Polish Armed Forces rank insignia

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This article presents the ranks of the entire Polish Armed Forces as well as the rank insignia used today. The system of rank insignia is a direct descendant of various systems used throughout history by the Polish Army. Some of the grades trace their name back to Middle Ages, for instance the rank of chorąży literally means a flag bearer or an Ensign.

Names of Polish ranks are often of foreign origin, like the ones introduced by the 17th-century mercenaries serving for the Polish Crown. These include the rank of kapral, which is a derivative of Italian caporale - much like the English equivalent of corporal.

As the structure of Polish rank names substantially differs from the English one, it seems more appropriate to give the U.S. or U.K. equivalent ranks, based on the common NATO codes, rather than to provide literal translation which can lead to numerous misinterpretations.

Origins[edit]

Most rank titles are cognates to the ones in English, with some exceptions. Notably colonel's literal meaning is regimental-leader, likewise plutonowy means platoon-leader. Also, the title equivalent to petty officer is identical to the word for boatswain, so a Bosman may or may not be a bosman.

Until World War II, each of the branches of the Land Forces used a set of different names for the same grades. For instance a sergeant was called sierżant in the infantry, ogniomistrz (literally master of fire) in the artillery and wachmistrz (from German Wachtmeister, or Master of the Guards) in the cavalry. This is similar to the German army calling a cavalry officer which is equivalent to Hauptmann a Rittmeister

Modern polish military practices were heavily influenced by Prussian/German and Russian traditions, as most founding officers after 1918 independence were veterans of those respective armies.

Customs[edit]

The Polish language requires the use of a prior honorific before stating the addressee's rank e.g. 'Panie Kapitanie...' (Sir Captain...). This is directly equivalent to French practice where the possessive Mon is pre-pended to the addressee's rank. During the communist period use of the formal 'Pan' (Sir) was frowned upon and 'Obywatel' (Citizen) (as in: Obywatelu Kapitanie!) was used. This has reverted to prior style in the post-communist era.

It is customary to include other titles when referring to an officer in writing. This can lead to some interesting abbreviations. For example, a Lt. Col. in the airforce by the name Nowak who is a pilot and has a MSc in engineering would be written ppłk pil. mgr inż. Nowak. (LtCol plt MEng Nowak)

Uniquely, Polish forces use a two-fingered version of the salute, and the saluting custom does not allow saluting with the fingers to the head without having a headgear on (cap/beret or helmet).

Marshal of Poland[edit]

NATO Code OF-10
Coat of arms of Poland-official3.png
Polish
Armed Forces
Army-POL-OF-10.svg Marszalek m.png
Polish name Marszałek Polski
Abbreviation marsz.
English name Marshal of Poland
U.K. equivalent Field Marshal
U.S. equivalent General of the Army

Marshal of Poland (Marszałek Polski) is the highest rank in the Polish Armed Forces. Note that unlike the remaining ranks, it does not belong to any particular service but to the armed forces as a whole. So far only six individuals have been promoted to this rank. With the death of the last surviving holder, Michał Rola-Żymierski in 1989 the rank of Marshal of Poland has been vacant.

Army (Land Forces) and Special Forces[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO Code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
POL Wojska Lądowe.svg
Army
POL Wojska Specjalne.svg
Special Forces
Army-POL-OF-09.svg Army-POL-OF-08.svg Army-POL-OF-07.svg Army-POL-OF-06.svg Army-POL-OF-05.svg Army-POL-OF-04.svg Army-POL-OF-03.svg Army-POL-OF-02.svg Army-POL-OF-01a.svg Army-POL-OF-01b.svg
Polish name generał1 generał
broni
generał
dywizji
generał
brygady
pułkownik podpułkownik major kapitan porucznik podporucznik
Abbreviation gen. gen.broni gen.dyw. gen.bryg. płk ppłk mjr kpt. por. ppor.
U.S./U.K. equivalent General Lieutenant
General
Major
General
Brigadier
General
,
Brigadier
Colonel Lieutenant
Colonel
Major Captain First
Lieutenant
,
Lieutenant
Second
Lieutenant

1 Until 2004 Generał armii

Non-Commissioned Ranks and Privates[edit]

Uniform of a Major of the Polish Army
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
POL Wojska Lądowe.svg
Army
POL Wojska Specjalne.svg
Special Forces
Army-POL-OR-09a.svg Army-POL-OR-09b.svg Army-POL-OR-08.svg Army-POL-OR-07.svg Army-POL-OR-06.svg Army-POL-OR-05.svg Army-POL-OR-04a.svg Army-POL-OR-04b.svg Army-POL-OR-03.svg Army-POL-OR-02.svg Army-POL-OR-01.svg
Polish name starszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
chorąży
chorąży młodszy
chorąży
starszy
sierżant
sierżant plutonowy starszy
kapral
kapral starszy
szeregowy
szeregowy
Abbreviation st.chor.szt. st.chor. chor. mł.chor. st.sierż. sierż. plut. st.kpr. kpr. st.szer. szer.
U.S. equivalent Command
Sergeant
Major
Sergeant
Major
Master
Sergeant
Sergeant
1st Class
Staff
Sergeant
Sergeant Corporal Specialist Private
1st Class
Private Private
Basic

Air Force[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO Code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
POL Wojska Lotnicze.svg
Air Force
Rank insignia of generał of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał broni of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał dywizji of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał brygady of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of pułkownik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of podpułkownik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of major of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of kapitan of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of porucznik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of podporucznik of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Polish name generał generał
broni
generał
dywizji
generał
brygady
pułkownik podpułkownik major kapitan porucznik podporucznik
Abbreviation gen. gen.broni gen.dyw. gen.bryg. płk ppłk mjr kpt. por. ppor.
U.S./U.K. equivalent General Lieutenant
General
Major
General
Brigadier
General
,
Brigadier
Colonel Lieutenant
Colonel
Major Captain First
Lieutenant
,
Lieutenant
Second
Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Ranks and Airmen[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
POL Wojska Lotnicze.svg
Air Force
Rank insignia of starszy chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of plutonowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy kapral of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of kapral of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy szeregowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of szeregowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Polish name starszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
chorąży
chorąży młodszy
chorąży
starszy
sierżant
sierżant plutonowy starszy
kapral
kapral starszy
szeregowy
szeregowy
Abbreviation st.chor.szt. st.chor. chor. mł.chor. st.sierż. sierż. plut. st.kpr. kpr. st.szer. szer.
U.S. equivalent Command
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Senior
Master
Sergeant
Master
Sergeant
Technical
Sergeant
Staff
Sergeant
Senior
Airman

(from 1952 until 1990
Sergeant)
Senior
Airman
Airman
1st
Class
Airman Airman
Basic

Navy[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO Code OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1
POL Marynarka Wojenna.svg
Navy
POL PMW pagon1 admirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 admirał floty.svg POL PMW pagon1 wiceadmirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 kontradmirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor porucznik.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor podporucznik.svg POL PMW pagon1 kapitan marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 porucznik marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 podporucznik marynarki.svg
Polish name admirał admirał floty1 wiceadmirał kontradmirał komandor komandor
porucznik
komandor
podporucznik
kapitan
marynarki
porucznik
marynarki
podporucznik
marynarki
Abbreviation adm. adm.fl. wadm. kadm. kmdr kmdr por. kmdr ppor. kpt.mar. por.mar. ppor.mar.
U.S./U.K. equivalent Admiral Vice
Admiral
Rear
Admiral
Rear
Admiral
(lower half)
/
Commodore
Captain Commander Lieutenant
Commander
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
/
Sub-lieutenant
Ensign

1 introduced in 2002

Petty Officers and Seamen[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
POL Marynarka Wojenna.svg
Navy
POL PMW pagon1 starszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 młodszy chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosman.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosman.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosmanmat.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy mat.svg POL PMW pagon1 mat.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy marynarz.svg POL PMW pagon1 marynarz.svg
Polish name starszy
chorąży
sztabowy
marynarki
starszy
chorąży
marynarki
chorąży
marynarki
młodszy
chorąży
marynarki
starszy
bosman
bosman bosmanmat starszy
mat
mat starszy
marynarz
marynarz
Abbreviation st.chor.szt.mar. st.chor.mar. chor.mar. mł.chor.mar. st.bsm. bsm. bsmt st.mat mat st.mar. mar.
U.S. equivalent Command
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Senior Chief
Petty Officer
Chief
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
First Class
Petty Officer
Second Class
Petty Officer
Third Class
Petty Officer
Third Class
Seaman Seaman
Apprentice
Seaman
Recruit

Obsolete Ranks[edit]

Ranks Discontinued on July 1, 2004[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-7 OR-4
POL Wojska Lądowe.svg
Army
Rank insignia of chorąży sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy plutonowy of the Army of Poland.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
sierżant
sztabowy
sierżant
sztabowy
starszy
plutonowy
Abbreviation chor.szt. mł.chor.szt. st.sierż.szt. sierż.szt. st.plut.
U.S. equivalent Command
Sergeant
Major
Sergeant
Major
Sergeant
1st Class
Sergeant
1st Class
Corporal
POL Wojska Lotnicze.svg
Air Force
Rank insignia of chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy plutonowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
sierżant
sztabowy
sierżant
sztabowy
starszy
plutonowy
Abbreviation chor.szt. mł.chor.szt. st.sierż.szt. sierż.szt. st.plut.
U.S. equivalent Command
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Senior Master
Sergeant
Master
Sergeant
Senior
Airman
POL Marynarka Wojenna.svg
Navy
POL PMW pagon1 chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 młodszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosman sztabowy.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosman sztabowy.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosmanmat.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
marynarki
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
marynarki
starszy
bosman
sztabowy
bosman
sztabowy
starszy
bosmanmat
Abbreviation chor.szt.mar. mł.chor.szt.mar. st.bosm.szt. bosm.szt. st.bosmat
U.S. equivalent Command
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Command Senior Chief
Petty Officer
Chief
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
Third Class

Other changes after July 1, 2004[edit]

Until 2004 the ranks of chorąży (OR-9 and OR-8) cosnstituted a separate group, roughly corresponding to U.S. Warrant Officers. On July 1, 2004 the number of these ranks was reduced and they were included in the group of non-commissioned ranks.

Pay Grade changes on July 1, 2004[edit]

  • starszy chorąży/starszy chorąży marynarki: OR-8 to OR-9
  • młodszy chorąży/młodszy chorąży marynarki: OR-8 to OR-7
  • starszy Kapral/starszy mat: OR-3 to OR-4

On January 1, 2014 all reserve NCOs, holders of the rank of chorąży sztabowy / chorąży sztabowy marynarki and młodszy chorąży sztabowy / młodszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki were promoted to the rank of starszy chorąży sztabowy / starszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki; holders of the rank of starszy sierżant sztabowy / starszy bosman sztabowy and sierżant sztabowy / bosman sztabowy were promoted to the rank of młodszy chorąży / młodszy chorąży marynarki; and holders of the rank of starszy plutonowy / starszy bosmanmat were promoted to the rank of sierżant / bosman.

Thus the ranks discontinued on July 1, 2004 were officially abolished in the Polish Armed Forces.

Historical Ranks in the Polish Armed Forces[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]