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Remembered Today:

Info on rank and responsiblity, please :)


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G'day everyone,

Can someone point me to a publication, website or other that can help me understand how my great grandfather's responsibilities during WW1 changed as he was promoted?

He was in the AIF, and his service record states he started as Sgt, then CQMS, CSM, Acting RSM, RSM, 2/Lt, then Lt.


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Hi there,

The provided website has most what you are looking for. I might reinforce the difference between rank and appointment. You mention both in you "list".. As a Sgt, he would have been a Platoon 2IC. He then would have been promoted to S Sgt (termed "Colour Sgt" in the British Infantry, I'm not sure of the AIF though) and held the appointment of CQMS. Promoted to WOII and held the position of CSM. He probably acted os RSM as a WOII and when the spot became vacant he would have been promoted to WOI and given the position of Regimental Sergeant Major. He then took his commission and may have been a platoon commander, though he may also have been in a QM position as a 2Lt/Lt.

Hope this adds some clarity.



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The dates at which he became a 2/Lt & Lt would give an indication of if the commission was as a Quartermaster. Soon after RSM could indicate being commissioned in the field as a platoon commander.

Old Tom

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The Australians (I believe) promoted through the ranks, so his progression would be quite common. I suspect his commission was not in the Quatermaster area: this was common in the British service for older commissioned NCOs. It was a sort of way of commissioning good blokes from the CQMS position.

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If Australian practice was in line with British, there was no such thing as an infantry staff sergeant. In the table of ranks in King's Regulations Colour Sergeants are listed as such, as are equivalents in other arms of service. CSgts were authorised in 1813; Staff Sergeants in the Corps and support arms were formalised later.

There is often confusion because the sergeants and colour sergeants of infantry performing battalion as opposed to company roles, were collectively referred to as "staff first class" and "staff second class", who, when in scarlet up to 1914, were clothed and armed distinctively to reflect their raised status. For example, the RQMS, the ORQMS, the sergeant drummer, the CSgt Instructor of Musketry, and several other appointments were armed with the sword and the headdress "staff sergeants".

Another point worth making is that the rank followed the appointment, not vice versa.. This may be surprising but is spelled out in KR. Of course, a man appointed RSM, subsequently having been made WO Class I and made substantive, retained the rank when he left the appointment and could only be demoted by Court Martial..

Commissioning as a quartermaster brought honorary rank and [pre-war at least] not full mess membership. QM commissions were non-combatant in that they were not expected to command soldiers in action, although when push came to shove they did. In many cases they represented continuity and the old peace-time army, and were very highly regarded within the battalions.

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Thanks all for your help. :unsure: Getting confused though, as I'm coming from a civvy angle and don't "get" the technical military side of things - I'm not sure my little head is up for this! It may be sinking in though.....

I'm trying to establish in what capacity Jim (my avatar) was active in his battalion during battles and also when out of the front line. For context, I'm writing his biography and I'm trying to place my man in action as close as possible to what his rank/appointment would have him doing, as he did not leave a diary for me to know his actual movements.

The Canadian link was good for this purpose, but I think the descriptions of duties per appointment was in their WW2 structure, so not sure if that was the same for WW1 (and the ANZACs)?

I thought CQMS was an NCO? Helpful to know this was non-combatant, thanks. He was in this position in the last months on Gallipoli. I understand in this role that he was responsible for all the stores, food and ammo, other equipment issued to his Company. I assume in this role he have been reporting to the RQMS and ultimately to the QM for the battalion. They would have been in close contact?

Jim was promoted in France to 2nd LT in August 1916, after a week as RSM, and a month prior as acting RSM (Promotions also in France). If he was acting as RSM, does that mean he was the only one in that position, in lieu of the appointed RSM being absent for some reason? As his time as RSM WO class1 was rather short, could you assume he was a platoon commander in his 2/LT role?

Found this e.g. on AWM web:

Year: 1917

Rifle Section: 10 Other Ranks

Lewis Gun Section: 10 Other Ranks
1 Lewis light-machine gun


Platoon Headquarters (1 Officer, 4 Other Ranks)

3 x Rifle Section
1 x Lewis Gun Section


Company Headquarters (2 Officers, 57 Other Ranks)

4 x Platoon

29 Officers, 1007 Other Ranks


Battalion Headquarters

4 x Company

Can I interpret from this that as a 2/LT, Jim would have had 3 sections and 1 Lewis Gun section under his command? Or could that only happen when they were LT? (What other ranks were in the platoon HQ?)

I guess if I can understand the difference between duties of a 2/LT and LT I could figure that out - help!

As a guess I would say the LT would direct his men to undertake certain tasks/tactical movements give orders in the field, fight alongside in a battle situation.

Sorry for all the questions, one just leads to another! I appreciate the help.

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As a guess I would say the LT would direct his men to undertake certain tasks/tactical movements give orders in the field, fight alongside in a battle situation.

Sorry for all the questions, one just leads to another! I appreciate the help.

A 2nd Lt and a Lt were both "subalterns" and generaly speaking did the same job of Platoon Commander (InInfantry) The Lt would have had more experience, in the pre war army an officer would usualy be promoted from 2Lt to Lt after about two years from commissioning it was usualy much faster during WW1.

Because of their greater experience an Lt. may be appointed to OC of the Signal, Transport or Machine Gun (until MGs formed into independant companies) sections.

Also a subaltern could be an acting or temporary Captain, Major and even LT. Col if they were carrying out the duties associated with those ranks.

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You misunderstand me when you write: I thought CQMS was an NCO? Helpful to know this was non-combatant, thanks.

Only THE QM was not technically combatant, not his juniors. As far as quartermastering was concerned this commissioned officer had an over-arching responsibility for a plethora of "stuff" things ranging from arranging billets to ensuring the battalion was clothed, fed and armed, and that their boots were shod. He had the most senior NCO in the unit as his sidekick the RQMS who was a QMS [rank] until 1915 then was a WO II, and the pioneer sergeant, the sergeant shoemaker and the sergeant cook all reported to THE QM. In turn, CQMSs fulfilled the "stuff" function at company level, having obtained it from the Quartermaster's various parts of empire. Or scrounged or stole it.

Fortunately for the men, there was only ever one RSM in a unit! Under King's Regulations a man appointed RSM had to be promoted to the correct rank [unless it was "acting" or very brief.

You must not assume a rigid hierarchy for a company or a platoon in terms of numbers or rank structure, and [of all things!] for "Colonials" who were justly renowned for flexibility and make do and mend. Even in the more rigid British infantry one often finds sergeants as platoon commanders [and this even from the very beginning of the war, not enough subalterns to fill every post] and subalterns as company commanders. The distinction between 2Lt and Lt. was a very fine one: both were to command platoons, but the Lt tended to get the multi-role tasks such as platoon/ transport or platoon/ MG [which certainly happened]. Whereas I know of no 2Lt as Adjutant or indeed QM, if a unit had an assistant adjutant a 2Lt could be asked to do it. After heavy losses a unit made do with what it had, so that 1st RWF from memory had at one stage:

A captain as CO


A captain as a company commander

A Lt ditto

two 2Lts ditto.

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