Cartoon strip published in Warships IFR magazine in February 2011.

The Captains of the Tops were the senior hands in charge of the top-men, who were the crew members who set and adjusted the sails and rigging at high level.  Each mast had its own crews of top-men, and hence its own Captain of the Top; a privilege, not a rank.

Of course, in 1812 there was no Health and Safety Executive, so no formal Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment procedures.  In those days it was recognised that ‘survival’ indicated satisfactory risk management.  However, it has always been the practice of those in positions of responsibility to shift the blame for mishaps onto those less able to cover themselves.