Hart New Bob

Ranks and positions in the pirates theme.

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I would like to know the main military ranks of the 17-18th century, mostly the British ones.  And I would like to know the positions on a pirate/any ship.  Thank you

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Well I will do my best to describe infantry regiments for you, however it does get somewhat confusing. So we will start with the basic structure of the regiment, a regiment is comprised of 10 companies of roughly equal size. The distribution of officers in a regiment goes something like this: 1 Colenel, 1 Lieutenant Colenel and 1 Major, these three are the field officers of a regiment and they each command a company, the remaining seven companies are commanded by Captains, 1 per company, so 7 Captains. Then come the Lieutenants, each company has at least 1 lieutenant except for the company commanded by the colonel which has a Captain Lieutenant, because the Colnel was often absent commanding the whole regiment this officer would usually have to step up and lead the company. After the Lieutenants came the Ensigns, the lowest commissioned officer, some regiments called this rank the second Lieutenant. Only eight of the companies had an ensign, the other two companies were the flank companies, 1 of which was a light infantry company, the other a grenadier company. These companies were considered hard to command and not suitable for an ensign to be in command of, the ensign in these two companies was instead replaced by yet another Lieutenant.

I hope this helped, I do apologise but I can't really help with ship ranks as my knowledge about them is somewhat vague. If you would like me to expand on this and go into the higher ranks such as the Generals and Brigadiers, I would be more than happy to just let me know.

Edited by Lord Buckethead

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Sorry for the double post but there was something I thought I should clarify, when discussing ranks and formations in the 18th century many are often confused by battalions. Battalions are really only temporary formations created during wartime, usually when the two flank companies were detached from a regiment the remaining 8 companies were referred to as a battalion, however some even refer to the whole regiment including the flank companies as a battalion, a lot of the time though it was the flank companies that were detached to form a battalion, say a battalion of grenadiers. These specialised battalions usually consisted of more than 8 flank companies. To sum up, during war battalions were raised and disbanded but were never permenant formations.

I know the question wasn't really about formations but I think it is important to at least understand the formations when trying to understand the ranks. 

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17 hours ago, Hart New Bob said:

I would like to know the positions on a pirate/any ship.

I'm no expert, but I'll take a shot at this. Top of the food chain was of course  the captain. Next was the first mate, essentially a second in command -- although on a pirate ship this role was typically filled by the quartermaster. The quartermaster (who was elected by the crew on a pirate ship and expected to look out for their interests) was in charge of food and water supplies, kept the books, and could also discipline crewmembers. Sailing master was in charge of navigation, sailing, and piloting. Boatswains were junior officers that supervised the crew's work and reported to the quartermaster or captain. The carpenter was in charge of maintenance and repair of the hull, masts, and yards. The master gunner was typically the most experienced gunner; he was responsible for the ammunition and powder, and led the gun crews. Mates were apprentices to the various masters. A gunner would lead a gun crew and typically aim the gun himself. Riggers were sailors assigned to work the rigging and furl/unfurl the sails. The bulk of the crew were common sailors; less skilled ones might be known as swabbies.

I'm sure someone else will chime in with better or more accurate info, but I hope this helps.

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28 minutes ago, Captain Pirate Man said:

What about quartermasters? I here that position a lot.

Capt Wolf already said something about that.

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This wiki is tolerably accurate and inclusive:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Navy_ranks,_rates,_and_uniforms_of_the_18th_and_19th_centuries

Here's an illustration which may help as a visual aid, it's Geoff Hunt's work so it'll be fairly accurate. The gentleman knows his stuff.

https://www.scrimshawgallery.com/product/ships-company-of-h-m-s-surprise/

These fellas are a reenacting group who've also done their homework as well and may serve as some visual reference.

https://www.hmsrichmond.org/sitemap.htm

This artist has also done extensive work where visual aid is concerned. I've found his renderings most helpful in the past. 

https://cdrejohnpauljones.deviantart.com/

 

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Sorry, I'm not very knowledgeable about Pirates, but Geoff Hunt art looks great!  It would be really neat to see someone recreate that in Minifigure form.

If anyone has links or photos of a ship's company, please pass it on!

Thanks!

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 /CRACKS KNUCKLES

 

the aforementioned wikipedia link on 18th century naval ranks is probably the best "entry" level way of learning stuff. Mind you this is for the regulated and regimented British Navy, so less formal ships ie merchant marine and well, ofc, pirates, won't be so formal in some ways, but the basic ideas are there - a Captain who runs and often owns the ship (or is bankrolled by an owner who doesn't seafare), a quartermaster who administrates supplies and materials and the like (usually anyway), various degrees of mates who essentially delegate tasks to other crewmen beneath them (and other mates to delegate work further still - on a naval warship these guys would more likely be called lieutenants). You have a surgeon, carpenters, a cook (ideally speaking anyway. sometimes these guys were doing more than one job depending on how cheap the ship is being run!), and you have various deckhands skilled at some sort of menial task or another be it gunnery crew or rigging or whathaveyou and these guys vary in seniority (and the more senior you are, the higher ranking you are, though you're still basically at the bottom of the barrel as a seaman). The most senior seaman is the Boatswain (or Bo'sun), and he's the "big dog" as it were. On naval warships you have midshipmen who are basically young boys and teens with potential for ranking into officership and thus are seen as the "bridge" between the officer's crew and the enlisted crewmen. They oversee the crewmen's work and report back to the lieutenants for duties, etc.

Keep in mind all of this is to some degree or another very VERY flexible. Naval concepts were constantly in flux throughout the age of sail as old ideas changed, new ideas came up, and so on. As late as the early 1700s, the idea of an organized navy was still very new, and in only 100 years by the time of Napoleon things were incredibly organized! This is to say nothing of language barriers and differences (in the British Royal Navy, quartermasters were basically just senior helmsmen. It was land army quartermasters that oversaw supplies and delegation of them), so you WILL run into inconsistencies when researching this stuff. I suggest watching the Russel Crowe film "Master and Commander the Far Side of the World". It is an EXTREMELY period accurate depiction of life at sea on board a British Royal Navy warship and you see a LOT of the ranks mentioned in action through the various characters, plus its just a damn good movie to boot! It can really help you get an idea on grasping these concepts more tangibly.

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Everything I know about Pirate ranks came from a book I had when I was younger called "Pirateology", and it gave more of a broad generalization than a clear explaination, but as far as pirates go;

 The Captain is the commander of the crew, and he leads the other pirates. Usually a Veteran, deserter, or defector from any of the major naval powers at the time.

The First Mate is the second in command, a Senior Ranking officer in the crew who acts as captain in the event that the former captain retires, is incapacitated, incarcerated, or killed in action.

The Quartermaster was an important person in the crew as well, making sure that payment from successful voyages was distributed fairly among the crew;' They would also keep manifests regarding cargo on the ship, and dealt with the crew's accounting and other bureaucratic business.

The navigator/helmsman is tasked with navigation of the ship, reading maps and charts and using advanced instruments, such as the Sextant, to navigate with the stars if need be.

The Ship's Surgeon is tasked with making sure everybody's healthy, or as healthy as you can be on a ship. Lots of alcohol and amputation were involved at times.

The ship's chef was tasked, of course, with making sure everybody was well fed. Typical meals usually consisted of salt pork, lots of salt pork, because it was recently discovered at the time that meats that were either smoked or preserved with salt did not spoil as quickly as less prepared rations, and Citrus fruits were always in supply to prevent scurvy and other maladies.

The Gunner was archetypically the biggest, strongest, meanest pirate on the ship, tasked with the maintenance and upkeep of the ship's guns, and acted as an enforcer for the captain. in fact, one punishment for insubordinate members of the crew was called "Kissing the Gunner's Daughter" where the offending pirate would be bent over a cannon, while the Gunner, with an oar or some other large beating implement, would flog the offender until they were unconcious, or the Gunner was tired.

Powder Monkeys were low-ranking crewmen that assisted the Gunner in loading and priming the Cannons on the ship

And finally there was the cabin boy, who took stock of the inventory aboard a ship, and made sure everything was tied down and secured for long voyages.

 

I'm not certain if I left anybody out, but along with the skeleton crew, there were of course other pirates/soldiers aboard the ship, who answered to one or all of the above ranks, and assisted with things like the ship's overall maintenance,  like rigging, sailing, or repair, and in many cases, some crewmen fulfilled multiple roles. It wasn't too uncommon for the ship's chef to also be the ship's surgeon as well, nor was it uncommon for the first mate to be a quartermaster or a Navigator.

 

I hope what insight I offered was helpful; if not for a British Crew, but any crew in general.

 

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On 10/25/2017 at 6:14 PM, Jevil said:

Everything I know about Pirate ranks came from a book I had when I was younger called "Pirateology", and it gave more of a broad generalization than a clear explaination, but as far as pirates go;

Woah!  Thank you so much! :pir_tong2:

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On ‎10‎/‎25‎/‎2017 at 4:33 PM, CappnRob said:

 /CRACKS KNUCKLES

 

the aforementioned wikipedia link on 18th century naval ranks is probably the best "entry" level way of learning stuff. Mind you this is for the regulated and regimented British Navy, so less formal ships ie merchant marine and well, ofc, pirates, won't be so formal in some ways, but the basic ideas are there - a Captain who runs and often owns the ship (or is bankrolled by an owner who doesn't seafare), a quartermaster who administrates supplies and materials and the like (usually anyway), various degrees of mates who essentially delegate tasks to other crewmen beneath them (and other mates to delegate work further still - on a naval warship these guys would more likely be called lieutenants). You have a surgeon, carpenters, a cook (ideally speaking anyway. sometimes these guys were doing more than one job depending on how cheap the ship is being run!), and you have various deckhands skilled at some sort of menial task or another be it gunnery crew or rigging or whathaveyou and these guys vary in seniority (and the more senior you are, the higher ranking you are, though you're still basically at the bottom of the barrel as a seaman). The most senior seaman is the Boatswain (or Bo'sun), and he's the "big dog" as it were. On naval warships you have midshipmen who are basically young boys and teens with potential for ranking into officership and thus are seen as the "bridge" between the officer's crew and the enlisted crewmen. They oversee the crewmen's work and report back to the lieutenants for duties, etc.

Keep in mind all of this is to some degree or another very VERY flexible. Naval concepts were constantly in flux throughout the age of sail as old ideas changed, new ideas came up, and so on. As late as the early 1700s, the idea of an organized navy was still very new, and in only 100 years by the time of Napoleon things were incredibly organized! This is to say nothing of language barriers and differences (in the British Royal Navy, quartermasters were basically just senior helmsmen. It was land army quartermasters that oversaw supplies and delegation of them), so you WILL run into inconsistencies when researching this stuff. I suggest watching the Russel Crowe film "Master and Commander the Far Side of the World". It is an EXTREMELY period accurate depiction of life at sea on board a British Royal Navy warship and you see a LOT of the ranks mentioned in action through the various characters, plus its just a damn good movie to boot! It can really help you get an idea on grasping these concepts more tangibly.

Didn't see this, Thank you!

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No problem, my lad. Age of Sail history is a big time hobby of mine! Glad to share the knowledge.

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note, a navigator/officer is not the same as an helmsman.

helmsman is somebody who steers at the wheel, just a common sailor following orders from the navigator/officer. 
 

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