Explanation of officer data
- I intent to include data for all officers in command (with the rank of Lieutenant or above) of a Royal Navy vessel between 1840 and 1880 (and also for some other officers, because they are mentioned somewhere on this website)
- Data for many officers are incomplete; I am adding data as I come across it (which effectively means: in a random order)
- I am adding data from different, and sometimes conflicting, sources. I periodically check newly added data to resolve conflicts and remove duplicate entries.
Personal data (first block)
This includes dates of birth, marriage and death, titles, honours or awards received, and books written.
Rank data (second block)
This gives dates of promotion (generally to rank of Lieutenant or above).
This gives dates of service (generally only as Lieutenant or above), afloat or ashore. Data is based on (in decreasing order of assumed reliability):
- Officers service records in the National Archives in Kew
- Periodic 'Navy Lists' issued for the admiralty; many can now be found on internet
- William R. O'Byrne's 1849 ’A Naval Biographical Dictionary' (obviously only for the early period)
- The generally daily ’Naval Intelligence’ column of the Times newspaper
- Any other sources I may find.
If appointed to a vessel already on a foreign station, an officer sometimes only reached that vessel many months after receiving his commission; this explains apparent overlap between commanders of a vessel. It is generally unknown when the actual transfer of command took place.
Information on the end date of a commission is less common that that on the start date. If an end date is not given, it should not be assumed that a particular commission lasted until the start of the next one; many officers spent more time on half-pay (unemployed) than employed. The standard duration of commissions to ships was three years, but there were many exceptions. In those few cases where I know this, I give the date he actually joined the ship. A 'date from' between (...) indicates a service that started at some unknown date earlier that the date shown.
A note on ranks:
- Some titles were used as both a job description and an hierarchical rank: an officer with the rank of Lieutenant could have a job description of (and be addressed and described as a Captain (for example of a sloop)
- The present rank of Lieutenant-Commander (between Lieutenant and Commander) was only introduced in 1914; I use the term here to describe a Lieutenant in command of a vessel; at the time the description 'lieutenant and commander' was sometimes used)
- An officer with the rank of Commander was not always in command of a vessel (when he was second-in-command - 'executive officer' in modern parlance - of a larger vessel with a Captain as Captain)
- Officers with the rank of Rear-Admiral or higher were described as 'flag officers' and would never be in command of the ship in which they 'hoisted their flag'; the captain of that ship was their 'flag captain';
- The present rank of Commodore (between Captain and Rear-Admiral) was only introduced in 1997; in Victorian times Commodore was a temporary job description (and not a rank) for a Captain in command of a squadron, that was not important enough to require an officer of flag rank in command. Commodores of the second class were also in command of their own ship; Commodores of the first class had another Captain for that task, and were thus functionally equivalent to an officer of flag rank
- Rear- and Vice-Admirals were often out of courtesy simply addressed as and described as 'Admiral'.
A commissioned officer in the 19th century Royal Navy could progress through the following ranks:
- First class volunteer, later Naval Cadet (originally learning the job on a vessel at sea, later in a dedicated cadet training vessel, and finally (in 1905) the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth). This rank is now extinct; new entrants receive the rank of Midshipman
- Mate, later Sub-lieutenant; originally a 'Passed midshipman' who had passed the exam for Lieutenant, and was eligible for promotion when a vacancy became available
- Admiral of the Fleet