Copyright © 2008, Alison Pryce, all rights reserved.
Transcription of promotion letter to Francis Godolphin Bond from "unreadable" March, 1980
Admiralty Office 29 March 1802
My Lord's Commissioners of the Admiralty have been pleased to sign a Commission promoting you to the Rank of Post Captain in His majesty's Navy; I have their Lordships commands to acquaint you therewith
Your very humble servant
Rank of Post Captain
Post Captain is an obsolete alternative form of the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. The term distinguished those who were captains by rank from officers in command of a naval vessel, who were (and still are) addressed as captain regardless of rank, just because they had command of a ship.
Once an officer had been promoted to post captain, his further promotion was strictly by seniority; if he could avoid death or disgrace, he would eventually become an admiral.
In the Royal Navy of the time, an officer might have a rank, but not a command. Until the officer had a command, he was "on the beach" and on half-pay. An officer who was promoted from commander was a captain, but until he was given a command, he was on half-pay. Once the captain was given a command, his name was "posted" in the "Naval Gazette." An officer "took post" or was "made post" when he was first commissioned to command a rated vessel — that is, a ship too important to be commanded by a mere commander.
A junior post captain would usually command a frigate or a comparable ship, while a senior post captain (i.e. a full rank captain) would command a ship of the line. A commander wore a single epaulette on the left shoulder. A post captain with less than three years seniority wore a single epaulette on the right shoulder, and a post captain with three or more years seniority was the same as captain and wore one epaulette on each shoulder.