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I fully hrok the distinction between the RANK of OF-4 (Commander) v. Commanding Officer, the official title of the skipper of a ship.

BBC's Vigil, Season 1, Episode 4 has a continuity error that portrays CO Neil Newsome as OF-5 (Captain), but in previous episodes Newsome was OF-4 (Commander). Which rank is correct? I'm guessing OF-5 for 3 reasons.

  1. Unquestionably, nuclear submarines would benefit from OF-5 by being critical (as nuclear deterrent), abstruse and byzantine. OF-4 usually commands smaller ships like destroyers, like USN Commander Ernest Krause in Greyhound (2020) and USN Commander Kara Green (née Foster) in Last Ship (2014-2018).

  2. I can't reason why a navy WOULDN'T require at least OF-5 to CO a submarine! Why would a Navy prefer an OF-4 to an OF-5? It's straightforward for a navy to promote an OF-4 to OF-5, if somehow there aren't enough OF-5s!

  3. In real life, many OF-5s aren't wise or sensible. In 2017 Oct 31, a RN submarine OF-4 Commander was involved in a sex scandal. On Apr 30 2020, RN Commander Jonathan Lewis was relieved. On Oct 19 2020, a RN Lt Commander was inebriated.


3 Answers 3


According to royalnavy.mod.uk,

  • HMS Vanguard (S28) - Commander S. A. Waller

  • HMS Vengeance (S31) - Commander Daren Mason

  • HMS Vigilant (S30) - Commander M. J. Walker

  • HMS Victorious (S29) none listed

  • HMS Astute (S119) - Commander Andrew Pariser

  • HMS Ambush (S120) - Commander S E McAllister

  • HMS Artful (S121) - Commander Daniel Crosby

  • HMS Audacious (S122) - Commander L Bull

  • HMS Anson (S124) - Captain N S Bower

  • HMS Agincourt - not yet in service

  • HMS Agamemnon - not yet in service

  • HMS Talent (S92) - Lieutenant Commander C R Bate

  • HMS Trenchant (S91) - Commander David Burrell (2018) - Decommissioned March 2021 (ref comment by Snow)

  • HMS Triumph (S93) - Commander S A Waller (also listed under HMS Vanguard)

So, in all, in real life, there are/were 8 Commanders, 1 Lt Commander and 1 Captain.

As far as the show goes, technically speaking, both ranks would be possible, and it appears Newsome was promoted to Captain. Chances are, if the series goes another year, there is the possibility the character could be moved on to a bigger command within the Royal Navy, or indeed, he could remain in command of his boat.

  • Trenchant was commanded by Commander David Burrell in 2018. No listed commander I guess because she was decomissioned back in March.
    – user84795
    Sep 27, 2021 at 14:02

It is not uncommon for OF-4 (Commander) to be the captain of a Royal Navy submarine (I'm actually fairly certain it's the norm, but can't find a source on that - traditionally submarines are considered boats not ships, and the RN submarine service has some odd quirks from its inception).

HMS Conqueror - the only nuclear-powered submarine to fire a torpedo at an enemy combatant.

HMS Vengeance - a ballistic missile boat in the current fleet.


Submarine captains are always Commanders who have passed Perisher.

The Lt Cdr will be the XO of Talent and she will be in refurbishment, therefore will not require a captain.

The Captain looking after Anson will be responsible for a few things, but will officially be the commanding officer while she is not in service and does not have an official XO or CO yet.

Source: one of those names you’ve mentioned above is my husband so I do know how this all works.

BTW - Vigil was as far away from the truth as anything!

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