Military ranks

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For Europeans in the East India Company Armies and later the Indian Army, ranks were for the most part the same as those in the British Army. Medical service employees were also given a military rank.

Quick conversion table

Indian Army Rank British Army equivalent
Risaldar-Major/Ressaidar-Major Cavalry Major
Subadar-Major/Subedar-Major Infantry Major
Risaldar/Ressaidar cavalry Captain
Subadar/Subedar Captain
Jemadar Lieutenant
Havildar-Major Sergeant-Major
Daffardar/Daffadar/Duffardar Cavalry Sergeant
Havildar Infantry Sergeant
Lance-Duffardar/Lance-Daffadar/Lance-Daffardar Cavalry Corporal
Naik Infantry Corporal
Acting Lance-Daffadar Cavalry Lance-Corporal
Lance-Naik Infantry Lance-Corporal
Sowar Cavalry Trooper or Private
Sepoy Private


Cavalry Regiments in the HEICo Army

In regular Cavalry Regiments there was single Colonel who was largely honorary. Below him were two Lieut-Cols. Below them the Regiment was divided into two "Wings". Each Wing had a Major, 6-7 Captains, up to a dozen Lieutenants and below these Cornets (who were effectively Trainees).

From among the Lieutenants would be chosen an Adjutant and usually an Interprteter and Quarter-Master. In addition, the Regiment would have attached to it one or two Surgeons, a Veterinary Surgeon and a Riding Master, the latter a warrant officer.


A Subaltern is a commissioned officer below the rank of Captain.

Depending on terminology used at different periods, this would include a Cadet, Cornet, Ensign, Sub-Lieutenant, 2nd Lieutenant and 1st Lieutenant.

  • Cadet: The entry level officer rank in the East India Company's Armies. The applications completed to become as Officer in the Bengal, Madras or Bombay Army are referred to as Cadet Papers.
  • Cornet: Originally the lowest grade of commissioned officer in a British cavalry regiment. or the 2nd lowest in an East India Company Army cavalry regiment. It was abolished in the Cardwell Reforms of 1871 and replaced by sub-lieutenant.
  • Ensign: As for Cornet, but applying to an infantry regiment.
  • Sub-Lieutenant: The British Army briefly used the rank of sub-lieutenant from 1871 to 1877, replacing the ranks of ensign in the infantry and cornet in the cavalry. In 1877, it was replaced in turn by the rank of second lieutenant, although this rank had always been used by the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, and rifle and fusilier regiments.
  • Second or 2nd Lieutenant: Generally became the lowest grade of commissioned officer from 1877, but had always been used by some corps and regiments, see Sub-Lieutenant.

Other Ranks

Warrant Officers

  • Conductors and Sub-Conductors in the Ordnance, Commissariat and Public Works Departments were warrant officers. For their records, refer the Unattached List
  • Apothecaries and Stewards, and Assistant Apothecaries and Assistant Stewards in the Subordinate Medical Department were warrant officers. The title Apothecary changed in 1894 to Assistant Surgeon. For their records, refer Apothecary
  • Riding Masters were warrant officers who were attached to Regiments.
  • Some Army schoolmasters were warrant officers. In 1881 the establishment of a common rank of warrant officers included Army schoolmasters who had completed 12 years' service. During the next decade this was reduced to eight years' service and in 1899 a limited number were promoted to first class warrant officer when that rank was introduced. A very limited number were Officers. There were also some warrant officer schoolmasters 1854-1863. For more details, see Teacher - Army Schoolmaster.
findmypast includes a database "British Army Schoolchildren and Schoolmasters 1803-1932" (located in Education & work/Schools & education).
  • In 1881 “trained bandmasters” were warrant officers. Also refer Bandmaster

Non-commissioned Officers

Includes the ranks of (increasing in seniority) Lance Corporal, Corporal and Sergeant. In the Royal Artillery, prior to 1920[1] Bombardier was the NCO rank directly below Corporal, with Acting Bombadier the rank below that. After that date a Bombadier is the Artillery equivalent of a Corporal. Acting Bombadier was renamed Lance Bombadier in 1918.

Some Non-commissioned Officers, particularly Sergeants were in the Ordnance, Commissariat and Public Works Departments. For more details, including their records, refer the Unattached List

By the turn of the century all Army schoolmasters were ranked as first class staff-sergeants from the date they were appointed. See Teacher - Army Schoolmaster.

Privates and equivalent ranks

The lowest ranked soldier is a Private.

There are some ranks in various part of the Army equivalent to a private.

In the Artillery, a private was in earlier days known as a Matross, and later as a Gunner. For some periods in the Artillery, the rank of Driver existed[2]and this rank was also found in the Army Service Corps, for men in Transport related companies.[3] A private in the Cavalry was known as a Trooper (abbreviation Tpr). In the Engineers the ranks of Sapper, and Pioneer were equivalent to a private. For Foot Guards (Infantry), Guardsman, for Fusilier Regiments (Infantry), Fusilier, and for Rifle Regiments (Infantry), Rifleman were all equivalent to a private. Some of these ranks were only officially introduced in 1923, although they had been in common use prior to that.[4]

Within the rank of private, there were appointments such as Bugler, Shoeing-smith, Trumpeter[5] (abbreviation Tptr or Tpr) etc. To interpret the abbreviation Tpr you will need to look at the context, including time period, to distinguish between Trooper and Trumpeter. During the First World War, Trooper was official terminology for Household Cavalry regiments (The Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards), but not for other cavalry regiments.[6]

Related articles

External links


  1. Introduced by AO 142 of 1920. See Muerrisch. Bombardier Great War Forum 1 April 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2020. AO=Army Order, see TNA catalogue reference WO 123/62.
  2. sylsec [Sylvia] et al. Victorian Wars Forum - no longer active 7 August 2013.
  3. Waggoner [Gary]. Rank vs Appointment Great War Forum 4 July 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  4. Did You Know That? The Royal Green Jackets(Rifles) Museum, an archived webpage.
  5. ss002d6252 (Craig). Hussars - rank = Spr OR Tpr Great War Forum 16 December 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2018.
  6. Davies, Gareth. Hussars - rank = Spr OR Tpr Great War Forum 17 December 2018. Retrieved 17 December 2018.