Officers rank structure


Aug 14, 2005
73
0
86
The Titanics officers ranks were chief,1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th,6th
Obviously they had certificates in ascending order etc as you would expect but on theLusitania there where chief officer, junior and senior 1st,junior and senior 2nd and junior and senior 3rdetc.Also i remeber a book about the qe2(like the Lusitania a cunard ship.)also having this junior senior structure.Both ships where british merchant vessels but from different companieis was this difference in ranks at the discretion of the comany directors?What would have been the difference in certification?
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
>>Obviously they had certificates in ascending order etc <<

Actually, that's not quite how it worked. The certificates would have been for mates going up to master and even extra master, and most of Titanic's officers held extra masters certificates, and were even required to do so. However, the fact that one had that certificate didn't necesserily mean that one would be the master of the vessel. What the rank structure was...among designated ship's officers...was largely at the discretion of the company.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,016
248
333
Think of a certificate as being like a university degree. It didn't guarantee a rank, or even employment.
 
Dec 2, 2000
58,641
457
453
Easley South Carolina
>>so it was very much how the employer wanted to run things assuming they had the minimum qualifications?<<

For the most part, yes. Keep in mind that most would have stayed close to a more or less traditional ranking structure, but there would have been some variations on that theme based on convenience and even necessity. "Staff Captain" as a rank didn't come into existance until fairly early in the 20th century as an executive position and was seen only on passenger liners. You never saw it on cargo vessels.
 

Dave Gittins

Member
Apr 11, 2001
5,016
248
333
It was possible for an experienced officer with a master's certificate to find himself commanding junior officers who held extra master's certificates.

This happened on Mount Temple. Captain Moore's fourth officer was an extra master. Moore had only a master's certificate, but he had nearly 30 years on the North Atlantic.

When I get round to it, I'll have more to say on the extra master's certificate. The requirements were mind boggling.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
6,227
233
333
quote:

"Staff Captain" as a rank didn't come into existance until fairly early in the 20th century
As far as White Star is concerned, the position of "Assistant Commander" was created in 1914, when George R. Metcalfe was assigned to that position on Olympic, commanded by Herbert J. Haddock. Source: The New York Times, 18 January 1914.​
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
6,227
233
333
The Washington Herald, 22 January 1914
Original article digitized by the Library of Congress
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/


SEA TREATY PLEASES WASHINGTON DELEGATE
---
Judge Joshua Alexander, Sailing, Says Safety Plans Will Reduce Materially
Mortality at Sea

---
Southampton, Jan. 21---The White Star liner Olympic sailed, from Southampton
today with, 350 first cabin passenger, a new record list for this season of
the year. The sailing also was notable for the tact that the Olympic is
commanded for the first time by two captains. Commander H. Haddock is in
supreme command of the vessel. assisted by Lieut. Commander G. B. Metcalfe,
former commander of the Canpoic. [sic] The passengers sailing included a
number of the American delegates to the conference on safety at sea which
has just concluded at London. Among these were Judge Joshua W. Alexander, of
Washington, D. C., who said:

"We are satisfied completely at the international treaty which we assisted
in framing. In my opinion this treaty should materially lessen the mortality
of the high seas."

Among the other passengers were Hon. Adam Beck, Harrison Benn, Capt. W. G.
Bullman and Capt F. Cooper, U. S. N.; Hon. Eugene Chamberlain and Lord
Chelmsford, who are en route to Canada.

-30-
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,406
708
323
Funchal. Madeira
Hello Mark.

The reporter got carried away with that one. The Rank of Commander and Leutenent Commander only existed in the Royal Navy. The Term 'Commander' was sometimes used simply to describe the person who was in supreme command of the vessel.

From 1852, British Merchant Navy ranks were as follows: 2nd Mate, Only Mate, First Mate and Master.

Much later and during the time of Titanic, examinations for Cerificate of Competency were as follows:

Master (Home Trade or Foreign Going) Mate (HT or FG) 2nd Mate (HT or FG). In normal circumstances, mostly in cargo or cargo-passenger vessels, there would be a master, 1st Mate, 2nd Mate and 3rd Mate. There might also be an uncertificated 4th Mate and anything up to 6 Apprentices and/or Cadets.
If, during a voyage, the 3rd Officer position became vacant, the 4th Mate and/or a Cadet or Apprentice would be temporarily promoted to fill the post. (happened to me when I was 18).
Normally an officer held the certificate superior to his rank.
In the early days, a lad could obtain a Master (FG) Certificate by the age of 22 but that was rare.
Later; from first going to sea school until passing the modern Master Mariner's Certificate, the normal period was not much less than 10 years and was so, right up until the 1990s,
During this time, a person would spend 2.5 years ashore in formal education, at least 4 years of correspondence examination and pass three extremely gruelling formal examinations lasting at least one week.
In the 60's, even a Bsc in Nautical Sciences did not exempt a Candidate from sitting his very first step-up certificate..2nd Mate's (FG) exam.

As for the Certificate of Extra Master. It was always a voluntary qualification which did not guarantee a superior position on board a ship.. The level of knowledge required to pass the Extra Master's Exam up until the time of Titanic was less than that required for a modern Mate (FG) Certificate. But as Dave points out, after then, the level of academic knowledge required to pass for Extra Master, particularly mathematics based subjects, soared. The Extra Master Exam was abolished in 1990.

To give you and ohers an idea, here is an extract from the examination for Certificates of Competency (MS Act 1854) :

"13. An EXTRA MASTER’S EXAMINATION is voluntary, and intended for such persons as wish to prove their superior qualifications, and are desirous of having certificates for the highest grade granted by the Board of Trade.

IN NAVIGATION.-As the vessels which such masters will command frequently make long voyages, to the East Indies, the Pacific, &c., the candidate will be required to work a lunar observation by both sun and star, to determine the latitude by the moon, by Polar star off the meridian, and also by double altitude of the sun, and to verify the result by Sumner’s method. He must be able to calculate the altitudes of the sun or star when they cannot be observed for the purposes of lunars-to find the error of a watch by the method of equal latitudes-and to correct the altitude observed with an artificial horizon.

Foreign-going Ship.

He must understand how to observe and apply the deviation of the compass; and to deduce the set and rate the current from the D.R. and observation. He will be required to explain the nature of great circle sailing, and know how to apply practically that knowledge, but he will not be required to go into the calculations. He must be acquainted with the law of storms, so far as to know how he may probably best escape those tempests common to the East and West Indies, and known as hurricanes.

IN SEAMANSHIP.-The extra examination will consist of an inquiry into the competency of the applicant to heave a ship down, in case of accident befalling her abroad; to get lower masts in and out; and to perform such other operations of a like nature as the Examiner may consider it proper to examine him upon.


Jim C.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
6,227
233
333
he Rank of Commander and Leutenent Commander only existed in the Royal Navy.
And those were, in fact, Haddock and Metcalfe's R.N.R. ranks at the time. News articles of the day occasionally used R.N.R. ranks even when they were irrelevant to the subject of the article.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,406
708
323
Funchal. Madeira
I don't know if you are aware of it Mark, but there was a great deal of snobbery attached to RN and RNR ranks in the old days. Very many officers in the RN were sons of rich men and even sons of members of the aristocracy. The only way to be associated and compete with such people was to join the reserves. Even then, the selection was based on social rank and in many cases, religion. Obviously highly qualified individuals were better favoured. That was not however a guarantee of acceptance; I know of one individual who was refused entry on the grounds of age. At the time, he was 28 years old, held a Master Mariner (FG) Certificate and had vast experience. Additionally, all his Company colleagues were already commissioned RNR officers. The individual in question had a broad Scots accent!

In the BBC archive interviews with officers of Cunard, White Star, Anchor, P&O, BI and other such companies, you'll hear accents which don't fit the origins of the speaker. Boxhall is a case-in-point. In the Scots vernacular, these people spoke with "bools-in-the-mooth" which in english translates to "a mouth-full of glass marbles". This was deliberately cultivated to hide the speaker's lowly origins. Fascinating subject!

Jim C.

PS Take note Bob:rolleyes:
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,045
64
308
UK
As an aside, Jim, it's notable that some of the stewards in the archive recordings, though of humble origins, speak with cut-glass accents that would put most 1st Class passengers to shame.

When the movie star Cary Grant (born and raised in the backstreets of Bristol) began his acting career he figured there was no way he could sound convincingly 'posh', so instead he invented a unique accent of his own that would give nothing away. There's a great line in the comedy Some Like it Hot when Tony Curtis attempts to disguise himself by adopting a perfect caricature of the real Cary Grant, causing Jack Lemon to remark "Nobody talks like that!"

I wonder if Lightoller did something similar. His accent has been much analysed, generally leading to a head-scratching conclusion that nobody talks like that!
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
5,406
708
323
Funchal. Madeira
Hello Bob.

Cary Grant beats the heck out ouf Archie Leach

Choodie-choodie -choodie?

We have a family example which I'm sure you're dying to hear about.

My wife's uncle (Ex royal Marine Light Infantry) was invalided out before WW1 and became of all things, a Butler. (Reminds me of Batman's batman or 'Lady Penelope's chauffeur)
My father -in -law told me that he always wondered where his oldest brother got his la-de-da accent. Probably from listening to RMLI colonels and adjutants etc?

As a matter of interest, there were 6 boys in that family. All but one served from day 1 in WW1 the first 4 spent all their time in France and Belgium and all came home in 1919. The youngest was killed at the Somme. All of them were at the Somme and numerous other fisti-cuffs. My wife's second book due out when I have time to edit deals with their remarkable good luck.

Maybe she'll make some dosh to keep us going?

Jim C.
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
6,227
233
333
28 July 1920: Olympic (Capt. Hayes) arrives in New York and is met by a
large crowd which has come to see Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford,
returning from their six-week honeymoon in Europe. Also on board is the Bob
Pender Troupe of entertainers, which has come to perform in the United
States. When the troupe leaves for home, one of its members, 16 year old
singer, dancer and juggler Archibald Leach, will remain behind and support
himself doing odd jobs until returning to Britain in 1923, but he will later
return to the United States and enjoy greater success as an actor, under the
alias Cary Grant. (Sources: Ellis Island ship manifest; The New York Times,
1 December 1986.)
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,045
64
308
UK
A personal servant like a lady's maid or valet was expected to adopt the accent, speech patterns and mannerisms of the gentry. This wasn't very difficult, as mimicry is a widespread talent which many of us develop from an early age. Thus the term 'gentleman's gentleman' and the occasional embarrassing situations on liners when a servant traveling in 1st Class was mistaken for 'a person of breeding'. It wasn't uncommon for an ambitious (and observant) individual to regard a period 'in service' as good training if they wanted to move up the social scale through deception. One of my great aunts started out as a housemaid, spent all her spare time on self education in the local library and all her spare cash on costume jewelry and second-hand garments of quality, and was soon able to pass herself off convincingly as an orphaned upper middle class lady called Maud (her real name was Fanny). Her first marriage was to an army officer in the colonial service, then after a brief period as a merry widow she snared a German businessman with a minor title. My mother recalled her as a formidable woman with the same kind of presence as the dowager countess in Downton Abbey!
 

Mark Baber

Moderator
Member
Dec 29, 2000
6,227
233
333
Thanks, Jim. There's a lot of that type of stuff that I've come across over the years.
 

Similar threads