(Heer / Luftwaffe)
|Rank insignia||German NCO rank|
|Rank group||Non-commissioned officers|
|Army / Air Force||Feldwebel|
Feldwebel (Fw or F), literally "field usher", is a non-commissioned officer (NCO) rank in several countries. The rank originated in Germany, but it is also used in Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, and Estonia. The rank has also been used in Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria.
Feldwebel is a contraction of feld meaning "field" and weibel meaning "usher". Weibel comes from the Old High German weibôn, meaning to go back and forth.
There are variations on feldwebel, such as Oberstabsfeldwebel ("Superior Staff Feldwebel"), which is the highest non-commissioned rank in the German army and air force.
Feldwebel in different languages
The rank is used in several countries: Swedish fältväbel, Russian фельдфебель (fel'dfebel'), Bulgarian фелдфебел (feldfebel), Finnish vääpeli and Estonian veebel.
In Swiss German the spelling feldweibel is used.
The Landsknecht regiments first installed Feldwaibel to keep the men at line at the battlefield.
In army/ air force context NCOs of this rank were formally addressed as Herr Feldwebel.
19th century and German Kaiserreich
Feldwebel gained its widest usage under the German military beginning from the early 19th century. The highest-ranking non-commissioned officer until 1918, the Feldwebel acted as Company Sergeant Major. By contrast with some other countries, the position and duty of Regimental Sergeant Major never existed in Germany.
From 1887 the Offizierstellvertreter (Deputy Officer) ranked as a kind of Warrant Officer (more NCO than officer) between Feldwebel and the commissioned officers.
There were three further NCO ranks: Vizefeldwebel (Vice Feldwebel, senior NCO), Sergeant (junior NCO) and Unteroffizier (Lance Sergeant or Corporal, junior NCO). The Gefreiter was not an NCO as he had no powers of authority, and was a higher grade of private soldier.
Reichswehr and Wehrmacht
- Feldwebel (deputy platoon leader)
- Oberfeldwebel (platoon leader, possible appointment to Hauptfeldwebel)
- Stabsfeldwebel (special rank reserved for 25-year volunteers only.)
Feldwebel and above were Unteroffiziere mit Portepee (Senior NCOs); Unterfeldwebel and Unteroffiziere were Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee (Junior NCOs). In 1921, the rank of Sergeant was renamed Unterfeldwebel. Unterfeldwebels did duty as squad/section leaders.
The Stabsfeldwebel rank was reserved for those who had enlisted for 25 year terms of service in the pre-war German military and those who were enlisted for shorter terms were not eligible to hold this rank.
The appointment of Hauptfeldwebel (Company Sergeant Major/First Sergeant) could be held by Stabsfeldwebels or Oberfeldwebels only. NCOs of a lower rank (Feldwebel, Unterfeldwebel, Unteroffizier) holding this position were titled Hauptfeldwebeldiensttuer (i.e. acting Hauptfeldwebel).
Not all Heer NCO's in this grade were called Unterfeldwebel, Feldwebel, Oberfeldwebel and Stabsfeldwebel which are ranks in the infantry tradition. In some other cervice branches, for example, the equivalent ranks were as follows.
- Cavalry and artillery: Unterwachtmeister, Wachtmeister, Oberwachtmeister and Stabswachtmeister
- Waffen-SS: SS-Scharführer, SS-Oberscharführer, SS-Hauptscharführer and SS-Sturmscharführer
In the modern German Bundeswehr, Feldwebel is considered a Senior NCO, due in part to the large number of Corporal positions which exist as junior grades.
The modern Bundeswehr NCO ranks are as follows:
- Junior NCOs (de: Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee) – Unteroffizier, Stabsunteroffizier (NATO-Rank Code OR 5a, 5c)
- Fähnrich ranks: Fahnenjunker (OR 5b), Fähnrich (OR 6b) and Oberfähnrich (OR7) are ranks only held by Officer aspirants (OA) (en: Officer candidate or Officer Designate)
- Portepeeunteroffizier (Senior NCOs)
The sequence of ranks (top-down approach) in that particular group (NCOs with portepee or Senior NCOs with portepee) is as follows:
- OR-9: Oberstabsfeldwebel / Oberstabsbootsmann
- OR-8: Stabsfeldwebel / Stabsbootsmann
- OR-7: Hauptfeldwebel / Hauptbootsmann
- OR-6a: Oberfeldwebel / Oberbootsmann
- OR-6b: Feldwebel / Bootsmann
The abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / fr: sous-officiers et militaires du rang / ru:другие ранги, кроме офицеров"!
(German NCO rank)
Feldweibel is the lowest rank of "Higher Non-Commissioned Officers" in the Swiss Army. Until the "Reform XXI" agenda, there were two branches of Feldweibels: technical and company level.
The Feldweibel oversees unit-level military service and operations. In 2004, the rank of Hauptfeldweibel was introduced. Since then, only technical specialists have remained in the rank of Feldweibel.
On international missions, they are referred to as "Sergeant Major", NATO Code: OR-7.
The military rank of vääpeli was previously used by salaried NCOs. Responsibility was given for training and maintenance. It is being currently phased out, and conscript officers, salaried sergeants and commissioned officers have taken over the tasks.
The position of vääpeli in wartime formations still exists, but it can be given to soldier of any rank, typically sergeant or corporal. In peacetime, the term yksikköupseeri, literally "officer of the unit", is used, and this position is held by a salaried officer, typically senior lieutenant. The responsibility is for the provisioning, maintenance, human resources management and generally well-being of the unit (company).
In the Bulgarian army, фелдфебел (pronounced "feldfebel") existed from the late 19th century to the late 1940s, when the German-type military organization was phased out in favor of a new doctrine, identical to the Soviet one.
In the Imperial Russian Army Feldwebel ("Фельдфебель") was a highest NCO rank since its introduction in the Peter The Great's Table of Ranks in 1722, until 1826, with the introduction of the still-higher ranks of Sub-Ensign ("Подпрапорщик") and later a Deputy-Ensign ("зауряд-прапорщик") in 1884. Feldwebels, even after the introduction of these senior ranks, were usually the most senior non-commissioned officers in the unit and held the positions of the unit's CO senior assistant or Sergeant major ("старшина"). When they were promoted to the various sub-Ensign ranks, but still held the Sergeant Major's positions, they were authorized to still wear the Feldwebel's bands on their shoulder boards. The Cavalry equivalent of this rank was the Wachtmeister.
- BROCKHAUS, The encyclopedia in 24 volumes (1796–2001), Volume 7: 3-7653-3676-9, page 185