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CO or OC


JulianB
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I know very little about the military (just an historian) nevertheless, I've learned an enormous from the GWF.

However, could one of you please explain the difference between CO and OC  (I know what they stand for!). 

Edited by JulianB
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At that time (WW1) the term ‘Officer Commanding’ (OC) seems to have been used indiscriminately as a catch-all, according to all the documents that I’ve seen.  An officer in command was either, officer commanding a battalion, or officer commanding a company.  Most of those commanding a battalion/regiment seemed to sign themselves in the following format: e.g. J G Grant, Lieutenant Colonel, Officer Commanding 2nd Battalion the Royal Blankshire Regiment.  It appears to have been at some point between the two world wars that the style changed so that Commanding Officer was used for unit command and Officer Commanding was used for sub-unit command.  I don’t know if this practice originated from a particular part of the army such as the Brigade of Guards, or the cavalry, more research would be needed to understand the precise origins and timeline, although the rationale is fairly self-evident.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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1 minute ago, JulianB said:

Thank you - simple I realise!

The British Army is renowned for such simplicity.

 

Craig

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I do hope that you’re both being ironic....

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Is there not a case for saying that a "Commanding Officer" is the one most senior in rank or seniority but an "officer commanding" means an officer of lesser rank (either substantive or by seniority) to someone else who,nonetheless, is the overall issuer of commands-including to an officer of higher rank.

   This is well illustrated in the film "Zulu" -  where the characters at the beginning of the film,representing Chard and Bromhead, are of equal rank but Chard takes command on seniority- However, the most senior officer is the Surgeon.    Thus-if I remember correctly, (the bit with Richard Burton narrating at the end) Chard is referred to as "officer commanding".

 

[ And just to add chaos to confusion, let us also remember from the character of Richard Hannay (in Mr Standfast, I think)  and his confusion of "C.O"  between a responsible military officer and a Conscientious Objector.   Just a thought....  get you confused even before the midwinter port  indulgence kicks in.]

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11 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

Is there not a case for saying that a "Commanding Officer" is the one most senior in rank or seniority but an "officer commanding" means an officer of lesser rank (either substantive or by seniority) to someone else who,nonetheless, is the overall issuer of commands-including to an officer of higher rank.

   This is well illustrated in the film "Zulu" -  where the characters at the beginning of the film,representing Chard and Bromhead, are of equal rank but Chard takes command on seniority- However, the most senior officer is the Surgeon.    Thus-if I remember correctly, (the bit with Richard Burton narrating at the end) Chard is referred to as "officer commanding".

 

[ And just to add chaos to confusion, let us also remember from the character of Richard Hannay (in Mr Standfast, I think)  and his confusion of "C.O"  between a responsible military officer and a Conscientious Objector.   Just a thought....  get you confused even before the midwinter port  indulgence kicks in.]


I interpreted JulianB’s question as relating to usage, and the commanding officer versus officer commanding differential is more recent than WW1, as I hope I’ve explained.  

Edited by FROGSMILE
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49 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:


I interpreted JulianB’s question as relating to usage, and the commanding officer versus officer commanding differential is more recent than WW1, as I hope I’ve explained.  

 

    Fully accepted in its organizational progression. I merely suggest that it may have been used as a courtesy format when officer of higher rank-from non-combatant arms- may have been around an officer who was the man giving the orders.  I do not know what the courtesies of this would have been at the time of the Great War- Previously, I would have guessed -say, that a doctor of RAMC would defer on command decisions to ,say,a frontline infantry officer of a step lower in rank.  However, just had a read through of the war diaries of Dr. Gordon Pirie ("Frontline Medic") who broke my own supposed convention by becoming his infantry battalion's commanding officer after the regular CO was knocked out.

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5 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

 

    Fully accepted in its organizational progression. I merely suggest that it may have been used as a courtesy format when officer of higher rank-from non-combatant arms- may have been around an officer who was the man giving the orders.  I do not know what the courtesies of this would have been at the time of the Great War- Previously, I would have guessed -say, that a doctor of RAMC would defer on command decisions to ,say,a frontline infantry officer of a step lower in rank.  However, just had a read through of the war diaries of Dr. Gordon Pirie ("Frontline Medic") who broke my own supposed convention by becoming his infantry battalion's commanding officer after the regular CO was knocked out.


In general, officially “non-combatant officers”, such as RMOs, deferred to more junior officers on the general list, but there were undoubtedly cases where practicalities outweighed the rules.  Militarily competent RMOs, often men who’d served in the 2nd Boer War before becoming medically qualified, did sometimes take command of battalions for short periods.  Captain James Dunn RAMC, of 2RWF being an example in case, but I fear we are digressing from the subject of the thread.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Regarding King's Regulations, the subject of commissions being "combatant" or "non-combatant" was slightly tiptoed around.

 

Clearly RAMC and probably AVC  were non-combatant, and the Geneva Convention has special provision for such who were taken prisoner, a very interesting bywater.

 

Quartermaster commissions [and Riding Masters' if they were unwise enough to be in a war zone] were not combatant, but QMs were, to a man, experienced soldiers in the full military sense and did indeed assume command as needs be. Absurd to have a QM Hon Capt taking orders from a 2Lt who arrived with a draft yesterday ..... both would understand the realities.

 

Below commissioned rank there was a whole raft of warrant officers and senior NCOs in "non-teeth arms" who were expressly not to command soldiers on duty unless ordered/ authorised to do so. These were picked out by asterisk on the ranks and appointments list. Example below, 1908..

 

I believe that Froggie is correct in ascribing the defined differences between CO and OC to post-Great War practice.

 

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