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RN Midshipman Rank Insignia.png
RN Midshipman Rank Insignia
Country United Kingdom
Service branchRoyal Navy
Next higher rankSub-Lieutenant
Next lower rankOfficer Cadet

A Midshipman is an officer of the junior-most rank, in the Royal Navy established in 1815. Prior to 1815 it was regarded as a Petty Officer Rank.


The term originally denoted men stationed amidships and was first mentioned in the seventeenth century around 1660. It was however not formalised until 1815 as a rank it was purely a ship’s rating. They usually joined the navy at the age of 12 to 14 and can be easily identified by the white patch on the collar of their uniform, which is still in use today. Up until that time midshipmen were “young gentlemen, not under the age of eleven years who were intended for the sea service…” In order to advance to the rank of Lieutenant, the young gentleman had to spend six years at sea, including two years as a midshipman or Masters Mate and pass the Lieutenant Examination whilst waiting for a position to come up they were referred to as a Passed Midshipman. They were taught navigation, astronomy and trigonometry by the ship's schoolmaster as well as undertaking watches on deck when school hours were over. In 1837, with the creation of HMS Illustrious as a cadet training ship at Portsmouth, it appears that the rank of midshipman was transferred to officer cadets undergoing training.Since then that term has applied to all officer cadets in navies that have followed the Royal Navy tradition. This is the most junior commissioned rank in the Royal Navy.