Rank and Responsibility

Table of Ranks & Responsibilities

Table of Ranks & Appointments

Staff Officers

Rank & Appt Abbreviations

Ranks

Generals
►►
General

►►Lieutenant General

►►Major General

►►Brigadier General
Officers

►►Brigadier (1928-1968)

►►Col.-Commandant (1922-1928)

►►Colonel

►►Lieutenant Colonel

►►Major

►►Captain

►►Lieutenant

►►2nd Lieutenant

►►Officer Cadet

Warrant Officers

►►Chief Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class I (1915-1968)

►►Master Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class II (1915-1968)

►►Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class III (1939-1945)

Non-Commissioned Officers

►►Staff Sergeant (1900-1968)

►►Sergeant

►►Lance Sergeant (1900-1968)

►►Master Corporal (1968-2000+)

►►Corporal

►►Lance Corporal  (1900-1968)

Non-Commissioned Mbrs (Men)

►►Private

Appointments

Conductor

Master Gunner

Platoon Sergeant Major

Honorary Ranks

Colonel-in-Chief

Colonel of the Regiment

Honorary Colonel

Colonel Commandant

Table of Ranks and Responsibilities

Most discussions of military ranks in books or online tend to ignore the fact that these ranks are intended to be held by men performing specific functions within a unit for which that rank is necessary. Every army couples rank structure and appointments differently, and as can be seen below, even the Canadian Army has changed the way it handles these matters over the years.

The discussion of responsibility is in general terms and refers to textbook practices; in reality, field units in time of war rarely saw action at full strength, and junior ranking soldiers and officers were often placed in positions not normally permitted in peacetime or normal circumstances.

These tables, then, are merely a guide to intended practice, but may still serve to illuminate basic questions of authority and responsibility, and how the ranks of the Canadian Army might compare to other nations. Only when one understands what responsibilities were usually assigned to soldiers holding these ranks can an accurate comparison to other militaries be made. One then finds that a Canadian corporal in the Second World War actually wielded as much authority as a US Army sergeant, for example, in that both commanded a section or squad of 10 to 12 men. The examples given below are for an infantry battalion; there were different appointments and titles for officers and men in other types of units, such as artillery, armoured, or engineer regiments, as well as units of the supporting arms.

First World War

Rank Tables

Canadian Militia Table of Ranks August 1914 - November 1918
General Officers Officers WOs NCOs Men
Lieutenant-General
Major-General
Brigadier-General
Colonel
Lieutenant-Colonel
Major
 
Captain
Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant

Aug 1914-May 1915
 
Warrant Officer

May 1915-Nov 1918

 
Warrant Officer Class I
Warrant Officer Class II
Staff Sergeant
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Sergeant
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Corporal
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Lance Corporal1

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Private

1. Not a rank, but an appointment.

Second World War

Rank Table

Canadian Army Table of Ranks 1939 - 45
General Officers Officers WOs NCOs Men
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General
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Lieutenant-General
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Major-General
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Brigadier
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Colonel
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Lieutenant-Colonel
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Major
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Captain
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Lieutenant
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Second Lieutenant

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Warrant Officer Class I
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Warrant Officer Class II
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Warrant Officer Class III
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Staff Sergeant
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Sergeant
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Corporal
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Lance Corporal1

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Private

1. Not a rank, but an appointment.

Responsibility Table

Responsibilities in an Infantry Unit

Size of Unit

Required Leadership

Typically Led by

Section

Corporal

Corporal, but lower ranks could lead a section. Typically, a Lance Corporal was second in command.

Platoon

Lieutenant or WO III

After 1940, the WO III rank was abolished and most of these WO IIIs were commissioned as officers. An officer was referred to as "platoon commander" while a WO III in the same position was called a "Platoon Sergeant Major" or PSM.

Company

Captain or Major

Captains and Majors were generally found in charge of companies; acting company commanders were usually given temporary rank to match their appointment.

Battalion

Lieutenant-Colonel

As with company commanders, lower ranking officers commanding battalions were usually promoted to acting rank fairly quickly in the Canadian Army.

Key Appointments

The rank system has evolved over the years to permit different soldiers with different functions within a unit to operate with the proper level of authority. Some ranks will only be found once within a unit, other ranks are held by soldiers performing many functions.

Appointments in Infantry Units and Sub-Units

Rank Appointment Duties

Battalion

Image:Miniofficer6.gif Lieutenant-Colonel

Commanding Officer (CO)

Each battalion has exactly one CO, almost always ranked lieutenant-colonel, though acting commanders of lower rank were sometimes found until a man had been confirmed in the position, or if he was only replacing the lieutenant-colonel temporarily. The CO, like the captain of a naval vessel, had ultimate authority and responsibility for his battalion.

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Major

Battalion Second in Command

The second in command of the battalion was usually ranked as a major.

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Captain

Adjutant

The Adjutant was responsible for the administration of the battalion.

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Captain

Quartermaster

Responsible for the maintenance of adequate supplies of all kinds, including clothing, food, ammunition, water, fuel, etc.

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Captain

Medical Officer

Responsible for the unit's medical section, establishing a Regimental Aid Post (RAP) in action and overseeing the flow of wounded men down the chain of medical care. In garrison, treated the sick and certified men fit or unfit for duty.

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WO I

Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)

The only WO I in the battalion; responsible for discipline, dress and deportment in garrison, and in the field oversaw the handling of prisoners of war, and various duties including the flow of ammunition forward and wounded men to the rear.

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WO II

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS)

Kept regimental stores of all sorts, established fuel, ammunition, water and ration points, kept supplies flowing forward to the companies.

Company

Image:Miniofficer5.gif
Major

Officer Commanding (OC)

The commander of the companies in a battalion (during the Second World War these numbered six; four rifle companies, a Support Company, and a Headquarters Company) were ranked either as majors or captains; acting company commanders were usually given temporary rank to match their appointment.

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WO II

Company Sergeant Major (CSM)

Senior NCO in the rifle company, maintained discipline and administration in the company, supervised the flow of ammunition, wounded, rations, ammunition, prisoners to and from the front.

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Staff Sergeant

Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS)

Maintained company level stores and kept necessities flowing to the fighting troops such as ammunition, fuel, food, water, etc.

Platoon

Image:Miniofficer3.gif Lieutenant

Platoon Commander

Most platoon commanders were lieutenants. The Carrier Platoon was intended to be commanded by a captain. Officers in training were ranked Second Lieutenant and usually promoted to Lieutenant when posted to a field unit. (See also Platoon Sergeant Major.

Image:Mininco3.gif Sergeant

Platoon Second in Command

The platoon second in command, or Platoon Sergeant, performed the duties of a platoon commander in his absence. Under the LOB system, he might be required to lead the platoon while the commander was left out of battle.

Image:Mininco2.gif Corporal

Section Commander

An infantry section was led by a corporal. At full strength by 1944, the section comprised 10 men.

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Lance Corporal

Section Second in Command

The section second in command usually led the three man Bren Gun group in action.

Many of the ranks in the table above were associated with specific appointments - a Warrant Officer I Class, for example, was the rank held by a man appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of a battalion. The RSM was the senior enlisted man. Staff Sergeants were generally found in the position of Company Quartermaster Sergeant; no other staff sergeants were found in an infantry battalion. The WO II was most commonly found in an infantry battalion as either the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, or as the Company Sergeant Major of one of the companies.

A Lance Sergeant was a corporal wearing three stripes and performing a sergeant's duties; for example, some establishments called for a six-gun Anti Tank platoon to have three of the guns commanded by sergeants, with the other three commanded by lance sergeants.

Post-Unification

Rank Table

Canadian Forces Table of Ranks

General Officers

Officers

WOs

NCOs

Privates

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General

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Lieutenant-General

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Major-General

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Brigadier-General

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Colonel

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Lieutenant-Colonel

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Major

Image:Minicfofficer3.gif

Captain

Image:Minicfofficer2.gif

Lieutenant

Image:Minicfofficer1.gif

2nd Lieutenant

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Chief Warrant Officer

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Master Warrant Officer

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Warrant Officer

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Sergeant

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Master Corporal1

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Corporal

 

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Private (Trained)

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Private (Basic)

1. Not a rank, but an appointment.

Appointments in Infantry Units and Sub-Units

The rank system evolved over decades to permit different soldiers with different functions within a unit to operate with the proper level of authority. Some ranks were only found once within a unit, other ranks were held by soldiers performing many different functions. The following is a list of the major appointments in an infantry battalion.

Rank Appointment Duties

Battalion

Image:Minicfofficer5.gif Lieutenant-Colonel

Commanding Officer (CO)

Each battalion had exactly one CO, almost always ranked lieutenant colonel, though acting commanders of lower rank were sometimes found until confirmed in the position, or if only replacing the lieutenant colonel temporarily. The CO, like the captain of a naval vessel, had ultimate authority and responsibility for the battalion.

Image:Minicfofficer4.gif
Major

Deputy Commanding Officer

The second in command of the battalion was usually ranked as a major.

Image:Minicfofficer3.gif
Captain

Adjutant

The Adjutant was responsible for the administration of the battalion.

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Captain

Quartermaster

Responsible for the maintenance of adequate supplies of all kinds, including clothing, food, ammunition, water, fuel, etc.

Image:Minicfofficer3.gif
Captain

Medical Officer

Responsible for the Unit Medical Section (UMS).

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Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)

Chief Warrant Officer

The only CWO in the battalion; responsible for discipline, dress and deportment in garrison, and in the field oversaw the handling of prisoners of war, and various duties including the flow of ammunition forward and wounded men to the rear.

Image:Minicfnco5.gif
Master Warrant Officer

Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS)

Kept regimental stores of all sorts, established fuel, ammunition, water and ration points, kept supplies flowing forward to the companies.

Infantry Company

Image:Minicfofficer4.gif
Major

Officer Commanding (OC)

The commander of a company within a battalion.

Image:Minicfnco5.gif
Master Warrant Officer

Company Sergeant Major (CSM)

Senior NCO in the rifle company, maintained discipline and administration in the company, supervised the flow of ammunition, wounded, rations, ammunition, prisoners to and from the front.

Image:Minicfnco5wo.gif
Warrant Officer

Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS)

Maintained company level stores and kept necessities flowing to the fighting troops such as ammunition, fuel, food, water, etc.

Infantry Platoon

Image:Minicfofficer3.gif
Captain

Platoon Commander

Platoon commanders in the post-unification CF came to be ranked as Captains.

Image:Minicfnco5wo.gif
Warrant Officer

Platoon Second in Command

The platoon second in command, or Platoon Warrant, performed the duties of a platoon commander in his absence.

Image:Minicfnco4.gif
Sergeant

Section Commander

By the end of the 20th Century, an infantry section consisted of eight men as opposed to the WW II 10-man counterpart, and was commanded by a sergeant rather than a corporal. Armament consisted of two C9 light machine guns and six C7 rifles (two of these fitted with M203 grenade launchers).

Image:Minicfnco3.gif
Master Corporal

Section Second in Command

The section second in command was usually a Master Corporal; appointment to this rank required the Junior Leader Course/Infantry Section Command.

Complete Table of Pre-Unification and Post-Unification Ranks of All Services

Canadian Forces Maritime Command

Royal Canadian Navy

Canadian Forces (Force Mobile Command, Air Command)

Royal Canadian Air Force

Canadian Army

Flag & General Officers

Admiral

Admiral

General

Air Chief Marshal

General

Vice Admiral

Vice Admiral

Lieutenant-General

Air Marshal

Lieutenant-General

Rear Admiral

Rear Admiral

Major-General

Air Vice Marshal

Major-General

Commodore

Commodore

Brigadier General

Air Commodore

Brigadier

Officers

Captain

Captain

Colonel

Group Captain

Colonel

Commander

Commander

Lieutenant-Colonel

Wing Commander

Lieutenant-Colonel

Lieutenant Commander

Lieutenant Commander

Major

Squadron Leader

Major

Lieutenant

Lieutenant

Captain

Flight Lieutenant

Captain

Sub Lieutenant

 

Lieutenant

Flying Officer

Lieutenant

Acting Sub Lieutenant

Sub Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant

Pilot Officer

Second Lieutenant

Naval Cadet

Midshipman

Officer Cadet

Officer Cadet

Officer Cadet

Non-Commissioned personnel

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class

Chief Warrant Officer

Warrant Officer Class I

Warrant Officer Class I

Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class

Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class

Master Warrant Officer

Warrant Officer Class II

Warrant Officer Class II

Petty Officer 1st Class

Petty Officer 1st Class

Warrant Officer

Flight Sergeant

Staff Sergeant

-

-

Sergeant

Sergeant

Petty Officer 2nd Class

Petty Officer 2nd Class

Sergeant

Corporal

Corporal

Master Seaman

-

Master Corporal

Leading Aircraftsman

Lance Corporal

Leading Seaman

Leading Seaman

Corporal

Aircraftsman

Private

Able Seaman

Able Seaman

Private (Trained)

Ordinary Seaman

Ordinary Seaman

Private (Basic)

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