Admirals do NOT USE R.N., after their names, nor should Ratings !


Because R.N., meaning Royal Navy, is used to differentiate between Armed Service ranks to avoid confusion and misappropriate marks of respect.

So many so-called naval published media get it wrong, and even the newly appointed President of the HMS Ganges Association, a full admiral, has been wrongly dubbed RN after his name and honours, as has the first listed Vice President, a rear admiral.

Whilst some ranks are unique to the Royal Navy [Lieutenant Commander, Sub Lieutenant and all Admirals and thus cause no uncertainties] others can be found in the two other Armed Service and in other UK organisations too.  To avoid embarrassment to all concerned, these latter ranks have to be suitably annotated and amplified.

Take for example the title CAPTAIN.  We have them in the army, the navy, the air force and the RFA service.  In the army, a captain is a very junior officer, but in the navy the air force and the RFA service, a captain is a very senior officer.  Given just the navy and the air force there is no problem in identifying who's who because the word GROUP is placed in front of captain for an air force officer. That leaves just three captain's with the same title [army, navy and RFA] and so it is appropriate to add RN or RFA behind the names of the seafaring captains, and if appropriate or necessary, the regiment behind the name of the army captain.  A captain RN equates with a full colonel in the army and both command a mark of respect not given to a captain in the army. *See below for a pragmatic example of this very important rule.

Another example is the rank of  naval COMMODORE.  The air force has a commodore but his/her rank is prefixed with the word AIR, so again, no difficulties navy vis-a-vis air force.  However, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary [RFA] also has a  commodore as do the major mercantile shipping companies.  Thus the rank commodore has to be amplified, and in our case [the navy] we add RN behind his/her name so that there is no ambiguity or embarrassment.

Now since these very senior men and women have RN behind their names, it is appropriate that all ranks below them [below commodore] also have RN behind officers names. 

When it comes to admirals [Rear, Vice, Full and ...of the Fleet] no other Armed Service nor any other UK organisation has an admiral [with the one exception of the ancient title of Admiral of the Cinque Ports] so there is no need for an amplification.

In an environment such as NATO for example, where admirals from more than one nation meet, it would be entirely appropriate to add other amplifying data such as "the British Admiral" ...."Admiral Washington USN" etc but there are no hard and fast rules for such occasions. Just seeing the word Admiral is enough to 'lay out the red carpet' and his Command Status is more important than his country.

As for ratings, the rules above apply.  The obvious rules are same named SNCO and below  in the three UK Armed Forces, and only the navy has the titles of ordinary seaman, able seaman, leading seaman, petty officer seaman, chief petty officer seaman and warrant officer seaman of whatever class. If all these titles are used correctly there is no ambiguity.  The only ambiguity is in the NATO role for example, where some titles, warrant officers specifically, are upper deck in one navy and lower deck in another and the best example of this is RN vis-a-vis USN.  Here, a RN WO is equivalent to a Master Chief Petty Officer and not to a USN WO - their pay rate is OR-9 in NATO Terminology [E-9 in USN Terminology]. In other NATO navies a RN WO1 [OR-9] is equivalent to:

Netherlands Italy Germany France Denmark Canada
Adjudant - Onderofficer Capo de Prima Classe Oberstabsbootsmann Maitre Principal Chefsergent CPO First Class

* I know of no example [although I am sure that there will have been] other than what follows, of a case causing embarrassment or misunderstanding by not appending the correct Force or Service to a Captains name.

Whether one collects them or not, antiques are a part of international currency and many millions of people have at least one piece in their homes. In the furniture business [whether antique or band new] there two pieces called a DAVENPORT. The first is a sofa/bed combination piece and gets its name because the original makers were in the States, in Boston, and were called Cassons & Davenport. The second, and for our purposes the more important piece of the two, is a small writing desk, given its name because it was ordered by a British captain called Davenport in 1798 and because of the Napoleonic Wars is also known as a Campaign Desk.  However, history did not record whether this officer was army or navy.  Some claim 'desired knowledge' and state that it is a NAVAL PIECE, whilst others are ambivalent and choose not to take sides. A classic case of this 'claiming' is to be seen in a London Museum called the Geffrye  Museum and they make no bones about it that it is a Naval Campaign Desk. Wouldn't it have been so much nicer if we knew for certain that such a named desk belonged to our naval history ?

So, please


         RE: The use of R.N. after an officer name and rank‏ [To be read bottom to top by date order]





25 September 2011 07:37:21


Thank you Kevin.  My parting-shot, again which royal sailors note, is that just like Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully, Yours truly, Yours affectionately etc, the 'aye' in Yours aye should always be a small letter 'a'. Go well. Yours aye.  Godfrey Dykes

Date: Sat, 24 Sep 2011 17:50:38 +0100
Subject: Re: The use of R.N. after an officer name and rank


Many thanks for pointing out the error of our ways!  The President also pointed this out to us recently, but maybe we need to look at all of the output that bears his name.

Yours Aye

Kevin 'Snowy' Winter

Hon Secretary

On Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 1:10 PM, GODFREY DYKES <> wrote:

Good day Mr Secretary.  I am nothing whatsoever to do with Ganges or its Association but I do occasionally see official documents from that august body.  In fact, I am always seeing the initials R.N. placed behind your President's name.  Surely, on a Committee of your size, there must be at least one ex sailor who knows the protocol [and implicitly the good manners which follow] when referring to officers.  The R.N. is ONLY added behind an officers name when he is a Commodore or belowAdmiral's, of all size and shapes DO NOT USE R.N. in their titles.  Getting it right would enhance your imagine in the eyes of other royal sailors.  Best regards. Godfrey Dykes