Her Majesty's Ship

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Her or His Majesty's Ship (HMS) is the ship prefix used for ships of the navy in some monarchies, either formally or informally.


Seine 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. 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' 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)


In the Swedish Navy (formerly 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.[1]

Abroad, Swedish navy ships are sometimes given the prefix HSwMS (for His Swedish Majesty's Ship), this in order so that any confusion with other uses of HMS can be avoided.[1]

United Kingdom

In the British Royal Navy, the prefix was originally always quoted in full; the first recorded use of the abbreviated form, "HMS", was in 1789 in respect of HMS Phoenix.[2] Formerly, HBMS (for His or Her Britannic Majesty's Ship) was also used.[3]

Submarines in Her Majesty's service also use the prefix HMS, standing for "Her Majesty's Submarine". 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, which is 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.[4] This is a name that has been used by the Royal Navy in the past; on the eve of World War II the name devolved to the Royal Canadian Navy. HMCS Nonsuch is at present the "stone frigate" of the Edmonton Division of the Canadian Naval Reserve.[5]

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

Commonwealth Realms and former British Empire

Historically, variants on "HMS" have been used by the navies of British colonies. The practice is maintained in several Commonwealth realms (states which recognise Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state).



See also


  1. ^ a b Ordbok: "H" Försvarsmakten (Swedish)
  2. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions of the Sailing Navy Gallery". www.royalnavalmuseum.org. National Museum of the Royal Navy. Retrieved 18 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Ship Naming in the United States Navy". Frequently Asked Questions. Naval History and Heritage Command. Archived from the original on 2015-01-03. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  4. ^ "Royal Navy". Archived from the original on February 6, 2006. 
  5. ^ "HMCS Nonsuch". Archived from the original on 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2012-08-04. 
  6. ^ a b Australian War Memorial Glossary
  7. ^ "Jamaica Defence Force - Bases". Archived from the original on June 1, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Seemotive, Buchstabe H Letter H". 
  9. ^ The gunboat CNS (formerly HMCS) Protector; 1909 (National Library of Australia)[dead link]
  10. ^ "Foundation Day oration". 
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b "The Royal Ark: Royal and Ruling Houses of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas". [not in citation given]
  13. ^ HMQS Gayundah (Aboriginal for 'lightning') and her sister ship HMQS Paluma ('thunder') (National Library of Australia) Archived February 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Department of the Environment and Water Resources: HMVS Cerberus". Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. 
  15. ^ "Welcome (Royal Australian Naval Reserves)". Archived from the original on October 13, 2006. 
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