In the Royal Navy, Vice-Admiral is a title. It has had different meanings at different periods: it is currently the rank in the Navy equivalent to that of Lieutenant General in the army and Air Marshal in the RAF (NATO Code OF8).
- Until the seventeenth century, it merely meant 'deputy leader of a fleet'; it became the officer leading the van, the foremost division of a fleet [in ideal conditions; in practice, in ships dependent on the wind, the Vice Admiral's division might become the hinder-most one]; in the eighteenth century, as the Royal Navy grew, it was organized into three Squadrons, the Red, White and Blue, and each squadron had its own Admiral, Vice-Admiral (commanding the van) and Rear-Admiral (commanding the rear). This led to the nine positions 'Rear Admiral of the Red', 'Vice-Admiral of the Blue', etc. The senior squadron in the fleet was commanded by the Admiral of the Fleet, the head of the Navy: there was no '
Admiral of the Red'. In the eighteenth century, these positions became regular ranks, and there were many more than nine Admirals of various levels in the navy, not all of which commanded. (The first form of superannuation tolerated by the Navy was that of promoting outdated captains to the rank of 'Rear-Admiral without distinction of colours' - effectively 'retired on half-pay'. These were known as 'Yellow Admirals'.)