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Relative rank in the Royal Navy and the Army

The following printed letter from the Admiralty, dated 10 February, 1747, together with the Order in Council referred to, regarding the relative rank of Officers of the Royal Navy, or Sea Officers, and Officers of the Army, or Land Officers, is communicated by Major-General Sir Richard A. Bannatine-Allason, K.C.B., C.M.G.

Mr. W. G. Perrin, Librarian at the Admiralty, added the following explanatory Note [circa 1929]:

John Clevland, who signed the letter, was Second Secretary to the Admiralty in 1746-1.749, and First Secretary from that year to 1763.

Lieutenant Paul H. Ourry, to whom the Order in Council was sent, was serving in the ' Salisbury' under the command of Captain the Hon. G. Edgecumbe, subsequently Earl of Mount Edgecumbe. In 1775 Ourry was made a Commissioner of the Navy and given charge of Plymouth Yard. He died in 1783.

W. Sharpe who signed the Order, was one of the Clerks of the Privy Council.

The " Broad Pendant," mentioned in Section V., is wider and shorter than the ordinary ship's pendant, and is the distinguishing flag of a Commodore.

Post Ships, referred to in section VI., were ships of 20 guns and upwards. Ships inferior to these in size were the " Ships or Vessels that do not give Post," of section XI.

Post Captains were officers who commanded, or had commanded, a Post Ship. Appointment to a Post Ship was equivalent to promotion to the substantive rank of Captain in the Royal Navy at the present day.

Admiralty-Office, Feb. 13, 1747.


The King having been pleased, in Consideration of the inconveniences arising from the Want of an Establishment of Rank and Precedence between His Sea and Land Officers, as well as from the Want of a due Distinction among the Sea Officers themselves, to establish, by His Order in Council of the 10th Instant, certain Regulations ascertaining the Rank and Precedence between them; I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to send you herewith an attested Copy or the said Order in Council, and to signify their Direction to you, strictly to conform thereto. I am,

Your most humble Servant,


At the Court at St. James's, the 10th Day of February 1747.
The King's most Excellent Majesty in Council.

Whereas the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have, by their Memorial of the 13th of November last, represented to His Majesty at this Board, That for Want of an Establishment of Rank and Precedence between His Majesty's Sea and Land Officers, and like-wise between the Sea-Officers themselves, great Inconveniencies had arisen both in the present and former Wars: And as several of the Flag-Officers, Captains, and Lieutenants, have made a Remonstrance upon this Head to the said Lords Commissioners, that they had taken the same into their Consideration, and being of Opinion, that if such an Establishment was made, as should comprehend all the Sea Commission Officers, and settle their respective Ranks paralled with the Army, according to the Quality and Trust of the Posts they should serve in, and should likewise ascertain the Distinction they have a Right to among themselves, it would be a Means, not only of animating them to support the Dignity of their Rank in their respective Stations, but be likewise attended with many good Consequences to His Majesty's Service; and particularly with regard to the Preventing Disputes and Confusion when the Sea and Land Forces shall happen to act together. And the said Lords Commissioners have thereupon humbly offered to His Majesty the following Proposals, viz.


That the Admiral and Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Fleet have the Rank of a Field Marshal of the Army.


That the Admirals, with their Flags on the Main Top-Mast-Head, have Rank with Generals of Horse and Foot.


That Vice-Admirals have Rank as Lieutenant Generals.


That Rear-Admirals have Rank as Major Generals.


That Commodores, with Broad Pendants, have Rank as Brigadier Generals


That Captains commanding Post Ships, after three Years from the Date of their first Commission for a Post Ship, have Rank as Colonels.


That all other Captains commanding Post Ships, have Rank as Lieutenant Colonels.


That Captains of His Majesty's Ships or Vessels, not taking Post, have Rank as Majors.


That Lieutenants of His Majesty's Ships have Rank as Captains.


That the Rank and Precedence of Sea-Officers, in the Classes above mentioned, do take Places according to the Seniority of their respective Commissions as Sea-Officers.


That Post Captains, commanding Ships or Vessels that do not give Post, rank only as Majors, during their commanding such Vessels.


That nothing in this Regulation shall give any Pretence to any Land Officer to command any of His Majesty's Squadrons or Ships; nor to any Sea Officer to command at Land; nor shall either have a Right to demand the Military Honours due to their respective Ranks, unless such Officers are upon actual Service.


And whereas the Lords of the Committee of Council, to whom His Majesty referred the Consideration of the said Proposals, have this Day reported to His Majesty at this Board, that they have no Objection to His Majesty's signifying His Royal Approbation thereof, His Majesty in Council is therefore hereby pleased to declare His Approbation of the aforesaid Proposals, and to order that the said Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty do cause the same to be carried into Execution.

A true copy, J. CLEVLAND.


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