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Helmsman (abbrev HM) is an enlisted technical specialty or rating utilized by the Royal Manticoran Navy.


RMN Helmsman.png

The helmsman rating is responsible for steering the ship and executing ship's maneuvers according to the Commanding Officer's orders.[1]

Historical Overview

In the Middle Ages, when 'warships' were typically merchant vessels hired by the crown, the man in charge of the ship and its mariners, as with all ships and indeed most endeavors ashore, was termed the Master; the company of embarked soldiers was commanded by their own Captain.

From the time of the reforms of Henry VIII, the master was a warrant officer, appointed by the Council of the Marine (later the Navy Board) who also built and provisioned the Navy's ships. The master was tasked with sailing the ship as directed by the captain, who fought the ship when an enemy was engaged. The captain had a commission from (and was responsible to) the Admiralty, who were in charge of the Navy's strategy and tactics.

The master’s main duty was navigation, taking the ship’s position at least daily and setting the sails as appropriate for the required course and conditions. During combat, he was stationed on the quarterdeck, next to the captain. The master was responsible for fitting out the ship, and making sure they had all the sailing supplies necessary for the voyage. The master also was in charge of stowing the hold and ensuring the ship was not too weighted down to sail effectively. The master, through his subordinates, hoisted and lowered the anchor, docked and undocked the ship, and inspected the ship daily for problems with the anchors, sails, masts, ropes, or pulleys. Issues were brought to the attention of the master, who would notify the captain. The master was in charge of the entry of parts of the official log such as weather, position, and expenditures.

Masters were promoted from the rank of the master's mates, quartermasters, or midshipmen. Masters were also recruited from the merchant service. A prospective master had to pass an oral examination before a senior captain and three masters at Trinity House. After passing the examination, they would be eligible to receive a warrant from the Navy Board, but promotion was not automatic.

Second master was a rating introduced in 1753 AD that indicated a deputy master on a first-, second- or third-rate ship-of-the-line. A second master was generally a master's mate who had passed his examination for master and was deemed worthy of being master of a vessel. Master's mates would act as second master of vessels too small to be allocated a warranted master. Second masters were paid significantly more than master's mates, £5 5s per month. Second masters were given the first opportunity for master vacancies as they occurred.

By the classic Age of Sail the Master in the Royal Navy had become the warrant officer trained specifically in navigation, the senior warrant officer rank, and the second most important officer aboard rated ships. In 1808, Masters (along with Pursers and Surgeons) were given similar status to commissioned officers, as warrant officers of wardroom rank. The master ate in the wardroom with the other officers, had a large cabin in the gunroom, and had a smaller day cabin next to the captain's cabin on the quarterdeck for charts and navigation equipment.

However, the number of sailing-masters halved from 140 to 74 between the years 1840–1860:partly because the pay and privileges were less than equivalent ranks in the military branch, and also because the master's responsibilities had been largely assumed by the executive officers. In 1843 the wardroom warrant officers were given commissioned status. The Admiralty, under the First Sea Lord the Duke of Somerset, began to phase out the title of master after 1862. The ranks of staff commander and staff captain were introduced in 1863 and 1864 respectively; and in 1867 the Masters Branch was re-organised as the Navigating Branch with a new pay scale.

The Royal Naval College exams for navigating lieutenant and lieutenant were the same after 1869. By 1872 the number of navigating cadets had fallen to twelve, and an Admiralty experiment in 1873 under the First Sea Lord George Goschen further merged the duties of navigating lieutenants and sailing masters with those of lieutenants and staff commanders. There were no more masters warranted after 1883, and the last one retired in 1892.

Although the actual rank of navigating lieutenant fell out of use about the same time, lieutenants who had passed their navigating exams were distinguished in the Navy List by an N in a circle by their name, and by N† for those passed for first-class ships. The last staff commander disappeared in around 1904, and the last staff captain left the Active List in 1913.

An anonymous article in The Naval Review in 1927 included a number of suggestions for the instruction and duties of Navigating Officers: the author recommended that they should complete (as part of their first-class ship course) a period of one or two months at either the Naval Staff College or the Senior Officers' Technical School at Portsmouth. "In ships at sea the navigating officer should be regarded as the Captain's Staff Officer. All Operational questions should be dealt with by him and the captain should regard him as his expert assistant in such matters. The drafting of orders and the writing of reports on operations, exercises, etc., should be his responsibility and not that of the captain's secretary."[2]

TRMN Training Information

Members desiring to qualify to serve at the different skill levels within the Helmsman division must pass the following exams and prerequisites:[1]

Bureau of Training Information for Helmsman
Course Name Course Code Prerequisite(s)

Basic Helmsman
"A" School
SIA-SRN-06A SIA-RMN-0001 (Basic Enlisted)[3]

Advanced Helmsman
"C" School
SIA-SRN-06C SIA-RMN-0002 (Basic Non-Commissioned Officer)[4]
SIA-SRN-05A (Helmsman)

Helmsman Warrant Project
"W" School
SIA-SRN-06W SIA-RMN-0011 (Warrant Officer)[5]
SIA-SRN-06C (Advanced Helmsman)

Helm Officer
"D" School
SIA-SRN-06D SIA-RMN-0101 (Ensign)[6]
SIA-SRN-06C (Advanced Helmsman)


RMN Technical Specialties
Command: Boatswain - Master-at-Arms - Operations Specialist - Intelligence Specialist
Admin: Personnelman - Navy Counselor - Yeoman
Logistics: Steward - Storekeeper - Disbursing Clerk - Ship's Serviceman
Tactical: Fire Control - Electronic Warfare - Tracking Specialist - Missiles - Beam Weapons - Gunner
Engineering: Impeller - Power - Gravitics - Environment - Hydroponics - Damage Control
Communications: Data Systems - Electronics - Communications - Sensors
Astrogation: Helmsman - Plotting Specialist
Flight Operations: Coxswain
Medical: Corpsman - Sick Berth Attendant