Midshipman (Royal Navy)

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Midshipman was the lowest officers' rank in the Royal Navy, being the rank belonging to cadets at H.M.S. Britannia when they went to sea.


Having been examined in their fourth and final term in Britannia, naval cadets were classified according to their merit in study and ability, and allowed time for their service in Britannia as follows:

SUBJECT. 1st Class. 2nd Class. 3rd Class.
Months' time. Months' time. Months' time.
Extra subjects.

No time.
Very good conduct. 3 3 3
Total time allowed. 12 7 3

Cadets who obtained 12 months' time were rated Midshipmen at once on passing out from Britannia. The examination and rating of all other Naval Cadets was regulated according to their time as follows:

Naval Cadets who obtain 9 months' time will have to serve 3 months; In Ships before being rated as Midshipmen.
Naval Cadets who obtain 7 months' time will have to serve 5 months;
Naval Cadets who obtain 4 months' time will have to serve 8 months;
Naval Cadets who obtain 3 months' time will have to serve 9 months;
Naval Cadets who obtain no time will have to serve 12 months;

A Naval Cadet who did not pass out of Britannia with the rating of Midshipman was required to be examined for that rating upon the completion of the time as regulated in the above table.

For the Seamanship examination, the Examining Officers were the Officer in command of the Ship, if not below the rank of Commander, and the Executive Officer. If from any cause the proper Examining Officers were not available on the completion of the Candidate's time, he was permitted to be provisionally examined, and rated Midshipman if found qualified, but had to be re-examined as soon as the proper Examining Officers became available. If he then passed, the date when he was provisionally rated Midshipman would be confirmed.

First, Second, and Third Class Certificates in the so-called Established Form (S. No. 182.) were, according to merit, given to the Candidate, or he was, if found incompetent, to be be rejected. On passing the examination, the Candidate was forthwith rated Midshipman.

Rank & Command

Midshipmen were outranked by Warrant Officers and Commissioned Warrant Officers in the chain of command. They also ranked junior to 1st Class Staff Sergeant-Majors in the British Army.


During the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, the pay of Midshipmen remained remarkably static. The pay of 1s 9d a day, or £31 18s 9d a year, can be traced back at least as far as 1855.[1] This remained at the same level up until the Great War.[2]

By an Order in Council of 23 October, 1917, the Private Allowance was no longer charged to parents, but paid by the Navy, dated 1 July.[3] The measure had been announced in the House of Commons by the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty on 11 July.[4]

Royal Naval Reserve

By Order in Council of 15 October, 1872, the appointment of Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve was sanctioned. Young men who had served in the mercantile training ships for two years and who were under the age of 18 were eligible for appointment. The distinctive mark of rank was a button hole with blue twist at each end of the jacket collar.

See Also


  1. The Navy List. (December, 1885). p. 211.
  2. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 775.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 30348. p. 10900. 23 October, 1917.
  4. Hansard. HC Deb 11 July 1917 vol 95 c1887.