Fleet Commodores

jaydeeare
11th November 2009, 00:08
Watching the programme of "Last of the Liners" on BBC4 the other evening, I recalled a mention of a Commodore for the Cunard Line.

Were there many other Companies who had Commodores, or was this just a feature of the Liner Companies?

Are there any now? Or have they gone the way of most traditions - down the pan?

I remember reading about them in the Convoys of WW2, where they took responsibility of all the merchant ships in the convoy.

sparkie2182
11th November 2009, 00:29
They all had them Johnny,

Its just that the Cunard were the flagship company of the British Merchant Navy, and quite rightly, the Cunard Senior Masters were Knighted.

:)

Lancastrian
11th November 2009, 09:35
Convoy Commodores were quite different from Company Commodores. Usually retired Naval Officers reappointed for the job.

K urgess
11th November 2009, 11:20
Usually just the senior master in a company.

jaydeeare
11th November 2009, 12:30
Thanks for enlightening me.

Much appreciated :-)

R396040
11th November 2009, 13:52
Watching the programme of "Last of the Liners" on BBC4 the other evening, I recalled a mention of a Commodore for the Cunard Line.

Were there many other Companies who had Commodores, or was this just a feature of the Liner Companies?

Are there any now? Or have they gone the way of most traditions - down the pan?

I remember reading about them in the Convoys of WW2, where they took responsibility of all the merchant ships in the convoy.

Hi.
Cunard had a father AND son Commodore ,at different times obviously,
in the name of Warwick both long serving,and gentlemen under the Cunard flag. Rn Warwick is now presiden of the Queen Mary Association.
I also recall Anchor Line had Commodores. On one of my trips on Cunard cargo ship back in the 60s we had a small service to sprinkle the ashes of the late commodore David Bone in the N.Atlantic as near as possible to the site of the sinking of Titanic.
StuartHenderson

john24601
11th November 2009, 14:45
So where is it laid down that Cunard are the flagship company of the British Merchant Navy. P&O have a Commodore, as does the RFA.

Sabastapol
11th November 2009, 15:09
So where is it laid down that Cunard are the flagship company of the British Merchant Navy. P&O have a Commodore, as does the RFA.

A few years ago I was browsing through a copy of Seaways the magazine of the Nautical Institute. In the retirements listing for the date was a J.P.Lannin Commodore RFA. Can any of you RFA chaps confirm this please?? We sailed with Joe Shell as apprentices together.
Your last comment there reminded me John thanks. (Thumb)

Alistair Macnab
11th November 2009, 15:45
Marconi Sahib said it correctly. The honorific 'commodore' was applied to the senior master within a shipping company's personnel roster. It wasn't just the liner companies (meaning passenger carrying companies) but as far as I know, the cargo liner companies had the same structure. For example, Bank Line had a named commodore master and he was always known as such. They also had a commodore chief engineer nominated on the basis of seniority.

David Davies
11th November 2009, 15:50
Cunard father and son commodore. In 1963 I met both when young Ronny was the 3rd mate and I was the mate of a ship in the London docks. Along the dock came a portly gentleman with a full set and a bowler hat, even the London dockers on seeing him stood aside in awe, it was Ronny's dad . Commodore Warwick of the Cunard Line. Over lunch I didn't make a good impression as it was my last voyage and I was going into shore employment, I think I was seen as a quitter. I have since seen Ron on TV several times as Commodore R Warwick of the QE2 and as I see his grey beard and hair I can't quite equate him with the young officer that used to relieve me at 8 O'Clock morning and evenings. One consolation is that my hair has not yet turned grey and I'm about 10 years older than Ron

Peter4447
11th November 2009, 16:14
I was a near neighour of two widows whose late husbands were former Commodores. One was the Commodore of Silver Line and the other the Commodore of Ropners.
Peter4447

pensioner
11th November 2009, 17:08
I fail to see the point of this rank, after all they are only Senior Skippers getting ready for the scrap heap (Retirement).[=P] [=P] [=P]
rgds

Lancastrian
12th November 2009, 07:12
A few years ago I was browsing through a copy of Seaways the magazine of the Nautical Institute. In the retirements listing for the date was a J.P.Lannin Commodore RFA. Can any of you RFA chaps confirm this please?? We sailed with Joe Shell as apprentices together.
Your last comment there reminded me John thanks. (Thumb)

The retired RFA Commodore is Peter J Lannin who served his time with RFA so cannot be the same person. PHOTO HERE (http://rfaaplymouth.org/2009coppermine/displayimage.php?pos=-167)

Ignoring Pensioner's bait, RFA Commodores were originally an honorary position but nowadays actually run the outfit as an Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Fleet.

E.Martin
12th November 2009, 08:46
Thinking back to the early fifties i think "Paddy Dove" was Commodore of "Shell",in WW2 his ship had been sunk by the Graf Spee.

gadgee
12th November 2009, 21:38
There is a further discussion about Commodores in this thread:-
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showthread.php?t=20245

jaydeeare
12th November 2009, 22:31
Thanks for all the extra information.

Can I just take this one stage further, please? How was Senior Captain ascertained? Was it with years of Service as a Captain (Master), or with service as Captain within the Company?

Please excuse my ignorance ;)

eldersuk
12th November 2009, 22:43
Thanks for all the extra information.

Can I just take this one stage further, please? How was Senior Captain ascertained? Was it with years of Service as a Captain (Master), or with service as Captain within the Company?

Please excuse my ignorance ;)


Let's just say that the board of directors picked their favourite.

Derek

Lancastrian
13th November 2009, 08:29
Thanks for all the extra information.

Can I just take this one stage further, please? How was Senior Captain ascertained? Was it with years of Service as a Captain (Master), or with service as Captain within the Company?

Please excuse my ignorance ;)

Service as Captain with the company, but as eldersuk implies, it wasn't necessarily automatic for the most senior to be chosen. Again speaking only for RFA, there is now a full promotion board procedure with interviews of candidates etc.

Ian6
14th November 2009, 19:28
Service as Captain with the company, but as eldersuk implies, it wasn't necessarily automatic for the most senior to be chosen. Again speaking only for RFA, there is now a full promotion board procedure with interviews of candidates etc.

In P&O in the 1950's/60's every ship's bridge had a list of the various Masters in their seniority. It was length of service with P&O that counted since in those days they only employed 'new' Deck Officers below a certain age (I think it was 24). When passing another company ship it was vital to ascertain the relative seniority of the two Captains. Junior sent his 'respects' senior sent his 'regards'. Unbelievable these days but it had been so for more than a century then in P&O so who was I to question it.

Whilst pure seniority may have established the Commodore it did not automatically gain a passenger ship appointment for an 'out of favour' captain. When I sailed in the cargo ship 'Sunda' our captain was senior to most of the passenger ship captains - he had blotted his copybook somewhere. Passing big white ships sent their 'respects' and dipped their ensigns to the black and tan cargo ship whilst we sent his 'regards'.
Ian

jaydeeare
15th November 2009, 23:32
Thanks again :) Very interesting.

M29
19th November 2009, 13:28
Hi All
I may be wrong and perhaps the mods can check, but I think this topic has been discussed elsewhere on the site with some interesting points.

I sailed with two famous Bibby Line Captains who both claimed the honour of "Commodore" One on the basis of his date of joining the company, the other on the basis of his time as Captain. I don't think Mr Bibby officially recognised the title and this wrangle between the two went on for several years. It was heightened when both sailed together on the same ship, one as Captain, the other on board to learn the particular trade (containers). Apparantly they had argued about seniority from when they were both apprentices and the competition had carried on through the ranks over the years.

Best wishes

Alan

ernhelenbarrett
20th November 2009, 06:38
I sailed as 2nd Sparks on the BI Karanja/MACS and at the time we were Commodore ship in the B.I. The Commodore flew a burgee BI Flag with a round ball on it instead of the usual BI Houseflag.
Ern Barrett

david freeman
22nd November 2009, 17:03
All the new tonnage of the BP fleet especially the vlcc's had senior masters, given the title commodore in the Fleet news. But surely as engineers viewpoint they were nearer to god, and almost imortal in thought and deed. God Bless them all!

Ghost
14th January 2010, 01:45
I was commodore Chief. All it meant was that I was next in the fireing line.

slick
14th January 2010, 09:14
All,
Along similar lies, Palm Line had a couple of Masters who were RNR and with the qualifying manning flew a Blue Ensign,
I understand that (I think there were two) they insisted on picking the requisite personnel to maintain the right.
Neither was Commodore and would not dip to the Blue Ensign to him under any circumstances.

Yours aye,
slick

Klaatu83
14th January 2010, 17:38
"Commodore" is an old term designating the senior captain in a company's fleet. It's the sort of thing one usually associates with companies like Cunard and P&O. The only time I ever sailed with a captain who actually referred to himself as "Commodore" was in 1982 when I was sailing with United States Lines. U.S. Lines was like that, though, as anyone who ever worked for them will undoubtedly attest. I have since heard reference to this or that captain as the company's "Senior Captain", but I never again encountered, or heard of, any captain pompous enough to refer to himself as "The Commodore".

Hugh Ferguson
9th March 2010, 11:13
A near neighbour of mine, a retired Colonel, told me once that his father had been a Commodore during the war. Assuming that this meant his father had been a commodore in convoys I bought a copy of the newly published book, The Fighting Commodores, to see if he featured in its pages.
I couldn't find any reference to him whatsoever, but by pure chance discovered later that his father had been the senior master in a tramp outfit! Talk about snobbery! !

Andrew Craig-Bennett
9th March 2010, 11:43
In CNCo, to quote the late Jimmy Lough, "We have a Commodore but we don't call him that!" So far as I'm aware CNCo still do, along with a Commodore Chief, who likewise was not and I dare say is not "called that".

Resort was, and maybe still is, had to various devices to ensure that persons who were not considered suitable did not become either Commodore or Commodore Chief, without being called that, by making cunning adjustments to the seniority list. Being "considered unsuitable" was not a decision taken ashore; it was based on "soundings" amongst his fellow officers. People tend to have long memories.

There was a rule that the Commodore, whilst not being called that, had to be posted to a ship that was in liner service out of Hong Kong, which was awkward when we had a Commodore who preferred tramp bulkers.

The existence of a Commodore and Commodore Chief was useful, because, as a result of the cunning adjustments to the seniority list, whoever was "not being called that" at any given moment commanded the respect of everyone else, which meant that he could be asked to adjudicate on things. This worked very well.

Lancastrian
9th March 2010, 11:47
"Commodore" is an old term designating the senior captain in a company's fleet. It's the sort of thing one usually associates with companies like Cunard and P&O. The only time I ever sailed with a captain who actually referred to himself as "Commodore" was in 1982 when I was sailing with United States Lines. U.S. Lines was like that, though, as anyone who ever worked for them will undoubtedly attest. I have since heard reference to this or that captain as the company's "Senior Captain", but I never again encountered, or heard of, any captain pompous enough to refer to himself as "The Commodore".

You must live a sheltered life. It is not an old term, it is current. If someone is appointed as Commodore, there is nothing pompous about using the title.

Richard1947
9th March 2010, 12:42
Safmarine had one but as he was a British passenger ship import to man their newly acquired SA Oranje no-one of the real sailors accepted him as such.

Cargo ship men were viewed as real with passenger ship men just pretty boys in white uniforms (cargo = gray) keeping the eldery ladies happy.

Now for the flack!

Richard1947
9th March 2010, 12:51
Interesting from Senior6

Safmarine again, when passing each other always checked seniority as the junior master dipped first. It faded away over time as the staff churn then was 98% at a time and keeping track of seniority was futile.

As a cadet then doing "dipping duty" I thought it was all c**p.

CAPTAIN JEREMY
9th March 2010, 13:50
Safmarine had one but as he was a British passenger ship import to man their newly acquired SA Oranje no-one of the real sailors accepted him as such.

Cargo ship men were viewed as real with passenger ship men just pretty boys in white uniforms (cargo = gray) keeping the eldery ladies happy.

Now for the flack!

I joined Safmarine from P & O Cruises in the early 80's as one of the many "imports" and enjoyed my time on the cargo ships. Robin Thompson was still the "Commodore" then and was captain of a container ship. The rumour was that he asked for a staff captain to assist him on board. As South Africa became more isolated by the international community, I was moved to the offshore management company they had set up along with most of the British officers.

david_crosby
9th March 2010, 20:34
In CNCo, to quote the late Jimmy Lough, "We have a Commodore but we don't call him that!" So far as I'm aware CNCo still do, along with a Commodore Chief, who likewise was not and I dare say is not "called that".

China Nav had a Commodore (Senior Master) in the mid 1960's Called Frank Hindle. One of natures gentlemen. Well into his 60's he insisted on sailing on one of the smallest ships (Soochow) ECoast Oz and around Papua NewGuinea, New Britain, New Ireland etc. Bobbies job. His Chief Engineer Mac MacDonald was also a "museum piece", delightful fellow who'd been 30th Eng. on one of the big Cunarders in his time. Three cylinder Doxford as I recall, 12 knots with the wind and east Coast current.
This caused much anguish amongst the more rank conscious of the other company Masters, particularly Hutchinson who was Master of one of CNC0's pair of pax ships Taiyuan (the other and sister was Changsha).

Andrew Craig-Bennett
9th March 2010, 21:13
China Nav had a Commodore (Senior Master) in the mid 1960's Called Frank Hindle. One of natures gentlemen. Well into his 60's he insisted on sailing on one of the smallest ships (Soochow) ECoast Oz and around Papua NewGuinea, New Britain, New Ireland etc. Bobbies job. His Chief Engineer Mac MacDonald was also a "museum piece", delightful fellow who'd been 30th Eng. on one of the big Cunarders in his time.

Known as "Mauretania Mac".

Three cylinder Doxford as I recall, 12 knots with the wind and east Coast current.

CNCo's usual engine - when computerised ship databases first came in Peter Roberts paid Lloyds Register for a search of all British tweendeckers, of a certain length, LR class, with Doxfords, to see what might be available secondhand, and got a printout of the CNCo fleet! (But one of the "S" class had the Sulzer that was dredged out of the Clyde.)

This caused much anguish amongst the more rank conscious of the other company Masters, particularly Hutchinson who was Master of one of CNC0's pair of pax ships Taiyuan (the other and sister was Changsha).

In due course known as "Commodore Hutch", the only Commodore to be so called, because of his enthusiasm for the title. Being PSM he tended when Commodore to be posted to the "CP". Many tales...

The Commodore who disliked being on a liner and who was NPSM so could not go on the "CP" was Frank Cunningham.

(For those unfamiliar with CNCo it helps in understanding the fleet sense of humour to know that the company motto, as found on the crest ("two cockroaches fighting over a beancake") is "esse quam videri" and one was, and no doubt is, told to debit one's expenses "unproudly"!)

son of tom
6th July 2011, 12:24
All,
Along similar lies, Palm Line had a couple of Masters who were RNR and with the qualifying manning flew a Blue Ensign,
I understand that (I think there were two) they insisted on picking the requisite personnel to maintain the right.
Neither was Commodore and would not dip to the Blue Ensign to him under any circumstances.

Yours aye,
slick

Capt.Asbury was RNR Commodore Pugh were 2 my Dad sailed with

Binnacle
7th July 2011, 10:46
The Benalder was to proceed from Freetown to Takoradi in a small convoy of three, herself, one American and a Dutchman. Naval custom had to be observed, and the master of Benalder was appointed Convoy Commodore and the master of the American ship was appointed Vice Commodore, whereas the Dutch master ruefully remarked 'and I suppose I'm the bloody convoy'.
As it turned out 'the bloody convoy' was lucky. The American ship was sunk and the Benalder badly damaged by torpedo, seven crew killed. Taken in tow to Takoradi for temporary repairs then towed to Capetown, the repair lasting nearly two years.
Source - The Ben Line
Digressing -
A cousin of mine was an AB aboard Benalder, in Cape Town he shifted his seabag to the four masted barque Lawhill which was flying the SA flag. After several voyages to Australia he was accidently drowned in Table Bay just a couple of months before the war ended. He had been torpedoed twice while serving in the "Bens". His father had served in sail.

Jacko123
7th July 2011, 12:29
I was Commodore Galleyboy with the Head Line out of Belfast in 1960.

diggo
11th July 2011, 23:52
Masters seniority was always a difficult question. As a very wet behind the ears cadet in the 70's with Lamport and Holt Line in the mid Atlantic we met up with another company ship and after much discussion it was decided that we were the senior ship and that the other ship had to dip its ensign to us. Off course this was the cadets job I duly made my way aft and hoisted the ensign. On the other ship I assumed that a cadet hoisted their ensign, however as they raised the ensign they let go of the halyard thus their streamed out astern. I dipped our ensign as we past and then took down the ensign and returned to the bridge. I entered the wheelhouse to be met by the sight of the mate and master doubled up in laughter. I was given a day off I shudder to think what happened to my oppo on the other ship!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jeff Taylor
12th July 2011, 00:13
One minor point about Cunard; while they have had numerous commodores, there have been times--especially during QE2's days--when there was no designated commodore. Now, since Carnival took them over you can barely blink between the retirement of one and the appointment of the next. And yes, when making announcements such as the noon report, they do introduce themselves as commodore on the loudspeaker.