The British Army's rank system forms the backbone of how the service is structured and defines an individual's degree of responsibility.
There are two distinct tiers, with officer and soldier ranks.
The term 'officer' refers to someone with a commission, which is a formal document of appointment signed by the monarch.
The other ranks are the enlisted soldiers of the Army, they do not have a commission, nor hold positions of high command.
Although, separate tiers of authority – warrant officer (WO) and non-commissioned officer (NCO) – exist within this rank structure.
Warrant officers do not have a commission but their authority is granted through a warrant.
They are promoted from a non-commissioned officer rank, like sergeant.
All ranks are denoted by a title and a set of insignia, which officers usually wear on their shoulders or chest – other ranks wear theirs on their sleeves.
What are the different soldier ranks?
- All new soldiers start as Privates on completion of Basic Training.
- Depending on the corps or regiment in which they are serving, their title may be Trooper, Gunner, Signaller, Sapper, Guardsman, Rifleman or Kingsman.
- Promotion follows Initial Trade Training or about four years serving as a Private.
- Supervises a small team of up to four soldiers called a section.
- Promotion after six to eight years of service and on ability to lead.
- Given command of more soldiers and equipment – such as tanks and guns.
- Senior role of responsibility, with promotion typically taking place after 12 years of service and on ability.
- Typically second in command of a troop or platoon of up to 35 soldiers, with the important responsibility for advising and assisting junior officers.
- There is a rank spelled 'Serjeant' in some parts of the British Army, including the RIFLES.
- After a few years as a Sergeant promotion to either Staff or Colour Sergeant.
- This is a senior role combining personnel and resource management of about 120 soldiers or command of a platoon or troop.
Warrant Officer Class 2
- This is a senior management role focusing on the training, welfare and discipline of a company, squadron or battery of up to 120 soldiers.
- WO2s act as the senior advisors to the Major in command of the sub-unit and may also be selected for a commission as an Officer.
Warrant Officer Class 1
- The most senior soldier rank in the British Army, typically reached after 18 years of outstanding service.
- WO1 are the senior advisors of their unit's Commanding Officer, with leadership, discipline and welfare responsibilities of up to 650 officers and soldiers and equipment.
What are the different officer ranks?
- The rank held during initial officer training.
- The lowest commissioned officer rank in the British Army, given on commissioning from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
- Responsible for leading up to 30 soldiers in a platoon or troop, rank normally held for one to two years.
- Normally command a platoon or troop of around 30 soldiers, with increased responsibilities from being a Second Lieutenant.
- Typically held for two to three years.
- Normally made second-in-command of a sub-unit of up to 120 soldiers.
- Typically held for five to 10 years.
- Commands a sub-unit of up to 120 officers and soldiers.
- Responsible for their training, welfare and administration both in camp and op operations, as well as the management of their equipment.
- Commands units of up to 650 soldiers, containing four or five sub-units – known as the Commanding Officer, for typically two years.
- They are responsible for the overall operational effectiveness of their unit in terms of military capability, welfare and general discipline.
- Normally serve as staff officers (responsible for the Army's administrative needs) operating between field commands at battalion/brigade level.
- It is the lowest of the staff ranks and they are the principal advisors to senior officers.
- Commands a brigade in the field or holds a senior staff appointment.
- Not considered to be a general officer rank by the British Army but rather a field officer rank.
Major General (two-star)
- Commands a division or brigade
- Holds senior staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and other headquarters.
Lieutenant General (three-star)
- Commands formations of corps size and other commands in the UK and overseas.
- Holds very senior staff appointments in the MOD and other headquarters.
- Currently, the highest rank in the British Army for serving personnel.
- Holds the most senior appointments – such as Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of the General Staff, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Commander in Chief Land Forces.
- The highest rank in the British Army since 1736.
- Previously reserved for Army and Army group commanders in wartime, the rank has become an honorary rank and was last given to an actively serving officer in 1994.
Cover image: Garrison Sergeant Major inspects an honour guard formed of the Grenadier Guards (Picture: MOD).