In the terse descriptive phrasing of a naval officer's commission there appears this comprehensive and explicit wording: "And he shall carefully and diligently do all manner of things thereto belonging." These the metes and bounds; therein the scope of his activities. In retrospection one cannot help but feel that the author of this wording intended that the injunction should be especially applicable to the present day first lieutenant; and if there is any one position on board the modern battleship and cruiser that affords constant opportunity for the full exercise of untiring energy, tact, patience, and initiative, it is that of the officer delegated to do "all manner of things."
In the days of smaller ships and greater leisure, the duties now delegated to this office were performed by midshipmen or naval cadets acting as aides to the executive officer, and as mates of the lower decks, and of the hull and hold. The advent of big ships brought with it the final creation of this new office, for the work and responsibilities had grown man-size in proportion and of such number and magnitude as to be beyond the immediate control of the executive and his junior aides.