R.N. OFFICERS - EPAULETTES AND SHOULDER STRAPS

The wearing of epaulettes started in 1795 just two short years before the first sea battle of the Napoleonic Wars which was the Battle of The Glorious First of June. The tradition of wearing stopped in 1939 and was totally abolished in 1959. Vice Admiral Nelson would have worn an epaulette on each shoulder each sporting just two plain stars. Today, in a much simpler system, officers wear shoulder straps with admirals having resplendent patterns of crowns, swords, laurels and stars, whilst all other officers have their stripes on their straps.


Admiral of the Fleet {5 star}

Admiral {4 star}

Vice Admiral {3 star}

Rear Admiral {2 star}

Over time, the symbols on the epaulettes changed but at no time did officers wear their stripes on them.  All senior officers [commodores and above] wore epaulettes on both shoulders with symbols. Senior captains too wore epaulettes on both shoulders but in the earliest of years without symbols whereas junior captains wore them on their right shoulders only and again, without symbols. Commanders and below differed in the number of epaulettes worn and the symbols on them. The following table shows the patterns and styles use.

Date Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Commodore Captain over 3 years Captain under
 3 years
Commander Lieutenant over 8 years Lieutenant Mate
Shoulders Both Both Both Both Both Both Both except Both except Both Both except Both except
1795 n/a Blank no symbols Right shoulder only. Blank no symbols Left shoulder only. Blank no symbols n/a n/a n/a
1812 n/a Blank no symbols n/a Right shoulder only. Blank no symbols n/a
1827 n/a Blank no symbols n/a Blank no symbols n/a
1843 n/a Blank no symbols n/a
1846 n/a Right shoulder only
1856 n/a
1864 Sub Lieutenant

1891
1926
All Captains

Lieutenant Commander

 

Not all the crowns are shown correctly [shape of]. Note the many likeness with certain ranks sharing the same symbols. Note the 'come down' of a captain over 3 year in 1891 to that of 1926 losing one star. Note an admiral of the fleet is a 4 star officer with other admirals respectively 3, 2 and 1 star unlike today [see coloured should straps above].