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 The Army rank system
Sharpie
 Posted: Sep 9 2016, 03:31 PM
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Curator of Marines
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The system used by the British Army of the Napoleonic ear is still pretty much the same as is it is today, as regards the actual ranks used. This is a brief overview, more information can be found here on our Wiki.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories: Officers and Other Ranks.

The officers were from 'the middling sort' right up to the aristocracy. Most, but by no means all, officers purchased their commissions, which was an accepted method of first gaining entry to the army and then gaining promotion, although it was expected that a man would serve a certain amount of time in each rank before purchasing his next step up. officers did not generally spend their whole careers in the same regiment, especially when making use of the purchase system to ensure promotion.

The Other Ranks generally came from the working classes. On enlistment, they would be given a shilling to mark their entry to the Army. Promotion was by merit and it was highly unusual (although not completely unknown) for Other Ranks to eventually make it to commissioned rank.

Ranks are, from lowest to highest:
Private (Rifleman, or other equivalent - most men were 'Private' at this point rather than an equivalent but different title)
Chosen Man or Lance Corporal
Corporal
Sergeant
Sergeant Major (only one per regiment, this rank is now 'Regimental Sergeant Major)

Officer ranks are:
Ensign (or Second Lieutenant, in the Rifles)
Lieutenant
Captain
Major
Lieutenant-Colonel
Colonel (the highest rank that can be purchased)
Brigadier-General
Major-General
Lieutenant-General (the highest rank present in the British Army in Spain, this is the rank held by Lord Wellington)

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Boy 3rd Class Terry Button, Royal Navy
Rifleman Gabriel Cotton, 5/60th Rifles
Private Tom Oxley, Royal Marines drummer
Able Seaman Sam Oxley, Royal Navy
Private Finch Robinson, Royal Marines
Corporal George Thompson, Royal Marines
Captain Hereward Thorburn, Royal Navy
Captain John Vickery, 5/60th Rifles
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