - but I am not that clear about those holes. The whole assembly must have had a way to fasten to the underside of the table. There was a way to fasten each dinning chair to the edge of the table but I can not recall just what that mechanism looked like.  

GMC David "Tim" Lake, who went through WWII the Pennsylvania BB-38 and served onboard Whitehurst DE-634 said, "Oh yeah, I remember that thing in the Chief's Quarters.  We used it in bad weather."

Pat Perrella, Curator of the DE Historical Museum onboard USS Slater DE-766 in Albany, NY, confirms that a Fiddleboard is on display there. Pat's husband was associated with LST 325 and Pat has been onboard that good ship.  She mentioned that there was something resembling or similar of purpose to the Fiddleboard on the Galley Ranges of the LST.

Capt. Roger Ekman USN Ret., recalls that there was a Fiddleboard in the Whitehurst Wardroom made of wood.

 Roger, who also served as CO of USS Tioga County LST-1158, has described the type device used on the LST's Galley Ranges.  "Ranges in the galley have edges around the sides of the heated surface. The edges are raise about 2 inches and have notches cut in them. The notches allow pieces of steel about 1/4 inch x 3 inch cut to the length of the grill. These steel flat items are places both horizontally and vertically (if that can be done on a flat surface) in the notches that surround the grill. The result is a big checker board with squares of about 8 to 10 inches each. Pots and cooking utensils are placed in the squares and this prevents them from sliding off the grill."

Dick Fernandez, who was a cook on Whitehurst, wrote about the CPO* grill. There was a metal frame that fit over the cooking surface of the this grill appox. 3 inches high and came down around the edges of the cooking surface.  We took wet salt, made it into a paste, and banked it all around inside where it was connected to the top of the grill.  After this we turned the grill so that it would heat and harden the salt bank.  This caused a seal so that the scrambled eggs couldn't run out.  We also served eggs by cutting holes in the center of sliced of bread, laying them on a sheet pan and cracking an egg into each hole.  Then we baked them in the oven.  When the seas were really rough we served fruit and sandwiches.  We used silver trays, not plates and crew members would put something wet on the table under their tray to keep it from sliding. 
* Clarification by Dick Fernandez.  CPO Grill is just what it was called.  It does not mean Chief Petty Officer's Grill and in no way implies that the Chiefs had to do their own cooking.  Dick said, "They got their food from The Navy's Finest!" mc

So it is a matter of fact that Fiddleboards were common in the US Navy.  There is even a reference to "the Fiddle" on the dining table of a German Submarine in Michael Gannon's book, Operation Drumbeat.

I have concluded that the reason the is no such device on the Enlisted Men's mess decks is: It was not practical because we ate off steel trays which had partitioned sections. We quickly learned to tilt the trays, to compensate for pitch and roll, thus keeping the food in the tray.  We became adept at maneuvering the tray and fork simultaneously.  In worse weather the cooks prepared sandwiches.  In the worst weather, meals were skipped. mc

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