Petty Officers of the Estonian Navy 1920–1939


  • Taavi Urb



Estonian Navy, petty officers, petty officers' training


Petty officers were an important link between officers and soldiers/sailors in the Estonian Navy. Petty officers were divided into line petty officers (riviallohvitserid) and specialist petty officers (erialaallohvitserid). Line and specialist petty officers’ tasks differed significantly. Line petty officers were lower level military leaders and disciplinarians for soldiers under their command. They were also trainers for recruits. Specialist petty officers, who were the majority in the Navy, were first of all specialists in a specific area. They handled and maintained different mechanisms. Only higher-ranking petty officers and warrant officers (the rank of warrant officer (instruktor) was available only in the Navy, but not in other branches) also held the function of leader and pedagogue: they were in charge of the petty officers and sailors in their unit and were responsible for their additional specialist training. The training of line and specialist petty officers was as different as their tasks. Line petty officers were trained to be leaders and trainers. Major attention was paid to weapons and infantry tactics training. The training of specialist petty officers focused on their specialist knowledge and skills. To maintain the proper level of administrative and line skills, regular refresher courses were introduced in the Navy. The courses were conducted in the wintertime, when the overall training pace was lower. Although the armed forces of Estonia is based on conscription, petty officers in the Navy were usually professional soldiers, not conscripts. This was due to the fact that specialist petty officers were expected to have service experience, which was hard for conscripts to gain during their mandatory service time. Even if a conscript completed petty officer training and was appointed to the position of petty officer, he was seldom promoted to the rank of petty officer. Professional soldiers had more rights than conscripts, fixed by special law, and representative organizations (üleajateenijate kogud). They formed a conscious and unified fraternity, where the status of professional soldier was more important than that of soldiers or the rank of petty officer.


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