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Common military ranks
Navies Armies Air forces
Admiral of
the Fleet
Marshal /
Field Marshal
Marshal of
the Air Force
Admiral General Air Marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air Commodore
Captain Colonel Group Captain
Commander Lt. Colonel Wing Commander
Lt. Commander Major / Commandant Squadron Leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight Lieutenant
Sub-Lieutenant Lieutenant Flying Officer
Ensign 2nd Lieutenant Pilot Officer
Midshipman Officer Cadet Officer Cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant Officer Sergeant Major Warrant Officer
Petty Officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading Seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer of the lowest rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya. The rank was also used, prior to 1968, by the Royal Canadian Navy, but it was replaced with that of naval cadet upon the creation of the Canadian Forces.

The word derives from the area aboard a ship, amidships, either where the original rating worked on the ship, or where they were berthed. At the height of the Age of Sail, during the Napoleonic era (1793–1815), a British Royal Navy midshipman was an apprentice officer who had previously served at least three years as a volunteer, officer's servant or able seaman, and was roughly equivalent to a present day petty officer in rank and responsibilities. After serving at least three years as a midshipman or master's mate, he was eligible to take the examination for lieutenant. Promotion to lieutenant was not automatic and many midshipmen took positions as master's mates for an increase in pay and responsibility aboard ship. Midshipmen in the United States Navy were trained and served similarly to midshipman in the Royal Navy, although unlike their counterparts in the Royal Navy, a midshipman was a warrant officer rank until 1912.

During the 19th century, changes in the training of naval officers in both the Royal Navy and the United States Navy led to the replacement of apprenticeship aboard ships with formal schooling in a naval college, and the role of midshipman changed accordingly. Midshipman began to mean an officer cadet at a naval college. Trainees now spent around four years in a college and two years at sea prior to promotion to commissioned officer rank. Between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries, time at sea declined to less than a year as the entry age was increased from 12 to 18.

Ranks equivalent to midshipman exist in many other navies, especially in those whose officer training structures resemble that of Britain's Royal Navy. The Netherlands and Germany both train officer candidates in naval colleges, though trainees remain within the petty officer ranks and are not elevated to candidate or commissioned officer status until graduation. In many romance languages, the literal translation of the local term for "midshipman" into English is "Navy Guard", including the French garde marine, Spanish guardia marina, Portuguese guarda-marinha, and Italian guardiamarina. Today, these ranks all refer to young naval officer cadets, but historically they were selected by the monarchy, and were trained mostly on land as soldiers.




Apprentice officers

Royal Navy (1662–1858)

A full size portrait of a boy with long golden hair wearing the uniform of a midshipman: a bicorne hat, a blue tails coat with white patches on the collar, a white waistcoat, breeches and hose, and a sword on the left side.
Midshipman of the Royal Navy (c. 1799),[1] by Thomas Rowlandson

The rank of midshipman is one of the oldest still in existence, and originally referred to a senior petty officer. The first published use of the term midshipman was in 1662.[2] The word derives from an area aboard a ship, amidships, but it refers either to the location where midshipmen worked on the ship,[3]or the location where midshipmen were berthed.[4] During the Tudor and Stuart eras, the term midshipman referred to a post for an experienced seaman promoted from the ordinary deck hands, who worked in between the main and mizzen mast and had more responsibility than an ordinary seaman, but was not a military officer or an officer in training.[3]

By the 18th century three types of midshipman existed: midshipman, midshipman extraordinary, and midshipman ordinary. Members of the original midshipman rating served, as late as 1822, alongside apprentice officers without themselves aspiring to a commission.[5] By 1794, all midshipmen were considered officer candidates, and the original rating was phased out.[6] Before half-pay was introduced for all officers in the early part of the 18th century, a midshipman extraordinary, or midshipman extra, was an officer ranked master, lieutenant, or captain, whose ship had been paid off but who would be paid as a midshipman until he could find another ship.[7][2]

Midshipman ordinary

Beginning in 1660, volunteer boys were sent to serve on ships in place of a midshipman, with a "letter of service" from the crown. This instructed the admirals and captains that the bearer was to be shown "such kindness as you shall judge fit for a gentleman, both in accommodating him in your ship and in furthering his improvement".[8] Their official rating was volunteer-per-order, but they were often known as King's letter boys, to distinguish their higher social class from the original midshipman rating; after 1729, the rating of midshipman-by-order, or midshipman ordinary, was used for apprentice officers.[7]

At the height of the Age of Sail, during the Napoleonic era (1793–1815), most midshipmen started their sailing career around the age of 12.[9] Royal Navy regulations required that no one "be rated as master's mate or midshipman who shall not have been three years at sea".[9] Most boys served this period at sea in any lower rating,[10] either as a servant of one of the ship's officers, a volunteer, or as a seaman. For example, prior to 1794, a captain was allowed four servants for every 100 men aboard his ship; many of these servants were young men destined to become officers.[11] In 1794, a new class of volunteers called 'Volunteer Class I' was created for boys between the ages of 11 and 13 who were considered future midshipmen and lived in the gunroom on a ship-of-the-line or with the midshipmen on a frigate or smaller vessel.[11] Volunteers were paid £6 per year.[11]

Prospective officers could also earn three years of sea service through the Royal Naval Academy in Portsmouth, renamed the Royal Naval College in 1806. The school was founded in 1729, for 40 students between 13 and 16, who would take three years to complete a course of study defined in an illustrated book.[9] After graduation students served on ships as midshipmen.[9] The school was unpopular in the navy, because officers enjoyed the privilege of having servants and preferred the traditional method of training officers via apprenticeship.[11]

Social background

Midshipmen in the Age of Sail came from various social backgrounds. Approximately 50 percent were the sons of professional men, which included the sons of naval officers, and there were notable sailing families throughout the Age of Sail, such as the Saumarez, Hood, and Parker families. The niceties of preferment and promotion made family connections an obvious advantage for prospective officers. The next largest group was the landed gentry, about 27 percent of officers. The numbers were smaller, but similarly, their connections gave them excellent prospects for promotion, and they had a considerable influence on the Royal Navy. The rest were from commercial or working class backgrounds, and because of the advantages possessed by the gentry and professional sailors, their chances at promotion to lieutenant were slim.[11]

Since most midshipmen were from the landed gentry or had family connections with sailing ships, many used their connections to have their names placed on a ship's books.[9] A notable example was Thomas Cochrane, whose uncle had him entered at the age of five; his name was carried on various ships until he was 18 and received his commission.[9] Because these boys would serve in various ratings until their promotion to lieutenant, they were often called young gentlemen instead of their substantive rating to distinguish their higher social standing from the ordinary sailors.[8][12]

Duties and promotion

Midshipmen were expected to work on the ship, but were also expected to learn navigation and seamanship. The work consisted of tasks normally assigned to seamen and to officers. They were expected to have learned already, as able seamen and volunteers, to rig sails; other duties included keeping watch, relaying messages between decks, supervising gun batteries, commanding small boats, and taking command of sub-division of the ship's company under one of the lieutenants. On smaller ships midshipmen were instructed by a senior master's mate, often a passed midshipman, who taught them mathematics, navigation, and sailing lore. Larger ships would carry a schoolmaster, who was rated as a midshipman but usually was a civilian like the chaplain. Midshipmen were expected to keep detailed navigational logs, which were shown to the captain to assess their progress.[11]

From bottom to top, a boy would enter the Navy either at the Royal Naval Academy, or directly as a Volunteer 1st class, and serve at least three years before promotion to midshipman. A potential officer would have to serve as a midshipman, or a master's mate prior to taking the examination for lieutenant for another three years. A midshipman who passed the examination was not automatically promoted to lieutenant, but would either stay as a midshipman, titled passed midshipman, or take an appointment as a master's mate, styled passed master's mate, while awaiting promotion to lieutenant. Failed candidates also took appointments as master's mates, attempting to become masters instead of lieutenants. After 1861, candidates who passed the examination were promoted to sub-lieutenant.
Route to a commission in the Royal Navy, c. 1810[13]

Prior to promotion to lieutenant, a commissioned officer candidate in the Royal Navy had to pass a formal examination. Most midshipmen aspired to take the lieutenant examination at age 17 or 18, and the average age of a midshipman was between 15 and 22.[10] The candidate was summoned before a board of three captains and questioned about seamanship, navigation, and discipline. The board would ask questions such as:

An enemy is observed; give orders for clearing your ship, and make all the necessary preparations for engaging.[14]

The actual exam questions were not standardized and their content depended mostly on individual captains. A prospective lieutenant was expected to produce proof of his service, journals kept while a midshipman, and certificates from his commanders attesting to his diligence and sobriety. In seamanship, he was expected to be able to splice ropes, reef a sail, work a ship in sailing and shift his tides. In navigation, he was expected to be able to keep a reckoning of the ship's way by plane sailing, to use Mercator projection maps and observation of the sun and stars to determine the course and position of the ship, and to understand the variation of the compass. He was also expected to be qualified to do the duty of an able seaman and midshipman.[14]

Successful completion of the examination made the midshipman a 'passed midshipman'.[14] From the 18th century until the second half of the 19th century, a midshipman in the Royal Navy who passed the lieutenant's examination did not automatically receive a commission.[15] Midshipmen with political connections were promoted first, while others would wait their turn on a roster.[15] During wartime, when large numbers of ships and men might be lost in battle, most passed midshipman would be promoted in a year or two, but during peacetime the wait might be so long that the midshipman would be considered too old and would lose his chance at a commission.[15]

Passed midshipmen awaiting promotion often elected to become master's mates, a high-ranking petty officer who assisted the master with his duties, served on watch as deputy to the lieutenants, and commanded small boats.[16] A midshipman who became master's mate earned an increase in pay from £1 13s 6p to £3 16s per month, but initially reduced his chances at a commission because master's mates, along with masters, were assumed to have a working class background.[17][18] Over time, however, appointment to master's mate became considered a normal part of the path to a commission; the situation caused some confusion during the last part of the 18th century, when two parallel roles – master's mates trying to become masters, and former midshipmen working toward a commission – held the same title and responsibilities aboard ship.[19]

By the first years of the 19th century, the term 'mate', without the prefix master's, was used for passed midshipmen, to distinguish them from master's mates who had not served as midshipmen.[17] In 1824, the rating of master's assistant replaced master's mate, and mate continued to be used unofficially by passed midshipmen.[17] These changes helped eliminate the confusion caused by the mingling of midshipmen in the navigator's branch.[19] In 1838 a Royal Commission, presided over by the Duke of Wellington, recommended the institution of the rank of mate as an official step between midshipman and lieutenant.[20] In 1861 mate was abolished in favor of sub-lieutenant.[20]

United States Navy (1794–1845)

When Congress created the United States Navy in 1794, midshipman was listed as a rank of warrant officer, not a rating, and they were appointed by the president of the United States.[21] Midshipmen had similar duties and responsibilities as in the Royal Navy, and were generally teenagers training to become a naval officer. "Passed midshipman" was first used in 1819, and was an official rank of the US Navy.[22]

During the long period of peace between 1815 and 1846 midshipmen had few opportunities for promotion, and their warrants were often obtained via patronage. The poor quality of officer training in the US Navy became visible after the Somers Affair, an alleged mutiny aboard the training ship USS Somers in 1842, and the subsequent execution of midshipman Philip Spencer. Spencer had gained his post aboard the Somers via the influence of his father, United States Secretary of War John C. Spencer.[23]

Cadet officers

In the middle of the 19th century, the Royal Navy and the United States Navy replaced Age of Sail apprenticeships with formal training in naval colleges. The shift presaged the redefinition of midshipman along the lines it has today, as an officer cadet at a naval college. Trainees now spent around four years in a college, and time at sea declined; entry age was increased from 12 to 18 between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries.[24]

Royal Navy from 1858

The original Royal Naval College closed in 1836, after which the only method for training midshipman in the Royal Navy was aboard ships. The closure precipitated a decline in qualified officers, prompting an 1856 Navy commission to recommend the opening of a school called The Royal Naval College to train midshipmen. The school was officially founded in 1858 in Portsmouth; the wooden hulk HMS Britannia was selected as a training ship, and instruction of cadets started on January 1, 1859.[25] The Britannia was moved to Portland in 1862, and to the present location of the school in Dartmouth in 1863.[26]

Officer instruction consisted of two years of classroom training at the Royal Naval College, during which time trainees were rated as cadets, followed by a year aboard a special training vessel. Cadets were then rated as midshipmen, and served aboard the fleet another two years.[27] Midshipmen lived in the gunroom, kept watches, and ran the ship's boats.[27] They received instruction in navigation every day.[27] After five total years of training and having reached the age of 19, the midshipmen were eligible to take the examination for lieutenant.[27][28] After passing the examination for lieutenant, midshipmen were commissioned as sub-lieutenants, and were transferred to the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, which opened in 1873 as the 'University of the Navy'.[27]

United States Navy from 1845

Congress formally authorized the establishment of the United States Military Academy in 1802, but it took almost 50 years to approve a similar school for naval officers.[29] One major reason for the delay was that Navy leaders preferred the apprenticeship system, noting famous officers such as Nelson and the captains of the war of 1812 who did not attend a formal naval school.[29] However, after the Somers Affair, officers realized that the system for training officers had to change to be more efficient.[29]

George Bancroft, appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1845, decided to work outside of congressional approval and create a new academy for officers.[29] He formed a council lead by Commodore Perry to create a new system for training officers, and turned the old Fort Severn at Annapolis into a new institution which would be designated as the United States Naval Academy in 1851.[29] Midshipmen studied at the Academy for four years and trained aboard ships each summer.[30] Midshipman began to mean passed midshipman at this time, and a student at the Naval Academy was a cadet midshipman.[22] The rank of ensign was created in 1862, and passed midshipmen were promoted to ensign when vacancies occurred.[22]

In 1874, Congress changed the curriculum to include four years of classroom training and two years of sea duty aboard a regular vessel prior to examinations as warranted midshipmen.[31] In 1882, Congress eliminated the distinction between engineer and naval cadets, and designated the student officers as naval cadets; the name reverted to midshipman in 1902.[30] In 1912, Congress authorized commissioning midshipmen as ensigns on graduation day, and ended the previously required two years of post-graduation sea service as warrant officers.[30][32]

Commonwealth navies

As Dominions of the British Empire formed their own navies during the 20th century, further countries began using the rank of midshipman. Today Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Kenya use the rank.[33] Prior to 1968 Canada also used the rank of midshipman, until the National Defence Act consolidated the Royal Canadian Navy with the Army and Air Force into a single military, called the Canadian Forces. As part of the act, the rank of midshipman was replaced with the rank of naval cadet.[34]


In Royal Navy slang, a midshipman is sometimes referred to as a "snotty". Two popular stories give origins for the term: the first claims that it arose due to a shortage of handkerchiefs among midshipmen, who would consequently use their sleeves to wipe their noses. Prince William, later William IV, is sometimes cited as a notorious example of this practice among midshipmen.[35] The other story claims that the three buttons formerly sewn onto midshipmen's jacket cuffs were placed there to prevent the men wiping their noses on their sleeves.[35][36] There is no evidence to support either story, but the nickname persists today.[35]

Modern usage

Royal Navy

A piece of white cloth on the lapel of a blue dress coat.
Royal Navy midshipman's insignia[37]

In the modern Royal Navy a midshipman is the second lowest rank of officer, above the rank of Cadet RN which is referred to in the Naval Discipline Act 1957 [38] but no longer used. Midshipmen are officers in the Royal Navy, and rank immediately below Second Lieutenant in the British Army and Pilot Officer in the Royal Air Force and above all enlisted and warrant ranks.[39][40]. A midshipman's rank insignia, which has changed little since Napoleonic times, is a white patch of cloth with a gold button and a twist of white cord on each side of the coat collar.[41][42]

Prospective officers must have at least five GCSEs, including English and maths, plus at least 180 UCAS points from A levels or other suitable qualifications. They must pass a two-and-a-half day assessment, called the Admiralty Interview Board, and a medical examination.[43] Those joining the Navy as graduates start as sub-lieutenants, with non-graduates joining as midshipmen.[43]

General basic training (Initial Officer Training) for Royal Navy officers takes place at the Britannia Royal Naval College.[44] Training takes up to a year depending on specialization; all midshipmen participate in at least the first two terms, which are 14 weeks each. Until they have completed initial fleet training, both midshipmen and sub-lieutenants at Britannia Royal Naval College do not use their substantive ranks, but use the non-substantive rank of Officer Cadet.[45]

During the first seven weeks of training, officer cadets learn militarization and sea sense, focusing on learning about the military environment, along with team and leadership skills.[44] During the second seven weeks, officer cadets learn essential sea officer skills, including navigation and the marine environment, strategic studies, and basic sea survival.[44] During the second term officer cadets spend 10 weeks in Initial Fleet Time, serving aboard capital warships as junior ratings.[44] Upon completion of Initial Fleet Time, officer cadets return to Dartmouth for four weeks to complete their final leadership assessment, the Maritime Leadership Exercise (MARL), and a broadening week spent with different areas of the Royal Navy.[44] If they have been successful, officers of all branches then pass out of the college.[44]

Upon completion of Initial Officer Training, university cadet entrants, engineering, logistics and flight specialization officer cadets move to their second phase of training elsewhere within the Royal Navy.[44] Midshipmen specializing in warfare remain at the college for the Initial Warfare Officer's Foundation course, which completes part of a Foundation degree in Naval Studies (equating to two thirds of a Bachelor's degree), on completion of initial professional training.[46] Officers can complete degrees via distance learning with the Open University, although completion is not required.[46] After completion of training at the college, a midshipman will sit the commissioning exam, the Fleet Board; with success at the Fleet Board, the officer cadet becomes a commissioned officer.[44]

United States Navy and Marine Corps

U.S. Navy midshipman are divided internally into 10 ranks: Midshipman 4th Class, abbreviated MIDN 4/C, Midshipman 3rd Class, abbreviated MIDN 3/C, Midshipman 2nd Class, abbreviated MIDN 2/C, Midshipman 1st Class, abbreviated MIDN 1/C, Midshipman Ensign, abbreviated MIDN ENS, Midshipman Lieutenant Junior Grade, abbreviated MIDN JG, Midshipman Lieutenant, abbreviated MIDN LT, Midshipman Lieutenant Commander, abbreviated MIDN LCDR, Midshipman Commander, abbreviated MIDN CDR, Midshipman Captain, abbreviated MIDN CPT. Each rank has a specific insignia on the shoulder, sleeve and collar to distinguish the rank.
US Navy and Marine Corps midshipman rank structure[47]

In the modern United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, a midshipman is an officer cadet who is classified as an officer of the line, though their exercise of authority is limited by their training status.[48] Legally, "midshipman" is a special grade of officer that ranks between Warrant Officer (W-1) and the lowest grade of Chief Warrant Officer (W-2).[48][49]

Students at the United States Naval Academy are appointed to the rank of midshipman, United States Navy, or midshipman, United States Marine Corps, while students in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) are appointed as midshipman, United States Navy Reserve, or midshipman, United States Marine Corps Reserve. Students at the United States Merchant Marine Academy are appointed as midshipman, United States Merchant Marine Reserve, United States Naval Reserve.[50] The student body at the US Naval Academy is the Brigade of Midshipmen[30] and the student body at the US Merchant Marine Academy is the Regiment of Midshipmen.[50]

By an act of Congress passed in 1903, two appointments as Midshipmen were allowed for each senator, representative, and delegate in Congress, two for the District of Columbia, and five each year at large. Currently each member of Congress and the Vice President can have five appointees attending the Naval Academy at any time. [51] The Secretary of the Navy may appoint 170 enlisted members of the Regular and Reserve Navy and Marine Corps to the Naval Academy each year. Additionally, children of Medal of Honor recipients do not need a nomination but need only qualify for admission.[52]

Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy and in the NROTC wear uniforms that comply with standards established for commissioned officers of the navy, with shoulder board and sleeve insignia varying by school year or officer rank as prescribed by Chapter 6 of Navy Uniform Regulations.[47] Midshipmen wear gold fouled anchors as the primary insignia on caps and shoulder boards and plain anchors as collar insignia on service dress and full dress uniforms. Marine option midshipmen in the NROTC – who hold the rank of midshipman, US Navy Reserve, while in training to become officers in the Marine Corps – wear gold globe and anchor insignia in place of the insignia worn by other midshipmen.[47] [53]

The Naval Academy received accreditation as an approved "technological institution" in 1930. In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law an act of Congress enabling the Naval, Military, and Coast Guard Academies to award Bachelor of Science degrees. The Class of 1933 was the first to receive this degree and have it written in the diploma. In 1937, an act of Congress extended to the Superintendent of the Naval Academy the authority to award the Bachelor of Science degree to all living graduates. The Academy later replaced a fixed curriculum taken by all midshipmen with the present core curriculum plus 21 major fields of study, a wide variety of elective courses and advanced study and research opportunities.[54] Upon graduation, midshipmen are commissioned as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps.[55]

Other Commonwealth nations

Royal Australian Navy

A piece of white cloth on the shoulder of a blue dress coat with the word Australia, and below a piece of white cloth on a button.
RAN midshipman insignia[56]

A midshipman in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) holds a commission, which is not confirmed and not officially issued until promotion to lieutenant. Officer trainees who have no university education or a three-year degree enter the college as midshipmen, while trainees with significant experience or more university education enter as sub-lieutenants, lieutenants or chaplains.[57]

On joining the RAN, midshipmen complete six months' initial officer training as cadets at the Royal Australian Naval College, followed by a six-month consolidation period in the fleet.[58] At this point, cadets are promoted to midshipman, and study at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in their second year in the Navy, while pilots and observers go directly to ADFA after initial officer training.[58] Midshipmen undertake an undergraduate degree over the course of three years, whilst also completing elements of their naval training.[59] Cadets at ADFA are also undergraduate students of the University of New South Wales (UNSW). When they graduate from UNSW at ADFA at the completion of their three or four year undergraduate program, they do so with a fully recognized degree from UNSW – the same degree received by graduates of UNSW's campus in Sydney.[60] During Single Service Training at ADFA all midshipmen visit shore establishments and go to sea on Navy ships to gain experience in shipboard life.[59]

Royal New Zealand Navy

A piece of white cloth on the lapel of a blue dress coat.
RNZN midshipman patch [61]

In the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), midshipman is the lowest commissioned officer rank, for officers under training and retained upon completion of initial training by those without a university degree.[61] Unlike officer cadet ranks in the Army, midshipmen are treated as officers and hold a commission.[62] The RNZN has approximately 60 midshipman commissioned at a time.[61]

Midshipman begin their career at Junior Officer Common Training, which lasts 6 months.[63] After completing their initial training course, midshipmen serve aboard ships for a short time, followed by specialty training for about 14 weeks.[63] After approximately two years in the Navy, midshipmen are promoted to ensign.[64] Officers who entered the service with a university degree are promoted to sub-lieutenant after completion of Junior Officer Common Training.[65] Officers without a degree have the option of earning a university degree while serving in the navy.[66]

South African Navy

A piece of white cloth on the shoulder of a blue dress coat with the words South Africa.
SAN midshipman insignia [67]

A midshipman in the South African Navy (SAN) is an officer of the lowest rank.[67] Officer candidates are citizens between the ages of 18 and 22, either in grade 12 or graduated from high school with an academic background in mathematics and science.[68] Cadets initially spend a year training at the South African Naval College in Gordon's Bay, near Simonstown, and upon graduation are commissioned as midshipmen.[69] Midshipmen study for three more years at the South African Military Academy, and upon graduation receive a B Mil degree from Stellenbosch University.[70]

Indian Navy

A piece of white cloth on the lapel of a blue dress coat.
Indian Navy midshipman insignia[33]

Midshipmen in the Indian Navy begin their career as cadets at the National Defence Academy or the Indian Naval Academy, where they study for approximately three years. After graduation they receive a B Tech degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University and are assigned to training ships for one year. After six months aboard the training ship, the cadets are promoted to midshipman.[71] At the end of their training midshipmen are examined by a board and are cleared for promotion to acting sub-lieutenant.[72]

Pakistan Navy

A piece of white cloth on the shoulder of a blue dress coat.
Pakistan Navy midshipman insignia

Cadets in the Pakistan Navy undertake an initial 18 months' training at the Pakistan Naval Academy. They study humanities, engineering, professional and technical subjects.[73] After passing out they are appointed midshipmen,[74] and undertake another six months of training at sea. They are assigned to Operations, Weapons Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Logistics. After passing the final fleet examination, they are promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant.

Other countries

Ranks equivalent to midshipman exist in other countries, especially in those whose naval officer training structures resemble that of Britain's Royal Navy. The Dutch navy has since the early 17th century included a midshipman rank called 'Young Gentlemen' (Dutch: Adelborst),[75] and the German navy includes several ranks which translate uneasily to midshipman.[76] German officer cadets begin their training in the enlisted ranks with the qualifier officer candidate (German: Offizieranwärter), abbreviated as OA.[76] After about a year, they are promoted to Seekadetten,[76] equivalent to the non-commissioned officer (NCO) rank Mate (German: Maat).[39] About nine months later, they are promoted to Fähnrich zur See rank,[76] equivalent to the NCO rank Boatswain (German: Bootsmann).[39] After 30 months of total training they are promoted to the final officer candidate rank, Oberfähnrich zur See,[76] equivalent to the NCO rank Hauptbootsmann.[39] The rank "midshipman" therefore corresponds to Offizieranwärter, Seekadett, Fähnrich,and Oberfähnrich, depending on context.

In many romance languages, the literal translation of the local term for "midshipman" into English is "Navy Guard", including the French garde-marine,[77] Spanish guardia marina,[78] Portuguese guarda-marinha, and Italian guardiamarina. These ranks all refer to young naval officer cadets, but the selection, training, and responsibilities of each diverge from the British tradition. The French rank of garde de la marine was established in 1670, when an office of the monarchy selected young gentlemen from the nobility to serve the King in the Gardes de la Marine. The concept of the Gardes was borrowed from the various guards units within the Maison militaire du roi de France.[79] In 1686 these guards were organized into companies of cadets at the ports of Brest, Rochefort and Toulon. Unlike midshipmen in the Royal Navy, the Gardes trained mostly on shore and focused on military drill and theory rather than practical skills in gunnery, navigation and seamanship.[77][79] After the succession of the Bourbon Phillip V of Spain to the Spanish throne, the French system of naval officer education spread to Spain.[79] The Spanish navy created the rank of guardia marina in 1717, with the formation at Cadiz of the Royal Company of Midshipmen (Spanish: Real Compañía de Guardias Marinas).[79][80]

By restricting the officer corps to members of the nobility, there were not enough Gardes to man all of the ships during wartime.[79] To fill the gaps, volunteers were temporarily recruited from the merchant service; they were allowed to hold permanent rank in the navy starting in 1763.[79][81] These professional officers wore blue uniforms to distinguish them from the Gardes de la Marine who wore red uniforms.[81] After the revolution, the royal connotations of the term garde marine led to its replacement with aspirant (naval cadet), and then élèves de la Marine, or officer candidate.[77] Contemporary French naval officer training still reflects this structure: students at the École navale begin their the first year as élève officier, are promoted in their second year to aspirant, and in their third year are commissioned as Ensign 2nd Class. In a modern French dictionary, élève officier translates to midshipman, but both the historical term garde-marine and the modern term for an officer candidate, aspirant, are equivalent to midshipman.[82][83]

In most Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries, officers begin training at the rank of naval cadet, called "aspirante" in both languages. They are promoted to the rank guardia marina/guarda-marinha during training (in Spain and Brazil) or after graduation (in Portugal).[84] Similarly, in Italy officer cadets are aspirante guardiamarina, and the lowest rank of commissioned officer is guardiamarina, terms which translate to candidate midshipman and midshipman respectively.[85]

Comparative ranks and insignia

Country Equivalent Rank Insignia
Brazil Guarda-marinha[86]
A winged staff on a blue background above a narrow gold stripe.
Guarda marinha insignia
Canada Naval Cadet / Aspirant de marine[87]
Naval Cadet insignia
France Aspirant[88]
A fouled anchor above a dashed gold stripe.
Aspirant insignia
Germany Seekadett/Fähnrich zur See/Oberfähnrich zur See[89][76]
Worn on the sleeve, a gold star surrounded inside of a gold diamond. Gold star above a gold chevron. Gold star above a horizontal gold bar.
Fähnrich zur See
Oberfähnrich zur See insignia
Italy Aspirante guardiamarina[90]
Single gold bar on a blue background.
Aspirante guardiamarina insignia
Netherlands Adelborst[75]
Worn on the sleeve near the shoulder, no stripes two gold chevrons three gold chevrons on a blue background
Korporaal Adelborst
Sergeant Adelborst insignia
Malaysia Pegawai Kadet Kanan[33]
A piece of white cloth on the shoulder of a blue dress coat.
Kadet Kanan Shoulder Insignia
Norway Kvartermester[39][91]
A gold bar on the shoulder of a blue dress coat.
Kvartermester sleeve insignia
Portugal Aspirante[92]
A diagonal gold bar above three circles containing fouled anchors A single gold bar with an executive curl in the center.
Sleeve insignia for students from the Escola Naval
Sleeve insignia for others
Spain Guardiamarina/Aspirante[93]
Two diagonal fouled anchors above two horizontal gold stripes, and a single fouled anchor above two gold stripes.
Guardiamarina (left, 4th year) and Aspirante (right, 2nd year) insignia

See also


  1. ^ "Ranks in Nelson's Navy". Port Cities London. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  2. ^ a b "midshipman, n.". Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  3. ^ a b Penn 1957, pp. 3–4
  4. ^ Morris & Kearns 1998, p. 186
  5. ^ Penn 1957, pp. 8
  6. ^ King 2001, p. 299
  7. ^ a b Penn 1957, pp. 10–11
  8. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Midshipman". Encyclopædia Britannica. XVIII (11th ed.). New York: Encyclopædia Britannica. p. 423. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Lavery 1989, p. 89
  10. ^ a b Phillipson 1996, p. 2
  11. ^ a b c d e f Lavery 1989, p. 90
  12. ^ Blake & Lawrence 2005, p. 72
  13. ^ Lavery 1989, p. 92
  14. ^ a b c Lavery 1989, p. 93
  15. ^ a b c Walker 1938, p. 185
  16. ^ "Officer ranks in the Royal Navy". Royal Naval Museum. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  17. ^ a b c Walker 1938, p. 186
  18. ^ Lewis 1960, p. 146,197
  19. ^ a b Lewis 1939, p. 212,230
  20. ^ a b Walker 1938, p. 188–189
  21. ^ "Warrant Officer". Naval Historical Center. 2005. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  22. ^ a b c L. R. Hamersly & Co. 1881, p. 496
  23. ^ Miller 1997, p. 102
  24. ^ Walker 1938, p. 190
  25. ^ Walker 1938, p. 37
  26. ^ Walker 1938, p. 39
  27. ^ a b c d e Winton 1995, pp. 267–269
  28. ^ L. R. Hamersly & Co. 1881, p. 16
  29. ^ a b c d e Miller 1997, p. 103
  30. ^ a b c d "A Brief History of the US Naval Academy". United States Navy. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  31. ^ L. R. Hamersly & Co. 1881, p. 14
  32. ^ Commission of ensign to graduates of the Naval Academy at end of four years' course, Pub. Law No. 62-98. 37 Stat. 73 (1912). Retrieved 2009-11-11 from Lexis/Nexis Congressional.
  33. ^ a b c Saunders, Stephen, ed (2008). Jane's Fighting Ships 2008-2009 (111 ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780710628459. 
  34. ^ "National Defence Act (R.S., 1985, c. N-5)". Department of Justice of Canada. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  35. ^ a b c Penn 1957, p. ix
  36. ^ "M Class - Muster". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  37. ^ "Uniforms and Badges of Rank". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  38. ^ "Naval Discipline Act 1957 (c.53)". Office of Public Sector Information. p. 19, section 133(1). Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  39. ^ a b c d e STANAG 2116: NATO Codes for Grades of Military Personnel. NATO. 13 March 1996. 
  40. ^ Lavery, Brian (1994). Hostilities Only: Training the wartime Royal Navy. Greenwich: National Maritime Museum. p. 150.  Pre-1956 Royal Navy and Royal Marines warrant officers and commissioned officers from Warrant Rank were senior to midshipmen.
  41. ^ "Uniform and Medals:Research guide U1: Uniforms: The National Maritime Museum Collection". National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 2009-03-06.  Midshipmen's uniforms have remained unchanged since 1787
  42. ^ Lavery 1989, p. 108
  43. ^ a b "Royal Navy Officer". Connexions. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h "Initial Officer Training". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2009-03-06. 
  45. ^ "Initial Sea Training". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  46. ^ a b "In Service Degree Scheme". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  47. ^ a b c "Officer Accession Programs (Article 6101.1)" (PDF). United States Navy Uniform Regulations (NAVPERS 15665I). Navy Personnel Command. December 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  48. ^ a b Brackin, William L. (1991). Naval Orientation (NAVEDTRA 12966). United States Navy Naval Education and Training Command. p. 9‑9. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  49. ^ "Insignias - Midshipman". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  50. ^ a b "NROTC FAQs". US Merchant Marine Academy. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  51. ^ "Apply For Nomination". United States Naval Academy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  52. ^ "Admissions" (PDF). 2007-2008 U.S. Naval Academy Catalog. U.S. Naval Academy. p. 23. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  53. ^ "Military Service Requirements". Naval Service Training Command Officer Development. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  54. ^ "Academic Education". United States Naval Academy. 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  55. ^ "Career Opportunities after Graduation" (PDF). U.S. Naval Academy. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  56. ^ "Midshipman - Royal Australian Navy". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  57. ^ "What It Takes to Become a Naval Officer in Five Easy Steps" (PDF). Australian Department of Defence. p. 18. Retrieved 2009-03-06. "Graduates from a four-year course of study are granted the rank of sub-lieutenant on entry to the Navy. Graduates from a three-year course are granted the rank of midshipman." 
  58. ^ a b "Single Service Training". Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  59. ^ a b "The Australian Defense Force Academy - Training at ADFA". Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  60. ^ "University of New South Wales". Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  61. ^ a b c "RNZN Midshipman Rank Slide". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2009-03-04. 
  62. ^ "Defense Act 1990". Parliamentary Counsel Office. Retrieved 2009-05-12.  Officer, in relation to the Navy, means a person who is of or above the rank of midshipman.
  63. ^ a b "Warfare Officer". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  64. ^ "Climbing the Ranks". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  65. ^ "Supply Officer". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  66. ^ "Tertiary Sponsorship". Royal New Zealand Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  67. ^ a b "Rank Insignia". Department of Defence, Republic of South Africa. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  68. ^ "Military Skills Development". South African Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  69. ^ "Career Progression". South African Navy. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  70. ^ "About the Military Academy". University of Stellenbosch. Retrieved 2009-03-19. 
  71. ^ Hiranandani, G M. "21". Transition to Triumph : history of the Indian Navy, 1965 - 1975. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers. ISBN 1897829728. OCLC 44603776. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  72. ^ "Midshipmen". Indian Navy. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  73. ^ "Pakistan Navy Website". Pakistan Navy. Retrieved 2009-04-30. 
  74. ^ Cheema 2003, p. 89
  75. ^ a b (Dutch)"Voorschrift Koninklijke Marine 003: Uniformen Voor Militairen van de Koninklijke Marine (VKM 003)". Koninklijke Marine. 2008. p. 69. Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  76. ^ a b c d e f (German)Petra Schmittberger (2009-02-04). "Offizier Marine". German Federal Armed Forces. p. 12. Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  77. ^ a b c Lavery 1989, p. 281
  78. ^ Lavery 1989, p. 284
  79. ^ a b c d e f Harding 1999, p. 145
  80. ^ (Spanish) "Historia". Armada Española. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  81. ^ a b Harding 1999, p. 229-230
  82. ^ "French Training Squadron for Naval Officers" (PDF). Ministère de la défense. Retrieved 2009-04-06.  The more general term élève officier translated to 'midshipman'.
  83. ^ (French) "le Grand Robert". Dictionnaires Le Robert. Retrieved 2009-04-06. Aspriant: Élève de deuxième année de l'École navale translates to second year student at the Naval Academy.
  84. ^ "Guardiamarina". Oxford Spanish Dictionary, (subscription required). Oxford Language Dictionaries Online (subscription required). Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  85. ^ "Guardiamarina". Oxford-Paravia Italian Dictionary. Oxford Language Dictionaries Online (subscription required). Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  86. ^ (Portuguese) "Insígnias para Praças". Marinha do Brasil. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  87. ^ "Army Rank and Appointment Insignia". Canadian Department of National Defence. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  88. ^ (French) "Les grades de la Marine nationale". Ministère de la défense. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  89. ^ (German) "Uniformen" (PDF). Deutsche Marine. p. 20. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  90. ^ (Italian) "Gradi". Ministero della Difesa. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  91. ^ Officer candidates in the Norwegian Navy hold the rank of Kvartermester.
  92. ^ (Portuguese) "Postos". Marinha Portuguesa. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  93. ^ (Spanish)"Badges and Emblems". Armada Española. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Simple English

A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer. They are the lowest rank of officer in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use this rank are Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Before 1968, it was used by the Royal Canadian Navy. But it was replaced with that of naval cadet upon the making of the Canadian Forces.


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