Major-general (United Kingdom)

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For the 17th century Cromwellian regime, see Rule of the Major-Generals.
For other countries which use this rank, see major general.
British Army insignia
Royal Marines insignia

Major General (Maj Gen), is a 2 star rank in the British Army[1] and Royal Marines. The rank was also briefly used by the Royal Air Force for a year and a half, to August 1919. In the British Army, a Major General is the customary rank for the appointment of Division commander. In the Royal Marines, the rank of Major General is held by the Commandant General.

A Major General is senior to a Brigadier but subordinate to Lieutenant General. The rank has a NATO rank code of OF-7, equivalent to a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy or an Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries.

The rank insignia is the star (or 'pip') of the Order of the Bath, over a crossed sword and baton, similar to that of a Deputy Chief Constable in the police.

In terms of orthography, compound ranks were invariably hyphenated, prior to about 1980. Nowadays the rank is almost equally invariably non-hyphenated. To see the confusion in a source as definitive as the London Gazette, compare the entries in these two editions from 1979: firstly: [2] from June, and then:[3] from November. When written as a title, especially before a person's name, both words of the rank are always capitalised, whether using the 'traditional' hyphenated style of, say, the two World Wars, or the modern un-hyphenated style. [4][5] When used as common nouns, they might be written in lower-case: 'Major-General Montgomery was one of several major-generals to be promoted at this time'.

British Army usage[edit]

In the British Army, a division is commanded by a Major General. However, other appointments may also be held by major generals. For example, the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is a Major General.

Until around the 1980s, the heads of each branch of service, such as the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Artillery and the Corps of Infantry were major-generals. Other, administrative, commands were also appointments for a Major-General. In addition, in wartime, the senior officer of the Royal Army Chaplains Department, the Chaplain-General, and similar appointments, were accorded 'the relative precedence' - that is to say the equivalence rather than the full powers and authority - of the rank of Major-General.

Royal Marines usage[edit]

The Commandant General Royal Marines has held the rank of Major General since 1996, when the post was downgraded from Lieutenant General. As in the British Army, a Royal Marine Major General ranks below Lieutenant General and above Brigadier.

Royal Air Force usage[edit]

From its foundation on 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force (RAF) briefly maintained the rank of Major-General. The service was a wartime amalgamation of the Army's Royal Flying Corps and the Navy's Royal Naval Air Service, so the Third Service ranks were a compromise between these two traditions. The insignia of the rank was derived from that of a Royal Navy Rear-Admiral and featured a broad gold stripe on the cuff below one narrow gold stripe. The two stripes were surmounted by an eagle (volant and affronty) under a king's crown. The RAF replaced the rank of Major-General with the rank of Air Vice-Marshal on the 1 August 1919.

Despite the short duration, the significance of the RAF to modern warfare was indicated by the number of senior officers who did wear the rank of Major-General in the RAF:

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