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Admiral is a senior rank of the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare Naval warfare is combat Combat ( French for ''fight'') is a purposeful violent conflict meant to physically harm or kill the opposition. Combat may be armed (using weapon A ...
, which equates to the NATO rank code
OF-9 A four-star rank is the rank of any four-star officer described by the . Four-star officers are often the most senior commanders in the armed services, having ranks such as (full) , (full) , , , or in the case of those air forces with a separate ...

OF-9
, outranked only by the rank of
admiral of the fleet An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (equivalent rank to admiral of the navy Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") ...
. Royal Navy officers holding the ranks of
rear admiral Rear admiral is a senior naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for wa ...
,
vice admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in the navies of N ...
and admiral of the fleet are sometimes considered generically to be admirals. The rank of admiral is currently the highest rank to which a serving officer in the Royal Navy can be promoted, admiral of the fleet being in
abeyance Abeyance (from the Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulga ...
except for honorary promotions of retired officers and members of the Royal Family. The equivalent rank in the
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' us ...
and
Royal Marines The Corps of Royal Marines (RM) is an amphibious Amphibious means able to use either land or water. In particular it may refer to: * ''Amphibious'' (film), a 2010 film * Amphibious aircraft An amphibious aircraft or amphibian is an air ...
is
general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone in suppo ...
; and in the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for th ...
, it is air chief marshal.


History


The first admirals (1224 to 1523)

King
Henry III of England Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272), also known as Henry of Winchester, was King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine from 1216 until his death in 1272. The son of John, King of England, King John and Isabella o ...

Henry III of England
appointed the first known English Admiral Sir Richard de Lucy on 29 August 1224. De Lucy was followed by Sir Thomas Moulton in 1264, who also held the title of ''Keeper of the Sea and Sea Ports''. Moulton was succeeded by Sir William de Leybourne, (the son of Sir Roger de Leybourne) as ''Admiral of the Sea of the King of England''. In 1286 he was appointed ''Admiral of the Navy'', holding the rank of admiral until 1294 and serving under King
Edward I of England Edward I (17/18 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots ( la, Malleus Scotorum), was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of th ...

Edward I of England
. As the English Navy was expanding towards the end of the thirteenth century, new appointments of admirals with specific administrative and geographic responsibilities were created. Sir John de Botetourt was appointed ''
Admiral of the North The Admiral of the North also known as Admiral of the Northern Seas and Admiral of the Northern Fleet was a senior English Navy appointment. The post holder was chiefly responsible for the command of the navy's fleet that operated in the North ...
'' in 1294. This position existed until 1412. Also in 1294, the king appointed Sir William de Laybourne to the dual commands of ''
Admiral of the South The Admiral of the South also known as Admiral of the Southern Fleet was a senior English Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (U ...
'', (1294–1412) and ''
Admiral of the West The Admiral of the West, also known as Admiral of the Western Seas or Admiral of the Western Fleet, was formerly an History of the Royal Navy, English Navy appointment. The postholder was chiefly responsible for the command of the English navy's fl ...
'', (1294–1412). The first royal commission as Admiral to a
naval officer An officer is a member of an armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a soverei ...
was granted in 1303 to
Gervase Alard Admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nations and the United States, a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general officer, ge ...
. By 1344 it was only used as a rank at sea for a captain in charge of a fleet or fleets. In 1364 the office of ''
Admiral of the North and West The Admiral of the North and West or Admiral of the North and Western Fleets was a former senior appointment of the English Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commo ...
'' was created until 1414. Beginning in 1408 these admirals' responsibilities were gradually absorbed by the office of the High Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine (later Lord Admiral of England) leading to a centralized command by 1414. In 1412 the
Admiral of the Narrow Seas The Admiral of the Narrow Seas also known as the Admiral for the guard of the Narrow Seas was a senior Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish king ...
was established briefly until 1413. It was revived on a more permanent basis from 1523, until lapsing again in 1688.


Squadron admirals of the colour from 1558 to 1603

In
Elizabethan The Elizabethan era is the epoch in the of the during the reign of (1558–1603). Historians often depict it as the in English history. The symbol of (a female personification of Great Britain) was first used in 1572, and often thereafter ...
times the fleet grew large enough to be organised into squadrons. The squadron's admiral flew a
red ensign The Red Ensign or "Red Duster" is the civil ensign of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is one of the British ensigns, and it is used either plain or defacement (flag), defaced with a badge or other ...
, the vice admirals
white White is the lightest color Color (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the Unite ...
, and the rear admirals
blue Blue is one of the three primary colours of pigments in painting and traditional colour theory In the visual arts The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pig ...
on the aft mast of his ship. As the squadrons grew, each was eventually commanded by an admiral (with vice admirals and rear admirals commanding sections) and the official ranks became admiral of the white and so forth, however each admirals command flags were different and changed over time.


Introduction of vice and rear admirals

The Royal Navy has had vice and rear admirals regularly appointed to the post since at least the 16th century. When in command of the fleet, the admiral would be in either the lead or the middle portion of the fleet. When the admiral commanded from the middle portion of the fleet his deputy, the
vice admiral Vice admiral is a senior naval flag officer rank, equivalent to lieutenant general and air marshal. A vice admiral is typically senior to a rear admiral and junior to an admiral. In many navies,Vice admiral is a three-star rank in the navies of N ...
, would be in the leading portion or
van A van is a type of road vehicle A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine that transports people or cargo. Vehicles include wagons, bicycles, motor vehicles (motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses), railed vehicles (trains, trams), watercraf ...

van
. Below him was another admiral at the rear of the fleet, called
rear admiral Rear admiral is a senior naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for wa ...
.


Promotion path of flag officers from 1702 to 1864

Promotion up the ladder was in accordance with seniority in the rank of
post-captain Post-captain is an obsolete alternative form of the rank of captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police ...
, and rank was held for life, so the only way to be promoted was for the person above on the list to die or resign. In 1747 the Admiralty restored an element of merit selection to this process by introducing the concept of ''yellow admirals'' (formally known as granting an officer the position of 'Rear-Admiral without distinction of squadron'), being captains promoted to flag rank on the understanding that they would immediately retire on
half-payHalf-pay (h.p.) was a term used in the British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular full-time personnel and 30,02 ...
. This was the navy's first attempt at older officers. They were often assigned to shore-based administrative roles, such as commander of a port or commissioner of one of the Royal Dockyards.


Interregnum to the present

During the
Interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order. Archetypally, it was the period of time between the reign of one monarch and the next (coming from Latin ''i ...
, the rank of admiral was replaced by that of
general at sea A general officer is an officer An officer is a person who has a position of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and cult ...
. In the 18th century, the original nine ranks began to be filled by more than one man per rank, although the rank of admiral of the red was always filled by only one man and was known as
Admiral of the Fleet An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (equivalent rank to admiral of the navy Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") ...
. After the
Battle of Trafalgar The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a naval battle, naval engagement between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy, French and Spanish Navy, Spanish Navies during the War of the Third Coalition (August–D ...

Battle of Trafalgar
in 1805 the rank of admiral of the red was introduced. The number of officers holding each rank steadily increased throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1769 there were 29 admirals of various grades; by the close of the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
in 1816 there were 190 admirals in service. Thereafter the number of admirals was reduced and in 1853 there were 79 admirals. Although admirals were promoted according to strict seniority, appointments to command were made at the discretion of the
Board of Admiralty The Board of Admiralty was established in 1628 when Charles I put the office of Lord High Admiral into commission. As that position was not always occupied, the purpose was to enable management of the day-to-day operational requirements of the R ...
. As there were invariably more admirals in service than there were postings, many admirals remained unemployed, especially in peacetime. The organisation of the fleet into coloured squadrons was finally abandoned in 1864. The Red Ensign was allocated to the , the White Ensign became the flag of the Royal Navy, and the Blue Ensign was allocated to the naval reserve and naval auxiliary vessels. The 18th- and 19th-century Royal Navy also maintained a positional rank known as
port admiral Port admiral is an honorary rank in the United States Navy, and a former appointment in the British Royal Navy. Royal Navy In British naval usage, the term 'port admiral' had two distinct (and somewhat contradictory) meanings, one generic, one spe ...
. A port admiral was typically a veteran captain who served as the shore commander of a British naval port and was in charge of supplying, refitting, and maintaining the ships docked at harbour. The problem of promoting strictly by seniority was well illustrated by the case of
Provo Wallis Admiral of the Fleet Sir Provo William Parry Wallis, (12 April 1791 – 13 February 1892) was a Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings fro ...

Provo Wallis
who served (including time being carried on the books while still a child) for 96 years. When he died in 1892 four admirals under him could immediately be promoted. By request of
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland There have been 12 British monarchs since the political union of the Kingdom of England The Kingdom of En ...

Queen Victoria
, became Admiral of the Fleet rather than Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey, who as senior active admiral nearing the age limit would customarily have received the promotion; John Baird became an Admiral; James Erskine a vice-admiral; and
Harry Rawson Admiral (Royal Navy), Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, (5 November 1843 – 3 November 1910) was a senior officer in the Royal Navy. He is chiefly remembered for overseeing the Benin Expedition of 1897, a British punitive expedition against t ...
a rear-admiral. Ironically, all these younger men would die at least a decade before de Horsey. In the time before squadron distinctions were removed or age limits instituted, the death of
James Hawkins-Whitshed Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy), Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Hawkins-Whitshed, 1st Baronet, (1762 – 28 October 1849), was a Royal Navy officer. He saw action in command of a sloop at the Battle of Martinique (1780), Battle of Martinique dur ...
resulted in ''ten'' men moving up to higher ranks. In 1996, the rank of admiral of the fleet was put in abeyance in peacetime, except for members of the
Royal family A royal family is the immediate family of kings/queens Queens is a borough of New York City, coextensive with Queens County, in the U.S. state of New York. It is the largest borough of New York City New York City (NYC), often simp ...
but was resurrected on an honorary basis in 2014 for the appointment of . Admirals of the fleet continue to hold their rank on the active list for life.


Rank insignia and personal flag

The current ranks are rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral and admiral of the fleet, also known as flag ranks because admirals, known as
flag officer A flag officer is a Officer (armed forces), commissioned officer in a nation's armed forces senior enough to be entitled to fly a flag to mark the position from which the officer exercises command. The term is used differently in different countr ...
s, are entitled to fly a personal flag. An admiral of the fleet flies a
Union Flag The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom The national flag of the United Kingdom is the Union Jack The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom. Though ...

Union Flag
at the masthead, while an admiral flies a
St George's cross In heraldry, Saint George's Cross, also called the Cross of Saint George, is a red heraldic cross, cross on a white background, which from the Late Middle Ages became associated with Saint George, the military saint, often depicted as a crusade ...

St George's cross
(red cross on white). Vice admirals and rear admirals fly a St George's cross with one or two red discs in the hoist, respectively. The rank of admiral itself is shown in its sleeve lace by a broad band with three narrower bands. In 2001 the number of stars on the shoulder board was increased to four, reflecting the equivalence to the OF-9
four-star rank A four-star rank is the rank of any four-star officer described by the NATO OF-9 code. Four-star officers are often the most senior commanders in the armed services, having ranks such as (full) admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in ...
s of other countries.royalnavy.mod.uk
– Uniforms and Badges of Rank: Admiral
Admiral is a four-star rank in NATO, Commonwealth and, since 2001, the Royal Navy (Refer UK DCI (Joint Service) 125/2001). Image:British Royal Navy (sleeves) OF-9.svg, Sleeve lace File:British Royal Navy OF-9.svg, Shoulder board File:British Royal Navy OF-8.svg, Shoulder board prior to 2001 File:World War II Royal Navy admiral's shoulder board.jpg, World War II admiral's shoulder board Image:Flag of Admiral - Royal Navy.svg, Command flag for an admiral from 1864.


History command flags

Prior to 1864 the Royal Navy was divided into coloured squadrons which determined his career path. The command flags flown by an Admiral changed a number of times during this period, there was no
Admiral of the Red The Admiral of the Red was a senior rank of the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major mari ...
rank until that post was introduced in 1805 prior to this the highest rank an admiral could attain to was
Admiral of the White The Admiral of the White was a senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, immediately outranked by the rank Admiral of the Red (see order of precedence below). From 1688 to 1805 this rank was in order of precedence second; after 1805 it ...
who then flew the . The next promotion step up from that was to Admiral of the Fleet.


See also

*
Admiral of the Blue The Admiral of the Blue was a senior rank of the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major mar ...
*
Admiral of the White The Admiral of the White was a senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, immediately outranked by the rank Admiral of the Red (see order of precedence below). From 1688 to 1805 this rank was in order of precedence second; after 1805 it ...
*
Admiral of the Red The Admiral of the Red was a senior rank of the Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major mari ...
* British ensigns * British and U.S. military ranks compared *
Coloured squadrons of the Royal Navy The Coloured Squadrons of the Royal Navy were first introduced in the Tudor Period during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1558-1603) The purpose was to separate the English fleet into three squadrons for better command and control, tho ...
*
Comparative military ranks In general linguistics, the comparative is a syntactic construction that serves to express a comparison between two (or more) entities or groups of entities in quality or degree - see also comparison (grammar) Comparison is a feature in the morp ...
*
Royal Navy officer rank insignia These are the official Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's Navy, naval warfare force. Although warships were used by English and Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought ...
* List of Royal Navy admirals


References


Sources

* Archives, National The. (2017). "Trafalgar Ancestors, Glossary". nationalarchives.gov.uk. National Archives. London. England * Bothwell, James (2004). Edward III and the English Peerage: Royal Patronage, Social Mobility, and Political Control in Fourteenth-century England. Boydell Press. . * Houbraken, Jacobus. Thoyras, Paul de Rapin. Vertue, George. (1747). The History of England, A List of Admirals of England (1224–1745). England. Kanpton. P and J. *Perrin, W. G. (William Gordon) (1922). "IV:Flags of Command". British flags, their early history, and their development at sea; with an account of the origin of the flag as a national device. Cambridge, England: Cambridge : The University Press.


External links


Squadronal colours factsheet
from the Royal Naval museum. {{UK officer ranks Military ranks of the Royal Navy Royal Navy appointments it:Ammiraglio#Regno Unito