Originally, the term was used for a civilian official in a local government district (drostdy) of the Cape Colony, acting as and invested with the authority of a military officer and empowered to act as a magistrate. The field cornet was subject to the landdrost of the district and acted as his representative. As such, a field cornet performed important functions in administrative, judicial and police matters. In addition, in peacetime the field cornet was the head of the militia and was responsible for maintaining law and order in his area.
The term later came to denote a military rank equivalent to that of a lieutenant in the Boer armies as well as in the South African Army between 1960 and 1968. A second lieutenant was referred to as an assistant field cornet.
- "A dictionary of South African English on historical principles". Dictionary Unit for South African English - Rhodes University. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- Duxbury, G. R. (June 1968). "Changes in Ranks and Designations in the South African Defence Force". Military History Journal. The South African Military History Society. 1 (2). ISSN 0026-4016. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
- Van Jaarsveld, F.A. (1970–1976). Standard encyclopædia of Southern Africa, 12 volumes. IV. Cape Town: Nasou Ltd. p. 488.
The title of field-cornet disappeared finally as a civil office and was replaced by ‘justice of the peace'. In 1960 the military rank was restored and took the place of lieutenant, to denote an officer of a particular rank in the South African army, but only in the land forces. The former second lieutenant now became assistant field-cornet.
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