Warrant Officer

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A Warrant Officer (WO) is an officer in a military organisation who is designated an officer by a warrant, as distinguished from a commissioned officer who is designated an officer by a commission, and a non-commissioned officer who is designated an officer, often by virtue of seniority. The rank was first used in the 13th century in the Royal Navy and is today used in most services in many countries.[1]


Warrant Officers were the heads of specialist technical branches of the ship's company and reported directly to the Captain. For administration they reported to the different boards which governed naval affairs such as the Navy Board, Victualling Board and Ordnance Board. They were usually examined professionally by a body other than the Board of Admiralty and had usually served an apprenticeship. In the eighteenth century, there were two branches of Warrant Officer, those classed as sea officers, who had equal status as commissioned officers and could stand on the quarterdeck. Below sat those classed as inferior officers or petty officers (keeping no accounts). Of the Warrant Officers, five were classed as standing officers, warranted to a ship for her lifetime whether in commission or not. When in reserve, they were borne on the Ordinary books of the dockyard and employed in maintenance of the ship.[2] from 1842 warrant officer ranks began to be phased out.

Historical Ranks

Wardroom Warrant Officers

These classes of warrant officer messed in the wardroom with the commissioned officers:[3]

  1. Master: the senior warrant officer, a qualified navigator and experienced seaman who set the sails, maintained the ship's log and advised the captain on the seaworthiness of the ship and crew;
  2. Chaplain The chaplain were examined by the Bishop of London and appointed by the Admiralty. In 1808 they were granted wardroom status until 1843 when they became a commissioned rank.
  3. Surgeon: The surgeon was warranted to the ship by the Navy Board.
  4. Purser: The purser was warranted by the Board of Admiralty and responsible for supplies, food and pay for the crew.

Standing Warrant Officers

The standing officers were: [4]

  1. Boatswain: The Boatswain (usually referred to as Bosun) was appointed by the Board of Admiralty and was responsible to the Navy Board
  2. Carpenter: The Carpenter was responsible for the maintenance of the hull and masts of the ship.
  3. Gunner: The Gunner was responsible for the maintenance of guns and their equipment and the ship's magazines(gunpowder) and was responsible to the Ordnance Board

Inferior Warrant Officers

Inferior Warrant Officers were basically Petty Officers with warrants that were further divided in terms of seniority

Senior Petty Officers

  1. Armourer.[5]
  2. Carpenter's Mate reported to the Carpenter.[6]
  3. Caulker reported to the Carpenter.[7]
  4. Passed Midshipman
  5. Masters-at-Arms. (Responsible for small-arms provision on board, had by this time taken on responsibility for discipline)..[8]
  6. Masters Mate reported to the Master.
  7. Midshipman
  8. Ropemaker.[9]

Petty Officers

  1. Boatswains Mate.[10]
  2. Gunners Mate.[11]
  3. Masters-At-Arms Corporal.[12]
  4. Quartermaster: The Quartermaster stood watch next to the helmsman and was responsible for maintaining the ship's course..[13]
  5. Sailmaker.[14]
  6. Surgeon's Mate..[15]

Junior Petty Officers


  1. Cook
  2. Cooper
  3. Clerks
  4. Quarter Gunner
  5. Quartermasters Mate
  6. Gunsmith
  7. Schoolmaster. (involved in the education of boys, midshipmen and others aboard ship)
  8. Sailmakers Mate


  1. Tucker, Spencer (2012). The Encyclopedia of the War of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, California, United States: ABC-CLIO. p. 973. ISBN 9781851099566.
  2. Tucker. p.973.
  3. Tucker. p.973.
  4. Tucker. p.973.
  5. Tucker. p.973.
  6. Tucker. p.973.
  7. Tucker. p.973.
  8. Tucker. p.973.
  9. Tucker. p.973.
  10. Tucker. p.973.
  11. Tucker. p.973.
  12. Tucker. p.973.
  13. Tucker. p.973.
  14. Tucker. p.973.
  15. Tucker. p.973.
  16. Tucker. p.973.