|Bosun||From Boatswain: Originally a Warrant Officer responsible for all the rigging, boats and efficient seaman functions of the ship. Nowadays an officer borne for similar duties only in larger warships and some shore establishments. Also note that Bosun is a useful catch-all noun to be added to any number of naval activities from the witty to the nefarious.|
|Buffer||Chris Grover||Nickname for the Chief Bosun’s Mate, the Commander or Jimmy’s right hand man in respect of all work done around the ship to maintain both seamanship equipment (especially lifesaving and survival equipment) and the overall appearance of the ship. Usually a stalwart character of great experience and personality, he directs the Buffer’s Party. Usually a Chief or Petty Officer.|
|Chief||Jon Whiteley||Chief Petty Officer. A senior rating of any branch.|
|Coxswain||Laurence Dennis||Two usages:
1. A Chief or Petty Officer who was trained in disciplinary techniques and bourne in ships below Cruiser size and submarines as the ship’s most senior rating, responsible for discipline, steering the ship in action and confined waters, and in submarines & small ships, victualling.
2. The rating in charge of the ship’s boat and responsible for it’s safety. The word’s origin lies in the words cog (a type of boat) and swain (husband), and hence also the skills of ship husbandry, a descriptive term still in wide usage today. Note that the word Cox is not a naval expression, and is used only to denote the person steering a racing rowing boat.
|Crusher||Sam Hair||A member of the Regulating Branch (the Ship’s Police). Originally he was a corporal, an assistant to the Master-at-Arms whose job was to seek out miscreants; hence he went around in soft-soled shoes and the only way he could be heard coming was by the crunching of the cockroaches under his feet.|
|Guns||Ed Kemp||The Gunnery Officer. The officer on board responsibly for gunnery, as well as drill & ceremonial training.|
|Quartermaster ‘Q’||Peter Jacob||1. The senior helmsman – or master of whichever course the vessel is sailing on, the latter dictated by the wind’s direction or quarter. The wheel or steering mechanism was also located on the quarterdeck. When a ship is alongside, the QM runs the brow or gangway, and is responsible for controlling access to the ship, running the ship’s routine, and piping any important visitors aboard.
2. In Royal Marine and army terms, the quartermaster is an officer responsible for unit stores and transport (similar to a Pusser in the navy).
|Master||Les Davies||Two meanings:
1. Abbreviated form of address for a Master-at-Arms, a CPO in the Regulating Branch (Ship’s police), but woe betide anyone who calls him Chief. The Master-at-Arms is generally the most senior rating on board, responsible for the maintenance of discipline, investigation of offences and a key member of the ship’s management team.
2. Originally the Captain of a warship was a courtier or an army officer embarked in the ship, with his soldiers, to do the fighting, the sailing of the ship being in the hands of the naval men under the Master or Boatswain. This was changed in the Elizabethan era when the long sea voyages undertaken made it necessary for the Captain to have a real knowledge of ship handling and not of fighting only. Thus the Master of a warship was in charge of the navigating of the ship, as opposed to the fighting of it (hence Commanding Officers of Merchant Ships are still called Masters).
|Midi||David Nial||Shortened form of Midshipman.The oldest slang name for a Midshipman, REEFER, has died out but SNOTTY remains; this name is said to have originated, about 1870, from the story that the three buttons on the cuffs of Midshipmen’s round jackets were put there to prevent the lads from wiping their noses on their sleeves. This story cannot actually be true because buttons on the cuffs of all naval officers’ jackets were uniform long before this period; in fact, buttons were actually being removed from the cuffs of working jackets at about this time. The Midshipman is the last old-time gunroom officer to retain his original rank-title – clerks, surgeon’s mates, masters’s mates, etc., have all disappeared. Midshipmen have been defined within the Service as “the lowest form of life” and as “a medium of abuse between officers of unequal seniority”. Officers usually refer to Midshipmen as SNOTTIES: ratings – and many civilians – as MIDDIES: Midshipmen frequently refer to themselves as MIDS.|
|Navs||Chris Daly||The officer responsible for the ship’s safe navigation and pilotage.|
|Number One||The First Lieutenant or Executive Officer of a warship.|
|Pilot||Traditional nickname for the Navigation officer of a warship. Now more usually refers to the Pilot of the Ship’s Flight|
|Skipper||Karen Cruiks||1. Strictly speaking, only a yacht or fishing boat has a skipper; in practice, the term is often used to describe the captain of an HM Ship, even though father or old man is more correct.
2. The traditional name for the Sea Ranger leader is Skipper.
|Killick||Older word for a stone or heavy weightused as a small anchor, now used for any Leading Hand because of the single fouled anchor sleeve badge of a Leading Rate.|
|Sparks||Radio operator, the modern version of the old Telegraphist and his sparking wireless set|
|Wings||Megan Richardson||The Commander Air on and Aircraft Carrier, who is responsible for all aviation from the ship, especially fixed wing jet operations.|
|Yeoman||Jack Whitear||1. An assistant or subordinate (eg the Navigator’s Yeoman).
2. Communications Yeoman / Yeoman of Signals. Descriptive and historic rank of the senior communications rating on board who dealt with visual and flag signals.
Currently Unused Names
|Bunting Tosser||A communications branch rating, or signals branch member, who would use flags to communicate with other ships. Bunts for short.|
|Clubs||Naval Physical Training Instructor, from the crossed clubs on their branch badge.|
|Corro||Correspondence Officer. An unpopular job, usually given to the most junior seaman officer in smaller ships which do not have a qualified Pusser, and involving the opening and handling of official mail.|
|Greenie||A member of the electrical branch. The term originates from the green distinction cloth between the engineering officers rank stripes.|
|Jossman||The most frequently used descriptive name for the Master-at-Arms in a warship.|
|Doc||Traditional nickname for the Medical Branch killick carried in frigate sized warships, as distinct from the Quack carried for long deployments or in wartime.|
|Pusser||The paymaster and supplies officer of the old navy was the Purser, which then became slurred in daily usage to pusser. The Pusser is still a ship or establishment’s logistics officer, whereas a Pusser refers to any member of the logistics branch.|
|Jimmy||The First Lieutenant of a warship, and usually also the Executive Officer; also referred to as Number One. In older times the wordjeminy referred to neatness and spruceness, and the First Officer (beneath the Captain) who was responsible for this aspect becameJeminy the First, or as he is now, Jimmy the One!|
|Stoker||A rating in the Marine Engineering branch. From the days of coal-powered ships where a large team of ratings would need to constantly stoke the boilers to provide power to the engines.|
|Tanky||Name given to a junior rating with a particular responsibility. Hence Freshwater Tanky – responsible for the condition and maintenance of the drinking water tanks & filters, and the daily sounding of their contents. In small ships he might also be in charge of the cold room, and be required to do a bit of butchery as well.|
|Torps||The Torpedo Officer.|
|Scribes||A rating of the Writer specialisation|
|Skip||1. A shortened version of Skipper.
2. The traditional scouting name for the Group Scout Leader.