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A Royal Navy commander's rank insignia.

Commander (often abbreviated Cdr) is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. It is immediately junior to captain and immediately senior to the rank of lieutenant commander. Officers holding the junior rank of lieutenant commander are not considered to be commanders.


The title (originally "master and commander")[1] originated in the 18th century to describe naval officers who commanded ships of war too large to be commanded by a lieutenant but too small to warrant the assignment of a post-captain, or (before about 1770) a sailing-master; the commanding officer served as his own master. In practice, these were usually unrated sloops-of-war of no more than 20 guns. The Royal Navy shortened "master and commander" to "commander" in 1794; however, the term "master and commander" remained (unofficially) in common parlance for several years.[2] In the 20th and 21st centuries, the rank has been assigned the NATO rank code of OF-4.

Seniority and usage

A commander in the Royal Navy is senior to an officer holding the rank of lieutenant commander but junior to a captain. A commander may command a frigate, destroyer, submarine, aviation squadron or shore installation, or may serve on a staff. Formerly equivalent to the Army rank of major,[3] a commander is now equivalent in rank to a lieutenant colonel in the British Army or a wing commander in the Royal Air Force. The rank of wing commander was derived from the naval rank of commander via the usage in the World War I Royal Naval Air Service.

The rank insignia of a commander features three rings of gold braid with a loop in the upper ring.[4]


  1. See also: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
  2. "Why is the Colonel called a 'Kernal?'". Naval Historical Center. 1998. 
  3. The Royal Kalendar, and Court and City Register for England, Scotland, Ireland and the Colonies (London, 1835) page 148
  4. "Uniforms and Badges of Rank at Royal Navy website". Retrieved 2008-12-05. 

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