Sodomy at Sea: an 1800 British naval trial

HMS St George Thomas Hubbard George Hynes sodomy at sea
HMS St George & extract from A New Abridgment of the Law, 1798.

On December 16, 1800, The Oracle newspaper reported on a trial for sodomy at sea. Thomas Hubbard and George Hynes of HMS St George faced a court-martial for a consenting, private, adult sex act.

*Some sources refer to Hubbard as John, but the trial documents record his name as Thomas.

Thomas White was the Master at Arms of HMS St George, a 98-gun battleship with a crew of 850 men. During their December 1800 trial for sodomy, he identified the prisoners as ‘Thomas Hubbard, the young man and George Hynes, the black man’.

On November 12, a marine woke White about a quarter-to-ten at night.

“Mr White, I want you. You must come in the dark. I believe there is sodomy committed in the forecastle.”

The marine said he heard whispering coming from a hammock, and overheard a voice say, “You do not do it so well to me as I do it to you.”

White concealed a lamp in a bag before accompanying the marine. He positioned himself near the source of the whispering.

“I heard some people in the hammock and put my hand up and felt a great moving.”

Snatching his lamp out of the bag, he held it up to the hammock and saw the naked body of Thomas Hubbard.

“I then found that George Hynes was under him, naked on his belly. I saw Thomas Hubbard’s yard come from between the backside of George Hynes.”

The English used the word yard to describe a unit of measurement almost a metre long and also as slang for the penis, proving that men exaggerated dick size long before Grindr.

“I saw his tool!”

The marine preferred a more workmanlike term.

“I saw Hubbard fall off from the top of George Hynes. Then I saw his tool come out of his fundament [arse].”

Despite the Buggery Act requiring evidence of both penetration and emission, none of the seamen mentioned semen.

However, a recent abridgment of English law by scholar Matthew Bacon had questioned the legal thirst for cum. (See image above.)

“It would in some cases be difficult to prove emission.”

But, be that as it may, the law required ejaculation as proof of buggery, something the naval judges ignored.

The court found Thomas Hubbard and George Hynes guilty ‘of committing the unnatural crime of sodomy’. British justice cared not that their only crime was natural human desire. Nor that Thomas Hubbard was the sole support of his mother and two younger brothers.

George III’s navy hanged the two men on the deck of HMS St George on December 26, 1800. Ropes were run through pulleys attached to the yardarm. Nooses were then placed around Thomas and George’s necks, and teams of sailors hauled on the ends until the men dangled directly under the yardarm. The entire crew gathered to watch the grim midair dance of death, a warning to others of the consequences of sodomy at sea.

Also: Is It True What They Say About Sailors?

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at

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