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British Military Ranks

Jane Austen | Officers and Gentlemen

The British soldier and the Regiment are recurring elements in Jane Austen's works.

The British military - in particular the soldier or sailor - is a common recurring theme throughout Jane Austen's novels - sometimes representing the true gentlemen and other times embodying a true scoundrel. Nevertheless, it helps the reader a great deal to gain a certain understanding of the military rank structure found in the land and sea armies of the English Empire during Jane Austen's life. This aids in grasping the social standings of some of the more important characters such as a Captain Wentworth from Persuasion.

Below is a listing of military ranks of the British Empire - embodied in the period byt he British Army and Royal Navy. While some ranks have withstood the test of time, others are no longer in modern use. For our American readers, ranks of the U.S. military are also added down the page for comparison.

Ranks of the British Army:

• Field Marshall (FM) - No longer issued in peacetime
• General (Gen)
• Lieutenant General (Lt Gen)
• Major General (Maj Gen)
• Brigadier (Brig)
• Colonel (Col)
• Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col)
• Major (Maj)
• Captain (Cap)
• Lieutenant (Lt)
• Second Lieutenant (2Lt)
• Office Cadet (OCdt)

Other ranks of note (no longer in use):

• Captain-General (essentially a full General; used in the 17th Century)
• Sergeant-Major General (becoming 'Major General' sometime in the 17th Century)
• Brigadier-General (replaced by 'Colonel-Commandant' in 1922)
• Colonel-Commandant (replaced by 'Brigadier' in 1928)
• Sergeant-Major's Major (becoming 'Major' sometime in the 17th Century)
• Captain-Lieutenant (Lieutenant of the first company in the regiment with captaincy maintained by a regimental colonel).
• Ensign (replaced by '2nd Lieutenant'; lowest rank in infantry regiment)
• Cornet (Cavalry equivalent of Ensign)

Ranks of the British Royal Navy

NOTE: Shown below with USN (United States Navy) equivalent for general comparison.

Admiral of the Fleet (no abbreviation, equivalent to USN Fleet Admiral)
Admiral (Adm, equivalent to USN Admiral)
Vice-Admiral (VAdm, equivalent to USN Vice Admiral)
Rear-Admiral (RAdm, equivalent to USN Rear Admiral, Upper Half)
Commodore (Cdre, equivalent to USN Rear Admiral, Lower Half)
Captain (Capt, equivalent to USN Captain)
Commander (Cdr, equivalent to USN Commander)
Lieutenant-Commander (Lt Cdr, equivalent to USN Lieutenant Commander)
Lieutenant (Lt, equivalent to USN Lieutenant)
Sub-Lieutenant (SLt, equivalent to USN Lieutenant, Junior Grade)
Midshipman (Mid, equivalent to USN Midshipman)
Cadet (Cdt, equivalent to USN Midshipman, USCG Cadet to Officer Candidate)


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