of the Fleet
have yet to determine when this term was routinely applied.
The appointment for the senior man was normally as 'Admiral and
Commander in Chief of the Fleet'. In most such appointments, no
rank was given in the preamble but as late as 1705, Sir Cloudesly
Shovell was appointed as such, as an Admiral of the White. I
have entered these early appointments as 'Commander in Chief, Fleet',
noting the actual wording of the appointment elsewhere.
denotes the term 'appoint...' has been used, or the absence of the
term 'Commission' or 'Warrant' in the relevant preamble.
Generically it has been used for Commissions, Warrants and Drafts.
or Warrant Officers, regardless of rank, appointed to command a
ship; i.e. those referred to as 'the Captain' at the primary conning
position. In many of the early sources (and Commission books),
the terms 'Captain of' and 'Commander of' are used interchangeably -
invariably entered as 'Captain of' for records of this period.
the period covered to date, ship commissions or commissioning dates
are seldom related to the appointment of the Commanding Officer.
Likewise the term 'paid off' does not necessarily imply
'decommissioned'. Ships appeared to commission on first
use, recommission on change in status (e.g. 'recommissioned as
fireship'), and decommission when taken out of service (e.g. put out
of commission at ...). To date I have used the term
generically, but avoided use in the specific sense unless so noted in
the primary source.
the mid 19th Century, Navy Lists routinely note commissioning dates
indicating a change in use of the term and, today, we seem to use and
misuse it in a rather different way. We refer to the current
commission, but 're-dedicate' rather than 'recommission'.
are displayed in a standard way with one exception. To avoid the
confusion and mistakes which often accompany earlier dates, these are
displayed in the pre-1752 format but sorted as if the modern date had
been entered. Thus, for example, the display is 17 Mar
1742/3 but the sort is based on 17 Mar 1743. Most reports
provide the full dates but, in some instances, short dates (giving
the year only) are specified.
conflicting dates are found in the sources, all are recorded but I
choose one as the 'master'. If subsequent better information is
received, it is a simple matter to update the 'master' if appropriate.
early Warrant appointments give useful information about the current
or previous appointment. Unless the actual dates are available from
other sources, I have used the following convention which obviously
has a bearing on some discharge dates:
currently serving in one appt has a new warrant to the next.
Month and year of warrant used for the discharge date from current appointment.
noted as 'late of' or 'formerly of' ship - the terms were used
interchangeably. The year only of the new warrant used for
discharge date from previous appointment unless other information to
hand suggests otherwise.
a slightly different context, when dates are encountered indicating
the individual is 'in post' , the date is recorded as found but noted
'I' (for in post), rather than 'E' (for entry) or 'D' (for
discharge). Used extensively, but not exclusively, for Standing
Warrant Officers. To avoid confusion, such dates do not appear
in standard reports.
the start of the chosen period (1660), rebuilds caused significant
changes to a ship's dimensions. Most rebuild measurements are
recorded but only the initial figures are shown in standard reports.
Manuscript Navy List series, which runs forward from 1757 to the
1870's, was compiled in the Surveyor's Office and is taken as the
source of dimensions for the period. The measurements are
routinely recorded in red and/or black ink. The former indicate
provisional figures, either as taken off the draught or recorded in
the water on capture &c. The latter appear to be the actual
figures recorded by the professional dockyard officers, possibly with
the ship out of the water. When available, the black figures
are recorded; 'R' or 'B' being used to differentiate. If, as
sometimes happens, two sets of black figures are available, the most
up-to-date have been taken.
have an inbuilt system which allows me to differentiate between two
individuals of the same name. Additionally, for ease of search,
the system tracks the earliest and latest record held for each
individual. Thus for example, instead of being faced with
multiple entries of John Smith', a typical search might show
John Smith, 1717-1746'. Although great care is
taken at entry, mistakes can happen and, just as likely, even primary
sources can be mistaken or misleading. It is therefore entirely
possible to end up with an appointment attributed to the wrong man -
a simple matter to rectify by the change of one number.
John Smith and John Smythe may turn out to be the same person - and
how is duplication avoided? The answer is that there is no
totally foolproof system but I record differences of spelling of a
specific name as they are encountered in the sources. Thus a
search for John Smythe might show two individuals, neither of which
fit the bill. A search of alternatives will give a pointer to a
John Smith sometimes spelt Smythe if such a spelling has been
encountered. I tend to use the spelling in common use at the
start of a man's career as the standard. Thus, for example,
Admiral Allen, whose DNB entry demands the spelling Allin', is
entered Allen' with the alternative Allin'. A
similar system helps with the quick identification of titled
individuals (usually entered under the family name) and aliases.
many instances, either the source or other pointers make the
connection between successive appointments easy. In other
circumstances, connections are not nearly so obvious without much
deeper research, which would only serve to slow the input
process. When I have considered it reasonable or safe to do so,
I have linked some such entries, inserting a suitable note ('link
tbc'), but make no claim to infallibility. If further
information comes to hand clarifying the matter, it is a simple
process to update the record.
identification is by no means straightforward, particularly with
multiple use of the same name. Some cases are simple enough and
easily resolved, such as PORTSMOUTH and PORTSMOUTH (Sloop), but
others are more elusive. I have therefore included two dates
after the ship name. The first indicates when built, hired,
purchased or taken. The second indicates end of useful life,
normally break-up, loss or sale. Occasionally when a ship lingers
without change of name after the introduction of a new ship of the
same name, an arbitrary end date is used to ease data entry.
of use, such as from 1st to 2nd rate, or 'cutter' to 'sloop', is not
changed in the title (but is recorded in the ship 'milestone').
date all ships entered have been in RN use, and the 'HMS' prefix is
considered superfluous. Future entries of Merchant or Ships of
other navies will require some suitable 'differencing'.
in the name of various post-holders has been endemic for many
centuries. In the interests of avoiding fragmentation of
entries, these have simplified where possible without losing track of
the actual titles. Thus, the 'Secretary of the Admiralty', whose
title alternated between 'Secretary' and 'First Secretary' throughout
the 18th Century, will be headed 'Secretary of the Admiralty', with
the actual title being recorded on the database but not shown in
to French Revolutionary War, the routine entry of rank/rate has only
proved necessary by exception. The 1790's saw the introduction
of promotion of individuals without a corresponding appointment, and
from this period, rank/rate and seniority will be routinely entered.
in the earlier period include:
of ships have rank noted as 'Cdr' when actual commission
appoints the individual as 'Master & Commander' or 'Commander' -
either were used (in specific circumstances) from 1746.
rank used in the appointment of 'Midshipmen Extra' - (Captain
& Lieutenant noted).
encountered when the 'Captain' is noted as a 'Lieutenant'.
when early commissions for Lieutenants note the individual as 'Mr'
rather than 'Lt', the intention is to note first appointment as a
'Lieutenant', and 'Mr' is recorded but not, obviously, as a rank.
care, it is possible to establish seniority from records never
intended to collect such information. The following
conventions have been used for data entry in seniority lists:
noted in Rank above. In ADM6 series (the Commission and
Warrant Books) 'Mr' in front of the name is used to denote first
appointment as a Lieutenant. Such a notation is usually
absent in the confirmation of local commissions.
to note that the first commission or warrant was given locally.
It also infers that the commission or warrant was subsequently
confirmed, although some clerks may have applied this otherwise - see
'local ? confimed' below. Very occasionally, Mr (see above) was
used as well and, if so, this is also recorded.
appears from some records (e.g. ADM106/2896 Succession Records) that
there is a world of difference between 'confimed' and 'order for
payment'. When the latter is encountered, this notation is used
unless confirmatory information comes to hand.
Warrant Officers (and Yard Officers), ADM6 series uses the words 'of
good testimony' to indicate first warrant. Such an indication is not
used for local warrants and the notations above are used here.
Infrequently, the words 'of very good testimony' are used.
are stored under such generic headings as Primary Manuscript and
Secondary Printed. A 'short' title, hopefully self-explanatory,
is used in standard reports - see 'abbreviations' for detail. In many
instances, when the whole source has been entered it is only
necessary to record the source and folio/page. In other
instances, more detail has been recorded when, for example, an
isolated list is encountered in a multi-subject' source.
This additional information can be made available but does not appear
in the standard reports.
certain serial publications it is more practicable to enter edition
rather than page information. A typical case might be
information about a ship extracted from a Navy List. In this
instance, the edition and year are recorded, e.g. 01/18 for January
edition, 1818, the century being obvious from the event date.
Likewise, entries from paybooks normally refer to the line number
rather than source page.
some users, the difference between MS and MSS (for Manuscript and
Manuscripts) is important. Here, where the key requirement is to
identify the sources as clearly as possible, I have stuck rigidly to
the convention used by the holder of the original documents.
manuscripts contain page numbers within alphabetical sections. Thus
'p.c8' indicates 'page 8' within the alphabetical section 'c'.
am frequently presented with the results of family research, often
carried out to a high standard. Sometimes this work even
includes copies of original manuscripts but lacks any note of the
source(s). Very occasionally, I have included such
material in the data-base (with the source noted as 'FR' for 'Family
Research'. Such information should be treated with the normal caveats.
abbreviated form, the National Archives (formerly the Public Record
Office) are (is?) referred to as 'TNA'. Here, I have followed
the convention used by the Society for Nautical Research, i.e. 'NA'.
the formal appointment of a Warrant Officer. There were other
uses, such as the warrant authorising some Commander-in-Chief to hold
Courts Martial, or the grant of a professional qualification.
This is not a straightforward area and research continues. Use is
normally self-apparent from the context.
use of the term 'Master' , such as in the title 'Master Shipwright',
has a connotation entirely lacking in the early warrants for
sea-going appointments. Thus for example, the term 'Gunner' and
'Master Gunner' is used interchangeably, and would be entered on the
database as 'Master Gunner'.