Lance corporal

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Lance corporal is a military rank, used by many armed forces worldwide, and also by some police forces and other uniformed organizations. It is below the rank of corporal, and is typically the lowest non-commissioned officer, usually equivalent to the NATO Rank Grade OR-3.


The presumed origin of the rank of lance corporal derives from an amalgamation of corporal from the Italian phrase capo corporale ("head of the body") with the now-archaic lancepesade, which in turn derives from the Italian lancia spezzata, which literally means "broken lance" or "broken spear", formerly a non-commissioned officer of the lowest rank. It can be translated as “one who has broken a lance in combat,” and is therefore a leader.[1] "Lance" or "lances fournies" was also a term used in Medieval Europe to denote a unit of soldiers (usually 5 to 10 men strong).

Australia and New Zealand[edit]

Lance corporal is the lowest of the non-commissioned officer ranks in the Australian Army and New Zealand Army, falling between private and corporal. It is the only appointed rank, and thus demotion is easier than with other ranks, a commanding officer can demote a lance corporal, whereas other ranks require a Courts Martial for demotion. A lance corporal is usually the second in command of a section, and is in control of the gun group in an infantry section. The same rank within artillery units is known as lance-bombardier (lance bombardier in New Zealand[2]). There is no equivalent rank within the Royal Australian Air Force or Royal Australian Navy. The badge of rank is a 1-bar chevron worn on both sleeves or on an epaulette.

Second corporal was also formerly used in Australia in the same way that it was used in the British Army.

A common nickname for a lance corporal in Australia is a "lance jack".


The Canadian Forces abolished the rank of lance corporal on their creation as a unified force in 1968. The rank of trained private equates to OR-3 and wears the single chevron, but has no command authority. In terms of actual authority, the current appointment of Corporal equates most directly to the pre-unification appointment of lance corporal as in both cases, this rank was granted to soldier second-in-command of an infantry section, for example. The current rank of Master Corporal equates most directly to the pre-unification appointment of corporal.


The equivalent of a lance corporal in the Finnish Defence Forces is a korpraali (literally, corporal). Korpraali is not considered an NCO rank.

Typically, the promotion is given to rank-and-file conscripts who perform exceptionally well.[3] Conscripts attending the NCO course are promoted to lance corporal during the latter half of the NCO course prior to promotion to corporal (Finnish: alikersantti) or prior to being detailed to Reserve Officer School.

Reservists in the rank of private may be promoted to lance corporal if they distinguish themselves during a refresher exercise or in international deployment.[4]

India and Pakistan[edit]

The equivalent to lance-corporal in the British Indian Army was acting lance-daffadar in cavalry regiments and lance-naik in other units. These ranks are still used in the Indian Army and Pakistan Army.

Portugal and Brazil[edit]

In the Portuguese Army, the equivalent of a lance corporal rank used to be that of anspeçada. The rank of anspeçada was replaced, in the end of the 19th century, by the present rank of segundo-cabo (second corporal), the former rank of cabo (corporal) being renamed primeiro-cabo (first corporal).

After the independence of Brazil in 1822, the new Brazilian Army followed the Portuguese system of ranks, having also the rank of anspeçada. The rank existed also in the Brazilian States Military Polices and in the Military Firefighters Corps. The rank of anspeçada was discontinued in Brazil in the first half of the 20th century.


Singapore Armed Forces' Lance Corporal Insignia

Lance-Corporal (LCP) in the Singapore Armed Forces ranks between private (PTE) and corporal (CPL).[5]

Lance-corporals who are appointed second-in-command/ third-in-command of a section (military unit) can give commands to the rest of the platoon section. National Servicemen are usually promoted to this rank after completing their respective vocational courses and within the 1st year of service.

A lance-corporal (准下士) wears rank insignia of a single point down chevron with an arc above it (similar to an inverted US Army PFC rank insignia).

Singapore Armed Forces enlistee ranks
NATO rank code OR-1 OR-2 OR-3 OR-4
Insignia (No Insignia) (No Insignia) Army-SGP-OR-3.svg Army-SGP-OR-4a.svg Army-SGP-OR-4b.svg
Rank Recruit Private Lance corporal Corporal Corporal first class
Abbreviation REC PTE LCP CPL CFC


Sweden has vicekorpral (previously vicekonstapel, "vice constable", in the artillery and anti-aircraft artillery) as a rank intermediate between private and korpral. It was primarily a school degree discontinued in 1972 but reinstated in 2008 or 2009.

United Kingdom[edit]

British Army and Royal Marines[edit]

British Army insignia

Lance corporal (LCpl or formerly L/Cpl) is the lowest ranking non-commissioned officer in the British Army and Royal Marines, between private and Corporal (and with a NATO grade of OR3). The badge of rank is a one-bar chevron worn on both sleeves, or on an epaulette on the front of the Combat Soldier 95 dress standard (although lance corporals in the Foot Guards, Honourable Artillery Company, 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards and The Queen's Royal Hussars wear two-bar chevrons and in the Household Cavalry a two-bar chevron surmounted by the crown is worn). The Royal Artillery uses the term lance-bombardier instead. The designation "chosen man", used during the Napoleonic Wars, was a precursor to the rank. A common nickname for a lance corporal is "lance jack". Lance corporals are commonly addressed as "corporal".

A lance corporal of the East Surrey Regiment, British Army equipped with a Thompson M1928 submachine gun (drum magazine), 25 November 1940

Until 1961, lance corporal was only an appointment rather than a rank, given to privates who were acting NCOs, and could be taken away by the soldier's commanding officer (whereas a full corporal could only be demoted by court martial)[citation needed]. The Royal Engineers and Army Ordnance Corps also used the similar rank of second corporal, which was a substantive rank (also wearing one chevron), until 1920. Until 1920, bombardiers in the Royal Artillery were equivalent to second corporals and acting bombardiers were equivalent to lance corporals (both wearing one chevron).

In the infantry, a lance corporal usually serves as second-in-command of a section and commander of its delta fire team. It is also a rank commonly held by specialists such as clerks, drivers, signallers, machine-gunners, and mortarmen. In the Intelligence Corps and Royal Military Police all other ranks are promoted to lance corporal on the completion of their training.

Royal Air Force[edit]

On 1 April 2010, the rank of lance corporal was introduced into the RAF Regiment, although it is not used by other branches of the Royal Air Force.[6][7] RAF Regiment lance corporals have powers of charge over Aircraftmen, Leading Aircraftmen and senior aircraftmen, but not junior technicians and senior aircraftmen technicians, who, despite being OR2s, require a corporal or above to charge if required.[8]

Cadet Forces[edit]

The British cadet forces reflect the ranks of their parent services, so the Army Cadet Force, army sections of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and the various marine cadet organisations have cadet lance corporals as their first NCO rank, in the CCF(RAF) the rank was formerly called junior corporal . The Air Training Corps does not use the rank of LCpl.

United States[edit]


The rank insignia for a U.S. Army lance corporal from 1965 to 1968.

The rank of lance corporal existed in the US Army since at least 1802, as the US Army Institute of Heraldry documents its first occurrence in an “unofficial journal” dated in that year. The first official use of the rank of lance corporal is documented in the General Regulations for the Army, or, Military Institutes, (Articles 18 and 20), authorized by an Act of Congress on March 2, 1821 and published by the War Department in July 1821 and again on March 1, 1825.

In the General Regulations for the Army of the United States (Article XVI, Paragraph 64), published on January 25, 1841, and again in the 1847 edition (Article XIII, Paragraph 121; Article XIV, Paragraph 134; and Article XLIX, Paragraph 818) the rank of lance corporal is authorized. (Lance corporals were to serve as assistant squad leaders.) Again, in the Revised Army Regulations of 1861 published on August 10, 1861 and in the 1863 edition “With An Appendix Containing the Changes and Laws Affecting Army Regulations And Articles Of War To June 25, 1863” (Article 40, Paragraph 971), lance corporal is authorized. Lance corporal is again authorized in Regulations of the Army of the United States and General Orders In Force on the 17th of February 1881 (Article LV, Paragraph 812) and in Regulations of the Army of the United States 1895 (Article XXXII, Paragraph 257).

In the edition of 1901 “With Appendix Separately Indexed And Showing Changes to January 1, 1901”, in the Appendix, page 331, in Headquarters of the Army, General Orders, No. 42, June 30, 1897, Part II, the lance corporal is authorized to wear “…a chevron having one bar…”. In Regulations for the Army of the United States 1904, (Article XXX, Paragraph 263), “…no company shall have more than one lance corporal at a time, unless there are noncommissioned officers absent by authority, during which absences there may be one for each absentee.” This proscription appears again in Article XXX, Paragraph 272 of Regulations for the Army of the United States 1910, and the editions of 1913, and 1917 “Corrected to April 15, 1917 (Changes, Nos. 1 to 55)”.

In 1920 the former lance corporal insignia of rank was assigned to private first class in War Department Circular No. 303, dated 3 August 1920. However, the Institute of Heraldry states that some US Army Tables of Organization and Equipment (TOEs) still authorized lance corporals until circa 1940. In February 1965 the US Army announced that effective September 1, 1965 that pay grade E-3 would be re-designated as lance corporal. The rank insignia was the pre-World War II specialist grade 6 insignia of one chevron above one arc, or “rocker.”

On May 28, 1968 the rank of lance corporal (E-3), with its one chevron - one arc insignia, was redesignated as PFC (E-3), eliminating lance corporal from the U.S. Army for the second time and creating two grades of private, PV1 (E-1), now PVT (E-1), and PV2 (E-2).

Marine Corps[edit]

Lance Corporal's arm badge (USMC)

Lance corporal (LCpl) is the third enlisted rank in order of seniority in the U.S. Marine Corps, just above private first class and below corporal. It is not a non-commissioned officer rank.

The USMC is the only component of the U.S. Armed Forces to currently have lance corporals. Promotion to lance corporal is based on time in grade, time in service, and the conduct of the Marine. Further promotion to the NCO ranks (Corporal and above) is competitive and takes into account the individual service record of the Marine. There can only be a certain number of corporals and sergeants in each MOS, so even with a qualifying score, promotions may be delayed due to an excessive number of corporals occupying billets in a certain MOS.

From the earliest years of the Corps, the ranks of lance corporal and lance sergeant were in common usage. The rank of Lance Corporal has been in the Marine Corps since the 1830s. Marines were appointed temporarily from the next lower rank to the higher grade but were still paid at the lower rank. As the rank structure became more firmly defined, the rank of lance sergeant fell out of use, with rank of lance corporal serving in the Corps into the 1930s, but this unofficial rank became redundant when the rank of private first class was established in 1917. The lance corporal fell out of usage prior to World War II, before it was permanently established in the sweeping rank restructuring of 1958.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lance Corporal: What it means to be an E3 in the Corps". Hi-Desert Star. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  2. ^ NZ Army "Ranks in the New Zealand Army". Retrieved 11 December 2009.
  3. ^ Ylennyksiä. Finnish Defence Forces. 2010-11-21. Retrieved 2015-07-16. (Finnish) The reference gives an example of a field promotion of a private to lance corporal.
  4. ^ Reservin ylennykset. Finnish Defence Forces. 2013-10-07. (Finnish). Retrieved 2015-07-16.
  5. ^ "SAF Military Ranks - Enlistees". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  6. ^ id=179
  7. ^ "New Rank for the RAF Regiment". Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "World War II era Marine Corps enlisted ranks". Retrieved 26 February 2015.