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DateOriginal Topic
29th January 2004Zulu War British rank insignia
By Chris
Hey, does anybody know what the Zulu War era rank insignia is for the British imperial and colonial forces?
DateReplies
30th January 2004John Young
Chris,

What do need - other-ranks or officers?

John Y.
30th January 2004AMB
John,
I'll jump on the wagon with Chris on this one. Both ORs & offrs would be great. ORs can't be that different from today (so happy there!), but the offrs rank on their collars seems - to me - to be very odd. An 'idiots guide' would be good.
I look fwd to your reply.

AMB
30th January 2004Chris
Enlisted, NCOs, and Officers. Colonial forces rank insignia info would be nice as well
30th January 2004John Young
Chris & Andrew,

One chevron: Lance Corp.; Bombardier (R.A.); 2nd Corp. (R.E.; A.S.C. & A.H.C.)

Two chevrons: Corporal.

Three white chevrons: Lance Sergeant.

Three gold chevrons: Sergeant.

Three gold chevrons surmounted by a crown: Troop Sergeant-Major (Cavalry); Sergeants (R.E. & R.A.); Staff Sergeant (Infantry, also if ranked as a Colour-Sergeant, in undress serge.).

Four gold chevrons surmounted by a drum: Drum-Major – Bugle-Major in Light Infantry & Rifle Regiments & Trumpet-Major in Cavalry.

Three gold chevrons surmounted by crossed Union Flags, surmounted in turn by a crown: Colour-Sergeant in full dress only. Colour-Sergeants in Rifle Regiments & the Royal Marine Light Infantry had more complicated designs.

Four gold chevrons worn on the cuff: Quartermaster-Sergeant.

Four gold chevrons worn on the cuff, surmounted by a crown: Sergeant-Major.

Four gold chevrons worn on the cuff, surmounted by a cannon, surmounted in turn by a crown: Staff Sergeant – Royal Artillery.

2nd Lieutenant/Sub-Lieutenant: one Garter Star on collar.

Lieutenant: crown on collar

Captain: Crown & one Garter Star on collar.

Major: One Garter Star on collar, the collar is embellished with ‘bullet-hole braid’.

Lieutenant-Colonel: Crown, the collar is embellished with ‘bullet-hole braid’.

Colonel: Crown & Garter Star, the collar is embellished with ‘bullet-hole braid’.

There were also cuff-designations of ranks involving bars of bullion and Austrian knots, which are best described in images rather than words.

Chris,

I've only described regular forces above. The rank designations of established volunteer forces would have followed the above patterns.

In some locally-raised units - uniforms were not regulation and did not conform. Ranks suchas Commandant were applied which would be the equivalent of a Major.

Confused? You will be.

I can supply photographic images of many of the ranks discussed.

John Young,
Anglo-Zulu War Research Society.
30th January 2004Chris
thanks John, there was no rank insignia for generals?
30th January 2004John Young
Chris,

Of the General-Officer ranks of the Anglo-Zulu War:-
Brigadiers: Appear to have retained their insignia of Colonels.
Major-General: Crown, highly embellished collar in full dress.
Lieutenant-General: Garter Star on a highly ornate embellished collar in full dress.

Again, cuff detail also designates the rank of the officer.

Sword pattern also changes for General-Officers.

John Y.
A.Z.W.R.S.
31st January 2004Chris
Thanks John, a few more questions lol, what was the color of the Lance Corporal and Cpl. chevrons? Is the backround color of the chevrons black as in "Zulu" or red as in the Osprey book color plates?

http://www.rankinsignia.info/_u/unitedkingdom-army_10.gif
The crowns look like above?

http://www.rankinsignia.info/_u/unitedkingdom-army_07.gif
The stars look like above?
31st January 2004AMB
John,

Many thanks. All the offr ranks appear very different to the present day ones (except we'd recognise the crowns/stars. Any idea when the current system was brought in?
Did all units have L/Sgts? Bde of guards do today, but (off hand) can't think of others (although, if the Guards do today, so might the Jackets!)
AMB
31st January 2004John Young
Chris,

In the case of line infantry the Lance Corporal's & Corporal's chevrons were white. The background colour would have been scarlet. There were variations with Rifle Regiments & the supporting corps I mentioned above.

I will endeavour to scan a crown & star for you, and e-mail it to you. As they were embroidery & not metal. That way you can see for yourself.

Andrew,

Yes to my knowledge, all line regiments and some of the supporting corps had Lance Sergeants. Three Lance Sergeants died at Isandlwana - one from 1st/24th & two from 2nd/24th. There were two Lance Sergeants at Rorke's Drift from 2nd/24th, one of whom was mortally wounded.

I believe the current rank distinctions were fully introduced in 1902. As between 1880 & 1902, a Captain wore two stars, a Lieutenant - one star & the poor old 2nd Lieutenant wore no star at all. (Film-makers take note!)

John Y.
A.Z.W.R.S.
31st January 2004Adrian Whiting
Officer's rank badges were moved from the collar to the shoulder strap in 1880, retaining the system John describes above.

In 1883 the Crown was reserved for Field Officers, and thus the system became:
Field Marshal - Crossed batons upon a laurel wreath, surmounted by crown.
General - crossed sword and baton surmounted by crown above star.
Lt General - crossed sword and baton, surmounted by crown.
Major General - crossed sword and baton surmounted by star.
Brigadier General - crossed sword and baton.
Colonel - Crown above two stars
Lt Colonel - Crown above star
Major - Crown
Capt - two stars
Lt - one star
2nd Lt - no badge

2nd Lts had been ensigns until 1871, when they became Sub-Lts. they changed to 2nd Lts in 1877.

Major Generals ranked below Lt Generals (despite the normal seniority of Majors over Lts) because the rank had previously been "Sgt-Major General".

I would be interested in the reference for the stars being of Garter pattern (which has a central scarlet cross of St George), as the examples I have seen are all Bath Stars ( which have three Imperial crowns at their centre), both embroidered and metal. I anticipate that there must have been a change somewhere along the line, or that both types are/were in use.

Thanks

Adrian
31st January 2004John Young
Adrian,

According to the reference I've got, the ranks you describe as being introduced in 1883, were introduced in 1880. I do have some photographic evidence to uphold this including at least one 57th officer taken in 1881, and a 1st/13th officer taken in 1880.

As to the 'Garter Star', again its the source from which I was quoting - some notes of the late George Rice on badges of rank, which, had I read on, then quotes: 'The star worn as a badge rank in common with most of the rest of the Army, is that of the Knight Grand Cross of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.' George used to specialize in Foot Guards, so it maybe his notes relate to the Coldstreams.

I feel the phrase 'most of the rest' of the rest appears to indicate some exceptions. I got this niggling feeling that the 24th or S.W.B.'s had a variation, but I can't find the source on that.

Re-the point on Sub-Lieutenants, I included this rank as the 24th had three Sub-Lieutenants in the field in 1879, one of whom met his fate at Isandlwana. The Army List of the 1st quarter of 1879, shows them distinctly separate from their junior brethen of 2nd Lieutenants.

These things are sent to try us,

John Y.
31st January 2004AMB
John,

So the offs rank structure had 2LT, Sub-Lt and then Lt?

AMB
31st January 2004John Young
Andrew,

It would appear so according to 'The Army List' for the 1st quarter of 1879, that I have here.

John Y.
31st January 2004Chris
John, I am awaiting your pictures of the rank insignia, you can email them to me at [email protected]
31st January 2004Adrian Whiting
John,

My reference is from the Fosten's - Thin Red Line, confirmed by Dress Regs 1883. It would be good to se the photos you have at some point. I have seen a few where the rank badge worn is different from the rank described because of the use of the rank system, Regimental, Army & Brevet. Brevets wear their Army rank. I guess the one thing that would settle this would be a photo of an officer wearing two stars pre 1883, since that did not appear in the earlier system and thus couldn't be a Regimental/Army rank confusion.

Rather than there being three Lt ranks, I suspect that the Sub Lts you refer to have retained that rank designation because they were commissioned as such, before the introduction of 2nd Lts. The Army list ought to list them before any 2nd Lts because they should have seniority by date of commission.

Trying, but entertaining - I should get out more - I'll be dressing up next...

Adrian
31st January 2004John Young
Adrian,

Mailing two cabinet cards to you, Captain Hinxman 57th & Lt. Hillas 1st S.L.I., taken after his promotion.

John Y.
1st February 2004Adrian Whiting
John,

Many thanks - I await with interest.

I can confirm your query over Foot Guards, the Coldstreams use the Garter Star and the Scots use the Thistle Star. I am not aware of any other Regimental variations for Line Regts - if anyone knows any I would be interested.

Thanks

Adrian
6th February 2004Julian Whybra
you are correct Adrian in the sub-lieut./ 2nd lieut. confusion. The 2nd-l was introduced while the sub-l was still in existence. The one gradually supplanted the other.