Polish Armed Forces rank insignia

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This article presents the military ranks of the entire Polish Armed Forces as well as the rank insignia used today. The system of rank insignia is a direct descendant of various systems used throughout history by the Polish Army. Some of the grades trace their name back to the Middle Ages, for instance the rank of chorąży literally means a flag bearer or an Ensign.

Names of Polish ranks are often of foreign origin, like the ones introduced by the 17th-century mercenaries serving for the Polish Crown. These include the rank of kapral, which is a derivative of the Italian caporale - much like the English equivalent of corporal.

As the structure of Polish rank names substantially differs from the English one, it seems more appropriate to give the U.S. or U.K. equivalent ranks, based on the common NATO codes, rather than to provide a literal translation which can lead to numerous misinterpretations.

Origins[edit]

Most rank titles are cognates to the ones in English, with some exceptions. Notably colonel's literal meaning is regimental-leader, likewise plutonowy means platoon-leader. Also, the title equivalent to petty officer is identical to the word for boatswain, so a Bosman may or may not be a bosman.

Until World War II, each of the branches of the Land Forces used a set of different names for the same grades. For instance a sergeant was called sierżant in the infantry, ogniomistrz (literally master of fire) in the artillery and wachmistrz (from German Wachtmeister, or Master of the Guards) in the cavalry. This is similar to the German army calling a cavalry officer which is equivalent to Hauptmann a Rittmeister

Modern Polish military practices were heavily influenced by Prussian/German and Russian traditions, as most founding officers after 1918 independence were veterans of those respective armies.

Customs[edit]

The Polish language requires the use of a prior honorific before stating the addressee's rank e.g. 'Panie Kapitanie...' (Sir Captain...). This is directly equivalent to French practice where the possessive Mon is pre-pended to the addressee's rank. During the communist period use of the formal 'Pan' (Sir) was frowned upon and 'Obywatel' (Citizen) (as in: Obywatelu Kapitanie!) was used. This has reverted to prior style in the post-communist era.

It is customary to include other titles when referring to an officer in writing. This can lead to some interesting abbreviations. For example, a Lt. Col. in the airforce by the name Nowak who is a pilot and has an MSc in engineering would be written ppłk pil. mgr inż. Nowak (LtCol plt MEng Nowak).

Uniquely, Polish forces use a two-fingered version of the salute, and the saluting custom does not allow saluting with the fingers to the head without having headgear on (cap/beret or helmet).

Marshal of Poland[edit]

NATO Code OF-10
Coat of arms of Poland-official3.png
Polish
Armed Forces
Army-POL-OF-10.svg Marszalek m.png
Polish name Marszałek Polski
Abbreviation marsz.
English name Marshal of Poland
U.K. equivalent Field Marshal
U.S. equivalent General of the Army

Marshal of Poland (Marszałek Polski) is the highest rank in the Polish Armed Forces. Note that unlike the remaining ranks, it does not belong to any particular service but to the armed forces as a whole. So far only six individuals have been promoted to this rank. With the death of the last surviving holder, Michał Rola-Żymierski in 1989 the rank of Marshal of Poland has been vacant.

Army (Land Forces) and Special Forces[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
 Poland
(Edit)
Army-POL-OF-10.svg Army-POL-OF-09.svg Army-POL-OF-08.svg Army-POL-OF-07.svg Army-POL-OF-06.svg Army-POL-OF-05.svg Army-POL-OF-04.svg Army-POL-OF-03.svg Army-POL-OF-02.svg Army-POL-OF-01a.svg Army-POL-OF-01b.svg No equivalent Pagon podchorazego zawodowej Wyższej Szkoły Oficerskiej.jpg
Marszałek Polski[note 1] Generał Generał broni Generał dywizji Generał brygady Pułkownik Podpułkownik Major Kapitan Porucznik Podporucznik Podchorąży
Abbreviation marsz. gen. gen.broni gen.dyw. gen.bryg. płk ppłk mjr kpt. por. ppor.
U.S./U.K. equivalent Field Marshal General Lieutenant
General
Major
General
Brigadier
General
,
Brigadier
Colonel Lieutenant
Colonel
Major Captain First
Lieutenant
,
Lieutenant
Second
Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Ranks and Privates[edit]

Uniform of a Major of the Polish Army
NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Poland Poland
(Edit)
Army-POL-OR-09a.svg Army-POL-OR-09b.svg Army-POL-OR-08.svg No equivalent Army-POL-OR-07.svg Army-POL-OR-06.svg Army-POL-OR-05.svg Army-POL-OR-04a.svg Army-POL-OR-04b.svg Army-POL-OR-03.svg Army-POL-OR-02.svg
Starszy chorąży sztabowy Starszy chorąży Chorąży Młodszy chorąży Starszy sierżant Sierżant Plutonowy Starszy kapral Kapral Starszy szeregowy
Abbreviation st.chor.szt. st.chor. chor. - mł.chor. st.sierż. sierż. plut. st.kpr. kpr. st.szer.
NATO Code None
Army-POL-OR-01.svg
Polish name Szeregowy
Abbreviation szer.

Air Force[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
Poland Poland
(Edit)
Army-POL-OF-10.svg Rank insignia of generał of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał broni of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał dywizji of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of generał brygady of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of pułkownik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of podpułkownik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of major of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of kapitan of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of porucznik of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of podporucznik of the Air Force of Poland.svg No equivalent Various
Marszałek Polski1 Generał Generał broni Generał dywizji Generał brygady Pułkownik Podpułkownik Major Kapitan Porucznik Podporucznik Podchorąży
Abbreviation marsz. gen. gen.broni gen.dyw. gen.bryg. płk ppłk mjr kpt. por. ppor.
U.S./U.K. equivalent Field Marshal General Lieutenant
General
Major
General
Brigadier
General
,
Brigadier
Colonel Lieutenant
Colonel
Major Captain First
Lieutenant
,
Lieutenant
Second
Lieutenant

Non-Commissioned Ranks and Airmen[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Poland Poland
(Edit)
Rank insignia of starszy chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg No equivalent Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of plutonowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy kapral of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of kapral of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy szeregowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Starszy chorąży sztabowy Starszy chorąży Chorąży Młodszy chorąży Starszy sierżant Sierżant Plutonowy Starszy kapral Kapral Starszy szeregowy
Abbreviation st.chor.szt. st.chor. chor. - mł.chor. st.sierż. sierż. plut. st.kpr. kpr. st.szer.
NATO Code None
Rank insignia of szeregowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Polish name Szeregowy
Abbreviation szer.

Navy[edit]

Commissioned Ranks[edit]

NATO code OF-10 OF-9 OF-8 OF-7 OF-6 OF-5 OF-4 OF-3 OF-2 OF-1 OF(D) Student officer
Poland Poland
(Edit)
Army-POL-OF-10.svg POL PMW pagon1 admirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 admirał floty.svg POL PMW pagon1 wiceadmirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 kontradmirał.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor porucznik.svg POL PMW pagon1 komandor podporucznik.svg POL PMW pagon1 kapitan marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 porucznik marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 podporucznik marynarki.svg No equivalent Various
Marszałek Polski[note 1] Admirał Admirał floty Wiceadmirał Kontradmirał Komandor Komandor porucznik Komandor podporucznik Kapitan marynarki Porucznik marynarki Podporucznik marynarki Podchorąży
Abbreviation marsz. adm. adm.fl. wadm. kadm. kmdr kmdr por. kmdr ppor. kpt.mar. por.mar. ppor.mar.
U.S./U.K. equivalent Field Marshal Admiral Vice
Admiral
Rear
Admiral
Rear
Admiral
(lower half)
/
Commodore
Captain Commander Lieutenant
Commander
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
/
Sub-lieutenant
Ensign

Petty Officers and Seamen[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-8 OR-7 OR-6 OR-5 OR-4 OR-3 OR-2 OR-1
Poland Poland
(Edit)
POL PMW pagon1 starszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 młodszy chorąży marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosman.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosman.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosmanmat.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy mat.svg POL PMW pagon1 mat.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy marynarz.svg POL PMW pagon1 marynarz.svg
Starszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki Starszy chorąży marynarki Chorąży marynarki Młodszy chorąży marynarki Starszy bosman Bosman Bosmanmat Starszy mat Mat Starszy marynarz Marynarz
Abbreviation st.chor.szt.mar. st.chor.mar. chor.mar. mł.chor.mar. st.bsm. bsm. bsmt st.mat mat st.mar. mar.

Obsolete Ranks[edit]

Ranks Discontinued on July 1, 2004[edit]

NATO Code OR-9 OR-7 OR-4
POL Wojska Lądowe.svg
Army
Rank insignia of chorąży sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant sztabowy of the Army of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy plutonowy of the Army of Poland.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
sierżant
sztabowy
sierżant
sztabowy
starszy
plutonowy
Abbreviation chor.szt. mł.chor.szt. st.sierż.szt. sierż.szt. st.plut.
U.S./Commonwealth equivalent Command
Sergeant
Major
First sergeant Sergeant
1st Class
Sergeant
1st Class
Corporal,
Corporal First Class
POL Wojska Lotnicze.svg
Air Force
Rank insignia of chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of młodszy chorąży sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy sierżant sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of sierżant sztabowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg Rank insignia of starszy plutonowy of the Air Force of Poland.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
starszy
sierżant
sztabowy
sierżant
sztabowy
starszy
plutonowy
Abbreviation chor.szt. mł.chor.szt. st.sierż.szt. sierż.szt. st.plut.
U.S./Commonwealth equivalent Command
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Chief
Master
Sergeant
Senior Master
Sergeant
Master
Sergeant
Senior
Airman

(Sergeant till 1990)
POL Marynarka Wojenna.svg
Navy
POL PMW pagon1 chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 młodszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosman sztabowy.svg POL PMW pagon1 bosman sztabowy.svg POL PMW pagon1 starszy bosmanmat.svg
Polish name chorąży
sztabowy
marynarki
młodszy
chorąży
sztabowy
marynarki
starszy
bosman
sztabowy
bosman
sztabowy
starszy
bosmanmat
Abbreviation chor.szt.mar. mł.chor.szt.mar. st.bosm.szt. bosm.szt. st.bosmat
U.S./Commonwealth equivalent Command
Master Chief
Petty Officer

Fleet Chief
Petty Officer
Master Chief
Petty Officer
Command Senior Chief
Petty Officer
Chief
Petty Officer
Petty Officer
Third Class

Master Seaman

Other changes after July 1, 2004[edit]

Until 2004 the ranks of chorąży (OR-9 and OR-8) constituted a separate group, roughly corresponding to U.S. Warrant Officers. On July 1, 2004 the number of these ranks was reduced and they were included in the group of non-commissioned ranks.

Pay Grade changes on July 1, 2004[edit]

  • starszy chorąży/starszy chorąży marynarki: OR-8 to OR-9
  • młodszy chorąży/młodszy chorąży marynarki: OR-8 to OR-7
  • starszy Kapral/starszy mat: OR-3 to OR-4

On January 1, 2014 all reserve NCOs, holders of the rank of chorąży sztabowy / chorąży sztabowy marynarki and młodszy chorąży sztabowy / młodszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki were promoted to the rank of starszy chorąży sztabowy / starszy chorąży sztabowy marynarki; holders of the rank of starszy sierżant sztabowy / starszy bosman sztabowy and sierżant sztabowy / bosman sztabowy were promoted to the rank of młodszy chorąży / młodszy chorąży marynarki; and holders of the rank of starszy plutonowy / starszy bosmanmat were promoted to the rank of sierżant / bosman.

Thus the ranks discontinued on July 1, 2004 were officially abolished in the Polish Armed Forces.

Historical Ranks in the Polish Armed Forces[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Title; Honorary or posthumous rank; war time rank; ceremonial rank

References[edit]