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William Loney RN - Background  

Home-Loney-Background-The Naval Surgeon  

Organisation

Since 1806 the medical officers of the Royal Navy had been under the direction of the Transport Board (with which the ancient Sick and Hurt Board, established in the time of Henry VIII, was combined in that year). In 1817 the Transport Board was combined with the Navy Board, and responsibility for medical officers passed to the Victualling Board. In 1832 the two remaining boards (the Navy Board and the Victualling Board) were abolished by the new First Lord, Sir James Graham. A Physician of the Navy, reporting to one of the Lords of the expanded Board of Admiralty, was placed in charge of the medical department; the title of this officer was soon changed to Physician-General of the Navy, then to Inspector-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets, and finally to Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy. In 1879 the offices of the Director-General were located at 9 New Street, Spring Gardens (Dickens's Dictionary of LondonExternal link, 1879).

Date Title Holder
9 Jun 1832 Physician of the Navy Sir William Burnett M.D.
1835 Physician-General of the Navy Sir William Burnett M.D.
28 Jan 1841 Inspector-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets Sir William Burnett M.D.
1 Jan 1844 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy Sir William Burnett M.D. K.C.B.
30 Apr 1855 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy Sir John Liddell M.D. F.R.S.
21 Jan 1864 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy Dr Alexander Bryson C.B. M.D.
15 Apr 1869 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy Alexander Armstrong M.D. (K.C.B. 1874)
1 Feb 1880 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy John Watt Reid M.D. (K.C.B. 1882)
27 Feb 1888 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy James Nicholas Dick C.B. (K.C.B. 1895)
1 Apr 1898 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy Sir Henry Frederick Norbury M.D. K.C.B.

 


* Organisation * Medical officers' ranks * Comparative ranks * Numbers of medical officers *

Medical officers' ranks

At the end of the Napoleonic wars the medical personnel of the Royal Navy were ranked as Physicians, Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons (the erstwhile Surgeon's mates). The small number of Physicians were senior medical officers, in charge of a naval hospital, or possibly a flagship. The shipboard (Assistant) Surgeons had to combine all three branches of medicine: physician (diagnostician, and prescriber of medicines), apothecary (preparer and dispenser of medicines), and surgeon (performer of surgical operations).

Date Rank
  1 2 3 4 5 6
pre-1805 Surgeon's mate Surgeon Physician  
1805 Assistant Surgeon
1832 Physician of the Navy
1835 Physician-General of the Navy
1840 Deputy Inspector of Hospitals Inspector of Hospitals
1841 Deputy (Medical) Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets (Medical) Inspector of Hospitals and Fleets Inspector-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets
1844 Director-General of the Medical Department of the Navy
1855 Surgeon Staff Surgeon
1859 Deputy Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets Inspector-General of Hospitals and Fleets
1873 Surgeon Staff Surgeon 2nd class Staff Surgeon 1st class
1875 Staff Surgeon Fleet Surgeon
1908 Medical Director-General
1911 Deputy Surgeon-General Surgeon-General
1918 Surgeon Lieutenant Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander Surgeon Commander Surgeon Captain Surgeon Rear Admiral

[Note: different sources give differing dates for several of the changes in designation shown here; these are the dates the various designations were used in the Navy List].

In 1855 senior Surgeons were designated Staff Surgeons (a title later extended to all Surgeons of more than 20 years service), and in 1873 - in a burst of rank inflation - Assistant Surgeons were redesignated Surgeons, and Surgeons were redesignated Staff Surgeons, 2nd class. Two years later the Staff Surgeons, 1st class became Fleet Surgeons, and the Staff Surgeons, 2nd class lost their class appellation.

After the first World War, the ranks of the medical officers - in common with those of the other civilian branches of the Royal Navy - were brought into line with those of the executive branch; the Medical Director-General was ranked as Surgeon Vice Admiral.


* Organisation * Medical officers' ranks * Comparative ranks * Numbers of medical officers *

Comparative ranks

The following table illustrates the slow progress made by the medical officers of the Royal Navy in reaching equality of rank with their colleagues in the executive branch.

  Medical officer Date Executive officer
 1  Surgeon's mate -1805 Mate
Assistant Surgeon 1805-1859 Mate
Assistant Surgeon (under 6 years) 1859-1861 Mate
Assistant Surgeon (under 6 years) 1861-1873 Sub-Lieutenant
Assistant Surgeon (over 6 years) 1859-1873 Lieutenant
Surgeon 1873-1918 Lieutenant
Surgeon Lieutenant 1918- Lieutenant
Wardmaster Lieutenant 1953- Lieutenant
 2 Surgeon 1805-1859 Lieutenant
Surgeon 1859-1861 Commander
Surgeon 1861-1873 Lieutenant-Commander
Staff Surgeon 2nd Class 1873-1875 Lieutenant-Commander
Staff Surgeon 1875-1918 Lieutenant-Commander
Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander 1861-1877 Lieutenant-Commander
 3 Staff Surgeon 1859-1861 Captain under three years
Staff Surgeon 1861-1873 Commander
Staff Surgeon 1st class 1873-1875 Commander
Fleet Surgeon 1875-1918 Commander
Surgeon Commander 1918- Commander
 4 Physician 1825-1840 Commander
Deputy Inspector of Hospitals 1840-1856 Lieutenant
Deputy Inspector of Hospitals 1856-1859 Commander
Deputy Inspector General 1859-1911 Captain over three years
Deputy Surgeon-General 1911-1918 Captain over three years
Surgeon Captain 1918- Captain under three years
 5 Inspector of Hospitals 1840-1856 Commander
Inspector of Hospitals 1856-1861 Captain under three years
Inspector-General 1859-1861 Commodore 2st class
Inspector-General (under three years)1861-1879 Commodore 1st class
Inspector-General (over three ears) 1861-1879 Rear-Admiral
Inspector-General 1879-1911 Rear-Admiral
Surgeon-General 1911-1918 Rear-Admiral
Surgeon Rear-Admiral 1918- Rear-Admiral
 6 Director-General 1856-1859 Commodore 2st class
Director-General 1859-1908 Rear-Admiral
Director-General 1908-1918 Vice-Admiral
Surgeon Vice-Admiral 1918- Vice-Admiral

An Order in Council of 13 May 1859 formalised the following equivalent ranks for Navy and Army medical officers:

Medical officer in navy or army Executive officer in army
Director-General Brigadier-General
Inspector-General Lieutenant-Colonel
Deputy Inspector-General Major
Surgeon Captain
Assistant Surgeon Lieutenant

 


* Organisation * Medical officers' ranks * Comparative ranks * Numbers of medical officers *

Numbers of medical officers

In 1814 the Navy List contained:
   15   Physicians
   840   Surgeons
   600   Assistant Surgeons
   19   Dispensers
   18   Hospital Mates
 
In 1830 the Navy List contained:
   12   Physicians
   738   Surgeons, for service (213 in service, 525 on half-pay)
   363   Assistant Surgeons (287 in service, 76 on half-pay)
   12   Dispensers
   3   Hospital Mates
   55   Surgeons, retired
 
In 1840 the Navy List contained:
   1   Physician General of the Navy
   10   Physicians
   383   Surgeons, for service (135 in service and 248 on half-pay)
   215   Surgeons, unfit for service
   309   Assistant Surgeons, for service (275 in service and 34 on half-pay)
   57   Assistant Surgeons, unfit for service
   8   Dispensers
   2   Hospital Mates
   38   Surgeons, retired
   44   Surgeons, retired on a commuted allowance
 
In 1850 the Navy List contained:
   1   Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy
   7   Medical Inspectors of Hospitals and Fleets
   9   Deputy Medical Inspectors of Hospitals and Fleets
   323   Surgeons, for service (in service and on half-pay)
   207   Surgeons, unfit for service
   259   Assistant Surgeons, for service (in service and on half-pay)
   16   Acting Assistant Surgeons (probationers)
   42   Assistant Surgeons, unfit for service
   2   Medical Inspectors of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   7   Deputy Medical Inspectors of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   2   Physicians, retired
   19   Surgeons, retired
   31   Surgeons, retired on a commuted allowance
   4   Dispensers, retired
 
In 1860 the Navy List contained:
   1   Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy
   7   Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets (5 in service and 2 on half-pay)
   17   Deputy Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets (13 in service and 4 on half-pay)
   48   Staff Surgeons, for service (31 in service and 17 on half-pay)
   272   Surgeons, for service (194 in service and 78 on half-pay)
   232   Assistant Surgeons, for service (214 in service and 18 on half-pay)
   68   Acting Assistant Surgeons (66 in service, 2 on half-pay)
   1   Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy, retired
   5   Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   9   Deputy Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   193   Surgeons, retired
   18   Surgeons, retired on a commuted allowance
   19   Assistant Surgeons, retired
 
In 1870 the Navy List contained:
   1   Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy
   5   Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets (2 in service and 3 on half-pay)
   12   Deputy Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets (10 in service and 2 on half-pay)
   75   Staff Surgeons, for service (55 in service and 20 on half-pay)
   145   Surgeons, for service (113 in service and 32 on half-pay)
   208   Assistant Surgeons, for service (190 in service and 18 on half-pay)
   20   Acting Assistant Surgeons (all in service)
   10   Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   36   Deputy Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets, retired
   39   Staff Surgeons, retired
   152   Surgeons, retired
   3   Surgeons, retired on a commuted allowance
   36   Assistant Surgeons, retired
 
In 1910 the establishment of the Medical Department was:
   1   Director General of the Medical Department of the Navy
   5   Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets
   12   Deputy Inspectors-General of Hospitals and Fleets
   132   Fleet Surgeons
   164   Staff Surgeons
   198   Surgeons

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