Admiral of the Fleet (Royal Navy)

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Admiral of the Fleet
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
The flag of an admiral of the Fleet is the Union Flag, and is in 1:2 rather than the 2:3 of other admirals' flags. [1]
British Royal Navy OF-10-collected.svg
Insignia shoulder board and sleeve lace for Admiral of the Fleet
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
Rank group Flag officer
Rank Five-star
NATO rank code OF-10
Next lower rank Admiral
Equivalent ranks

Admiral of the Fleet is a five-star naval officer rank and the highest rank of the Royal Navy formally established in 1688. [2] The five-star NATO rank code is OF-10, equivalent to a field marshal in the British Army or a Marshal of the Royal Air Force. Other than honorary appointments, no new admirals of the fleet have been named since 1995, and no honorary appointments have been made since 2014.



King George VI and Admiral Bruce Fraser aboard HMS Duke of York at Scapa Flow, August 1943 HM King George VI greeting the Flag Officers of the Home Fleet on board the flagship HMS DUKE OF YORK at Scapa Flow, 16 August 1943. A18577.jpg
King George VI and Admiral Bruce Fraser aboard HMS Duke of York at Scapa Flow, August 1943

The origins of the rank can be traced back to John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp de Warwick, who was appointed 'Admiral of the King's Southern, Northern and Western Fleets' on 18 July 1360. [3] The appointment gave the command of the English navy to one person for the first time; this evolved into the post of Admiral of the Fleet. [4] In the days of sailing ships the admiral distinctions then used by the Royal Navy included distinctions related to the fleet being divided into three divisions – red, white, or blue. Each division was assigned at least one admiral, who in turn commanded a number of vice-admirals and rear admirals. While the full admirals were nominally equals, tradition gave precedence to the Admiral of the White who held the fleet rank in addition to his substantive role. [2]

Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

The Restoration era brought a general reorganisation of naval ranks and structure, including formalisation of the admiral of the fleet role. In a break with tradition the rank was awarded to the most senior Admiral of the Red, who retained this substantive rank while also serving as Admiral of the Fleet. Appointments were for life, remunerated via a £5 daily stipend and an annual allowance of £1,014 for the hiring and maintenance of servants. It was intended that only one officer would hold the rank at any time, with their presence aboard any naval vessel to be denoted by the flying of the Royal Standard from the main mast. [5]

The ranks of Admiral of the Fleet and Admiral of the Red were formally separated from 1805, with an announcement in the London Gazette that "His Majesty [has] been pleased to order the Rank of Admirals of the Red to be restored" [6] in His Majesty's Navy..." as a separate role. The same Gazette promoted 22 men to that rank. [7] From the nineteenth century onward there were also occasional variations to the previous requirement that only one Admiral of Fleet could serve at one time. In 1821 George IV appointed Sir John Jervis as a second admiral of the fleet, to balance the Duke of Wellington 's promotion as a second Field Marshal in the British Army. In 1830 King William IV increased the number of admirals of the fleet to three, though these additional lifetime postings subsequently lapsed. Between 1854 and 1857 there was no admiral of the fleet at all as the most senior naval officer of the time Admiral of the Red Thomas Le Marchant Gosselin was mentally ill and had not served at sea for forty-five years. [8] [9] In deference to Gosselin's seniority the position was instead left vacant until his death in 1857, whereupon it was filled by Admiral Charles Ogle. [5]

In practice the rank had lost its formal authority from 1828, when the professional head of the Royal Navy was given the title of First Naval Lord (renamed First Sea Lord in 1904). Thereafter it was periodically granted to retiring First Naval Lords as an honorary promotion, only passing to the most senior Admiral if there was no other candidate. On occasion even this seniority principle was abandoned, as on the death of Provo Wallis in 1892 when the promotion went to John Edmund Commerell rather than the senior Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey. [10]

Twentieth century

The organisation of the British fleet into coloured squadrons was abandoned in 1864, though the rank of admiral of the fleet was maintained. During the two World Wars a number of serving officers held active commissions as admirals of the fleet, as well as the First Sea Lord. e.g. Sir John Tovey. [11]

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was created an Admiral of the Fleet in the Royal New Zealand Navy in 1954, following the coronation of his wife Elizabeth II as Queen. This promotion was to a New Zealand rank, separate from the Royal Navy rank. [12]

Following the creation of the Chief of the Defence Staff in 1959, the five naval officers appointed to that position became admirals of the fleet. Recognizing the reduced post–Cold War size of the British Armed Forces, no further appointments were made to the rank after 1995 when Sir Benjamin Bathurst was appointed admiral of the fleet on his retirement as First Sea Lord. The rank was not abolished and in 2012 the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) became an honorary admiral of the fleet (as well as field marshal and marshal of the Royal Air Force), in recognition of his support to Queen Elizabeth II in her role of as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. In 2014, Lord Boyce, a former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff, was also appointed an honorary admiral of the fleet. [13]

Admirals of the Fleet

1688 George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth by John Riley.jpg George Legge
(later Baron Dartmouth)
16471691 [14]
1690 Gibson, Edward Russell.jpg Edward Russell
(later Earl of Orford)
16521727 [15]
1696 George Rooke2.jpg Sir George Rooke 16501709circa [16]
13 January 1705 Sir Cloudesley Shovell, 1650-1707.jpg Sir Cloudesley Shovell 16501707 [17]
8 January 1708 John Leake by Godfrey Kneller.jpg Sir John Leake 16561720 [18]
21 December 1708 Stafford Fairborne.jpg Sir Stafford Fairborne 16661742circa [19]
12 November 1709 MatthewAylmer.jpg Sir Matthew Aylmer 16501720 [20]
14 March 1718 George Byng, 1st Viscount Torrington by Jeremiah Davison.jpg Sir George Byng
(later Viscount Torrington)
16631733 [21]
20 February 1734 Admiral Sir John Norris, cirka 1735.jpg Sir John Norris 16701749 [22]
1 July 1749 Chaloner Ogle.JPG Sir Chaloner Ogle 16811750 [23]
22 November 1751 No image.svg James Steuart 16901757 [24]
March 1757 No image.svg George Clinton 16861761 [25]
30 July 1761 1stLordAnson.jpg The Lord Anson 16971762 [26]
17 December 1762 Williamrowley.jpg Sir William Rowley 16901768circa [27]
15 January 1768 Edward Hawke 1.jpg Sir Edward Hawke
(later Lord Hawke)
17051781 [28]
24 October 1781 John Forbes portrait.jpg John Forbes 17141796 [29]
12 March 1796 Admiral of the Fleet Howe 1726-99 1st Earl Howe by John Singleton Copley.jpg The Earl Howe 17261799 [30]
16 September 1799 Sir peter parker NMM.JPG Sir Peter Parker 17211811 [31]
24 December 1811 William IV by Sir Martin Archer Shee.jpg The Duke of Clarence and St Andrews
(later King William IV)
17651837 [32]
19 July 1821 John Jervis, Earl of St Vincent by Francis Cotes.jpg The Earl of St Vincent 17351823acting from May 1814 [33]
28 June 1830 Captain William Peere Williams.jpg William Williams-Freeman 17421832 [34]
22 July 1830 James Gambier.jpg The Lord Gambier 17561833 [35]
22 July 1830 SirCharlesMoricePole.jpg Sir Charles Pole 17571830 [35]
24 April 1833 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Edmund Nugent.JPG Sir Charles Nugent 17591844 [36]
8 January 1844 HawkinsWhitshed.jpg Sir James Hawkins-Whitshed 17621849 [37]
9 November 1846 Admiral Sir George Martin.jpg Sir George Martin 17641847 [38]
13 October 1849 Portrait of Sir Thomas Byam Martin 1773-1854, Thomas Mackay, oil on canvas.jpg Sir Thomas Byam Martin 17731854 [39]
1 July 1851 Sir George Cockburn.jpg Sir George Cockburn 17721853 [40]
8 December 1857 Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, Bart - Amiral sir Charles Ogle, Bart.jpg Sir Charles Ogle 17751858 [41]
25 June 1858 Admiral of the Fleet Sir John West.JPG Sir John West 17741862 [42]
20 May 1862 No image.svg Sir William Gage 17771864 [43]
10 November 1862 No image.svg Sir Graham Hamond 17791862 [44]
27 April 1863 FrancisAusten.jpg Sir Francis Austen 17741865 [45]
27 April 1863 Sir William Parker.jpg Sir William Parker 17811866 [46]
11 January 1864 No image.svg Sir Lucius Curtis 17861869 [47]
12 September 1865 Thomas-john-cochrane.jpg Sir Thomas Cochrane 17891872 [48]
30 November 1866 George Francis Seymour.jpg Sir George Seymour 17871870 [49]
30 January 1868 Rear Admiral James Alexander Gordon.jpg Sir James Gordon 17821869on the Retired List [50]
15 January 1869 Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Bowles.JPG Sir William Bowles 17801869 [51]
2 July 1869 Conde de Penha Firme.JPG Sir George Sartorius 17901885 [52]
21 January 1870 Sir Fairfax Moresby.jpg Sir Fairfax Moresby 17861877 [53]
20 October 1872 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Houston Stewart.JPG Sir Houston Stewart 17911875 [54]
11 December 1875 Provo Wallis.jpg Sir Provo Wallis 17911892 [55]
22 January 1877 Rear-Admiral Henry John Codrington (1808-1877), by Cato Lowes Dickinson.jpg Sir Henry Codrington 18081877 [56]
5 August 1877 Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel.jpg Sir Henry Keppel 18091904 [57]
27 December 1877 Thomas Maitland, 11th Earl of Lauderdale - Chusan conference 1840 (cropped).jpg The Earl of Lauderdale 18031878 [58]
27 December 1877 Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Rodney Mundy.JPG Sir Rodney Mundy 18051884 [58]
15 June 1879 Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Hope.JPG Sir James Hope 18081881 [59]
15 June 1879 No image.svg Sir Thomas Symonds 18131894 [59]
10 June 1881 Admiral Alexander Milne (1808-1896), by Walter William Ouless.jpg Sir Alexander Milne, Bt. 18061896on the Retired List [60]
1 December 1881 No image.svg Sir Charles Elliot 18181895 [61]
29 April 1885 Ryderpic.jpg Sir Alfred Ryder 18201888 [62]
18 July 1887 Edward VII in coronation robes.jpg The Prince of Wales
(later King Edward VII)
18411910honorary to non-Navy royalty [63]
1 May 1888 Geoffrey Phipps Hornby.jpg Sir Geoffrey Hornby 18251895 [64]
8 December 1888 Lordjohnhay.jpg Lord John Hay 18271916 First Sea Lord 1886 [65]
2 August 1889 Wilhelm II, German Emperor, by Russell & Sons, c1890.jpg HIM German Emperor William II 18591941honorary, to foreign royalty [66]
13 February 1892 VCJohnEdmundCommerell.jpg Sir John Commerell 18291901 [67]
3 June 1893 Alfred-sachsen-coburg-gotha.jpg The Duke of Edinburgh
(later Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha)
18441900 [68]
20 February 1895 Richard Meade, 4th Earl of Clanwilliam.jpg The Earl of Clanwilliam 18321907 [69]
23 August 1897 Algernon McLennan Lyons.JPG Sir Algernon Lyons 18331908 [70]
29 November 1898 Admiral Frederick Richards, by Arthur Stockdale Cope.jpg Sir Frederick Richards 18331912 First Sea Lord 1893–1899 [71]
13 January 1899 Nowell Salmon VC.JPG Sir Nowell Salmon 18351912 [72]
3 October 1902 James Elphinstone Erskine.jpg Sir James Erskine 18381911 [73]
30 August 1903 Charles Frederick Hotham.jpg Sir Charles Hotham 18431925 [74]
16 June 1904 LordWalterKerr.jpg Lord Walter Kerr 18391927 First Sea Lord 1899–1904 [75]
20 February 1905 Sir Edward H. Seymour 2.jpg Sir Edward Seymour 18401929 [76]
5 December 1905 Adm. John Fisher.jpg Sir John Fisher
(later Lord Fisher)
18411920 First Sea Lord 1905–1910 and 1914–1915 [77]
1 March 1907 Awilson.gif Sir Arthur Wilson 18421921 First Sea Lord 1910–1911 [78]
11 June 1908 Nicolas II de russie.jpg HIM Tsar Nicholas II of Russia 18681918honorary, to foreign royalty [79]
2 December 1908 Gerard Noel.png Sir Gerard Noel 18451918 [80]
27 January 1910 Prinz Heinrich - as GrADM with baton - LC-B2- 2992-2(2).tiff Prince Henry of Prussia 18621929honorary, to foreign royalty [81]
30 April 1910 Adm. Sir A. Fanshawe (LOC).jpg Sir Arthur Fanshawe 18471936 [82]
6 May 1910 King George V 1911 color-crop.jpg King George V 18651936 [83]
20 March 1913 Portrait of William May.jpg Sir William May 18491930 [84]
5 March 1915 Hedworth Meux 1915.jpg Sir Hedworth Meux 18561929 [85]
2 April 1917 George Callaghan - Project Gutenberg eText 18334.jpg Sir George Callaghan 18521920 [86]
3 April 1919 John Jellicoe, Admiral of the Fleet.jpg The Viscount Jellicoe
(later Earl Jellicoe)
18591935 First Sea Lord 1916–1918 [87]
3 April 1919 Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty.jpg Sir David Beatty
(later Earl Beatty)
18711936 First Sea Lord 1919–1927 [88]
31 July 1919 Henry Bradwardine Jackson.jpg Sir Henry Jackson 18551929 First Sea Lord 1915–1916 [89]
1 November 1919 Rosslyn Erskine Wemyss, Baron Wester Wemyss by Sir William Orpen.jpg Sir Rosslyn Wemyss
(later Lord Wester Wemyss)
18641933 First Sea Lord 1918–1919 [90]
24 November 1920 Vice Admiral Cecil Burney (7307714298).jpg Sir Cecil Burney, Bt. 18581929 [91]
5 July 1921 Frederick Doveton Sturdee.jpg Sir Doveton Sturdee, Bt. 18591925 [92]
19 August 1921 LudwigBattenberg.jpg The Marquess of Milford Haven 18541921 First Sea Lord 1912–1914. On the Retired List [93]
31 July 1924 Charles Madden.jpg Sir Charles Madden, Bt. 18621935 First Sea Lord 1927–1930 [94]
8 May 1925 Admiral Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe (1922).jpg Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe 18641937 [95]
24 November 1925 John Michael de Robeck.jpg Sir John de Robeck, Bt. 18621928 [96]
21 January 1928 Vice-admiral Sir Henry Francis Oliver, Kcb, Mvo Art.IWMART1763.jpg Sir Henry Oliver 18651965 [97]
31 July 1929 Rear-admiral Osmond de Beauvoir Brock Cb Cmg Art.IWMART1722.jpg Sir Osmond Brock 18691947 [98]
8 May 1930 Sir Roger Keyes.jpg Sir Roger Keyes, Bt.
(later Lord Keyes)
18721945 [99]
21 January 1933 Frederick Field (Royal Navy officer).jpg Sir Frederick Field 18711945 First Sea Lord 1930–1933 [100]
31 July 1934 ReginaldTyrwhittportraitbyDodd.jpg Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt, Bt. 18701951 [101]
8 May 1935 Echatfield.jpg Sir Ernle Chatfield
(later Lord Chatfield)
18731967 First Sea Lord 1933–1938 [102]
21 January 1936 Edward Prince of Wales during his visit to Canada in 1919.jpg King Edward VIII 18941972 [103]
12 July 1936 Sir John Kelly 18711936 [104]
11 December 1936 Georg VI England.jpg King George VI 18951952 [105]
21 January 1938 William Boyle.jpg The Earl of Cork and Orrery 18731967 [106]
7 July 1939 Rbackhouse.jpg Sir Roger Backhouse 18781939 First Sea Lord 1938–1939 [107]
31 July 1939 SirDudleyPound.jpg Sir Dudley Pound 18771943 First Sea Lord 1939–1943 [108]
8 May 1940 Charlesforbes1.JPG Sir Charles Forbes 18801960 [109]
21 January 1943 Andrew Cunningham.jpg Sir Andrew Cunningham
(later Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope)
18831963 First Sea Lord 1943–1946 [110]
22 October 1943 Tovey-TR 002931.jpg Sir John Tovey
(later Lord Tovey)
18851971 [111]
8 May 1945 INF3-77 pt8 Admiral Sir James Somerville.jpg Sir James Somerville 18821949 [112]
21 January 1948 INF3-76 pt3 Admiral Sir John Cunningham Artist Tim.jpg Sir John Cunningham 18851965 First Sea Lord 1946–1948 [113]
22 October 1948 BruceFraser.JPG The Lord Fraser of North Cape 18881981 First Sea Lord 1948–1951 [114]
20 March 1949 Admiral Sir Algernon Willis (1889-1976).jpg Sir Algernon Willis 18891976 [115]
22 April 1952 Sir Arthur John Power, 9 December 1944 IWM A 26998.jpg Sir Arthur Power 18891960 [116]
1 June 1952 Philip Louis Vian.png Sir Philip Vian 18941968 [117]
15 January 1953 Prince Phillip of Edinburgh.jpg The Duke of Edinburgh 19212021 Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom 2011–2021 [118] [119]
1 May 1953 Admiral Jerauld Wright and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Rhoderick McGrigor (cropped).jpg Sir Rhoderick McGrigor 18931959 First Sea Lord 1951–1955 [120]
22 April 1955 Rear Admiral George Creasy TR2627.jpg Sir George Creasy 18951972 [121]
22 October 1956 Lord Mountbatten Naval in colour Allan Warren.jpg The Earl Mountbatten of Burma 19001979 First Sea Lord 1955–1959 Chief of the Defence Staff 1959–1965 [122]
10 May 1960 Sir Charles Lambe 19001960 First Sea Lord 1959–1960 [123]
23 May 1962 Sir Caspar John 19031984 First Sea Lord 1960–1963 [124]
12 August 1968 Sir Varyl Begg 19081995 First Sea Lord 1966–1968 [125]
30 June 1970 Sir Michael Le Fanu 19131970 First Sea Lord 1968–1970 [126]
12 March 1971 Peter Hill-Norton (cropped).jpg Sir Peter Hill-Norton
(later Lord Hill-Norton)
19152004 First Sea Lord 1970–1971 Chief of the Defence Staff 1971–73 [127]
1 March 1974 Michael Pollock.jpg Sir Michael Pollock 19162006 First Sea Lord 1971–1974 [128]
9 February 1977 Sir Edward Ashmore 19192016 First Sea Lord 1977-1977 Chief of the Defence Staff 1977 [129]
6 July 1979 Sir Terence Lewin
(later Lord Lewin)
19201999 First Sea Lord 1977–1979 Chief of the Defence Staff 1979–1982 [130]
1 December 1982 Sir Henry Leach 19232011 First Sea Lord 1979–1982 [131]
2 August 1985 Bust of Lord Fieldhouse (cropped).jpg Sir John Fieldhouse
(later Lord Fieldhouse)
19281992 First Sea Lord 1982–1985 Chief of the Defence Staff 1985–1988 [132]
12 April 1988 Olav V of Norway.jpg King Olav V of Norway 19031991honorary, to foreign royalty [133]
25 May 1989 Sir William Staveley 19281997 First Sea Lord 1985–1989 [134]
2 March 1993 Sir Julian Oswald 19332011 First Sea Lord 1989–1993 [135]
10 July 1995 No image.svg Sir Benjamin Bathurst 1936Living First Sea Lord 1993–1995 [136]
16 June 2012 Carlos de Gales (2011).jpg The Prince of Wales (later King Charles III)1948Living [137]
13 June 2014 Lord Boyce.jpg The Lord Boyce 19432022 Chief of the Defence Staff 2001–2003. Honorary rank [138]

See also

Related Research Articles

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