Commissioned Officers

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Encyclopedia Appendix A - Commissioned Officers

Commissioned Officers were the Navy's senior officers that held a Commission from the Admiralty. These were highly experienced men who had been in the Naval Service for a long time. These were officers that were deemed fit for command.


Admiral of the Fleet - very rarely at sea, if at all. The highest ranking officer in the working, professional Navy. At any one time there was only one Admiral of the Fleet. He would have been a very senior member of the Navy. When aboard a ship, he would fly a Union Jack or British Flag (depending on the year) at the Main (mast).


Admiral of the Red, White, and Blue - this was the most senior Admiral rank short of Admiral of the Fleet, and were often entrusted with the Channel Fleet or as Commanders-in-Chief of foreign Stations. Red is the most senior, blue the least. When aboard a ship, he would have flown a red, white, or blue ensign (depending on his seniority) at the Main (mast).


Commodore (1st-Class) - were only temporary ranks that were given to a Post Captain allowing him to command a squadron (2-10 vessels, a fleet being 10+). He was given command a squadron that was usually larger than that which would have been given to a Commodore (Second-Class). He also had the added benefit of have a Flag Captain, that is a Captain who directly commanded the flagship, leaving the Commodore to busy himself with commanding the Squadron; however unlike Admirals, he was not given a Flag Lieutenant. When aboard a ship, he would have flown a Commodore (First-Class) Broad Pennant from the Main (mast).


Commodore (2nd-Class) - were only temporary ranks that were given to a Post Captain allowing him to command a squadron (2-10 vessels, a fleet being 10+). He was given command a squadron that was usually smaller than that which would have been given to a Commodore (First-Class). He would have commanded a small squadron as well as directly commanding his own flagship. In other words he did not have a Flag Captain like a Commodore (First Class). When aboard a ship, he would have flown a Commodore (Second-Class) Broad Pennant from the Main (mast).


Fleet Captain - directly served the admiral of a very large fleet by helping with the administrative and general running of the fleet. He was usually a very senior Post Captain well known to the Admiral whom he served. As he lived and served aboard the Admiral's flagship, he had no ship of his own and therefore flew no flag or pennant. If the Admiral was indisposed during battle or otherwise, and there was no other Admiral or Commodore in the fleet (unlikely in a fleet large enough to merit a Fleet Captain), he would, as the most senior officer, assume command of the fleet.


Flag Captain - directly served the Admiral of a fleet by helping with the administrative and general running of the fleet. He was usually a senior Post Captain well known to the admiral whom he served. As he lived and served aboard the Admiral's flagship, he had no ship of his own and therefore flew no flag or pennant. If the Admiral was indisposed during battle or otherwise, and there was no other Admiral or Commodore in the fleet he would, as the most senior officer, assume command of the fleet.


Post Captain (3+) - of more than three years seniority, was the most senior officer that could command only one vessel. He would most often be entrusted with Ships-of-the-Line or powerful or in some way special/unique frigates. His ship would occasionally be used as a long-range dispatch vessel. Aboard his ship he was the most senior officer and his orders were second to none, unless a superior officer intervenes. When aboard his ship, he would fly a commission pennant and ensign of the color of the officer under whose command he was. If he was given his orders by the Admiralty, he flew white pennant and ensign.


Post Captain (3-) - of less than three years seniority, was the most junior officer that could command a rated vessel. He would most often be entrusted with a light frigate or fourth-rate under supervision of a superior officer. His ship would sometimes be used as a long-range dispatch vessel. Aboard his ship he was the most senior officer and his orders were second to none, unless a superior officer intervenes. When aboard his ship, he would fly a commission pennant and ensign of the color of the officer under whose command he was. If he was given his orders by the Admiralty, he flew white pennant and ensign.


Master and Commander (Previously Commander) - could command any Sloop-of-war or unrated vessel. He would most often be entrusted with a Ship-Sloop (Ship-Rigged sloop-of-war) of around eighteen guns, or a brig. His ship would commonly be used as a middle-long range dispatch vessel. Out of courtesy and respect, he was called, greeted, and addressed as 'Captain'. Aboard his ship he was the most senior officer and his orders were second to none, unless a superior officer intervenes. When aboard his ship, he would fly a commission pennant and ensign of the color of the officer under whose command he was. If he was given his orders by the Admiralty, he flew white pennant and ensign.


Flag Lieutenant - directly served the Admiral of a fleet by helping with the administrative tasks of the fleet. He was usually a senior Lieutenant and/or well known to the Admiral whom he served. As he lived and served aboard the Admiral's flagship, he had no ship of his own and therefore flew no flag or pennant. Because he directly served and reported to the Admiral, he was not counted as one of the ship's Lieutenants.


Lieutenant (in Command of a Vessel) - was a very senior lieutenant that was given a command thought to be to junior for a Master and Commander, and too senior (as it was a solo command) for an average or junior lieutenant. He would most commonly have been entrusted with a cutter or sloop in home waters or close to a major Station's base port. They were commonly engaged as by the Revenue Service along the English Coast. Out of courtesy and respect, he was called, greeted, and addressed as 'Captain'. Aboard his ship he was the most senior officer and his orders were second to none, unless a superior officer intervenes. When aboard his ship, he would fly a commission pennant and ensign of the color of the officer under whose command he was. If he was given his orders by the Admiralty, he flew white pennant and ensign.


Lieutenant - was the most junior of all Commissioned Officers. He could not hold a solo, independent command of any vessel, unless his Captain had been killed or in some way made unfit for command. He served a aboard a ship in an administrative or operational capacity under the Captain or senior Lieutenants. A ship's Lieutenant serves as second in command. He assists the Captain and carries out orders to the rest of the ship. A Captain may have several Lieutenants, depending on the size of the ship. The number of Lieutenants aboard a single ship was governed by the size of the ship. The larger the ship, the more Lieutenants there were. Some of the largest first-rates carrying up to seven Lieutenants not counting any Flag Lieutenants (who did not serve the ship's Captain, but an Admiral if one was aboard.), down to one Lieutenant on a brig or sloop-of-war.