Colonel (United Kingdom)

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British Army OF-5.svg
British Army insignia
British Royal Marines OF-5.svg
Royal Marines insignia

Colonel (Col) is a rank of the British Army and Royal Marines, ranking below brigadier, and above lieutenant colonel. British colonels are not usually field commanders; typically they serve as staff officers between field commands at battalion and brigade level. The insignia is two diamond-shaped pips (properly called "Bath Stars") below a crown. The crown has varied in the past with different monarchs; the current Queen's reign has used St Edward's Crown. The rank is equivalent to captain in the Royal Navy and group captain in the Royal Air Force.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Royal Marines marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom

The Corps of Royal Marines (RM) is the amphibious light infantry and one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. The Royal Marines were formed in 1755 as the Royal Navy's infantry troops. However, the marines can trace their origins back to the formation of the English Army's "Duke of York and Albany's maritime regiment of Foot" at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company on 28 October 1664.

Brigadier (Brig) is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. Brigadier is the superior rank to colonel, but subordinate to major-general. It corresponds to the Rank of brigadier general in many other nations.

Contents

Etymology

The rank of colonel was popularized by the tercios that were employed in the Spanish Army during the 16th and 17th centuries. General Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba divided his troops in to coronelías (meaning "column of soldiers" from the Latin, columnella or "small column" [1] ). These units were led by a coronel. [2] This command structure and its titles were soon adopted as colonello in early modern Italian and in Middle French as coronel.

Spanish Army land warfare branch of Spains military forces

The Spanish Army is the terrestrial army of the Spanish Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is one of the oldest active armies — dating back to the late 15th century.

Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba Spanish general

Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was a Spanish general and statesman who led successful military campaigns during the Conquest of Granada and the Italian Wars. His military victories and widespread popularity earned him the distinction of being called "El Gran Capitán". He also negotiated the final surrender of Granada and later served as Viceroy of Naples. Córdoba was a masterful military strategist and tactician. He was the first to introduce the successful use of firearms on the battlefield and he reorganized his infantry to include pikes and firearms in effective defensive and offensive formations. The changes implemented by Córdoba were instrumental in making the Spanish army a dominant force in Europe for more than a hundred years.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

The rank title entered the English language from French in the mid-16th century and so the modern English pronunciation of the word is derived from the French variant. [3]

History

The use of the rank of colonel pre-dates the establishment of the United Kingdom. In the mid-17th century, the regiments of the New Model Army were commanded by colonels.

New Model Army army (1645-1660) in the English Civil War

The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration. It differed from other armies in the series of civil wars referred to as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in that it was intended as an army liable for service anywhere in the country, rather than being tied to a single area or garrison. Its soldiers became full-time professionals, rather than part-time militia. To establish a professional officer corps, the army's leaders were prohibited from having seats in either the House of Lords or House of Commons. This was to encourage their separation from the political or religious factions among the Parliamentarians.

The British Army has historically been organized around the regiment, with each regiment being raised, uniformed, and equipped either directly by the crown or by a nobleman. The colonels nominally commanding these regiments often had little to do with the regiment's actual activities, either because they contemporaneously served as general officers or because they were essentially mere financiers.

By the end of 17th century in Great Britain, the "colonel of a regiment" was often a titled person who had been given Royal Assent to raise it for service and command it in battle. As such, he was required to cover all costs of the regiment's equipment, uniforms and wages as well select its officers. [4] Until the late 18th century most British regiments were commonly known by the name of the colonelcy, for example Lord Churchill's Dragoons (16831685) or Elliot's Light Horse (175966).

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough English soldier and statesman

General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1st Prince of Mindelheim, 1st Count of Nellenburg, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, was an English soldier and statesman whose career spanned the reigns of five monarchs. From a gentry family, he served first as a page at the court of the House of Stuart under James, Duke of York, through the 1670s and early 1680s, earning military and political advancement through his courage and diplomatic skill.

1st The Royal Dragoons

The Royal Dragoons was a mounted infantry and later a heavy cavalry regiment of the British Army. The regiment was formed in 1661 as the Tangier Horse. It served for three centuries and was in action during the First and the Second World Wars. It was amalgamated with the Royal Horse Guards to form The Blues and Royals in 1969.

George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield 1st Baron Heathfield, Army General, Governor of Gibraltar

George Augustus Eliott, 1st Baron Heathfield, PC, KB was a British Army officer who served in three major wars during the eighteenth century. He rose to distinction during the Seven Years' War when he fought in Germany and participated in the British attacks on Belle Île (France) and Cuba. Eliott is most notable for his command of the Gibraltar garrison during the Great Siege of Gibraltar, which lasted from 1779 and 1783, during the American War of Independence. He was celebrated for his successful defence of the fortress.

By the start of the American Revolutionary War most English and Welsh regiments in the standing army of Great Britain were named numerically, although some independent Highland regiments such as MacLeod's Highlanders were raised in the name of their colonel for service in West Africa and India. The change from a colonelcy based on patronage was because the British Army's administration had been reformed into three administrative bodies:

The reforms meant that the British government was now financially responsible for the pay, clothing and equipment of the troops in the service of the British Crown. Colonels were also no longer permitted to profit directly from the sale of officer commissions in their regiments. [4] A lieutenant-colonel commanded the regiment in battle. [4]

By the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, the title "colonel of the regiment" had become a sinecure appointment for distinguished generals and members of the royal family or British nobility. Despite an individual only being permitted to hold one colonelcy, it was a profitable position as they were in financial charge of their regiment's allowance from the government. This meant they could hope to make a profit on the funds allocated for equipment, supplies and uniforms. As generals were mostly on half-pay, a colonelcy was a method of providing them with extra income. Many colonels spent large sums of their own money on their regiments.

By the end of the 19th century, the reorganisation of the British Army through the Cardwell and Childers Reforms had established a colonel as a professional rank with senior administrative responsibilities in regiment or brigade.

Ceremonial usage

Some of the historic duties associated with the title Colonel of the Regiment (to distinguish it from the military rank of colonel) continue to be used in the modern British Army. The ceremonial position is often conferred on retired general officers, brigadiers or colonels who have a close link to a particular regiment. Non-military personnel, usually for positions within the Army Reserve, may also be appointed to the ceremonial position. When attending functions as "Colonel of the Regiment", the titleholder wears the regimental uniform with rank insignia of (full) colonel, regardless of their official rank. A member of the Royal Family is known as a Royal Colonel. A Colonel of the Regiment is expected to work closely with a regiment and its Regimental Association.

Another title employed by the British Army is "Colonel-in-Chief" which is distinct from the ceremonial title "Colonel of the Regiment". The position is usually held by a member of the Royal Family who acts as a patron to the unit, as Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon did for the Bermuda Regiment. Although they do not have an operational role, they are kept informed of all important activities undertaken by the regiment and pay occasional visits to its operational units. The chief purpose of a Colonel-in-Chief is to maintain a direct link between a given regiment and the British Royal Family.

The Royal Navy once conveyed the honorific title "Colonel of Marines" to post-captains as a reward for highly distinguished service. It was a salaried sinecure position with no additional obligations outside a captain's normal naval duties. He would lose this title and its additional pay upon reaching flag rank. Horatio Nelson was given such a colonelcy in 1795, two years before he reached flag rank. [8]

Royal Air Force

From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force maintained the rank of colonel. During this period, groups were often commanded by RAF colonels. The rank of colonel was superseded by that of group captain on 1 August 1919.

Historical insignia

When badges of rank were introduced for field officers in 1810, full colonels were designated with a crown and star worn on shoulder epaulettes. In 1855, after the Crimean War, new dress regulations were published which specified changes where rank would be worn. Thereafter full colonels wore half-inch regimental pattern laces on upper and lower collar, with one crown and one star. In 1880 the insignia was moved to the shoulder boards when in full dress, and full colonels were given an extra star. The pattern of a crown above two stars has remained the identifying insignia from 1880 to the present day although it has variously been worn on the shoulder, cuff and chest.

During World War I, colonels wore the following cuff badges:

Current insignia

A colonel's gorget patches. Gorget Col Brig British Service Dress.jpg
A colonel's gorget patches.

The insignia is two diamond-shaped pips (properly called "Bath Stars") below a crown. Gorget patches, colloquially known as red tabs, with crimson lace and a brass button are also worn. [9]

See also

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References

  1. O.E.D.
  2. Los tercios españoles. La batalla de Pavía at militar.org.ua (in Spanish, unspecified authorship)
  3. "How Did "Colonel" Become "Ker-nul"? - Teachinghistory.org". teachinghistory.org. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 George Usher, Dictionary of British Military History, A & C Black, London 2006 ISBN   978 0 7136 7507 8
  5. Mallinson 2009, p. 40.
  6. Mallinson 2009, p. 43.
  7. Le Mesurier, Havilland (1801). The British Commissary: in two parts. A system for the British Commissariat on Foreign Service. C Roworth. p. 50.
  8. The life of Nelson: the embodiment of the sea power of Great Britain, Volume 1 - Alfred Thayer Mahan, 1897
  9. Smith, D. G.; Smith, Digby George (15 June 1977). "The British Army 1965-80". Bloomsbury USA. Retrieved 26 March 2018 via Google Books.