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Regimental Sergeant Major

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It is important to establish from the outset, that, unlike in some other armies, this is not a rank, but an appointment.

Warrant Officer Class 1

The Rank Badge of an RSM

The recipient of the appointment will invariably be a Warrant Officer Class 1. There may be more than one WO1 in a formation and the RSM will, in these circumstances, be “first among equals,” other WO1s deferring to him or her - not by virtue of a variation in rank - but because of the appointment.

Another peculiarity of the appointment is that a single regiment may have a number of RSMs; thus the 7 individual battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (for instance) will each have their own Regimental Sergeant Major.

Certain cavalry regiments are even more peculiar in that their RSM is called the Regimental Corporal Major. The apocryphal reason for this is that they, the cavalry, can understand latin and are disdainful of the root of, “sergeant,” in that it implies subservience - as we shall see, however, this does not really bear scrutiny.


Once upon a time, there were beings called Sergeant Major General. The key word here is General. It was a very senior appointment and the appointee was usually to be found in command of an army’s infantry. Over time the, “Sergeant,” was dropped leaving us with the familiar commissioned rank of Major General ( so much for the cavalry’s airs and graces!).

The formalisation of the appointment and associated rank for senior Non Commisioned Officers did not happen until the Cardwell Reforms of 1881 when Warrant Officers first received their Warrants.

A non commissioned rank of Sergeant Major - indicated by four chevrons surmounted by a crown - had existed from the early nineteenth century, certainly in cavalry regiments who had both Troop and Squadron Sergeant Majors. Infantry regiments, or more correctly, battalions, had one Sergeant Major until just before World War 1 when the introduction of the Company Sergeant Major necessitated the elevation of the singular incumbent to Regimental Sergeant Major.

In 1915 the ranks of Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) and Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) were properly formalised.

There was also, briefly, a Warrant Officer Class 111 - respectively, Troop and Platoon Sergeant Majors - which was intended to give SNCOs experience in command. No appointments were made in this rank after about 1940.


”....was the real old fashioned type of soldier, s smart man in every way, a terror for discipline when on duty, a thorough gentleman off duty. A man who would sing a song or dance with the best; who knew everything there was to know about soldiering and took the greatest pride in his regiment. His decorations numbered 9, and included the Military Cross.....His word was law in the battalion and he would give an officer a, “lecture,” just the same as he would a private soldier, so that all ranks looked up to him as a man to be respected.”
John Jackson, Private 12768 Memoir of a Tommy, ISBN 0 7524 3184 6, 2004.

The RSM is responsible to the Commanding Officer for all matters of discipline, including drill, dress and deportment, and will advise on matters of custom and ceremonial within a unit and carries out other duties as advised by the Commanding Officer.

Unofficially he, or indeed she, may be known by a variety of other terms such as: The Badge, the Razzman, the Tara preceded, or not, by some form of descriptive adjective and suceeded by some form of expressive noun.

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On occasion, however, the appointment may be frivolous.

CO | 2IC | Adjt | Ops Offr | RSM

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