(Favourite) Age of Sail Tropes: Midshipmen
“They ‘fought like young Nelsons.’ The words of a schoolmaster, writing from aboard the Mars after the battle of Trafalgar, describing the valour of his pupils in the heat of battle.”
~Young Nelsons by D. A. B. Ronald
Not only are midshipmen ridiculously cute, they’re fascinating characters. Seeing children involved in warfare is both horrifying and fascinating and is a way for people unfamiliar with Age of Sail life to see just how terrible it could be. These young boys leave a comfortable home life and join the Navy. They fight, they win, they loose. These are boys forced to be men before they are ready, and are often portrayed as innocent and sweet, but brave and bold.
The midshipman’s uniform changed in style throughout the years of the Age of Sail, but are made distinctive by the white collar patches. During the early 1800’s, midshipmen wore quasi-top hats but earlier they wore rather unfortunate looking bicorns. Midshipmen were normally 12 or above, but some were on ships even before then as boys or ‘younkers’. Midshipmen were different from cabin boys, as they intended to advance through the ranks and pursue a naval career as an officer.