British Army officer rank insignia

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The following are the insignia - emblems of authority - of the British Army. Badges for field officers were first introduced in 1810 and the insignia was moved to the shoulder boards in 1880 for all officers in full dress.

NATO Code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student Officer
United Kingdom United Kingdom
(Edit)
Field Marshal
General
Lieutenant-General
Major-General
Brigadier
Colonel
Lieutenant-Colonel
Major
Captain
Lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Officer Cadet
Not Found
Field Marshal1 General Lieutenant-General Major-General Brigadier Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Officer Cadet
Abbreviation: FM Gen Lt Gen Maj Gen Brig Col Lt Col Maj Capt Lt 2Lt OCdt
Typical Command Size or Appointment:[1] In abeyance most senior appointments corps division brigade or director of operation capability on staff Rarely a Field Command except in RAMC. Usually lowest staff officer as principal operational advisers battalion company/battery/ squadron company/battery/ squadron (second in command) or leader of smaller specialised team platoon platoon
Typical promotion to after:[2] 8-10 years 5 years (university graduates 3 years) 12-24 months 44 weeks officer training
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Origins[edit]

The last British Army rank insignia were introduced in 1760. According to the Royal Clothing Warrant, general officers were distinguished by the pattern and arrangement of laces on the cuff.

Badges for field officers were first introduced in 1810. These badges consisted of (and still consist of) crowns and stars, (the latter being more likely to be called 'pips' today, although this term is technically incorrect). These rank insignia were worn on shoulder epaulettes.

The star is that of the Order of the Bath, except in the Household regiments.

The star of the Order of the Garter is used by the Life Guards, Blues and Royals, Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Welsh Guards and Honourable Artillery Company.
The star of the Order of the Thistle is used by the Scots Guards.
The star of the Order of St Patrick is used by the Irish Guards.

The Crown has varied in the past, with the King's Imperial Crown being used from 1910 until it was replaced by the St Edward's Crown from the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

In 1855, after the Crimean War, a new dress regulation was published specifying changes to collars.

In 1864, a new dress regulation specified the insignia of brigadier general to be oak leaf and acorn laces of one inch on the upper and lower collar, and no star or crown.

During 1855 to 1880, Guards infantry regimental officers wore different rank insignia.

Colonel, lieutenant colonel and major wore 1/2 inch regimental pattern laces on upper and lower collar with one crown and one star.
Captains wore similar collars with one crown.
Brevet majors wore similar collars with one star.
Lieutenants wore similar lace on the upper collar with one crown and one star.
Ensigns wore similar collars with one crown.

(Life Guards and Horse Guards regimental officers wore similar rank insignia to line infantry.)

After 1874, another dress regulation was introduced, collar devices were the same for field and company grade officers, but the collar pattern was changed. Line, light and fusilier regiments used one pattern collar, dragoon guards and dragoons used another pattern, hussars another pattern, and lancers another pattern. Individual types of regiment and corps used different patterns of collar. This pattern collar was continued until Queen Victoria's death.

All officers' badges on service dress were originally of gilding metal, except for rifle regiments and the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, which used bronze instead. A variety of alternative materials and prints have been used on various styles of dress.

The insignia was moved to the shoulder boards in 1880 for all officers in full dress, when the system of crowns and stars was reorganised on similar lines to that seen today. Exceptions included the rank of brigadier general (now brigadier - see below) and until 1902, a captain had just two stars and a lieutenant one star. From 1871, the rank of ensign (cornet in cavalry regiments) was replaced with the rank of second lieutenant, which had no insignia. The 1902 change gave the latter a single star and the insignia of lieutenants and captains were increased to two and three stars respectively. In addition to the shoulder badges, officers' ranks were also reflected in the amount and pattern of gold lace worn on the cuffs of the full-dress tunic.

Brigadier generals wore a crossed sword and baton symbol on its own. In 1922 the rank was replaced with colonel-commandant, a title that reflected the role more accurately, but which many considered to be inappropriate in a British context. From 1928 the latter was replaced with the rank of brigadier with the rank insignia used to this day.

1760 1810 1855 1864 1871 1880 1902 1922 1928 today
Field marshal Six laces in equal distance 1 inch wide oak leaves and acorn designed laces on upper and lower collar, with two crossed red batons above a wreath of oak leaves Crown above two crossed batons in a red field with a wreath of oak leaves
General Four laces in equal distance Similar collar with one crown and one star Crown above star above crossed baton and sabre
Lieutenant general Six laces in threes Similar collar with one crown Crown above crossed baton and sabre
Major general Four laces in pairs Similar collar with one star Star above crossed baton and sabre
Brigadier general Three laces, the upper two in a pair 1/2 inch staff pattern laces on upper and lower collar, with one crown and one star 1 inch oak leaves and acorn designed laces on upper and lower collar (i.e. similar collar with no star or crown) Crossed baton and sabre
Colonel-commandant/colonel on the staff A crown above three stars
Brigadier A crown above three stars
Colonel Bullion fringed
epaulette
on both sholuders
Crown and star 1/2 inch regimental pattern laces on upper and lower collar, with one crown and one star A crown above two stars
Lieutenant colonel A crown Similar collar with one crown A crown above one star
Major A star Similar collar with one star A crown
Captain Fringed epaulette on left shoulder 1/2 inch regimental lace on upper collar with one crown and one star Two stars Three stars
Subaltern
Lieutenant No insignia Similar collar with one crown One star Two stars
Ensign/
Cornet
Similar collar with one star
Second lieutenant No insignia One star
1760 1810 1855 1864 1871 1880 1902 1922 1928 today

In 1902, a complex system of markings with bars and loops in thin drab braid above the cuff (known irreverently as the asparagus bed) was used at first, but this was replaced in the same year by a combination of narrow rings of worsted braid around the cuff, with the full-dress style shoulder badges on a three-pointed cuff flap. Based on equivalent naval ranks, colonels had four rings of braid, lieutenant-colonels and majors three, captains two and subalterns one. In the case of Scottish regiments, the rings were around the top of the gauntlet-style cuff and the badges on the cuff itself. General officers still wore their badges on the shoulder strap.

Officer insignia of rank as worn on the sleeves in the World War I period.

During World War I, some officers took to wearing tunics with the rank badges on the shoulder, as the cuff badges made them too conspicuous to snipers. This practice was frowned on outside the trenches but was given official sanction in 1917 as an optional alternative, being made permanent in 1920, when the cuff badges were abolished.

Since 1921 officers who hold the rank of full colonel and above and officer cadets have also been distinguishable by coloured collar patches. Today, when in combat dress (Combat Soldier 95) the 'rank slide' is worn on the centre of the chest, rather than on the shoulder.

Historical ranks[edit]

  • Captain-general: (ca. 17th century) a full general.
  • Sergeant-major-general: (ca. 17th century) shortened to major general.
  • Brigadier-general: replaced by colonel-commandant in 1922.
  • Colonel-commandant: replaced by brigadier in 1928.
  • Sergeant-major's major: (ca. 17th century) shortened to Major.[citation needed]
  • Captain-lieutenant: (ca. 17th & 18th century) the lieutenant of the first company in a regiment, whose captaincy was held by the regimental colonel. On promotion to full captain, the period in this rank was treated as having been a full captain for pay and pension purposes, since he effectively commanded the company.
  • Ensign: lowest subaltern rank in infantry regiments; replaced in 1871 by second lieutenant, but still used to refer to second lieutenants in some Guards regiments.
  • Cornet: cavalry equivalent of ensign replaced in 1871 by second lieutenant, but still used to refer to second lieutenants in some cavalry regiments, including the Blues and Royals and The Queen's Royal Hussars.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "British Army Website: Ranks". Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  2. ^ >"British Army Website: Officer careers". Retrieved 3 November 2013. 

External links[edit]