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Rank and Appointment badges



Rank and Appointments for soldiers below commissioned rank in the Great War.




This series of notes will concentrate, but not exclusively, on the infantry of the regular army. In this context ‘regular’ includes all Special Reservists, all recalled Reservists, all volunteers in the New Armies, and, eventually, all conscripts.

On 4th August 1914 there were nine rank groupings. The King’s Regulations [KR] Para 282 list them as follows [i, ii, and vii below were not infantry ranks. For the purpose of this introduction I have simplified the list and excluded, for example, Household Cavalry ‘Corporal’-based equivalents].

Warrant Officer [not included in the rank numbering series]

i. Master Gunner 3rd class RA

ii. Army Schoolmaster when not a warrant officer

iii. Quartermaster -sergeant or serjeant

iv. Colour-serjeant

v. Serjeant

vi. Corporal

vii. Bombardier RA and 2nd Corporal RE

viii. Private.

Boy was the lowest of the low, any soldier before his 18th birthday, and he was included in the headcount of Privates for official purposes, Establishments etc. Boys could not smoke or swear without punishment, but could be appointed drummer etc before 18 if qualified and if a vacancy existed.

Essentially, rank determined the basic pay of the soldier, and he could not be deprived of it without a formal administrative process, such as Court Martial or other prescribed procedure. KR at this time maintained the old seniority structure whereby, rank for rank, a Regular was senior to a Special Reservist who in turn was senior to a member of the Territorial Force. This distinction was subsequently abolished.



Private and Boy.

A Boy could enlist for a specific ‘trade’ [for want of a better description] and was not allowed to transfer if engaged as a tailor, shoemaker or saddler. If he was taken as a trumpeter, drummer, bugler [Rifles and Light Infantry], piper or bandsman, transfers to other occupations were possible. The minimum age [Regulars] was 14 and they became army men at their 18th official birthday, which was the date they offered on enlistment. It was usual for Boys to be required to give proof of age and parental permission. Boys enlisted for nine years plus three years on the Regular Reserve, unless they were to be tailors or shoemakers, who undertook to serve twelve years with the colours and with no reserve liability. The maximum number of Boys allowed on the establishment of a battalion was 16 as band or drums, and four as tradesmen. No specific regulation has been traced that sanctions the wearing by Boys of ‘trade’ appointment badges, but they certainly did so. A Boy was paid 8d per day, 4d less than the minimum for a Private, so there was an incentive to lie about one’s age. Boys could and did go on Active Service in their trade/ appointment, with the Commanding Officer’s approval.

Privates held rank as:

Trooper [Cavalry], gunner RA, Driver RA, Sapper RE, and Pioneer RE. Note that the widespread ‘Rifleman’ had no official sanction until after the war, nor were modernisms such as Guardsman or Fusilier etc. listed.  Drummers ,pipers, buglers earned 1d more than privates.. Drummers were not officially ‘Rank and File’, which was up to full Corporal but excluded Drummers and their equivalents. In Line Infantry and the Foot Guards, a Drummer had to master drum, bugle and flute [fife] and usually carried two out of the three instruments.


A recruit would be sent to the Depôt where he was clothed and equipped and his training would begin with the recruits’ musketry course. After that he would usually be sent to the home service battalion in the first instance. The length of service to which he was initially committed was seven years with the colours and five years subsequently as a regular reservist. This total of twelve years commitment was called the ‘first term of engagement’. The ratio of colour to reserve service had been frequently altered: seven and five until May 1902 , then three and nine [AO 73/02 and 117/02] until November 1904, nine and three [AO 189/04] until September 1906 [AO 209/06] when it reverted to seven and five. Provided a soldier was of good character and had made a modicum of career progression he could extend both colour and reserve commitment, or opt to do all twelve years with the colours. When a soldier was due to pass to the Reserve or be discharged the Sovereign reserved the right, often exercised, to insist on an extra year’s service. This was legal if the soldier was serving overseas, or if a state of war existed. Assuming that a soldier’s services were wanted by his commanding officer [CO], he could go on to complete 21 years for pension. He could also buy himself out, cheaply if untrained, and at a cost of £25 later in his service. This was a large sum and beyond the means of most.


Appointments for Privates.

By far the most important career move a soldier could make was to be appointed Lance-Corporal. This appointment was deliberately ephemeral: a Commanding Officer could revert the man to Private at the stroke of a pen. Soldiers’ records frequently show that a man went up and down and up and down in his early years, before he settled. Drink was often the reason given on his regimental conduct sheet. In the pre-war army, once the single chevron of the Lance-Corporal was sewn on the sleeve, a soldier was required to associate with men at that level and above, and never to mix with his old companions …… harsh, but certainly enforced in some regiments. Lance-Corporals were usually addressed as ‘Corporal’, and were not, in the first instance, paid any more than a Private. Thus they had responsibility, social exclusion, and no compensation until the Commanding Officer was satisfied, at which point the man could be made ‘paid Lance-Corporal’. These paid appointments were limited in number, and attracted an extra 3d per day. In the Foot Guards, a paid Lance-Corporal was slightly better off, at 1/4- per day, and wore two chevrons, not the single one in the remainder of the infantry. There was no permanence in being paid: again, the appointment could be removed immediately, and thus was not a ‘full rank’. In the Artillery, the single chevron was indeed a rank badge, bombardier, and the Engineers had their equivalent, a 2nd Corporal.


The full list of other appointments for Private soldiers was a very long one, and reflected all the specialisms that a modern army needed. Those with an associated badge, to be worn on the upper right sleeve, and made of gilding metal [“brass”] almost without exception since 1905, were as follows.[Combining the information in KR and Clothing Regulations 1914 [CR]].

Artificer, smith hammer and pincers

Bandsman crown over lyre with wreath*

Bugler bugle, or crossed bugles [Rifles and Light Infantry]

Drummer and Fifer drum

Pioneer, infantry crossed hatchets

Saddler bit*

Saddletree maker no badge specified, but might well have worn the bit

Shoeing and carriage-smith horseshoe [open end down]

Trumpeter trumpets crossed [bell up, usually but not invaraiably]

Wheeler wheel

[Layer, RA] not listed as an appointment, but officially it was, with a worsted badge of L in wreath

* not to be worn by cavalry

Note that Scouts 1st and 2nd class were also appointed to infantry and cavalry, and wore the fleur-de-lys badge except infantry in India, and that pipers, as far as can be ascertained, had no official badge ….. indeed, demi-official pipe badges only emerged late in the war.

Collar-maker, Farrier, and Carpenter are not listed as possible appointments for Privates, nor are the various assistant instructor posts or Rough Rider. These badges will be described for more senior rank appointments. The Geneva Cross was in the nature of an appointment badge for all Other Ranks of the RAMC, worn on both arms.

Illustrations to follow


Corporal and equivalent

Corporal was the first substantive [full] rank, except for RA and RE, who had the extra grading of Bombardier/ 2nd Corporal. Corporal rank was paid at 1/8- per day in the infantry, and the badge was 2 chevrons, to be worn on both arms. It was usually the lowest rank that could be appointed to the various Assistant Instructor [AI] posts, although Lance-Corporals could be A.I.-signalling, and wear the crossed flags badge over the chevrons. Corporals were disqualified from wearing Good Conduct Badges, being deemed above the fray.

Corporals in some regiments wore a badge of regimental design over the chevrons, particularly in the cavalry, although some regiments reserved this privilege for Sergeants and above. As examples, the Grenadier Guards had the grenade badge, and the Household Cavalry the crown. 


The Corporal appointments other than Lance-Sergeant that were badged were:



Farrier and Carriage-smith ASC



Saddle-tree maker





Rough Rider [not listed in KR] who wore a spur.

Gymnastics [not listed] crossed swords, hilt down

A.I Signalling [not listed] crossed signalling flags

And the job titles were either ‘Corporal ……..’ or ‘……. Corporal’ according to custom.

KR paragraph 282 states that the grant of an appointment conferred the appropriate rank. Thus a vacancy for a Cook-Corporal could either be filled by a pre-existing full rank, or by promoting into the appointment. KRs make clear that, under some circumstances, an Acting appointment could be made that conferred Acting Rank, not necessarily attracting the pay until confirmed. This might be particularly so on Active Service where essential posts have perforce to be filled without much ceremony.



Before looking at further career progression, it is worthwhile considering a soldier’s education and training. Staying with the infantryman, his basic military training syllabus lasted 6 months at the Depot, after which he was allocated - “posted” to a unit. Other arms of the service might need even longer, as the cavalry had to cope with the man and the horse, and the Artillery with man, horse and an artillery piece. Thereafter, he was subjected to an annual ritual of training which started at individual level, then groups of soldiers working under a Lance-Corporal or Corporal on drills such as “Fire and Movement”, then Platoon work under the Sergeant and/ or the Subaltern, then Company, then Battalion, and, occasionally, higher formations still. He was required to reclassify in Musketry each year. Some specialisms attracted the best recruits: signalling required a good degree of intelligence and literacy, scouting required an eye for country and endurance, pioneering a facility with tools. In each case, and in cookery, shoe mending and a dozen other skills, the army could teach a man and had schools of instruction.

It also wanted its soldiers to be literate and numerate, in stark contrast to the army as recently as the Crimean War.

This is a quotation from an earlier offering on the Forum, which summarises matters better than I can. When I can find it, I will acknowledge the original contributor!

Some further background on certificates of education

In 1861 a new inducement towards learning was the army certificate of education. On the recommendation of the Council of Military Education three levels or standards were set out and were linked with promotion in the ranks.

The third-class certificate specified the standard for promotion to the rank of corporal: the candidate was to read aloud and to write from dictation passages from an easy narrative, and to work examples in the four compound rules of arithmetic and the reduction of money.

A second-class certificate, necessary for promotion to sergeant, entailed writing and dictation from a more difficult work, familiarity with all forms of regimental accounting, and facility with proportions and interest, fractions and averages.

First-class certificates were a great deal more difficult and were required for commissions from the ranks. Successful candidates had to read and take dictation from any standard author; make a fair copy of a manuscript; demonstrate their familiarity with more complicated mathematics, except cube and square root and stocks and discount; and as well prepare for examination in at least one of a number of additional subjects. After 1887 candidates were examined in British history and geography in place of a special subject. First-class certificates were awarded on the results of periodic examinations held by the Council (later Director-General) of Military Education. Second and third-class certificates were presented on the recommendations of the Army schoolmaster.

• SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army At Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. Mc Gill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977, p. 94, 95, and 311.

I would add that, from the introduction of Proficiency Pay in 1905/6, any soldier wishing to receive the enhanced rate needed at least the Third Class.

Our man, having reached Corporal by means of an Army Certificate, a period of minor responsibility as a Lance-Corporal, and acquiring some skills of man-management, fieldcraft, and endurance, might have taken many years to achieve this, or only a few months. It was possible for a Grammar School boy to whistle through the 3rd and 2nd class certificates and become, for example, a Corporal Assistant-Instructor Signalling in 18 months. Promotion to Sergeant would usually take rather longer, with some Commanding Officers being very conservative, and others progressive and always with an eye to having a unit with young and active Senior Non-Commissioned Officers {SNCOs].



Apart from the Foot Guards, this appointment for a full Corporal was abolished in 1946. In some units, it conferred a limited membership of the Sergeants’ Mess, enabling a young soldier to mix with, and learn from, his betters in a social setting. The Lance-Sergeant might be ‘paid’ or ‘unpaid’. If the latter, he received his basic pay as a full Corporal. If the former, he was paid an extra 4d, bringing him to 2/-, double that of the Private. He wore three chevrons on the upper arm, and on formal parades he could usually be distinguished only by the absence of a full Sergeant’s scarlet sash [Although, as ever, the Foot Guards had other distinctions]. He would expect to be addressed as Sergeant, and would do duty on Sergeants’ rosters such as Guard, Picquet, Orderly.

The Household Cavalry had no use for the noun Sergeant, and had only various grades of Corporal, which, of themselves, could form the basis of a separate article.

It was useful to have Lance-Sergeants scattered in the specialisms: the Signals often had one, and the Transport Section, and the Drums, thus assisting an orderly succession of leadership.



Sometimes ‘Serjeant’, which usage was being maintained in KR 1914.

A Sergeant had arrived, so to say. He belonged to a Mess, which enabled him to mix with his seniors and the Sergeant-Major . He had a specific job, a job-description in modern management terms, and was one of the 50 most senior Other Ranks in a battalion [at War Establishment] of about 1000.

He frequently commanded a Platoon [there were 16 Platoons, and there was always a shortage of qualified subalterns, even when the BEF sailed to war], he might be 2ic Signallers and Assistant Instructor, 2ic Transport, 2ic Machine Guns, 2ic Battalion Scouts. There were Sergeants in charge of battalion cooking, tailoring, shoemaking and repair, pioneering, the regimental police, and sundry other tasks. Some Sergeant posts carried Staff status exalted above Sergeant, with a more elaborate Full Dress scarlet tunic of better quality. They included the ‘Music Major’ ie. the Drum-, Bugle-, Trumpet-, or Pipe-Major, more correctly entitled the Sergeant Drummer etc. at that date. Such worthies carried a sword on formal parades, and wore the old Staff Sergeant First Class badge of 4 chevrons point up, on the cuff, with a suitable musical instrument badge above. The band Sergeant, under the Bandmaster, was also usually clothed to a higher standard in Full Dress, but had the conventional badges.

The basic pay of a Sergeant of infantry was 2/4- per day, and his badge, of three chevrons worn upper arm with point down had changed little since 1800. [strictly, it is an inverted chevron, as the heraldic chevron has the point uppermost]. The scarlet sash of full sergeants was of wool, whereas that of Warrant Officers was a deeper crimson and of superior material.


In the Household Cavalry, the rank at the Sergeant level was Corporal-of-Horse, three chevrons surmounted by the regimental crown badge, and in other cavalry there was usually a regimental badge in silver worn with the chevrons. The RA Sergeant wore a gun [called ‘the gun badge’] above his ranking, and the RE wore the traditional grenade. Grenadier Guards Sergeants were called ‘Gold Sergeants’ and wore the grenade above their ranking in service dress.

A man could expect to put some hard yards in as a Sergeant before earning any more promotion.


Sergeant appointments other than infantry.

These were many and various. In the Household Cavalry, C-o-H Trumpeter, Farrier-C-o-H, Paymaster-C-o-H, Saddler-C-o-H, all with equivalent ‘Sergeant’ titles in the line cavalry. The Gunners had no specific one other than sergeant artillery clerk, but each piece [gun] usually had a Sergeant as the commander; two guns under a subaltern, comprised a Section. There were many types of Sergeant-Instructor, there were Flight-Sergeants RFC [yes, one down on the present status], Fitters, smiths and Carriage-smiths ad infinitum.



Hitherto, a Colour-Sergeant had enjoyed the ‘honourable distinction of attending the Colours’ and getting shot at, in a role first defined in 1813. The badge had evolved [deteriorated, more like] from early forms depicting crossed swords and Colour and Crown to a utilitarian stripped-down version on SD of a small crown over three chevrons. Only on the scarlet tunic did the elaborate badge remain, and, after war was declared, even that became a rarity except on Foot Guards, where each regiment has a different design. The exception is the Grenadier Guards, whose Colour-Sergeants cling to a notional old badge on SD with, in sequence, three chevrons, grenade, crossed swords and crown above.

A Colour-Sergeant’s basic infantry pay was 3/6- per day, and his primary duty was to be the senior soldier in each [old] company of the [old] eight-company battalion, and to be the Pay-Sergeant. To this day, the Foot Guards call the Colour-Sergeant the Pay Sergeant. Private Frank Richards, famous author of Old Soldiers Never Die, wrote of his pre-war time in India:

“Although all gambling was strictly prohibited, even the most regimental of the N.C.O.s in the Second Battalion [RWF] always winked an eye at it. Most of them were fond of a gamble themselves and on the line of march every one of them had a flutter now and then - with the exception of the Regimental Sergeant-Major and the Colour-Sergeants, who had their dignity to keep up”.

The reorganisation of the infantry, begun in 1913 and not completed until 1915, meant that the four new double-companies would have had two Colour-Sergeants, clearly undesirable. There was, however, adequate precedent for an appointment called ‘Company Sergeant-Major’ in other arms of service [the Artillery and the Engineers and the Rifle Brigade, for example], so, without promoting any soldiers, and with only the slightest disbursement of extra pay to 4/0- , the senior four Colour-Sergeants were appointed Company Sergeant-Major and retained their rank badges as Colour-Sergeant. The junior four became Company Quartermaster-Sergeants, with no extra pay, and no change in badges. A very economical and unsatisfactory temporary fix.


Staff Corporal-of-Horse.

When it came to the Colour Sergeant tier of ranking, the Household Cavalry had painted themselves into a corner, in that their use of the crown as a regimental arm badge over all sets of chevrons had effectively 'used-up' the obvious combination with one tier down, at Corporal-of-Horse, the Sergeant equivalent.

In 1881 it had been ordained that any badge of 4 chevrons had to be lower sleeve, and points up 'like the hairs on a monkey's arm', whereby chevrons above the elbow point down, those below point up.

It would not do for the Household Cavalry to not include the crown, so the badge of their CSgt equivalent had to be four chevrons and crown, and the rank title had to reflect the increased responsibilities. It became Staff Corporal-of-Horse. A nice mouthful, and difficult to pronounce if in drink.

The remainder of the cavalry soldiered on happily with Squadron Sergeant-Majors at this level, badged as Colour-Sergeants, together with their Quartermaster-Sergeants. RA and RE Troop, Battery, Company Sergeant-Majors were at this level, the RA and RE men retaining their regimental SNCO badges respectively. There were the usual Farrier, Wheeler, Saddler, Smiths at this level. Clothing regulations do not describe the use of their special trade badges, but they were usually worn between the chevrons and the crown


The complicated subject of Staff-Sergeants

From 1813, the year in which the army introduced a new rank in the infantry, the essential grades were:

Sergeant Major [Four gold or silver chevrons]

Quartermaster-Sergeant [four silver or white chevrons]

Colour Sergeant [badge various, but always at least one chevron, crossed swords, Colour and crown

Sergeant [Three]

Corporal [Two]

And that was it. Surprisingly, the RA and RE also had Colour-Sergeants for a while but there was an increasing use of the term Staff-Sergeant, as much as anything to do with the quality of cloth and trim to be issued to distinguish senior NCOs. It was not disputed that Sergeant-Majors and Quartermaster Sergeants had First Class Staff status, but the dividing line between them and those of 2nd Class status has varied over the years, and the last echoes of this can be seen in AD 2020 in the clothing of ‘Music-Majors’ who look for all the world as if they are First Class in any order of dress, but are, in fact, fortunate to be even Second Class, being nominally only Sergeants with promotions to Colour Sergeant and WO II in due course.

In the infantry the dotted line was clearly drawn above Colour Sergeants of Second Class Staff status, but below such CSgts who had battalion staff appointments. In the heyday of Victorian and Edwardian pomp, such First Class worthies paraded with sword, better quality sash, extra lace to the tunic, and a very different and smart cap.



In the reign of Queen Victoria the Royal Crown design seems never to have been other than "more or less" a standard design, and, in later years, became almost a cartoon shape, with huge angular bulges like ears sticking up and out left and right.

Known by collectors as the QVC, it was bustled out with almost unseemly rapidity when the old lady died, because on 1st May 1901 the Royal Army Clothing Department ledger gives the most minute and careful description of a new crown to be adopted [the so=called "Kings' Crown" or KC] and said sternly that the new design was to be used for all purposes.

This coincided almost exactly with the need for new designs of badges for the new SD in drab. The nearest Priced Vocab in date that I have is 1907, when crowns large and crowns small were in the Vocab for SD. Clothing Regs do not seem to make the distinction clear, the large ones were for the greatcoat but adopted by Sergeant-Majors and equivalents, the small ones for the more junior ranks and regiments [such as the Household Cavalry] who used the crown as a regimental distinction.

Regarding rank chevrons at that time, the PVCN offered 1, 2, 3, and 4 bar for the SD greatcoat, all with different catalogue numbers from the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 bar for the SD jacket, the latter two for Good Conduct badges only. As far as cost was concerned, the greatcoat 4 bar was a fraction more expensive. The greatcoat badges were slightly larger. Note that many badges were not for wear on the greatcoat, including 'trade', Good Conduct, and medal ribbons.

The other generalisation to make here is that, surprisingly, gilding metal ["brass"] badges were considerably cheaper than worsted, the latter requiring some hand finishing at that time. Between 1905 and 1907 there was a conscious effort to standardise trade and appointment into gilding metal, and 'prize' or 'skill at arms' badges into worsted. This was by no means slavishly followed, particularly in war time, nor indeed did large crowns fail to appear as part of the rank badge of many a Colour-Sergeant, of whom photos abound wearing the large crown.



This was a RANK.

In the simple days of rank, a QMS ranked immediately below the Sergeant-Major, with a very similar badge, 4 chevrons, but usually of inferior material. He needed to be literate, wise in the wicked ways of soldiers, and to be in the right place at the right time with the right stuff.

In time, he became dressed as a First Class Staff-Sergeant ..... sash, sword, extra trim on the tunic, different head dress.

In 1881 the 4 chevrons moved to the lower right cuff, displacing Good Conduct badges hitherto on the right cuff, and with points upwards.

In 1902 ranking was to be worn by all ranks on both cuffs ..... Good Conduct badges no problem because no soldier above Lance-Corporal could wear them.

In addition to his primary role, a QMS could also serve as Orderly Room Clerk [sometimes OR Sergeant and other titles], and so the man in the senior appointment added a star of 8 points to his ranking, while the lesser QMS in the Orderly Room did not. Either way, they were numbers 2 and 3 in the unit pecking order. The basic infantry pay was 4/-.


Above the QMS came the Warrant Officer


By the time of the Royal Warrant of 1879 granting warrants to conductors, the army practice of appointing subordinate officers by warrant for specialised tasks was well established but patchy in its application and continuity. Those warranted at one time or another before 1879 included surgeons’ mates, hospital mates, schoolmasters, master gunners of Coast Brigades and troop quartermasters of regular cavalry.


Warrant Officer badges in Service Dress.

In 1907 a policy decision was taken to use gilding metal in preference to worsted on cost grounds. The Priced Vocabulary for Clothing editions of 1911, 1913 and 1915, summarized below, show the provisions for the few badges needed for warrant officers on the drab service dress jacket. 

Bandmaster:  Crown, lyre and wreath in gilding metal with plate and pin, cost 4 ½ d.

(There was no recorded provision of a bronzed version for Rifles, nor the special lyre badge for the Royal Artillery, and no worsted variety).

Conductor & 1st Class Staff Sergeant-Major:  Crown and wreath in gilding metal with plate and pin, cost 2 d., also in worsted for the Greatcoat, cost 8 ½ d.

Other Warrant Officers:  Crown in gilding metal with plate and pin, cost ½ d., also in worsted for the Greatcoat, cost 5 ¼ d.

From 1902 until 1914 the RACD needed to maintain (or at least at least approve) three varieties of every badge: for full dress, service dress and mess dress, together with any hot weather khaki drill variants. Full dress (scarlet tunic for most infantry) provision included large and small crowns and, for the RA, their distinctive band lyre. Thereafter, most soldiers (other than Household Troops, the Riding Troop/ King’s Troop RHA, and regimental bands) were not issued with full dress. Photographs show that what was worn in practice might differ from the official priced items: sergeant majors wearing large crowns on the service dress jacket (as opposed to the greatcoat) being a prime example.


Precedence Revised.

The last complete edition of KRs before the Great War was of 1912, republished and amended to August 1914. There continued to be 26 appointments listed for the rank of warrant officer. The official precedence list was:

              i.         Conductor AOC, Master Gunner 1st Class, Schoolmaster (1st class warrant officer), Staff Sergeant-Major 1st Class

             ii.         Master Gunner 2nd Class

            iii.         Garrison Sergeant-Major

            iv.         All others except………….

             v.         …… Special Reserve warrant officers (in succession to those of the Militia since 1908).


Those in Groups (i) and (iv) were to rank with one another according to date of promotion or appointment.

The Army List of August 1914 gave the numbers of warrant officers holding each appointment. In Group (i) there were 44 conductors, 20 master gunners 1st Class, and 20 SSM 1st class in addition to the 41 schoolmasters 1st class. At the other end of the scale there were 74 Special Reserve sergeant-majors.


Company Sergeant-Majors.

On the eve of the Great War, the infantry began reorganisation from a battalion eight-company establishment to four “double companies” Army Orders 323 of 1913; 207 and 210 of 1914 refer. The Territorial Force and units in the colonies and India made the change in the course of the next year. The only warrant officers in the unit were the sergeant-major, the bandmaster, and the schoolmaster if 1st class. On active service only the sergeant-major mobilised. A new appointment was created, that of company sergeant-major (CSM), one for each company, paid an extra 6d per day on top of the colour-sergeant’s pay, with the badge remaining as crown and three chevrons on service dress.  It became necessary for infantry unit sergeant-majors to be retitled as “regimental”. CSMs had existed in 1800 in the Rifle Brigade, and from an early date in the RE and colonial infantry.


Warrant Officers Class II.

On 29th January 1915 a major innovation was announced in Army Order AO 70, the creation of Warrant Officers Class II. This was called a “new rank”, and was to apply to Regular Army, Special Reserve and Territorial Force alike. Essentially it represented a promotion for the bulging cohort of staff-sergeants 1st class, together with some very fortunate less senior soldiers at the colour-sergeant level. The pre-existing warrant officers were to become Class I. The Class numerals were Roman.

For the time being there were no badge or pay changes. Class II comprised:

Master Gunner 3rd Class

Army Schoolmaster if not a warrant officer

Garrison Quartermaster Sergeant

Quartermaster Corporal-Major

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS)

Squadron Corporal-Major

Squadron Sergeant-Major (SSM)

Battery Sergeant-Major

Troop Sergeant-Major

Company Sergeant-Major (CSM)


When the necessary badges were promulgated by AO 174 of May 1915 they contained interesting novelties such as the crown in wreath for soldiers senior to those with the (new badge) Royal Arms, produced as a modest little item in worsted and also in gilding metal. The list was simplified by gathering all the “sergeant-major” appointments under that one heading. There was no badge at that date to distinguish the regimental quartermaster sergeant (RQMS) appointment from the CSM, both wore the crown.


The Canadian Expeditionary Force introduced warrant officers Class II, but the home-based Canadian Militia did not.


Precedence regarding Auxiliary Forces.


The official precedence of all officers (commissioned, warrant, and non-commissioned) of equal nominal rank placed Regular Army men before the Special Reserve (SR) before the Territorial Force (TF). This distinction became impossible to sustain in war (as an example, author Robert Graves as a SR war-commissioned officer became a Royal Welsh Fusilier SR captain very rapidly and was posted to the Regular second battalion where his contemporaries languished as second-lieutenants). This official precedence was soon cancelled.


Army Orders 240 and 277 of 1915 ended the anomaly of the non-warranted acting sergeant-majors of the TF, raised them to Warrant Officer Class I, and awarded them the royal arms badge. This was a large step for these regular colour- and staff-sergeants.


Warrant Officers Class II to be distinct from NCOs.


In 1917 (AO 279 of September) the War Office found it necessary to emphasize that Warrant Officers Class II were not NCOs within the meaning of the Army Act and thus could not be punished by a commanding officer. This was an echo of the brief hiatus of status from 1881 to 1883. Even today sources which should know better refer to warrant officers as NCOs.


There was a further expansion of warrant officer appointments in AO 194 of 24th June 1918, which added:

QM Sergeant

Squadron, Battery, Troop or Company Sergeant-Major or Corporal-Major Instructor

Squadron Corporal-Major, Roughrider (sic)

Squadron Sergeant-Major, Roughrider.


Military Cross (MC) or Military Medal (MM)?

The creation of these two awards by Royal Warrants dated respectively 1st January 1915 and 5th April 1916 caused a few headaches in practice. Warrant officers, by virtue of not being commissioned, have always been eligible for the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), which carried a pension or a lump sum payment. The MC was for captains, subalterns and warrant officers.  The MM was initially for NCOs and men, thus excluding all warrant officers. The Military Secretary’s Branch clarified that the award was to substantive or temporary rank, not acting, but the clarification seen was very late in the war.

The problem arose when the Warrant of 28th January 1915 creating WO II rank ruled that all pre-existing Royal Warrants referring to warrant officer were to be taken to refer to WO I only. Thus, according to the letter of the law, no WO II was eligible for an MC until a new amending Warrant dated 6th June 1916. Between 28th January 1915 and 6th  June  1916 a WO II was only eligible for a DCM, and from then until much later only a DCM or MC. It was as late as 13th August 1918 that a new Royal Warrant extended the MM to both classes of warrant officer.

The potential for confusion existed, particularly the granting of MMs to both classes of warrant officers, and MCs to WO IIs. This, added to promotions/demotions or deaths between meritorious deed and award, and the complications of temporary and acting rank, undoubtedly made for some anomalous decorations.


An Indian version of King’s Regulations.


In 1918 a version of KRs was published by the Superintendent Government Printing, India which was in error. Claiming to incorporate all amendments up to 31st December 1917 it failed to acknowledge the existence of any class II warrant officers. Except as an historical curiosity this version can be disregarded.


Pay Rise.


Late in 1917 came a modest rise in the pay of all NCOs and warrant officers of 3d per day, plus other small improvements (Royal Warrant issued as an Army Order of 4th December). It should be noted that there were many ways for warrant officers to obtain extra pay: “working pay”, “engineer pay”, “flying pay”, a Headquarters staff post and several others.

There were minor changes in WO II appointment titles in AO 195 of 1918. There was no difference from 1914 in the top group precedence for WOs Class I, and those in this group were to rank with each other according to date of promotion or appointment. The order added a precedence list for WOs Class II, with the master gunner 3rd class at the head.


New Badge structure.


A few weeks before the Armistice of 11th November 1918 an Army Order (Annex 13) was published which defined the badges of Warrant Officer Classes I and II that were to be recognisable with only a few modifications for the next hundred years.  AO 309 allotted the royal arms in Wreath (new badge) to the Group (i) appointments; the royal arms to all other Class I except the Bandmasters (special badge as hitherto). Class II retained the crown, but the RQMS and equivalent QM appointments were to be distinguished by a crown in wreath. This reinstated a recognition of the unique role of the pre-1915 quartermaster-sergeant (rank) soldier appointed as “Regimental” in contrast to a QMS appointed as Orderly Room Clerk. Warrant officers retained “trade” distinction additional badges as previously.


Cavalry Complications.


In addition to the RA with its gun and the RE with the grenade badge, the cavalry were entitled to unique to regiment arm badges for NCOs and Warrant Officers The standard work on the subject is by Lineker and Dine, on which this section relies. Cavalry arm badges are a very complicated subject. They have been worn from early times, before the warrant officer introductions in 1881, and made in hallmarked silver or German silver or white metal. Some were valuable and had to last for at least 8 years. In 1914 that for the 17th Lancers (“the motto”) cost 12/8d, more than two day’s pay for junior wearers. In some regiments they were for substantive corporals and above, in others for sergeants and above. The crown worn by all ranks above trooper in both regiments of Household Cavalry is a regimental arm badge, not ranking.

Many Yeomanry regiments distinguished their warrant officers and SNCOs differently from the regulars. The distinctions are too complex to pursue here. A useful source is by David J. Knight. He offers possible but not conclusive evidence of warrant officers as Quartermasters of Yeomanry before 1881.




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