Boatswain or the oldest rank in the Royal Navy

Updated: Mar 11, 2019

Hi everyone!

After the video about our game, let’s go through the most interesting ranks on the ship. Boatswain often appears in different films about pirates or sailing, but rarely this position has been illustrated carefully. Mainly they were shouting loudly, drinking a lot of rum and fighting cruelly. Don’t you think that films are a good source of knowledge? It was sarcasm)


So, what is Boatswain? In England, the boatswain was responsible for supervising the mariners as they worked, and for disciplining them. He was also in charge of the ‘boatswain’s stores’, comprising the rigging and sails, and sometimes supervised and recorded stowage of goods, with occasional references to a ‘boatswain’s book’. However, masters and their mates also sometimes disciplined sailors and took charge of cargo, so the exact role would vary from ship to ship.

In France, he was the highest rank among the sailors, answered only to the master, and gave instructions to the crew on rigging, sails and ropes. Finally, in commercial vessels of the United Provinces, the hoogbootsman (alternatively written hoochbootsman), sometimes also abbreviated as bootsman, was the leader of the crew. On military vessels, he was the highest-ranking non commissioned officer. He was also responsible for the mainmast sail; he could have a mate, responsible for surveying the stern. Bootsmansgastenwere sailors who came directly under the bootsman and ate with him at the same table, but this function was less present, if at all, on the mercantile fleet.


Let’s generalize: a boatswain, also known as a bosun, is the senior crewman of the deck. He is responsible for the ship's hull and all its components, including its rigging, anchors, cables, sails, deck maintenance and small boat operations. The boatswain is a designated warrant officer in the Navy. In the Merchant Marines, he is an unlicensed member of the crew. He is considered the foreman and supervises other crew members of the deck department. On the whole, we can say that boatswain is the main connecting figure between officers and the other crew. These people were the mirror of the crew’s mood. And often they were the shield from the riot if they agree with the captain. However, they were the first after quartermaster who starts unrest if they don’t like captains decisions.

Now you know how boatswain is important. Don’t forget to look after this position carefully in Maritime Law! If you enjoyed the post, please like and share feedback with us.

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