History of Ranks in the Royal Navy

Discussion in 'History' started by Fat_Matelot, May 13, 2008.

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  1. Hi,

    I am trying to find out the history of ranks in the royal navy.
    Especially the origins of petty officer and chief petty officer.

    If you can help or know any good books then please let me know.

    cheers shipmates

  2. Officer meaning pig, petty meaning small or insignificant. Can you work it out from that ? :thumright:
  3. Heres another one does anyone know the origin of "Captain of the Flight Deck CFD" Usually a chief, been asked on the chockhead site.

  4. As it is known, we have the Officer, the senior level of the Royal Navy, therefore I would say a Petty Officer is, possibly using the French meaning, of small or more than likely the Brittanica meaning of Secondary. In this case a Secondary Officer which seems more apt to me.

    The Chief Petty Officer, being a senior of the Petty Officers.

    Regards, Chris

  5. When I did my basic training at Raleigh in the early 70s, we had an instructor there with the rank of Fleet Chief Petty Officer. It was a new rate and he was one of only two in the Navy at the time. I think the equivalent rate nowadays is Warrant Officer.

    The FCPO I mention was a decent bloke with grey hair and a spread of medals on his chest.
    Anyone remember him?
  6. The Petty Officer can trace his title back to the old French word petit meaning something small. Over the years the word also came to mean minor, secondary and subordinate. In medieval and later England just about every village had several "petite", "pety" or "petty" officials/officers who were subordinate to such major officials as the steward of sheriff. The petty officers were the assistants to the senior officials.

    The senior officers of the early British warships, such as the Boatswain, Gunner and Carpenter, also had assistants or "mates." Since the early seamen knew petty officers in their home villages they used the term to describe the minor officials aboard their ships. A ship's Captain or Master chose his own Petty Officers who served at his pleasure. At the end of a voyage or whenever the ship's crew was paid off and released the Petty Officers lost their positions and titles. There were Petty Officers in the British navy in the Seventeenth Century and perhaps earlier but the rank did not become official until 1808.
  7. During training at Shawbury in the early 70s, one of the instructors was a PO and when asked about the rank he gave a similar answer to the above.
  8. Wouldn't the Captain have been a Officer holding the King's (or Queen's) Commission but the Master an Officer by Royal Warrant?

  9. I do not know of the FCPO you refer to. However, the rank I believe came into the service in about 1971. I can remember a "Jack" comic strip in the "Navy News" depicting the first FCPO walking up the gangway. The rank of Fleet Chief was chosen although they wore the same badge as the Warrant Officers in the Army and RAF, this was a note of distinction between the services. Initially the FCPO was supposedly going to wear a thin gold ring on his sleeve, but this was not approved.

    Each branch had their own FCPOs when the rank was first borne. These were taken from senior CPOs, usually on extended service, or were willing to do the extended service. Their primary role was as Admin Officers/Department Officers to take away some of the duties of the Officers who were now heading towards the Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) system.

    The change to Warrant Officers came some years later, around the early 80s

    Regards, Chris
    Ex CY
  10. The one up rule only ever went as far a Commander, and in training establishments Lt Cdr, so Lt Cdr's would always salute Cdr's etc (and in training establishments a Lt would salute Lt Cdr's). I've always been of the opinion that's its better to play safe and salute a Lt Cdr, call them Sir etc - it doesn't cost anything for goodness sake.

    QRRN's also states that superior Officers should be saluted whether they are in uniform or not, with or without cap etc - by convention we do not do this. I also seem to recall it stating that wifes should be saluted, including those of ratings, as a mark of respect.
  11. Seaweed

    Seaweed War Hero Book Reviewer

    Never heard of a general 'one-up' rule EXCEPT at RNC Greenwich. A piece of new business since 1971 therefore. On board, an officer only saluted his superior when reporting, or on first meeting him each day.

    18th century Warrants were Admiralty warrants, in contradistinction to the King's Commission awarded to Lieutenants and more senior officers.

    Lt Cdrs when created in 1914 were derisively referred to by Pongoes as 'Spunyarn Majors' (hence the title of the HMS Excellent wardroom veterans hockey team). A veteran being anyone over 35 (!)
  12. Go back a long way, to the 13th century or so.

    Lots of wars with France, collectively known as the Hundred Years War. In those days there was no army in the sense we know today, and definitely no Navy; every person owing fealty to the King (and in practice that meant everyone) was considered liable to have to fight for him when required. The host of men thus assembled were divided up into Companies (of no fixed size), and placed under the command of a Captain, who had assistants called Lieutenants (capable of holding the job "in lieu" of the Captain when required.)

    When a naval force was required, merchant ships were taken over. Certain ports, in exchange for trading concessions, were contractually required to supply ships when needed; there were five of them and they were known as the Cinque Ports. However, if more were required, the King took them from wherever he could. They would be adapted by having light, wooden castellated srructures fitted to the bow and stern from where soldiers could rain down shit and derision onto the decks of the enemy ships - the term 'aftercastle' has disappeared, but 'forecastle' remains.

    To man a ship the King would send down a Captain with a commission from him to take over a particular ship, together with his lieutenants and company. The ship's Master (quite possibly the owner), his mates and crew would remain. A ship thus 'commissioned' would have the Captain issuing instructions to the Master ("Lay me alongside that ship there") and it was the master's responsibility to do so, as well as navigate. The Captain, lieutenants and ship's company would do the fighting.

    Inevitably, the Captains and Lieutenants began to learn more about the navigation and handling of the ship. Soon, the introduction of guns, which had to be mounted low in the ship on a specially built deck and fire through ports cut in the ship's side, made the ships no longer suited for merchant work. They became the King's Ships, permanently manned by the Company and commanded by the Captain. The Master and his mates remained to look after the navigation, ship handling and the stowage of the hold.

    This stayed the case until the 1820's when the Master (by this time appointed by warrant from the Admiralty) became Navigation Lieutenant, a commissioned officer.

    One little leftover from all this is that until quite recently the Navigator of an RN ship was responsible, at least nominally, for the stowage of fresh water.

    Hope this helps.
  13. My cousin recalls an FCMA Dobbs knocking about in the early to mid 80s.
  14. The title FCPO I believe came from the RCN.
  15. I don't get that. There were hundreds of Fleet Chiefs in the early to mid 80s.
  16. Doh, sorry, that'll learn me fot not reading the post properly. I thought he was saying they were gone by the 70s.

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