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First of the Field Officer ranks. In the old days of infantry, this is the rank where His Majesty would lend you a horse, so you didn't have to hoof it everywhere along with the Rank and File and the Subalterns.
Salt of the Earth: the best people in the Army are Majors. (abbr Maj)
Actually one of the most dangerous ranks in the British Army. Let's face it, everyone who stays in long enough becomes Major (1/3 go on to Lt Col) and Major is where you actually get some responsibility. This explains the number of f**kwits at this rank and passed over never-will-bes. Thus you can see the Peter Principle in action.
Unlike in other armies, notably the USA, the Major is the OC of a company or a squadron, where in most of the world that responsiblity falls to a captain. The reason for this is that back in the days of empire Britain did not keep as large a standing army as would be expected for its land area - after all, it was pretty much safe from invasion because the bits worth fighting a proper war over were able to be well defended by the Royal Navy. This gave the Army the job of policing the empire, keeping order and putting down minor rebellions in the colonies. In general, the forces sent for this job were of Company size, and so the politicians reasoned that Subalterns really weren't to be trusted far from adult supervision and so gave the job to more experienced Majors.
An upshot of this is that the lowest ranking staff officer is a captain in the British army, while in the aforementioned 'other' countries it is a Major. This means that the Company OC can make decisions in the British army without fear of pissing off a staff officer who outranks him - since his staff will all be captains - and therefore we have the 'power of initative' at Company level while armies like the US struggle to have it at Brigade.
|Second Lieutenant | Lieutenant | Captain | Major | Lieutenant Colonel | Colonel | Brigadier | Major General | Lieutenant General | General | Field Marshal|
|Private | Lance Corporal | Corporal | Sergeant | Staff Sergeant | Warrant Officer Class 2 | Warrant Officer Class 1|