Military Wiki
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
United Kingdom United Kingdom File:UK-Army-OF10.gif File:UK-Army-OF9.gif File:UK-Army-OF8.gif UK-Army-OF7 File:UK-Army-BrigGen.gif File:UK-Army-OF6.gif File:UK-Army-OF5.gif File:UK-Army-OF4.gif File:UK-Army-OF3.gif File:UK-Army-OF2.gif File:UK-Army-OF1a.gif File:UK-Army-OF1b.gif No Equivalent File:UK-Army-OF1d.gif
Field Marshal1 General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General
(until 1920)
(since 1920)
Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Officer Cadet
Abbreviation: FM Gen Lt Gen Maj Gen Brig Col Lt Col Maj Capt Lt 2Lt OCdt
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

1 Rank in abeyance - appointments no longer made to this rank in peacetime.


In the 17th and 18th centuries, rank was generally denoted by the quantity of lace and through other decoration used on uniforms. While a crossed sword and baton was already used by generals by 1800, until the Crimean War, the different grades of general were only distinguished by the grouping of the buttons on their coats - General: even spaced buttons; Lieutenant General: buttons in groups of three; Major General and Brigadier General: buttons in pairs.[citation needed] Badges for field officers were first introduced in 1810, and for captains and subaltern officers in 1855. These badges consisted of (and still consist of) crowns and stars, the latter being more likely to be called 'pips' today (although this term is technically incorrect). Colonel: a crown and a star; Lieutenant Colonel: a Crown; Major: a star. These rank insignia were worn on shoulder epaulets. After crimean war, 1855 a new dress regulation was published for British army, In this regulation, British army introduced new and complete rank insignias for officers. According to Dress regulation, rank insignias were as follows-

Field Marshal 1 inch wide oak leaves and acorn designed laces on upper and lower collar with cross two red baton above the wreath of oak leaves.
General Similar collar with one crown and one pip
Lt General Similar collar with one crown
Maj General Similar collar with one pip.
Brig General 1/2 inch staff pattern laces on upper and lower collar with one crown and one pip.
Colonel 1/2 inch regimental pattern laces on upper and lower collar with one crown and one pip
Lt Colonel Similar collar with one crown
Major Similar collar with one pip
Captain 1/2 inch regimental lace on upper collar with one crown and one pip
Lieutenant Similar collar with one crown
Ensign/ Cornet/ Sub Lt/ 2nd Lt Similar collar with one pip.

After 1864, Another dress regulations was published, there was a change in the insignia of Brig Gen. According to 1864 dress regulations, Brig Gen wore 1 inch oak leaves and acron designed laces on upper and lower collar and no pip and crown.

During 1855 to 1880, Guards infantry regimental officers were wore different rank insignias. Colonel, Lt Colonel and Major wore 1/2 inch regimental pattern laces on upper and lower collar with one crown and one pip. Captain wore similar collar with one crown. Brevet Major- Similar collar with one pip. Lt- similar lace on upper collar with one crown and one pip, Ensign- Similar collar with one crown. Whereas Life Guards and Horse Guards regimental officers wore similar rank insignias of Line infantry.

After 1874, another dress regulation was introduced, collar devices are same for field and Company grade officers, but collar pattern was changed. Line, Light and fusilier regiments were used one pattern collar, Dragoon Guards and Dragoon used another pattern, Hussar another pattern, Lancer another pattern. Individual types regiment and corps used different pattern of collar. This pattern collar was continued until Queen VIctoria's death.

The star is that of the Order of the Bath, except in the Household regiments. The Life Guards, Blues and Royals, Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Welsh Guards use the star of the Order of the Garter, the Scots Guards that of the Order of the Thistle, and the Irish Guards that of the Order of St Patrick. The Crown has varied in the past, with the King's Imperial Crown being used from 1910 until it was replaced by the St Edward's Crown from the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

All officers' badges on service dress were originally of gilding metal, except for Rifle regiments and the Royal Army Chaplains' Department, which used bronze instead. A variety of alternative materials and prints have been used on various styles of dress.

The insignia was moved to the shoulder boards in 1880 for all officers in full dress, when the system of crowns and stars was reorganised on similar lines to that seen today. Exceptions included the rank of Brigadier General (now Brigadier- see below) and until 1902, a Captain had just two stars and a Lieutenant one star. From 1871, the rank of Ensign (Cornet in cavalry regiments) was replaced with the rank of Second Lieutenant, which had no insignia. The 1902 change gave the latter a single star and the insignia of Lieutenants and Captains were increased to two and three stars respectively. In addition to the shoulder badges, officers' ranks were also reflected in the amount and pattern of gold lace worn on the cuffs of the full-dress tunic.

Brigadier-Generals wore a crossed sword and baton symbol on its own. In 1922 the rank was replaced with Colonel-Commandant, a title that reflected the role more accurately, but which many considered to be inappropriate in a British context. From 1928 the latter was replaced with the rank of Brigadier with the rank insignia used to this day.

In 1902, a complex system of markings with bars and loops in thin drab braid above the cuff (known irreverently as the asparagus bed) was used at first, but this was replaced in the same year by a combination of narrow rings of worsted braid around the cuff, with the full-dress style shoulder badges on a three-pointed cuff flap. Based on equivalent naval ranks, Colonels had four rings of braid, Lieutenant-Colonels and majors three, captains two and subalterns one. In the case of Scottish regiments, the rings were around the top of the gauntlet-style cuff and the badges on the cuff itself. General officers still wore their badges on the shoulder strap.

British officer rank ww1

Officer insignia of rank as worn on the sleeves in the World War I period.

During World War I, some officers took to wearing similar jackets to the men, with the rank badges on the shoulder, as the cuff badges made them too conspicuous to snipers. This practice was frowned on outside the trenches but was given official sanction in 1917 as an optional alternative, being made permanent in 1920, when the cuff badges were abolished.

Today, when in combat dress (Combat Soldier 95) the 'rank slide' is worn on the centre of the chest, rather than on the shoulder.

Historical ranks[]

  • Captain-General: (ca. 17th century) a full General.
  • Sergeant-Major-General: (ca. 17th century) shortened to Major General.
  • Brigadier-General: replaced by Colonel-Commandant in 1922.
  • Colonel-Commandant: replaced by Brigadier in 1928.
  • Sergeant-Major's Major: (ca. 17th century) shortened to Major.
  • Captain-Lieutenant: (ca. 17th & 18th century) the lieutenant of the first company in a regiment, whose captaincy was held by the regimental colonel. On promotion to full captain, the period in this rank was treated as having been a full captain for pay and pension purposes, since he effectively commanded the company.
  • Ensign: lowest subaltern rank in infantry regiments; replaced in 1871 by Second Lieutenant, but still used to refer to Second Lieutenants in some Guards regiments.
  • Cornet: cavalry equivalent of ensign replaced in 1871 by Second Lieutenant, but still used to refer to Second Lieutenants in some cavalry regiments, including the Blues and Royals and The Queen's Royal Hussars.

External links[]

See also[]

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