Midshipmen came into neither of the two categories discussed in the last note. In theory they were not officers at all, but ‘young gentlemen’, sometimes of incredibly tender years, who were placed by their parents or guardians under the wing of some naval captain of their acquaintance to learn the profession. This was in practice the only way of eventually qualifying for a commission. Although junior to the master’s mates with whom they shared the gunroom, they were treated as officers in that they were given small commands like a group of guns, or one of the ship’s boats. Their title derives from the fact that their berth was originally amidships on the gun decks, where they were always at hand to carry messages or assist with the distribution of ammunition.