British army ranks during the Great War

Infantry ranks

Each step up in rank is referred to as a promotion. It brought greater pay and greater responsibility.

Private: the ordinary soldier. He may be appointed to Lance-Corporal.

Corporal: typically the senior non-commissioned rank in charge of a Section in an infantry battalion. He may be appointed to Lance-Sergeant.

Sergeant: typically the senior non-commissioned rank in charge of a Platoon in an infantry battalion.

The title of the rank of Corporal and Sergeant is sometimes seen modified by the specialist trade of the soldier, such as Corporal-Wheeler or Sergeant-Cook.

Colour-Sergeant: the rank from which a man may typically be appointed to Company Sergeant Major or Company Quartermaster Sergeant.

Warrant Officer Class II: a new rank introduced by Army Order 70 of 1915, becoming that rank from which a man may typically be appointed to Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant. (The Colour-Sergeant could no longer be appointed as a Company Sergeant Major).

Warrant Officer Class I: the rank from which a man may typically be appointed to Regimental Sergeant Major .

A group of soldiers. Authors collection. Most of the men on this group are Privates. On the extreme right is a Lance Corporal and on the extreme left and centre at the back are two Corporals.

A group of soldiers. Authors collection. Most of the men on this group are Privates. On the extreme right is a Lance Corporal who is also a qualified marksman. On the extreme left and centre at the back are two Corporals.

Commissioned ranks

The soldier could progress no higher than Warrant Officer Class I unless he was commissioned as an officer. The officers’ ranks, which applied to all arms, were

Second Lieutenant

Lieutenant (which with Second Lieutenant was often referred to as a subaltern)

Captain

Major

Lieutenant Colonel

Colonel (a rank used mainly for honorary rather than operational purposes)

Major General

Lieutenant General

General

Field Marshal

Caveat!

Visitors, do please note that army regulations changed from time to time and in particular affected the higher non-commissioned ranks. The listings above give the basics, but many points of fine detail need to be considered when analysing a man’s rank and responsibilities.