Wachtmeister

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Hungarian "Wachtmeister", hussar-regiment 18th century.
Serbian "Wachtmeister", hussar-regiment 18th century.

Wachtmeister (Wm) (ge: for master-sentinel; watch-master) is in Austria and Switzerland a military rank of non-commissioned officers (NCO). The Wachtmeister was initially responsible for the guard duty of the army. Later he became the Feldwebel equivalent NCO-grade of the Cavalry and Artillery. Besides Austria and Switzerland today, the rank was also used for example in Germany and Russia.

Historical background[edit]

The Wachtmeister was in the beginning responsible guard, sentry, or sentinel, responsible for the armies’ guard duty. Later he became the Feldwebel equivalent NCO-grade of the Cavalry and Artillery.

In the lansquenet armies and in the town of the 16th century Wachtmeister was the official title to a «war experienced, skilful, and honest fellow», which was – in line to the order of his superior – responsible for the security of the military compound, or/and had to take care for the marching troops. He organized and controlled the guards, was responsible for discipline and attention, and took care for knowing the watchword. The watch service was provided almost by the cavalry, and often the mounted troops were responsible to guard the whole army, what was the case for instance in Brandenburg about 1620.

With the formation of standing armies, the designation Wachtmeister became of universally valid for the Feldwebel of the cavalry, later also of the artillery and other armed service branches. As regards to the three Feldwebel-ranks until 1945 there were the equivalent ranks Unterwachtmeister, Wachtmeister and Oberwachtmeister. Until 1970 in the GDR NPA the Feldwebel of the artillery was designated Wachtmeister.[1]

Austria[edit]

Flag of Austria (state).svg
Wachtmeister in Austria
Anzug 75/03 Schulterstück (Pioniertruppe) Tellerkappe
Rank insignia Austrian Bundesheer
Introduction 1857
Rank group NCOs (de: Unteroffiziere)
Army / Air Force Wachtmeister
Navy no equivalent
Lower:
Higher:
Zugsführer
Oberwachtmeister
NATO
equivalent
OR-5

Today, the Wachtmeister is in the Austrian Bundesheer the lowest NCO-rank (assignment group M BUO 2 / professional NCO; respectively M ZUO 2 / longer-serving volunteer). The Wachtmeister will be normally diploid as leader (Austrian: Kommandant) of a squad (8 to 13 soldiers). Regarding the promotion to that OR5-rank there are three possibilities.

  • First: to pass (successfully) the one year NCO-course on the Heeresunteroffiziersakademie (HUAk) of the Bundesheer in Enns
  • Second: by finishing / at the end of the so-called make good training (de: Nachholausbildung)
  • Third: by finishing of the first part of the officer´s training programme

During United Nations missions and in NATO Partnership for Peace the rank Wachtmeister will be designated in English with Master Corporal (MCpl) and is equivalent to NATO-Rang code OR-5.

See also

K.u.k. Army[edit]

k.u.k. Wachtmeister

Until 1918 Wachtmeister was in the Common Army the cavalry rank, equivalent to the Feldwebel of the infantry, the Oberjaeger of the mountain troops, or the Feuerwerker of the artillery. Until the 1970th years the artillery and air defence troops used the designation Feuerwerker instead of Wachtmeister.

See also


Switzerland[edit]

Flag of Switzerland.svg
Wachtmeister in Switzerland
Schulterstück eines Wachtmeisters der Schweizer Armee
Rank insignia Swiss army
Introduction
Rank group NCOs (de: Unteroffiziere)
Army / Air Force Wachtmeister
Navy no equivalent
Lower:
Higher:
Korporal
Oberwachtmeister
NATO
equivalent
OR-5

In the Military of Switzerland the Wachtmeister (Wm, sergent, sergente) is a NCO-rank (NATO-Code: OR-5). The rank is higher than the rank Korporal, and lower the Oberwachtmeister.

Until the so-called Army reform XXI (with effect from January 1, 2004) the rank was regular assigned to Zugführer -Stellvertreter (en: deputy platoon leader). However, in 2014 the new Wachtmeister appointment was squad leader or vehicle leader (de: Gruppenführer, Wagenkommandant), e.g. gun commander (de: Geschützführer).

In United Nations missions and in NATO Partnership for Peace the rank Wachtmeister will be designated in English with Sergeant (Sgt).

See also

Military ranks of the Swiss Armed Forces

Other armed forces[edit]

Germany[edit]

Similar to the company sergeant major appointment to army units (de: Kompaniefeldwebel / popularly: Spiess) the NCOs with port epée on board of larger warships wears the designation «Wachtmeister». Among others he might be competent and responsible to deal with S1 (coordinating staff area – personnel service) obligations. Assigned will be experienced port epée NCOs up to the rank Hauptbootsmann (OR7) or higher.

In the German army ground forces the designation of the OR5-Feldwebel rank of Cavalry and Artillery was the «Wachtmeister» until 1945.

In the GDR National People´s Army (NPA) the «Wachtmeister» OR5-rank was unified replaced by Feldwebel in 1970.

In the Imperial German Navy, Reichsmarine, and Kriegsmarine the lowest port epée NCO rank of the sea operations divisions was named «Wachtmeister» as well. However, the equivalent rank of land operations divisions was named Feldwebel.

Junior Rank
Unterwachtmeister
(Unterfeldwebel)
War Ensign of Germany 1938-1945.svg
World War II German Navy rank
Wachtmeister
(Feldwebel)
Senior Rank
Oberwachtmeister
(Oberfeldwebel)
See also

National People’s Army[edit]

In the GDR National People's Army (NPA) the OR5-rank «Wachtmeister» was replaced by the universal rank designation Feldwebel. The equivalent rank of the Volksmarine (en: GDR Navy) was the Meister of the Volksmarine.

Junior Rank
Unterwachtmeister
(Unterfeldwebel)
Flag of NVA (East Germany).svg
National People's Army rank
Wachtmeister
(Feldwebel)
Senior Rank
Oberwachtmeister
(Oberfeldwebel)
See also

«Wachtmeister» was also a German police rank.

Russia[edit]

To the Russian Army «Wachtmeisterr» (ru: Ва́хмистр / Vakhmistr) was already adopted in 1711, as to the order of the Tsar Peter the Great. Until 1877 there were unofficially olso the ranks «Starshij vakhmistr» (ru: Старший ва́хмистр) and «Mladshij vakhmistr» (ru: Младший ва́хмистр) in order to provide a discrimination to the so-called platoon NCOs (ru: Vsvodnji unter-officer).

The «Wachtmeister» was responsible for providing support to the troop commander, which normally was Rittmeister (cavallry captain OF2-rank). To his duty responsibilities counted among others basic unit training, command task training, service support, and internal disposition.

The equivalent to «Wachtmeister» was the Feldwebel of the infantry. Until 1826 it was the highs NCO-rank and superior to all subordinate NCOs. In 1826 the so-called «old» Oberwachtmeisters were counted to the senior officer´s rank group in ,line to the Russian rank table (XIV, before XIII). However, in real life it was never accepted, although id could be army internal equal treated to the cornet rank.

Sequence of ranks
Junior rank:
Unterwachtmeister

Lesser Coat of Arms of Russian Empire.svgCoat of arms Kolchak 1919.jpg
Wachtmeister
(Feldwebel)
Senior rank:
Unterpraporshchik

References[edit]

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.
  1. ^ Dictionary to the German military history, 1st edition (Liz.5, P189/84, LSV:0547, B-Nr. 746 635 0), military publishing house of the GDR (VEB) – Berlin, 1985, Volume 2, page 1034.
  • Die Streitkräfte der Republik Österreich, 1918-1968, Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Militärwissenschaftliches Institut, 1968.