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Simon Cains

Role of an RSM ??

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Simon Cains

Good morning,  my great grandfather was an RSM in the 12th West Yorkshire regiment from August 1916 until he was killed on 13th April 1917 outside Arras.  Can anyone tell me what the role of an RSM would be  please ?  I think there was only one per regiment, so I imagined he might have gone around the different battalions doing training, maybe assisting with promotions, discipline etc ??   But my g-grandfather seemed to be just in the 12th battalion, so would he not have seen the other battalions at all ?  And I suppose he was the most senior NCO in the whole regiment, so must have had more contact with the senior officers ?  He was also an expert marksman.  Thanks for any help.       Here is a website about him    http://www.cains.myzen.co.uk/simeon daly.htm

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Simon Cains said:

Good morning,  my great grandfather was an RSM in the 12th West Yorkshire regiment from August 1916 until he was killed on 13th April 1917 outside Arras.  Can anyone tell me what the role of an RSM would be  please ?  I think there was only one per regiment, so I imagined he might have gone around the different battalions doing training, maybe assisting with promotions, discipline etc ??   But my g-grandfather seemed to be just in the 12th battalion, so would he not have seen the other battalions at all ?  And I suppose he was the most senior NCO in the whole regiment, so must have had more contact with the senior officers ?  He was also an expert marksman.  Thanks for any help.       Here is a website about him    http://www.cains.myzen.co.uk/simeon daly.htm


The British Army had long had a senior sergeant acting as the most senior position within individual units of the three principal combat arms of cavalry, artillery and infantry, and within the latter the first regiments to have recorded this initiative were the Foot Guards and the Rifle Brigade (95th Rifles).  His role was to be the link between the commanding officer, often via his personal staff officer the adjutant, and all the enlisted men in the regiment.  He had a special focus on discipline, dress, and the efficiency of the unit from the outset, but he also had to be literate and numerate, so as to be able to convey written, as well as verbal orders.  He was the man who set the tone of the regiment and a key linchpin in maintaining its reputation.  He was the Sergeant Major of Battalion in the infantry, Sergeant Major of Brigade in the artillery and Sergeant Major of regiment (RSM) in the cavalry.  Within units he was known simply as ‘The Sergeant Major’.  He worked in barracks from an office adjacent to the Orderly Room, which was the hub, and nearby the adjutant, paymaster, and commanding officer.  He was also the most senior of the five original senior sergeant appointments on the battalion headquarters staff, known collectively as ‘staff sergeants’.  His four compatriots were the Quarter Master Sergeant, the Pay Master Sergeant, the Orderly Room Sergeant and the Armourer Sergeant.
 

When conveying orders and concerns to the unit over which he held sway, the Sergeant Major would do so via the companies that formed his battalion, and that represented the tactical manoeuvre elements within it.  There were originally eight of them and each had a senior sergeant covering similar responsibilities to him for their companies.  They were known as Colour Sergeants because they had originally carried small company colours, but their main role was to oversee the discipline and immediate logistic requirements of their sub-units.  This then, represented the disciplinary chain of command and responsibility between the unit headquarters and its fighting elements, and the Sergeant Major was the key linkage, overseeing all.  He would have worked his way up through all the ranks, including colour sergeant, and so was respected as being knowledgeable and experienced.

 

In 1881 the number of staff sergeants within a unit had grown significantly and it was decided to elevate a number of the most senior sergeant major appointments in the Army to a new rank of warrant officer.  Among those so elevated were the sergeant majors within each unit.  There was thus initially just one warrant officer per unit, holding the appointment of sergeant major.

 

In 1914 it was decided to reorganise the regular infantry’s eight companies into double sized sub-units by pairing them.  This meant that there were two colour sergeants with each, but to more faithfully mirror the arrangement at the battalion headquarters level one colour sergeant became the company sergeant major and the other the company quarter master sergeant.  The cavalry had already gone through this process two decades earlier, and so the infantry were simply following suit.
 

A year later, in 1915 the company sergeant majors were granted a new rank as warrant officers class 2 and ‘The Sergeant Major’ was elevated to a class 1.  To emphasise the distinction the term Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) was adopted from cavalry usage to make clear the pecking order (the conservative Foot Guards opted to retain the traditional terminology).  Overall this still left the coordination of discipline and efficiency exactly the same, but now the RSM was dealing directly with the CSMs, who in turn passed down the same insistence, on the same standards, that would ensure the maintenance of their battalion’s and regiment’s reputation.  On a day-to-day basis, whenever the commanding officer was on his rounds visiting his companies and surveying his bounds of responsibility, the RSM would generally accompany him.

 

In 1915 the badge of rank of the RSM was a coat of arms, and that of the CSM was a plain crown.

 

 

4C5D4CB6-C9CE-4E76-925C-E71D86B8BDA4.jpeg

92A54654-1D1B-458F-8F25-592BD5F0B1F9.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Knotty

Hello Simon

There is also this old topic, discussed on here before, which may give some more light on an RSM

You have an interesting webpage to him, my compliments

 

John

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Ron Clifton

The RSM was also often in charge of the arrangements for distributing ammunition.

 

Ron

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Ron Clifton said:

The RSM was also often in charge of the arrangements for distributing ammunition.

 

Ron


Yes, that’s true.  The RQMS was responsible for accounting for ammunition and getting it forward, but the RSM would lead with its distribution for specific operations.  I’ve always thought that the enclosed photo is an evocative example of such circumstances in case.

 

5C4B3F9A-5A61-4E90-9801-E2AA6221D7E4.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Simon Cains

Hello again "Frogsmile" , thanks for answering my second question as well. I hadn't realised the rank of RSM was such a recent creation.  That would explain why the West Yorkshires did not lose any RSMs until 1st July, then 11 died during the rest of the war, so they were certainly up in the front lines, not back in depots and training camps.  I think you and the other people in an older thread are suggesting that every battalion had its own RSM, it was just the R in the rank that confused me.  Thanks

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FROGSMILE
Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Simon Cains said:

Hello again "Frogsmile" , thanks for answering my second question as well. I hadn't realised the rank of RSM was such a recent creation.  That would explain why the West Yorkshires did not lose any RSMs until 1st July, then 11 died during the rest of the war, so they were certainly up in the front lines, not back in depots and training camps.  I think you and the other people in an older thread are suggesting that every battalion had its own RSM, it was just the R in the rank that confused me.  Thanks


I am glad to have been of assistance.  Yes, each ‘unit’ (e.g. cavalry regiment, artillery brigade, infantry battalion) had a principal ‘sergeant major’ as I’ve tried to explain.  The change to using the term ‘RSM’ took some time to become widely used across the infantry (the Foot Guards never accepted it) because the old term, ‘The Sergeant Major’, had become well embedded after over a hundred years plus.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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