In the 18th century Royal Navy, rank and position on board ship was defined by a mix of two hierarchies, an official hierarchy of ranks (commissioned officers, warrant officers, petty officers and seamen) and a conventionally recognized social divide between gentlemen and non-gentlemen. Royal Navy uniforms were often used to denote rank and position on board ships; however, due to the lengthy and isolated voyage of the Bounty, uniforms were not worn daily on board while the ship was underway.
At the top of the official rank hierarchy were the commissioned officers — on a larger warship, the commissioned officers included the captain, several lieutenants to command watches, and the officers commanding the Royal Marines on board the ship. The Bounty, however, carried no marines, and no commissioned officers other than Lieutenant Bligh himself, who served as master and commander of the ship. As he was effectively the captain, he occupied a private cabin.
Next below the commissioned officers came the warrant officers, such as the sailing master, surgeon, boatswain, purser and gunner, who were as likely to be considered skilled tradesmen as gentlemen. As the senior warrant officer, the sailing master and his mates were entitled to berth with the lieutenants in the wardroom (though in this case there were no lieutenants there); other warrant officers berthed in the gunroom. Like commissioned officers, warrant officers had the right of access to the quarterdeck and were immune from punishment by flogging. They held their warrants directly from the navy, and the captain could not alter their rank. Roman Catholics were allowed to serve as warrant officers, but not as commissioned officers.
Below the warrant officers came the petty officers. The petty officers included two separate groups: young gentlemen training to be future commissioned officers, often serving as midshipmen or master's mates, and tradesmen working as skilled assistants to the warrant officers. Although the young gentlemen technically were ratings, holding a rank below warrant officers at the mercy of the captain, as aspiring future commissioned officers they were considered socially superior and were often given a watch (with authority over some warrant officers) or a minor command.
Finally, at the bottom of the hierarchical tree, were the seamen, divided into able seamen and ordinary seamen. Aboard some vessels, an even lower grade existed called landsman, who were seamen-in-training with very little or no naval skill. On board the Bounty, due to the vessel's long and fairly important mission, the only seamen mustered into the crew were able seamen – the ship did not carry any ordinary seamen or landsmen.
Note, however, that the young gentlemen might also be rated as seamen rather than midshipmen on the ship's books; though they were still considered the social superiors of the seamen, petty officers (excluding other young gentlemen) and most warrant officers and could be given authority over them.
In the immediate wake of the mutiny, all but four of the loyal crew joined Captain Bligh in the long boat for the voyage to Timor, and eventually made it safely back to England unless otherwise noted in the table below. Four were detained against their will on the Bounty for their needed skills and for lack of space on the long boat. The mutineers first returned to Tahiti, where most of the survivors were later captured by the Pandora and taken to England for trial. Nine mutineers continued their flight from the law and eventually settled Pitcairn Island, where all but one died before their fate became known to the outside world.
Crew of the Bounty in 1788–89 Category Name Position Mutiny
Lieutenant William Bligh Commanding Lieutenant Acting Purser Wardroom Officers John Fryer Sailing Master
demoted mid-cruise to
loyal died at Wells-next-the-Sea on 26 May 1817 Fletcher Christian Master's Mate
promoted mid-cruise to
Acting Lieutenant and
mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 September 1793 William Elphinstone Master's Mate loyal died in Batavia October 1789 Thomas Huggan Surgeon died in Tahiti 9 December 1788 before mutiny Cockpit Officers John Hallett Midshipman loyal Died 1794 of illness Thomas Hayward Midshipman loyal Died 1798 in shipwreck Thomas Ledward Surgeon's Mate loyal promoted to Surgeon after death of Thomas Huggan;
presumed lost at sea in sinking of Welfare 1789 but reported to have been ship surgeon on HMS Discovery in 1791 and died several years later
John Samuel Clerk loyal Warrant Officers William Cole Boatswain loyal Charles Churchill Master-at-Arms
mutinied to Tahiti; murdered by Matthew Thompson in Tahiti April 1790 prior to trial William Peckover Gunner loyal Joseph Coleman Armourer loyal detained on Bounty against his will; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted Peter Linkletter Quartermaster loyal died in Batavia October 1789 John Norton Quartermaster loyal killed by natives in Tofua 2 May 1789 Lawrence LeBogue Sailmaker loyal went with Bligh; arrived safely in England – did join Bligh on the second breadfruit expedition Henry Hillbrandt Cooper mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 August 1791 William Purcell Carpenter loyal reportedly died in Haslar hospital 10 March 1834 – last survivor of the Bounty crew David Nelson Botanist
loyal died 20 July 1789 at Coupang Midshipmen
Peter Heywood Midshipman (unknown) detained against will(?) on Bounty; to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but pardoned;
aka Roger Byam in novels by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
George Stewart Midshipman loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; killed after being hit by gangway at wreck of Pandora 29 August 1791 Robert Tinkler Midshipman loyal Ned Young Midshipman mutinied to Pitcairn; died 25 December 1800 Petty
James Morrison Boatswain's Mate loyal stayed on Bounty; to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but pardoned. Lost on HMS Blenheim 1807 George Simpson Quartermaster's Mate loyal John Williams Armourer's Mate mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 September 1793 Thomas McIntosh Carpenter's Mate loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted Charles Norman Carpenter's Mate loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted John Mills Gunner's Mate mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 September 1793 William Muspratt Tailor mutinied to Tahiti; sentenced to death, but released on appeal and pardoned. Died on HMS Bellerophon 1797 John Smith Steward loyal went with Bligh; arrived safely in England – did join Bligh on the second breadfruit expedition Thomas Hall Cook loyal died from a tropical disease (probably malaria) in Batavia on 11 October 1789 Richard Skinner Barber mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 August 1791 William Brown Botanist's Assistant mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 September 1793 Robert Lamb Butcher loyal died at sea 11 October 1789 en route Batavia to Cape Town Able
John Adams Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; pardoned 1825, died 1829; aka Alexander Smith Thomas Burkitt Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; condemned and hanged 29 October 1792 at Spithead Michael Byrne Able Seaman loyal detained against will on Bounty; to Tahiti; tried and acquitted Thomas Ellison Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; condemned and hanged 29 October 1792 at Spithead Isaac Martin Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; killed 20 September 1793 William McCoy Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; committed suicide 1797/98 John Millward Able Seaman mutinied condemned and hanged 29 October 1792 at Spithead Matthew Quintal Able Seaman mutinied to Pitcairn; "executed" 1799 by Adams and Young John Sumner Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; drowned in irons during wreck of Pandora 29 August 1791 Matthew Thompson Able Seaman mutinied to Tahiti; executed by Tahitians in April 1790 prior to trial after killing Charles Churchill James Valentine Ordinary Seaman died of scurvy at sea 9 October 1788 prior to mutiny
Crew members' biographical information may be found on the Bounty's Crew Encyclopedia page at the Pitcairn Islands Study Centre (PISC).