Ensign was the higher grade of junior officer in the British Royal Navy. Though a more senior position than midshipman, it still was not a commissioned position. It often served as a bridging point between being a cadet and a full fledged Lieutenant.
This was the rank people were given if they joined the Navy at an older age, instead of becoming a midshipman as a teenager. The rank was also reserved for cadets who were too old to be considered such. The older cadets were usually those who did not achieve a passing grade on the mandatory exam for a lieutenant's commission. It acted as a sort of purgetory for those who were no longer apprentices but not truly officers yet. A lot of times ensigns remained ensigns indefinately and were too old to be promoted and commisioned. That didn't mean that it wasn't possible to achieve a commission, though as it actually happened quite often.
Sometimes the experience of ensigns was crucial onboard a ship. They were the most sought after individuals when it came to commanding a captured prize ship because of experience. because of this, they often recieved temperary promotions to Acting Lieutenant.
Ensigns were a low variation of Lieutenant, who were responsible for the ensign, or the ship's flag and colours, hence the name. There were usually about two or three Ensigns on board a Royal Navy Frigate.
Gallery of notable Ensigns
Behind the scenes
- In the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Ensigns are recognizable by a single golden line on the sleeves of their uniforms.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Ensigns are dressed like the Redcoat soldiers.