His Majesty's Ship

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His (or Her) Majesty's Ship, abbreviated HMS and H.M.S., is the ship prefix used for ships of the navy in some monarchies. Derivative terms such as HMAS and equivalents in other languages such as SMS are used.

Seal of the Imperial German Navy (1871–1919) - (Mirrored) - Kommando S.M.S. Braunschweig

Commonwealth of Nations[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

With regard to the separate English and Scottish navies of the medieval period and early modern era, historians usually use terms such as "English Ship" or "Scottish Ship".[citation needed]

During the late 17th century, following the Restoration, the name Royal Navy was officially adopted, as well as the prefix His Majesty's Ship, and later, Her Majesty's Ship.[citation needed] The first recorded use of the abbreviated form HMS was in 1789, in respect of HMS Phoenix.[1] From 1707 to circa 1800 HBMS (for His Britannic Majesty's Ship) was also used.[2][3] Submarines in His Majesty's service also use the prefix HMS, standing for His Majesty's Submarine, though this is sometimes rendered HMS/m.[4] (See, for example, HMS/m Tireless, at IWM). The Royal Yacht Britannia, which was a commissioned ship in the Royal Navy, was known as HMY Britannia. Otherwise all ships in the Royal Navy are known as HM Ships, though formerly when a distinction was made between three-masted ship-rigged ships and smaller vessels they would be called HM Frigate X, or HM Sloop Y.

The prefix HMS is also used by shore establishments that are commissioned "stone frigates" in the Royal Navy. Examples include HMS Excellent, a training school located on an island in Portsmouth Harbour, and HMS Vulcan, in Caithness in the Highland area of Scotland, which is established to test the design of nuclear power systems for use in submarines.

The sample ship name used by the Royal Navy to signify a hypothetical vessel is HMS Nonsuch.[5] This is a name that has been used by the Royal Navy in the past; on the eve of World War II the name was given[by whom?] to the Royal Canadian Navy. As of 2012 HMCS Nonsuch was the "stone frigate" of the Edmonton Division of the Canadian Naval Reserve.[6]

Prefixing the name by "the", as in "the HMS Ark Royal", while common, is considered bad grammar.[7]

British government ships not in the Royal Navy have other designations, such as RFA for ships in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Use outside the United Kingdom[edit]

Historically, variants on HMS have been used by the navies of British colonies. The practice is maintained in several Commonwealth realms – states in which the monarch of the UK is head of state – as well as other Commonwealth countries and former members of the British Empire.




All Danish Navy ships carry the ship prefix KDM (Kongelige Danske Marine) in Danish, but this is translated to HDMS (Her / His Danish Majesty's Ship) in English.


Seiner Majestät Schiff (pronounced [ˈzaɪ̯nɐ majɛsˈtɛːt ʃɪf]; German: His Majesty's Ship, abbreviated to S.M.S. or SMS) was the ship prefix used by the Prussian Maritime Enterprise (Seehandlung), the Prussian Navy, the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) and the Austro-Hungarian Navy (Kaiserliche und königliche Kriegsmarine). It was created by translating the British prefix into German.

It was sometimes also abbreviated to S.M. or SM (for Seiner Majestät) when a ship was mentioned by class, such as S.M. Kleiner Kreuzer Emden ("His Majesty's Light Cruiser Emden").

Special forms included

  • S.M.Y. (or SMY) = Seiner Majestät Yacht ("His Majesty's Yacht") for king's or emperor's yacht
  • I.M.Y. = Ihrer Majestät Yacht ("Her Majesty's Yacht") for the queen's or empress's yacht.
  • S.M.F. = Seiner Majestät Feuerschiff ("His Majesty's Lightvessel")
  • S.M.H. = Seiner Majestät Hilfsschiff ("His Majesty's Auxiliary Ship")
  • S.M.W. = Seiner Majestät Werkstattschiff ("His Majesty's Workshop Ship")
  • S.M.U. = Seiner Majestät Unterseeboot ("His Majesty's Submarine", prefixing a number not a name)


International prefixes for ships of the Royal Netherlands Navy is HNLMS (His/Her Netherlands Majesty's Ship).[25] The Netherlands navy itself uses the prefixes Zr.Ms. (Zijner Majesteits, His Majesty's) when a king is on the throne, and Hr.Ms. (Harer Majesteits, Her Majesty's) when there is a queen. This happens automatically at the moment of coronation.[26]


The Royal Norwegian Navy vessels have since 1946 been given the ship prefix KNM, short for Kongelig Norske Marine (Royal Norwegian Navy). In English, they are given the prefix HNoMS, short for "His/Her Norwegian Majesty's Ship" (HNMS could be also used for the Royal Netherlands Navy, for which HNLMS is used instead). Coast Guard vessels are given the prefix KV for KystVakt (Coast Guard) in Norwegian and NoCGV for Norwegian Coast Guard Vessel in English.


Prior to World War II, the subsequent ousting of the monarchy of Romania on 30 December 1947 and post-war Soviet occupation, all Royal Romanian Navy vessels were given the prefix NMS which stands for Nava Majestăţii Sale which translates to His/her Majesty’s Ship in English.


In the Royal Swedish Navy, all vessels are given the prefix HMS (Hans or Hennes Majestäts Skepp). This is true for both surface and submarine vessels.[27]

Abroad, Swedish navy ships are sometimes given the prefix HSwMS (for His Swedish Majesty's Ship), to avoid confusion with other uses of the HMS prefix.[27]


In the Royal Thai Navy, ships with a displacement of 150 tons or more use the prefix เรือหลวง ("Royal Ship"), abbreviated ร.ล. meaning ships belonging to the Thai King. In English, the abbreviation HTMS or H.T.M.S. comes from the word His Thai Majesty's Ship.[28] For the name of the ship, it must be granted by the King.[28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions of the Sailing Navy Gallery". www.royalnavalmuseum.org. National Museum of the Royal Navy. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  2. ^ "The Evolution of Ship Naming in the U.S. Navy". (US) Naval History and Heritage Command. 22 May 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2018. Some, but apparently not all, other navies also use prefixes with their ships' names. Perhaps the best known of these is HMS (His/Her Majesty's Ship), long used by the Royal Navy. In earlier times this was also seen as HBMS for His Britannic Majesty's Ship.
  3. ^ Justin Reay (8 October 2008). "HBMS/HMS - usage in 18thC". The Society For Nautical Research. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  4. ^ HMS/m at acronyms.thefreedictionary; retrieved 5 September 2021
  5. ^ "Royal Navy". Archived from the original on 6 February 2006.
  6. ^ "HMCS Nonsuch". Archived from the original on 30 June 2013. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
  7. ^ The Guardian style guide
  8. ^ A History of the Bahamas, Michael Craton, San Salvador Press, 1986, page 289
  9. ^ Australian War Memorial Glossary Archived 2007-06-06 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Jamaica Defence Force - Bases". Archived from the original on 1 June 2007.
  11. ^ Port Bustamante Handbook, Shipping Association of Jamaica and the Port Authority of Jamaica, 1978, page 21
  12. ^ The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World. Naval Institute Press. 2002. p. 848. ISBN 9781557502421.
  13. ^ HMCS Protector SA History Hub, History Trust of South Australia. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  14. ^ "Foundation Day oration".
  15. ^ Port-side view of the former South Australian Colonial gunboat HMAS (ex HMS, ex HMCS) Protector; 1918 (National Library of Australia) Archived February 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Tapʻ ma toʻ rvhe ra tu, 1995 khu nhacʻ, Matʻ la, Commemorative volume for 50th anniversary of Burmese Armed Forces Day; comprises chiefly, articles about the Armed Forces, 1995
  17. ^ Jane's Fighting Ships, Frederick Thomas Jane, S. Low, Marston & Company, 2010, page 61
  18. ^ War Department Technical Manual, Volume 30, Issue 410, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943, page 282
  19. ^ Carl Muller (14 October 2000). Spit And Polish. Penguin Books Limited. p. 107. ISBN 978-81-8475-109-3.
  20. ^ Annual Report for the Year, Fiji Mineral Resources Department, 1980, page 20
  21. ^ HMQS Gayundah (Aboriginal for 'lightning') and her sister ship HMQS Paluma ('thunder') (National Library of Australia) Archived February 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Department of the Environment and Water Resources: HMVS Cerberus". Archived from the original on 10 February 2007.
  23. ^ "Welcome (Royal Australian Naval Reserves)". Archived from the original on 13 October 2006.
  24. ^ Shukal, Om Prakash (2007), Excellence In Life, Gyan Publishing House, p. 332, ISBN 9788121209632
  25. ^ "List of Acronyms Preceding the Name of a Ship". Corporation of Lower St. Lawrence Pilots. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  26. ^ "Defensieschepen worden meteen Zr. Ms. in plaats van Hr. Ms" (in Dutch). Volkskrant. 29 January 2013.
  27. ^ a b Ordbok: "H" Archived 2011-08-12 at the Wayback Machine Försvarsmakten (in Swedish)
  28. ^ a b SubLt.Wallopee. "fcsorm". fcsorm.dyndns.org (in Thai). Retrieved 23 October 2023.
  29. ^ "Navy 'overjoyed' by frigate name change". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 23 October 2023.