Ranks in the French Army

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Rank insignia in the French Army are worn on the sleeve or on shoulder marks of uniforms, and range up to the highest rank of Marshal of France, a state honour denoted with a seven-star insignia that was last conferred posthumously on Marie Pierre Koenig in 1984.

Infantry arms and cavalry arms[edit]

Rank insignia in the French army depend on whether the soldier belongs to an infantry or cavalry unit. The infantry arms (armes à pied) include normal infantry, naval troops, the Foreign Legion and engineers; cavalry arms (armes à cheval) include armoured cavalry, artillery, maintenance and logistics. Sleeves are emblazoned with marks denoting either gold insignia for the infantry or silver/white for the cavalry. However, the artillery uses gold as the main colour, despite being a cavalry branch, and spahis use gold as the main colour despite being part of the cavalry, a distinction representing the armoured cavalry.


Insignia of a marshal of France

The title of "marshal of France" (maréchal de France) is awarded as a distinction, rather than a rank. The marshals wear seven stars and carry a baton.

As a distinction rather than a rank, the title of Marshal is granted through a special law voted by the French Parliament. For this reason, it is impossible to demote a Marshal. The most famous example is Philippe Pétain, who became famous as Maréchal Pétain, chief of state of the Vichy France regime. When he was tried for high treason, the judges were empowered to demote his other ranks and titles, but due to the principle of separation of powers, the judges had no authority to cancel the law that had made Pétain a Marshal and it remained the only title he kept after being sentenced.

Six marshals of France have been given the even more exalted rank of "Marshal General of France" (Maréchal général de France): Duke de Biron, Duke de Lesdiguières, Viscount de Turenne, de Villars, Count de Saxe and Jean-de-Dieu Soult.


Although they all wear the same insignia and titles, officers are divided into:

  • Regular officers of the army
  • Officers of the Armed Forces Commisariat Corps (formerly Army Commisariat Corps)
  • Officers of the technical and administrative corps of the armed forces (formerly of the Army)

Officiers généraux - general officers[edit]

Rank insignia Name Description
Shoulder[1] Sleeve[1] Camouflage[1] French English translation
OF-9 Général d'armée Army general In command of an army.
OF-8 Général de corps d'armée Army corps general In command of an army corps.[note 1]
OF-7 Général de division Divisional general In command of a division.
OF-6 Général de brigade Brigade general In command of a brigade, or of a région in the Gendarmerie.

There is no distinction between infantry and cavalry generals, since they are all supposed to be able to command any type of unit. The rank was formerly designated as Lieutenant-General of the Armies until 1791. The official historic succession of the "Lieutenant-General of France" corresponded to Général de division for the French Army, and Vice-Amiral (Vice-Admiral) for the French Navy. The rank of Général de corps d'armée wasn't officially adopted until 1939, along with five other French Armed Forces ranks. It must also be noted that Army corps general and Army general are not really ranks, but styles and positions (Rang et appellation in french) bestowed upon a Divisional general, which is the highest substantive rank in the French Army.

Officiers supérieurs - senior officers[edit]

Rank insignia Name Notes
Shoulder Camouflage French English translation
OF-5 Colonel Colonel A colonel commands a regiment of the army or a groupement of the Gendarmerie. During the French Revolution, they were called chef de brigade. Cavalry arms wear silver. The origin of the difference in metal colour is that infantry officers once wore silver epaulettes, while those of the cavalry and other arms wore gold, and the colour of the rank badge had to differ from these metals in each case.[citation needed]
OF-4 Lieutenant-colonel Lieutenant colonel The lieutenant-colonel has the same responsibilities as a colonel. They were called major during the First French Empire.
OF-3 Commandant Commandant Also called chef de bataillon in the infantry, chef d'escadrons in the cavalry and chef d'escadron in the artillery and in the army light aviation) is equivalent to a major in most English-speaking countries.

Officiers subalternes - junior officers[edit]

Rank insignia Name Notes
Shoulder Camouflage French English translation
OF-2 Capitaine Captain In command of a company (French: compagnie) of infantry, a squadron (French: escadron) of cavalry or a battery (French: batterie) of artillery.
OF-1 Lieutenant Lieutenant Commands a platoon (French: section) of infantry, a troop (French: peloton) of cavalry, or a brigade of the Gendarmerie.
Sous-lieutenant Sub-lieutenant Commands at the same level as a lieutenant, but is a more junior officer rank.
Aspirant Aspirant An Officer Designate rank. Technically it is not a commissioned rank but it is still treated in all respects as one. Aspirants are either officers in training in military academies or voluntaries, serving as temporary officers. The aspirant must have been previously élève officier (Officer Cadet). They can afterwards be commissioned as a sous-lieutenant. The insignia is a single curl of gold lace, disrupted by "flashes" of wool. It was widely used during both World Wars for providing young educated people with an officer's authority.
Élève officier Officer cadet A rank held during the first years at the officer academies (École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, École militaire interarmes or École des officiers de la gendarmerie nationale)

Sous-officiers - sub-officers, i.e. non-commissioned officers[edit]

Rank insignia Name Notes
Shoulder Camouflage French English translation
OR-9 Major Major Senior sub-officer rank since 1 January 2009 this grade is attached to the sous-officiers. Prior to this date it was an independent corps between the sous-officiers and the officiers. There is typically at least one Major per regiment and several in a brigade.
Adjudant-chef Chief Adjutant Often same responsibilities as the lieutenant.
OR-8 Adjudant Adjutant Often same responsibilities as an adjudant-chef.
OR-7 Sergent-chef brevet militaire de 2e niveau (infantry)
Maréchal-des-logis-chef de 1ere classe (Cavalry)
Brevet chief sergeant 2nd level
Chief marshal of lodgings first class
Introduced in September 2022, as part of a reform to the NCO ranks.[2]
OR-6 Sergent-Chef (infantry)
Maréchal des logis-chef (Cavalry)
Chief sergeant
Chief marshal of lodgings
Addressed as "chef". Typically a platoon second-in-command.
OR-5 Sergent (infantry)
Maréchal des logis (Cavalry)
Marshal of lodgings
Typically in command of a "group" (i.e. squad).
Élève sous-officier NCO student NCO candidates at the ENSOA.

Aspirants are cadet officers still in training. Sous-lieutenants are junior officers and are often aided by adjudants or adjudants-chefs, who are experienced NCOs/warrant officers.

Full lieutenants are experienced junior officers, served by sergeants when commanding their unit.

A four chevron sergent-chef-major rank existed until 1947. It was a ceremonial rank usually given to the most senior or experienced NCO in a unit. It was discontinued in the post-war army due to its redundancy.[citation needed]

Militaires du rang - Troop ranks[edit]

Junior enlisted grades have different cloth stripe and beret colour depending on the service they are assigned to. Troupes métropolitaines ("from the French mainland") units wear blue, Troupes de marine (the former troupes coloniales') wear red, and the Légion Étrangère (Foreign Legion) units wear green.

A red beret indicates a paratrooper, whether from the "troupes de marine" or not. A legionnaire paratrooper wears a green beret with the general parachutist badge on it, the same badge used by all French Army paratroopers who completed their training.

Senior grades' lace stripe metal depends on their arm of service, just like the officiers. Infantry and support units wear gold stripes and cavalry and technical services units wear silver stripes.

Rank insignia Name Notes
Shoulder Camouflage French English translation
OR-4 Caporal-chef de première classe Chief corporal first class Distinction created in 1999. Caporal-chef after at least 11 years of service and appropriate degree.
Caporal-chef (infantry)
Brigadier-chef (Cavalry)
Chief corporal
Chief brigadier
Often same responsibilities as a sergent.
OR-3 Caporal (infantry)
Brigadier (Cavalry)
In command of an équipe - literally a team (fireteam). Presently this size unit is a trinôme in the army.
OR-2 Soldat de première classe Soldier first class This is a distinction rather than a rank.
  • Soldat de deuxième classe: No rank insignia. Depending on the arm, they are called
    • Fantassin (infantry)
    • Légionnaire (French Foreign Legion)
    • Artilleur (artillery)
    • Sapeur (engineering, including the Paris Fire Brigade)
    • Chasseur ("hunter": light troops used for reconnaissance and harassment)
    • Dragon (dragoon: mounted infantry unit)
    • Cuirassier (heavy cavalry unit)
    • Hussard (hussar, light cavalry unit)
    • Transmetteur (signals corps)
    • Conducteur (trains)
  • Slang
    • Bigor (artillerie de la marine; see Troupes de marine): A term either from the gunner's order to fire (Bigue de hors) or a term for a species of winkle (bigorneau) because they would stick to their emplacements and couldn't be removed easily.
    • Colo (French Colonial Forces): The former term for the troupes de la marine when they were colonial troops.
    • Para (troupes aéroportées): Airborne troops, short for "parachutist".
    • Gazier (troupes aéroportées): Airborne troops "grunt". Friendly nickname.
    • Marsouin (literally "porpoise"; marines or naval infantry)
    • Poilu (infanterie): "Hairy one". A term that appeared during the First Empire and used to refer to the French soldiers as they often wore a beard and/or a moustache—and were represented that way on memorials. Nowadays, this term is used to refer to French soldiers who fought in the trenches of WW1, though it is seldom used to refer to WW2 soldiers. It is synonym of bravery and endurance.
    • Biffin slang used by troupes de marine and fusiliers marins to designate other infantry units. Probably comes from the fact that 'marsouins and naval riflemen used to own their uniform and were proud of it, whereas other units were dressed in rags (biffe is an old French word for rag). This word is not used to designate a legionnaire.

There are also distinctions to distinguish volunteers and conscripts, and bars for experience (one for five years, up to four can be obtained).

Engineer officer ranks[edit]

Rank insignia Name Notes
Ingénieurs de l'armement Ingénieurs des études et
techniques de l'armement
French English translation
OF-9 Ingénieur général de classe exceptionnelle Engineer general exceptional class
OF-8 Ingénieur général hors classe Engineer general special class
OF-7 Ingénieur général de première classe Engineer general first class
OF-6 Ingénieur général de deuxième classe Engineer general second class
OF-5 Ingénieur en chef de première classe Chief engineer first class
OF-4 Ingénieur en chef de deuxième classe Chief engineer second class
OF-3 Ingénieur principal Principal engineer
OF-2 Ingénieur de première classe Engineer first class
OF-1 Ingénieur de deuxième classe Engineer second class
Ingénieur de troisième classe Engineer third class
Aspirant Aspirant

Army Commissariat Service officer ranks[edit]

These ranks apply the word commissaire in light of their participation and role in the Commissariat Service of the army.

Rank insignia Name Notes
Shoulder French English translation
OF-8 Commissaire général de corps d'armée Commissary army corps general
OF-7 Commissaire général de division Commissary divisional general
OF-6 Commissaire général de brigade Commissary brigade general
OF-5 Commissaire colonel Commissary Colonel
OF-4 Commissaire lieutenant-colonel Commissary Lieutenant colonel
OF-3 Commissaire commandant Commissary Commandant
OF-2 Commissaire capitaine Commissary Captain
OF-1 Commissaire lieutenant Commissary Lieutenant
Commissaire sous-lieutenant Commissary Sub-lieutenant
Élève commissaire Commissary Officer cadet

Military chaplains[edit]

Rank Insignia
Christian Jewish Muslim
Chief military chaplain
Deputy chief military chaplain
Regional military chaplain
Military chaplain
Lay person - military chaplain
Catholic chaplaincy of the army
Reserve military chaplain

Ranks formerly used in the Army[edit]

  • Brigadier des armées du roi (lit.'Brigadier of the king's armies') lowest general officer rank of the Ancien Régime Army.
  • Sergent-Major was a rank created in 1776 and was renamed Sergent-Chef in 1928. The four-chevron NCO rank of Sergent-Major was re-established in 1942, now given to company administrative Sous-officiers, and ranked between the three-chevron Sergent-Chef and Adjudant. Eventually promotions were put on hold in 1962. The rank was officially abolished in 1971, though present rank holders were allowed to continue to use it. The last Sergent-Major retired in 1985.
  • Sergent appelés ("Conscript Sergeant" - Foot) / Maréchal des logis appelés ("Conscript Sergeant" - Horse) was a rank given to a conscript promoted to Sergeant while they were on National Service. A career Sergent or Maréchal des logis who had enlisted (who wore two lace chevrons instead of the conscript's one) would outrank them.
  • Fourrier ("Quartermaster") - A sous-officier in charge of distributing rations, keeping the unit's accounts, and arranging and assigning living quarters when the company was on the march. If there wasn't a decent-sized town or city on the route, the Fourrier would travel with the Pionniers to clear and set up a campsite for the unit.
  • Anspessade (archaic)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Général de corps d'armée in the French Armed Forces, is the third ranking order of the general officer corps, based on the hierarchical order. The designation of a général de corps d'armée is situated above a général de division and underneath the designation of général d'armée. By regulation, the rank refers to an officer of the rank of « Général de division » who receives the « rank and designation » of a « Général de corps d'armée ». This rank would command an Army Corps, a unit composing several Divisions. The insignia is composed of 4 stars. A Presidential Decree on 19 November 1873 introduced for a first time the notion of "corps armée". A circular on 17 March 1921 depicted that generals commanding an Army Corps (French: corps d'armée) would wear a 4th star, forming with the first three, a diamond shape. The generals commanding the army and the members of the Superior War Council wore a 5th star, superposed in the first 4 stars. Finally a Law Decree of 6 June 1939 made official, the designations and ranks referrals of "Général d'armée", "Général de corps d'armée", "Amiral", "Vice-amiral d'escadre", "Général d'armée aérienne" et "Général de corps aérien".


  1. ^ a b c Instruction N° 10300/DEF/EMAT/LOG/ASH (PDF) (in French). Staff of the French Army. 13 June 2005. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Première remise du nouveau galon de SCH BM2 par le CEMAT". rh-terre.defense.gouv.fr (in French). 7 September 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2022.