Ranks in the U.K. Navy

Updated July 19, 2017

The Royal Navy is the oldest of Her Majesty's armed forces. Britain's navy has been active since the 16th century and played a key part in establishing the nation as the dominant world power in the 18th and 19th centuries. As of 2010, the Royal Navy is the second largest fleet within NATO and includes almost 40,000 regular troops and around 20,000 reserves. Sailors in the U.K. Navy can be stationed on ships, aircraft or submarines and specialise in a variety of skills, from combat to engineering.

Flag Rank Officers

Historically, the highest U.K. naval rank was Admiral of the Fleet. Until 1863, this figure was the man with overall control of the fleet at sea. Subsequently, up to four Admirals of the Fleet could be active at any one time. Following the abolition of that rank in the 1990s, Admiral became the highest position that can be achieved. As of 2010, there are two admirals in charge of the navy, who report directly to the British government. They directly oversee Vice Admirals, Rear Admirals and Commodores, who make up the remainder of the Flag Rank Officers, those with highest command responsibility.

Commissioned Officers

Commissioned Officers may be individuals with long naval careers behind them who have risen through the ranks to achieve officer status. Alternatively, some promising recruits may enter the service as officers, skipping lower ranks in the process. These individuals must possess specialist leadership skills and have an excellent education in order to achieve this privileged position. They must also complete an extremely tough training program to earn their commission and the respect of those ranked below them. The highest ranked commissioned officer is the Captain. This is an individual in command of a single vessel. Below that position are Commander, Lieutenant Commander, Lieutenant, and Sub-Lieutenant.

Lower Ranks

The highest noncommissioned rank in the Royal Navy is that of Chief Petty Officer. An equal rank is that of Warrant Officer, an individual who leads a specific technical unit on board a vessel such as surgeons, gunners or technicians. Below Chief Petty Officer comes Petty Officer and below that comes the lowest rank in the service, Rating. A new recruit who joins the service without a commission does so as a Rating.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Mark Elliott is a British, NCTJ-trained journalist with experience in print, online, television and radio. He has worked for the BBC, BSKYB and a number of national and regional newspapers. While specializing in sports, he has experience in news, politics and history. Elliott has over three years of journalism experience.