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The term used to refer to all ranks below officers is Other Ranks (ORs). It includes Warrant Officers, Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and ordinary soldiers with the rank of Private or equivalent. Officers may, in speaking, distinguish themselves from those "in the ranks".

VariantsEdit

Bombardier/Lance Bombardier are ranks of the Royal Artillery.

In the Foot Guards and Honourable Artillery Company:

  • lance corporals wear two chevrons rather than one (allegedly because Queen Victoria did not like the look of one chevron, and thus decreed her personal troops would have at least two);
  • corporals are automatically appointed Lance Sergeant, wearing three chevrons; in full dress, a lance sergeant's chevrons are white, whereas a full sergeant's are gold.

The Household Cavalry maintains the old cavalry tradition of having no rank of sergeant (allegedly because the word Sergeant is descended from Servant and such a title was considered inappropriate for Household troops), which was originally an infantry rank only. It has its own peculiar set of insignia and ranks with the following equivalents:

  • Staff Corporal = Staff Sergeant: four chevrons, point up and worn on the lower sleeve, with metal crown above;
  • Corporal of Horse = Sergeant: three chevrons, point down, with a metal crown above (confusingly similar to the insignia of a Staff Sergeant in other units);
  • Lance Corporal of Horse = Lance Sergeant (Corporal): same as a Corporal of Horse, but with a cloth crown rather than a metal one;
  • Lance Corporal: two chevrons, with a crown above.

Similarly, warrant officer appointments are different, with, for example, Regimental Corporal Major being used in place of Regimental Sergeant Major.

Uniquely, non-commissioned officers and warrant officers of the Household Cavalry do not wear any insignia on their full dress uniforms (although officers do). Rank is indicated by a system of aiguillettes.

In several cavalry regiments including the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards and the Queen's Royal Hussars, NCO's holding the rank of Lance Corporal wear two stripes. Full Corporals are distinguished by the addition of a cypher above their two stripes in dress uniforms.

Staff Sergeants in an appointment as Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant in the cavalry, sometimes wear four stripes with a crown and are referred to as "Sergeant Major". The term "mister" then being given to WO2's.

Origins and historyEdit

The chevrons worn by many non-commissioned officers are based on heraldic devices and their current use for NCOs originates from the time of the Napoleonic Wars in 1802. As today, sergeants wore three chevrons, point downwards, on the upper arm, and corporals wore two, with sergeant-majors and quarter-master-sergeants then having four. Lance corporal, at the time not a rank but an appointment historically known as chosen man and carrying extra pay for privates holding it, were given a single chevron a few years later, and later in the century the lance-sergeant appeared, wearing three chevrons.

The Royal Artillery had the special rank of bombardier below the corporal, and both he and the acting bombardier wore one chevron. The Royal Engineers and Army Ordnance Corps also had an additional rank of second corporal, who wore one chevron. On full-dress tunics, badges in white or gold lace were worn only on the right arm, but on service dress jackets, badges in worsted embroidery were worn on both arms. In February 1918 the acting bombardier was renamed lance-bombardier, and the full bombardier gained a second chevron in 1920 replacing the rank of corporal in the RA. Second corporals also disappeared at that time (second corporal had been an actual rank, whereas lance-corporal was a private acting in the rank of corporal).

The pre-war infantry rank of Colour Sergeant had generally given way to the ranks of company sergeant-major and quartermaster-sergeant in 1914 when the four-company organisation was introduced. Both of these ranks, their squadron and battery equivalents, and staff-sergeants in other arms, wore three chevrons and a crown, although in 1915 company, battery, squadron and troop sergeant-majors became warrant officers class II (by Army Order 70) and thereafter wore a single large crown, without any chevrons, on each forearm. Note the designation of Warrant officer classes was in Roman rather than Arabic numerals until the latter half of the 20th century.

Regimental quartermaster-sergeants wore four chevrons on the lower sleeve, point upwards, with a star above, but adopted the crown when they too became warrant officers class II in 1915. In their case, however, the crown was surrounded by a wreath. Regimental sergeant-majors, who before the Boer War had worn four chevrons with a crown, were given in 1902 the badge of a single large crown on the lower arm, but adopted a small version of the Royal arms in its place in 1915 when they became warrant officers class I.

There were also certain senior grades of warrant officer, peculiar to the specialist branches, which ranked above regimental sergeant-majors. These were the conductors of the Army Ordnance Corps and the first-class staff sergeant-majors of the Army Service Corps and the Army Pay Corps. They also wore a large crown, surrounded by a wreath, on the lower arm, although in 1918 this was replaced by the Royal Arms within a wreath. The RA also had its Master Gunners in three classes, but these were technical specialists and not normally seen in the field. The Royal Arms within a wreath is the badge of rank for a Conductor, the most senior of all WO1 appointments, confined to the Royal Logistic Corps and held by fewer than twenty people as of 2004.

From 1938, there was also a rank of Warrant Officer Class III. The only appointments held by this rank were Platoon Sergeant Major, Troop Sergeant Major and Section Sergeant Major. The WOIII wore a crown on his lower sleeve. The rank was placed in suspension in 1940 and no new appointments were made, but it was never officially abolished. From 1938 to 1947 all WOII ranks wore the crown in wreath rank now worn by Regimental Quartermaster Sergeants.

The grades of lance-sergeant and lance-corporal were not strictly ranks, but were appointments, held by selected corporals and privates, and usually carrying extra pay. The appointment was made by the man's commanding officer and could be taken away by him for disciplinary reasons, unlike full sergeants and corporals who could only be demoted by order of a court martial. It is only since 1961 that lance-corporal has been a separate rank in its own right, and the appointment of lance-sergeant was discontinued in 1946, except in the Foot Guards and Honourable Artillery Company (and its equivalent, lance-corporal of horse, in the Household Cavalry).

Sergeant or SerjeantEdit

The spelling serjeant is sometimes seen. This was in fact the official spelling, even during and after World War I – though interestingly not in the Royal Air Force – and appeared in such publications as King's Regulations and the Pay Warrant, which defined the various ranks. In common usage the modern spelling sergeant was already more usual, as for instance in the volumes of the Official History which began to appear in the 1920s. Serjeant-at-Arms is a title still held by members of the security staff in the Houses of Parliament. Also, in the newly amalgamated infantry regiment The Rifles, the spelling of Serjeant is held with the 'J' in place of the 'G'.[1] This is currently the only British Army regiment using the alternate spelling.

Historical RanksEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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