A rate given in the British Navy during the days of sail to men without any naval training who served on board warships. In theory they were volunteers since, because they did not use the sea as a profession, they enjoyed immunity from impressment. But during the 18th century the demand for men was so prodigious that virtually any man brought in by the press gangs was accepted and rated on board as a landsman, being paid less than an ordinary seaman. The rating was replaced in 1862 by ordinary seaman second class. The spelling ‘landsman’ for ‘landman’ begins to appear about 1800. The term was also used in the US Navy, especially after the War of 1812 when it denoted unskilled men of legal age. See also lord mayor's men.
Subjects: Maritime History.