The rank of
Brigadier General predated the 20th Century and was considered
the most junior of the general officer ranks. This rank was
considered the appropriate appointment for an officer in command
of a brigade and officers commanding brigades were almost always
promoted to this rank.
The insignia for a Brigadier General also included a set of
Following the First World War, the rank of Brigadier General was
briefly abolished in the British (and consequently, Canadian)
Army in favour of a rank called "Colonel Commandant". This rank
persisted from 1922 until 1928, when it was renamed as
Brigadier. Officers holding the new rank after 1928 were not
considered General officers, reflected by the fact that their
insignia deleted the crossed baton and sabre in favour of
conventional officer's rank stars.
It was extremely common for a Lieutenant Colonel to be promoted
directly to Brigadier General in the field, then, as the rank of
Colonel was not normally held by field officers.
Canadian Forces Slip-On
After Unification in 1968, the rank of Brigadier General
replaced that of Brigadier, and the rank was again considered a
general officer. The crossed baton and sabre were reintroduced
to the epaulette rank, surmounted by the crown and a single
maple leaf replacing the rank star. The number of maple leaves
matched the number of stars an American General employed in his
rank insignia, and the rank was sometimes referred to
colloquially as a "One Leaf General" in emulation of US
colloquialisms such as "One Star General".
In the late 1990s, the standard rank for an Army brigade
commander became Colonel, a decision by the Chief of the Land
Staff in line with a decision in the early 1990s to downgrade
Land Force Areas from a Major General commander to a Brigadier
General. Brigade commanders were rolled back in rank to conform
to this practice, from Brigadier General to Colonel. A common
concern in the early 1990s was the number of general officers in
the Canadian military.