The Royal Navy
The Royal Navy forms a constituent part of the naval service, which also comprises Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Marines Reserve
The head of the Royal Navy is the Lord High Admiral, a position that has been held by the Duke of Edinburgh since 2011.
The professional head of the naval service is the First Sea Lord, and the upper echelons of naval command are members of the Navy Board, which includes the First Sea Lord, Fleet Commander, Second Sea Lord (Chief of Naval Home Personnel and Training), Chief of Fleet Support, Commander NATO Maritime Command, Controller of the Navy, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, Commandant General Royal Marines. The Admiralty Board has command over officers, ratings and marines and is charged with the administration of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It is chaired by the Defence Secretary.
The Naval Hierarchy
The naval hierarchy is arranged in distinct groups:
– Flag rank officers: Admiral of the Fleet, admiral (also referred to as a ‘full-admiral’), vice-admiral, rear-admiral
– Commissioned officers: captain, commander, lieutenantcommander, lieutenant, sub-lieutenant, midshipman
– Warrant officers: non-commissioned officers holding a Royal
Warrant. They are addressed as ‘Mr (surname)’ or ‘Warrant’. Full title includes their specialism, for example: ‘Warrant Officer (Catering Services) Jones’; abbreviated to WO.
– Senior rates: comprising chief petty officers and petty officers (CPO and PO). They are addressed as ‘Chief’ and ‘PO’ (surname). Similarly, their full title includes their specialism.
– Junior rates: comprising leading hands and able seamen. They are addressed as ‘Leader’ (or the slang term ‘Killick’) and ‘AB’, respectively, followed by their specialism and surname.
Throughout the Royal Navy, a more junior officer would address a superior as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’.
‘RN’ After Name
All officers of the Royal Navy below the rank of captain, whether on the active or retired lists, are entitled to the words ‘Royal Navy’ or ‘RN’ after their name, preceded by decorations, etc. ‘RN’ is generally used where the rank is abbreviated; ‘Royal Navy’ is used when the rank is written in full.
Admiral of the Fleet
This is a rank held for life. The holder would almost certainly be a peer, baronet or knight.
Admiral, Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral
Known socially as ‘Admiral’. The exact rank is given within the Royal Navy, on the envelope or in a formal description.
Commodore was a rank held by captains during their tenure of certain specific appointments, on completion of which they reverted to the rank of captain. Since 1997, however, the rank of commodore has been substantive, and it ranks above captain. This rank should not be abbreviated.
Commander and Lieutenant-Commander
Socially both ranks are styled ‘Commander’. The exact rank is given on the envelope or list. These ranks are not abbreviated.
Lieutenant and Sub-Lieutenant
The exact rank is given on the envelope or in a list. These ranks should not be abbreviated.
A midshipman is addressed as for a sub-lieutenant, but an envelope is addressed according to his rank.
Royal Naval Reserve
Forms of address are as for the Royal Navy except for ‘Royal Naval Reserve’ (or RNR) after the name. Most officers, however, only use their ranks when under training or when called up for service with the Royal Navy.
The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) was merged with the RNR shortly after the Second World War.
The rank of brigadier was introduced into the Royal Marines with effect from 1997. Those of the rank of brigadier and below place RM (or Royal Marines in full) after their name.
Retired and Former Officers
Retired marine officers may place Royal Marines (or RM) after their names.
Admirals of the Fleet remain on the active list for life, and so continue to hold this rank.
Other officers of the rank of lieutenant-commander and above customarily use (and are addressed by) their rank after being placed on the retired list. More junior officers who are no longer actively employed do not do this.
The word ‘retired’ (abbreviated to ‘ret’ or ‘retd’) should not be added after an officer’s name in ordinary correspondence, or in lists, but only when it is specifically necessary to indicate that an officer is on the retired list.
Retired officers of the armed forces who enter holy orders in any church within the UK are not addressed by their service rank – either in the body of the letter or on the envelope. When it is desired to show that a clergyman has served in the armed forces (eg in a list of retired officers), the following form is used: ‘The Rev John Barchester, Commander, RN’.
The ranks of naval medical officers are preceded by ‘surgeon’. For example, ‘Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Ben Hopkins, KBE’.
The ranks of naval dental officers are preceded by ‘surgeon’ and suffixed ‘(D)’: for example ‘Surgeon Lieutenant (D) Judith Green, RN’.
Royal Navy: Forms of Address
|Admiral of the Fleet||According to title||Admiral of the Fleet Sir Ben Hopkins, GBE, KCG||According to title||According to title. If reference is made to rank, Admiral of the Fleet is used in full|
|Admiral||According to title or Dear Admiral Archer||Admiral Sir Thomas Archer, KBE||According to title or Admiral Archer||According to title or Admiral Archer|
|Vice-Admiral||According to title or Dear Admiral Carnaby||Vice-Admiral Edward Carnaby||According to title or Admiral Carnaby||According to title or Admiral Carnaby|
|Rear-Admiral||According to title or Dear Admiral Mercer||Rear-Admiral Daniel Mercer||According to title or Admiral Mercer||According to title or Admiral Mercer|
|Commodore or Captain||Dear Commodore Beak or Dear Captain Beak||Commodore Gerald Beak, CBE, Royal Navy or Captain Jane Beak, CB, Royal Navy||Commodore Beak or Captain Beak||Commodore Beak or Captain Beak|
|Commander or Lieutenant- Commander||Dear Commander Swallow or Dear Lieutenant- Commander Swallow||Commander Nicholas Swallow, OBE, Royal Navy or Lieutenant- Commander Nicholas Swallow, Royal Navy||Commander Swallow||Commander Swallow|