Warrant Officer: Wikis


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Two Bermuda Regiment Warrant Officers.

A Warrant Officer (WO) is a member of a military organization holding one of a specific group of ranks.

The rank was first used in the (then) English Royal Navy and is today used in many other countries, essentially the Commonwealth and USA. Outside the USA they are effectively senior non-commissioned officers with long military experience, although technically in a class of their own between NCOs and commissioned officers.

However in the United States, warrant officers are technical leaders and specialists. They may be technical experts with long service. Alternatively, they may be direct entrants, notably for U.S. Army helicopter pilots.

For comparison, in Germany, the Army rank of Hauptfeldwebel and above is similar to a British Army Warrant Officer; in France, the "Adjudant" and "Major" occupies a similar role.


History: Origins in the Royal Navy

Common military ranks
Navies Armies Air forces
Admiral of
the Fleet
Marshal /
Field Marshal
Marshal of
the Air Force
Admiral General Air Marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air Commodore
Captain Colonel Group Captain
Commander Lt. Colonel Wing Commander
Lt. Commander Major / Commandant Squadron Leader
Lieutenant Captain Flight Lieutenant
Sub-Lieutenant Lieutenant Flying Officer
Ensign 2nd Lieutenant Pilot Officer
Midshipman Officer Cadet Officer Cadet
Seamen, soldiers and airmen
Warrant Officer Sergeant Major Warrant Officer
Petty Officer Sergeant Sergeant
Leading Seaman Corporal Corporal
Seaman Private Aircraftman

The warrant officer corps began in the 13th century in the nascent English Royal Navy. At that time, noblemen with military experience took command of the new Navy, adopting the military ranks of lieutenant and captain. These officers often had no knowledge of life on board a ship — let alone how to navigate such a vessel — and relied on the expertise of the ship's Master and other seamen who tended to the technical aspects of running the ship. As cannon came into use, the officers also required gunnery experts.

These sailors became indispensable to the running of the ship and were rewarded with an Admiralty warrant. The warrant was a special designation, designed to set them apart from other sailors, yet not violate the class system that was prevalent during the time.

Nevertheless, while the class distinctions embodied by the distinction between commission and warrant were important at Court and in society both at home and abroad, on board ship a person's status has always depended more on the practical importance of the job that he did rather than the formalities of commission or warrant. Admiralty commissions were therefore never accorded the unique status that the Queen's commission holds in the Army, and in the hierarchy of a Royal Navy ship important warrant officers such as the Master would outrank commissioned officers such as the marine Lieutenants.


Four categories of WOs

Originally, warrant officers were specialist professionals whose expertise and authority demanded formal recognition. They eventually developed into four categories:[1]

  • Wardroom warrant officers
  • Gunroom warrant officers
  • Standing warrant officers
  • Lower-grade warrant officers

Literacy was one thing that all warrant officers had in common, and this distinguished them from the common seamen. According to the Admiralty Regulations, "No person shall be appointed to any station in which he is to have charge of stores, unless he can read and write, and is sufficiently skilled in arithmetic to keep an account of them correctly". Since all warrant officers had responsibility for stores, this was enough to debar the illiterate.[1]

Relative Ranks in the Royal Navy, c1810 [2]

Wardroom warrant officers

Wardroom warrant officers, formally called "Warrant Officers of Wardroom Rank", were accorded the same privileges as commissioned officers.

  • The Sailing master, or Master, like a master of a merchant ship, responsible for the navigation and general sea-handling of the ship.
  • The Surgeon
  • The Chaplain
  • The Purser, responsible for the provisioning of the ship.

It may be noted that the positions listed above are now equivalent to commissioned positions in the modern Royal Navy (i.e. navigating officer, medical officer, chaplain and logistics officer).

Gunroom warrant officers

Gunroom warrant officers, or Cockpit mates, were technically petty officers, but had high status and they outranked most warrant officers because they were expected to reach a wardroom rank. Master's mates evolved into the rank Sub-lieutenant, and were either trying for a Master's warrant or experienced midshipmen who either had passed or were waiting to take the lieutenant's examination. Surgeon's mates were well paid, but were in a lower category for prize money. A midshipman was an apprentice officer working toward a commission as a lieutenant, and were also in a lower category for prize money. The Captain's clerk was a person employed by the captain, to keep all the books necessary for passing his accounts. The Regulations demanded that a purser serve some time as a captain's clerk, so the clerk was often working toward a Purser's warrant.[1][2]

Standing warrant officers

The standing warrant officers generally remained with the ship even when it was out of commission, and often were involved in the initial fit-out.

  • The Boatswain, (pronounced bo'sun) responsible, under the master, for the rigging, sails and anchors of the ship.
  • The Carpenter
  • The Gunner, responsible for the maintenance of the guns, but not the actual firing of them.

The carpenter was rendered obsolete with the end of wooden sailing ships (to be replaced by shipwrights and now the civilian constructors of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors), but the roles of boatswain and the gunner in the Royal Navy are now carried out by commissioned officers. In smaller ships, the role of boatswain is carried out by the Chief Boatswain's Mate.

Lower-grade warrant officers

Below the standing warrant officers were various warrant officers, such as the Caulker, the Master-at-Arms, the Ropemaker, the Sailmaker and the Armourer, although in the hierarchy of the ship these warrant officers might be junior to others who did not hold formal warrants, such as the master's mates or the midshipmen.

Demise of the Royal Naval warrants

In 1843, the wardroom warrant officers were given commissioned status, while in 1853 the lower-grade warrant officers were absorbed into the new rate of Chief Petty Officer, both classes thereby ceasing to be warrant officers. By the time of the First World War, the standing warrant officers had been divided into two grades: Warrant Officers and Chief Warrant Officers (or "Commissioned Warrant Officers", a phrase that was replaced in 1920 with "Commissioned Officers from Warrant Rank", although they were still usually referred to as "Commissioned Warrant Officers", even in official documents). Their ranks had by then expanded with the adoption of modern technology in the Navy to include Telegraphists, Electricians, Shipwrights, Artificer Engineers, etc. Both WOs and CWOs messed in the Warrant Officers' mess rather than the wardroom (although in ships too small to have a WOs' mess they did mess in the wardroom). WOs and CWOs carried swords, were saluted by ratings, and ranked between Sub-Lieutenants and Midshipmen.

In 1949, the ranks of WO and CWO were changed to "Commissioned Officer" and "Senior Commissioned Officer", the latter ranking with but after the rank of Lieutenant, and they were admitted to the wardroom, the WOs messes closing down. Collectively these officers were known as "Branch Officers", being retitled "Special Duties" officers in 1956. In 1998, the Special Duties list was merged with the General list of officers in the Royal Navy, all officers now having the same opportunity to reach the highest commissioned ranks.

Return of warrant officers to the Royal Navy

In 1970, the rate of Fleet Chief Petty Officer (FCPO) was introduced, with equivalent status to a Army/RAF Warrant Officer, as the most senior rating status. In the 1990s, the rate of FCPO was renamed to Warrant Officer (now known as Warrant Officer 1st Class).

Prior to 2004, the rate of Charge Chief Petty Officer was awarded to Air, Marine and Weapons Engineering Artificers as a technical (i.e. non-substantive) rate in recognition of their superior trade knowledge and experience. The Charge Chief rate was eventually renamed in 2004 during a tri-service review of British ranks, and given the title Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) to align them with their Army/RAF counterparts. The rate of Warrant Officer was renamed Warrant Officer Class 1. The WO2 rank can still only be attained by engineering artificers (now called Engineering Technicians). Non-engineering ratings are advanced by selection from Chief Petty Officer direct to Warrant Officer Class 1(WO1).

Warrant officers in the British Army

Warrant officers were generally introduced throughout the British Army under Army Order 70 of 1915, although Regimental Sergeants Major and a few other appointments (beginning in 1879, when Conductors of Stores and Supplies were warranted), had been warranted before that time. These earlier warranted appointments, and some others, became WOIs. The appointments that were designated WOIIs had previously been senior sergeants. Unlike in the Royal Navy, warrant officers in the Army were not considered officers and were not saluted.

Warrant officers in the Royal Marines

Before 1879, the Royal Marines had no warrant officers:[3] by the end of 1881, the Royal Marines had given warrant rank to their sergeants-major and some other senior NCOs, in a similar fashion to the Army.[4] When the Army introduced the ranks of Warrant Officer Class I and Class II in 1915, the Royal Marines did the same shortly after.[5] From February 1920, Royal Marines Warrant Officer Class Is were given the same status as Royal Navy Warrant Officers and the rank of Warrant Officer Class II was abolished in the Royal Marines, with no further promotions to this rank. (See http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/31765/pages/1414)

The Marines had introduced warrant officers equivalent in status to the Royal Navy's from 1910 with the Royal Marines Gunner (originally titled Gunnery Sergeant-Major), equivalent to the Navy's warrant rank of Gunner.[6][7] Development of these ranks closedly paralleled that of their naval counterparts: as in the RN, by the Second World War there were Warrant Officers and Commissioned Warrant Officers, e.g. Staff Sergeant Majors, Commissioned Staff Sergeant Majors, Royal Marines Gunners, Commissioned Royal Marines Gunners, etc. As officers they were saluted by junior ranks in the Royal Marines and the Army. These all became (commissioned) Branch officer ranks in 1949, and Special Duties officer ranks in 1956.


Warrant Officers in the Australian Defence Force are the senior non-commissioned ranks.

Royal Australian Navy

The RAN has two Warrant Officer ranks. The first is Warrant Officer (WO), and is equivalent to an Army Warrant Officer Class One (WO1). The insigne for a WO in the RAN is the Australian coat of arms. Beneath the rank of WO, and equivalent to the Army's WO2 in status and responsibility, but not rank, is Chief Petty Officer (CPO). CPOs are not classified as Warrant Officers and are in fact Senior Non-commissioned Officers (SNCO), therefore they are technically a lower rank than a Army WO2 who holds a 'Warrant' and is not a SNCO.

The RAN also has the more senior rank of Warrant Officer of the Navy (WO-N). It is the most senior non-commissioned rank in the RAN and is also a singular rank. That is, it is only held by one person at any time.

Warrant Officers are not saluted because they are not a commissioned rank.

Australian Army

The Australian Army has three Warrant Officer ranks. The most senior Warrant Officer rank is that of Warrant Officer (WO), introduced in 1991. This rank is held by the Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army (RSM-A). It is the most senior non-commissioned rank in the Australian Army and is held by only one person at a time.

A Warrant Officer Class One (WO1) can hold the position of Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) or Battalion Sergeant Major (BnSM) of a battalion or equivalent unit, RSM of a brigade or larger formation, or occasionally a training or administrative position, particularly Quartermaster of a smaller unit. Warrant Officer Class Two (WO2) can hold the position of Company Sergeant Major, Squadron Sergeant Major or Battery Sergeant Major, or a number of training or administrative positions.

Army WO1s can be promoted to Captain, given what is known as a Prescribed Service Commission.[8] It is rare for an officer promoted from WO1 to rise past Major, or to be given a command position.

The insignia are a crown for a WO2, the Australian coat of arms (changed from the royal coat of arms in 1976) for a WO1, and the Australian coat of arms surrounded by a wreath for the RSM-A. All these are worn on the sleeve on the upper arm.[9]

Warrant Officers in the Army are addressed by subordinates as "Sir" or "Ma'am". WO2 are generally addressed by their title by officers of all ranks and WO1 are generally addressed as Mr, Miss or Ms and their last name or their title as appropriatte. The RSM is only addressed as RSM by his Commanding Officer.

Royal Australian Air Force

The RAAF has one Warrant Officer rank. (WOFF) which is equivalent to an Army WO1. The insignia of a WOFF is the Australian coat of arms. Beneath the rank of WOFF.

The senior WOFF is Warrant Officer of the Air Force (WOFF-AF). It is the most senior non-commissioned person in the RAAF and like the WO-N in the RAN and the RSM-A in the Army, there is only one WOFF-AF in the RAAF. The insignia is the Australian coat of arms surrounded by a wreath. WOFF of the RAAF is an appointment not a Rank. Under Defence regulations they hold the substantive rank of WOFF and have no power of command over other WOFFs.

RAAF Establishments and training schools will have a post of Warrant Officer Disciplinary (WOD). They are responsible for all disciplinary actions and carry an ebony or rosewood pace stick. WOD is not a rank in itself, but an appointment. Candidates must already hold the rank of WOFF or in some cases FSGT and SGT (with 3 years seniority), and attend a WOD qualification course at RAAF Base Wagga.


In the Canadian Forces, Warrant Officers are the senior non-commissioned member (NCM) ranks. There are three ranks in this group: in the Army and Air Force, they are (in descending order):

Their Naval equivalents are, respectively:

The rank insignia of the WO is a royal crown, worn on both forearms of the Service Dress tunic; in gold metal and green enamel miniature pins on the collar of the Service Dress shirt and outerwear coats (Army only); on CADPAT slipons worn in the middle of the chest, embroidered in tan (Army) or dark blue (Air Force) thread; and in "old gold" thread on blue slip-ons on both shoulders of other uniforms (Air Force only). The rank insignia of an MWO or CPO2 is a royal crown surrounded by a laurel wreath, while a CWO/CPO1 wears Canada's coat of arms.

A CWO/CPO1 filling a special appointment wears slightly different rank badges during the terms of the appointment. For example, the senior CWO/CPO1 of a military base wears crossed swords below the Canadian coat of arms, the senior CWO/CPO1 of a functional command or "branch" of the Canadian Forces wears a small wreath under the coat of arms, and the senior CWO of the Canadian Forces wears a wreath of maple leaves around the coat of arms.

A WO of the Canadian Grenadier Guards and the Governor General's Foot Guards is referred to and addressed as Colour Sergeant (CSgt). On ceremonial full dress and patrol dress uniforms, a Colour Sergeant wears a distinctive rank insignia, but on all other uniforms wears the WO's crown.

Forms of address

The etiquette of addressing Warrant Officers is as follows (assuming a member named Bloggins):

  • Warrant Officer – initially as "Warrant Officer Bloggins" or "Warrant Bloggins", thereafter as "Warrant"; except in foot guards regiments, initially as "Colour Sergeant Bloggins", thereafter as "Colour Sergeant".
  • Petty Officer 1st Class – initially as "Petty Officer Bloggins" or "PO Bloggins", thereafter as "PO".
  • Chief Petty Officer 1st/2nd Class – initially as "Chief Petty Officer Bloggins" or "Chief Bloggins", thereafter as "Chief". The distinction between 1st and 2nd class (for both Chiefs and POs) is usually only made during formal awards, promotions or other presentations.
  • Master Warrant Officer – initially as "Master Warrant Officer Bloggins", thereafter as "Sir" or "Ma'am" by subordinates, and as "Master Warrant Officer" by superiors. May also be addressed as "Sergeant-Major" if s/he holds that appointment.
  • Chief Warrant Officer – initially as "Chief Warrant Officer Bloggins" by subordinates, thereafter as "Sir" or "Ma'am"; "Mr./Ms. Bloggins" by superiors; and, if s/he holds the title of Regimental Sergeant-Major, "RSM" by his/her Commanding Officer.

IN Canada's highland regiments all Warrant officers are addressed as Sergeant-Major normally


A WO is usually the most senior NCM in a platoon, troop, or flight, and holds the position of Second-in-Command and is usually referred to as the Platoon WO (Pl WO), Troop WO (Tp WO), or Flight WO (Flt WO). This applies to independent organizations – e.g., an Air Reserve Flight – as well as sub-units of a larger unit – e.g., a Pioneer Platoon in an infantry regiment. If necessary, they may also act in the capacity of second-in-command (2IC) of such a sub-unit under a lieutenant.

WOs may also command detachments of larger organizations, for example Communication Detachment Great Village, near Debert, Nova Scotia, which falls under the command of 726 Communication Squadron at CFB Halifax, almost 100 km (60 mi) away.

Commands, Bases and Formations also have Chief Warrant Officers - sometimes referred to as, for example "Brigade RSM", "Base RSM", etc.; there are special insignia for these, as well as for the most senior CWO of the entire Canadian Forces, known as the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer.

Due to the unified nature of the CF, it is not unheard-of for Air Force WOs or even Navy PO1s – especially those of the so-called "purple trades", such as logistics or military police – to find themselves filling WO appointments in what are otherwise considered "hard" army units (such as Service Battalions or Communication Squadrons). Conversely, it is not impossible for an Army WO or Navy PO1 to find themselves filling a WO billet in an Air Force squadron – an example would be an Army Line Technician as the Technical WO of an Air Force base's telecommunications and information services squadron.

Messes and quarters

WOs generally mess and billet with other Warrant Officers and with Sergeants, and their Naval equivalents, Chief Petty Officers and Petty Officers. Their mess on military bases or installations are generally named the "Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess". The Warrant Officers and sergeants mess in the Guards regiments are larger than that of other regiments, because of the inclusion of Lance Sergeants (equivalent to corporal in line regiments) in the same category.

Usage note

The term "Warrant Officer" can be ambiguous; care must be taken to distinguish between Warrant Officers as a particular Army and Air Force rank, and Warrant Officers as a cadre, consisting of all ranks mentioned above (including Warrant Officer). Generally, whether one is referring to the rank or the cadre will be determined by context.

German Democratic Republic

In the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) Fähnriche formed a separate corps (“Fähnrichskorps”), mandated by the Ministerbefehl (ministerial order) Nr. 168/73, between the non-commissioned officers and the officer ranks.[citation needed] After October 1st 1979, the additional ranks Oberfähnrich, Stabsfähnrich and Stabsoberfähnrich were instituted.[10] They had to enlist for at least 15 years.[citation needed]

They had various functions in the NVA, specifically as platoon leaders, as heads of maintenance workshops, communications stations, air control stations or technical services. They also were employed as company sergeants or as technical deputy of a company CO.[citation needed]

At first, Fähnrich ranks were filled from long-serving Stabsfeldwebel (equivalent First Sergeant) of the NVA. From 1979 on a candidate had to pass a special training course at either a military technical specialist school (Militärtechnischen Schule) of the NVA or at a military academy of the GDR (Offiziershochschule der DDR).[citation needed]

Fähnrich ranks were specifically designed as a career track for long-serving soldiers, ranked below the officers, filling special roles that demand command authority and longterm specialist expertise in one job billet. The qualification of a Fähnrich filled the qualification gap between the officers, who were graduated as M.Eng., and the career-NCOs, who received a qualification as master craftsmen. They received a grade roughly equivalent to B.Eng.[citation needed]

Fähnriche wore the officer dress uniforms of the NVA, but neither the officer parade sabre nor dagger. They wore the NCO style career-track badges, however.[citation needed]

With the assimilation of the NVA into the Bundeswehr and the subsequent downsizing of its personnel, the career track has been abolished.[citation needed]


In the Singapore Armed Forces, Warrant Officers are former Specialists who have attained the rank of Master Sergeant and have been selected for and graduated from the Joint Warrant Officer Course at SAF Warrant Officer School.[11] Warrant officers rank between Specialists and commissioned officers. They ordinarily serve as Battalion, Brigade, etc. Regimental Sergeant Majors. A great deal of them serve as instructors and subject-matter experts in various training establishments. Warrant officers are also seen on the various staffs headed by the respective manpower, intelligence, etc. officers.

Interestingly (and possibly due to the Republic's dwindling birthrate and consequent reduction in conscripted enlistees selected for Commissioned Officer training,) Warrant Officers may also be given appointments usually reserved for commissioned officers such as platoon commander and Officer Commanding (company commander) in certain training units as well as combat and support arms. Having had extensive practical experience through their career, Warrant Officers are often given staff officer appointments such as Quartermaster and Mechanized Transport Officer in training and non-combat units.

There are four grades of warrant officer:

These are the successor ranks to the previous warrant officer rank structure which consisted of Warrant Officer Class II and I only in the British style. Their rank insignia were the Singapore coat of arms, and the coat of arms in laurels respectively. A Third Warrant Officer grade was announced on 14 May 2009 as part of a revised career structure for Warrant Officers.

Warrant Officers usually have their own mess. For smaller units, this mess may be combined with the Officers' Mess as the Officers'/Warrant Officers' Mess. Warrant Officers wear their insignia on their epaulettes like officers, instead of on the sleeve like specialists and other soldiers. This signifies that Warrant Officers often have similar responsibilities to commissioned officers. Warrant Officers are addressed as "Sir" by those junior to them or by "Warrant (Surname)".[11] They are also commonly addressed "Encik" ("Mister") by commissioned officers. They are not, however, saluted by enlisted ranks.

Singapore Armed Forces Warrant Officer rank insignia
NATO rank code OR-8 OR-9
Rank Second Warrant Officer First Warrant Officer Master Warrant Officer Senior Warrant Officer
Abbreviation 2WO 1WO MWO SWO

South Africa

The South African armed forces have traditionally used the 'Warrant Officer Class One' (WO1) and 'Warrant Officer Class Two' (WO2) ranks in the British tradition. Senior WO1s were given appointments (Levels 1 to 4 - senior to junior)

From 1 June 2008, the Warrant Ranks (Army/ Navy/ Air Force) are:

Master Chief Warrant Officer (formerly level 1) - e.g. Master Chief Warrant Officer of the South African National Defence Force.

Senior Chief Warrant Officer (formerly level 2) - e.g. Senior Chief Warrant Officer of the South African Army.

Chief Warrant Officer (formerly level 3)

Master Warrant Officer (formerly level 4A)

Senior Warrant Officer (formerly level 4)

Warrant Officer Class One

Warrant Officer Class Two


In the Swiss Army, warrant officers are senior NCOs (höhere Unteroffiziere/sous-officiers supérieurs/sottuficiali superiori). The reforms in 2001 increased the number of Senior NCOs ranks from three (Feldweibel, Fourier and Adjutant Unteroffizier) to seven (Feldweibel, Hauptfeldweibel, Fourier, Adjutant Unteroffizier, Stabsadjutant, Hauptadjutant, Chefadjutant). But only the Adjutant Unteroffizier, Stabsadjutant, Hauptadjutant and Chefadjutant are referred as warrant officers (Nato-Code OR-8, OR-9)

Rank code WO-3 WO-4 WO-5 WO-6
Designation Adjutant Unteroffizier
Adjudant sous-officier
Aiutante sottufficiale
Adjudant d'état-major
Aiutante di stato maggiore
Aiutante maggiore
Aiutante capo
English equivalent Warrant Officer Staff Warrant Officer Master Warrant Officer Chief Warrant Officer
Insignia CH AdjUof.gif CH Stabsadj.gif CH HptAdj.gif CH ChefAdj.gif

United Kingdom

In the British armed forces, a warrant officer is the highest non-commissioned rank (however, they are not technically non-commissioned officers, but an additional rank structure above Senior NCOs), holding the Queen's (or King's) warrant, which is signed by the Secretary of State for Defence. Warrant officers are not saluted, but are to be addressed as 'Sir/Ma'am' by subordinates. Their seniors may address Warrant Officers either by their appointment (eg QMSI, RSM or Sergeant Major) or as "Mister, Mrs or Ms" and then their last name, e.g. "Mr Smith". Warrant officers have all been promoted from NCO rank.

Royal Navy

In 1973, warrant officers reappeared in the Royal Navy, but these appointments followed the Army model, with the new warrant officers being ratings rather than officers. They were initially known as Fleet Chief Petty Officers (FCPOs), but were renamed Warrant Officers in the 1980s. They always ranked with Warrant Officers Class I in the British Army and Royal Marines and with Warrant Officers in the Royal Air Force.

In April 2004, the RN renamed the top rate Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) and created the new rate of Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) immediately below it, to replace the appointment of Charge Chief Petty Officer. The latter was a senior Chief Petty Officer, but not a substantive rank in its own right. Only those who held the specific appointment of Charge Chief Artificer (a CCPO in a skilled technical trade) gained partial recognition as NATO OR-8 equivalent, as with WO2s. In the Fleet Air Arm, the Charge Chief Artificer was commonly referred to as the Senior Maintenance Rating (SMR) but continued to wear the traditional badges of the CPO which made it difficult to distinguish his seniority from the others on a Squadron or ship. With the advent of the WO2 the SMR is now referred to as the Warrant Officer Engineering on most Naval Squadrons.

Royal Navy warrant rates are thus now the same as those in the Army and Royal Marines, and wear the same rank insignia. Like RM WO2s (but unlike Army WO2s), all RN WO2s wear the crown-in-wreath variation of the rank insignia.

In 2005, the Royal Navy introduced the appointment of Executive Warrant Officer (EWO) equivalent to that of the US Navy's Command Master Chief Petty Officer (CMCPO) and the Canadian Navy's Command Chief Petty Officer (CCPO). The position of EWO is potentially filled by an established WO1 however significant numbers of 'first appointment' WO1s have taken up these posts. This fact is at odds with the relative comparison with other military forces and their "senior" cadres. The appointment as EWO on a non-capital ship will automatically mean that the incumbent is the senior non-commissioned Rank of the ship as there are no other WO1s borne in the ship's company. This is not the case on ships such as aircraft carriers where up to nine WO1s are borne during non-Operational deployments. Equally, the same situation applies to RN Dockyards, shore based establishments and Royal Naval Air Stations where the majority of WO1s are borne. Unlike its US Navy and Canadian Forces counterparts, the Royal Navy EWO does not wear a different or modified rate badge to that of a normal WO1. Every Royal Navy establishment and ship has an EWO.

Royal Marines

The Royal Marines now has the same warrant ranks as the Army, Warrant Officer Class 1 and Warrant Officer Class 2. The insignia are the same, but all RM WO2s wear the crown-in-wreath variation. As in the Army, all warrant officers have appointments by which they are known, referred to and addressed.

WO2 appointments are:

WO1 appointments are:

The rank below WO2 is Colour Sergeant, the RM equivalent of Staff Sergeant.

British Army

WO1 variant arm badge (British Army)

In the British Army, there are two warrant ranks, Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) and Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1), the latter being the senior of the two. It used to be more common to refer to these ranks as WOII and WOI (using Roman instead of Arabic numerals). Warrant Officer 1st Class or 2nd Class is incorrect. The rank immediately below WO2 is Staff Sergeant (or Colour Sergeant).

WO1s wear a royal coat of arms on the lower sleeve, except for the Regimental Sergeants Major of Foot Guards Regiments who wear a larger version of the same coat of arms on the upper sleeve. The insignia of those holding the most senior WO1 appointment of Conductor is the coat of arms surrounded by a wreath.

The four most senior warrant officer appointments in the British Army according to Queen's Regulations are, in descending order of seniority:


Every warrant officer has an appointment, and is usually referred to by his appointment rather than by his rank. Appointments held by WO1s include:

WO2s wear a crown on the lower sleeve, surrounded by a wreath for Quartermaster Sergeants and all WO2s in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the 9/12th Royal lancers (P.O.W.s) (The wreath was used for all WOIIs from 1938 to 1947). Appointments held by WO2s include:

From 1938, there was also a rank of Warrant Officer Class III (WOIII). The only appointments held by this rank were Platoon Sergeant Major, Troop Sergeant Major and Section Sergeant Major. The WOIII wore a crown on his lower sleeve (which is why all WOIIs switched to a crown in a wreath during this period). The rank was placed in suspension in 1940 and no new appointments were made, but it was never officially abolished.

Forms of Address

How warrant officers are addressed depends, as does much else in the British Army, on the traditions of their regiment or corps. However, there are some general rules of thumb:

  • WO1s are usually addressed as "Mr. surname" by officers and by their peers, and as "sir" or "Mr. surname, sir" by their subordinates (for female WO1s, "Mrs., Ms. or Miss surname", "ma'am", and "Mrs., Ms. or Miss surname, ma'am", respectively); in some Regiments only the RSM's Commanding Officer[citation needed], and he alone, has the privilege of addressing him as "RSM"; all others use the normal form of address for WO1s;
  • WO2s are commonly addressed by their appointment, for example "Sergeant Major", "Corporal Major", "Q" for Quartermaster Sergeants or "RQ" for the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant by their peers and superiors. They are addressed as "sir" or "ma'am" by subordinates.
  • A notable exception to the above is the Foot Guards and Honourable Artillery Company where the Regimental Sergant Major is known as, and addressed by officers as, the Sergeant Major and the Company (HAC Squadron) Sergeants Major are addressed as Company (Squadron) Sergeant Major.[12]

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force inherited the ranks of Warrant Officer Class I and II from the Royal Flying Corps, part of the Army, in 1918. It also inherited the rank badges of the Royal Arms and a crown respectively. Until the 1930s, these ranks were often known as Sergeant Major 1st and 2nd Class. In 1939, the RAF abolished the rank of WOII and retained WOI as simple Warrant Officer, which it remains to this day. The RAF has no equivalent to WO2 (NATO OR-8), WO being equivalent to WO1 (NATO OR-9) and wearing the Royal Arms. Warrant officers are addressed as Warrant Officer or sometimes this is abbreviated down to just "Warrant". The correct way to address a Warrant Officer is "sir" or "ma'am" by the airmen and "Mr or Warrant Officer -Name-" by the officers. They do not have appointments as in the Army or Royal Marines. They rank above Flight Sergeants.

In 1946 the RAF renamed its aircrew warrant officers Master Aircrew, a designation which still survives. In 1950, it renamed warrant officers in technical trades Master Technicians, a designation which only survived until 1964.

Cadet organisations


An eligible CPO(SCC) or C/Sgt(SCC) may apply for a Warrant Officer's Selection Board (WOSB) at national level, providing he or she meet the necessary requirements. Upon successful completion of this board, a CPO(SCC) will be rated WO2(SCC)RNR, or a C/Sgt(SCC) will be promoted to WO2(SCC)RMR. SCC WOs are permitted to use the postnominals RNR / RMR. Each area may select one WO from its pool of WO2(SCC)RNR/RMRs, to undertake the role of Area Executive Warrant Officer (AEWO), and with that responsibility be rated WO1(SCC)RNR/RMR. In addition the Marine Cadet Section was an RSM, who is also a WO1(SCC)RMR.

ACF and CCF (Army)

The rank of warrant officer does not exist in the ACF and CCF (Army) - it is often misused by those holding appointments as Sergeants Major or Sergeants Major Instructor (either Cadets or AIs) in the CCF (Army) and ACF who are not holders of Warrants and thus not Warrant Officers.[13]


The Air Cadet Organisation has a single Cadet Warrant Officer rank in the same way as the RAF - they are always addressed as "Warrant Officer", "Warrant", "CWO" or "Cadet Warrant Officer" (Warrant Officer is the correct form of address),[14][15] and not as "Sir/Ma'am". ATC Adult staff promoted to Warrant Officer have the title WO (ATC), and are addressed in the same way as regular RAF Warrant Officers - i.e. as 'sir' by subordinates and as Mr/Mrs/Miss by Officers. Officers may choose to call them by their rank, e.g. Warrant Officer Matthews (or Warrant Matthews), assuming the Warrant Officer has a surname of Matthews. Both types wear a crown as insignia, rather than the royal coat of arms — the insignia for a Cadet WO has a laurel wreath to distinguish it from WO (ATC). Some WOs (ATC) are authorised to wear the coat of arms (referred to colloquially as "Tate & Lyles", either as ex-regular WOs or, in the past, for time served. New WO's (ATC) having previously served as a WO (RN, RAF) or WO1 (RM, Army) may wear the Royal Arms upon appointment[citation needed].

See also


  1. ^ a b c Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press. p. 100. ISBN 0870212583. 
  2. ^ a b Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy: The Ships, Men and Organization. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press. p. 136. ISBN 0870212583. 
  3. ^ Hansard, 29 July 1879
  4. ^ London Gazette, 2 December 1881
  5. ^ London Gazette, 12 November 1915
  6. ^ London Gazette, 15 November 1910
  7. ^ London Gazette, 15 June 1917
  8. ^ see Army Senior Noncommissioned Officer and Warrant Officer Commissioning Scheme and Prescribed Service Officer
  9. ^ Australian Government, Department of Defence, Australian Defence Force Badges of Rank and Special Insignia, accessed 19 March 2007.
  10. ^ Rogg, Matthias (2008). Armee des Volkes?: Militär und Gesellschaft in der DDR. Berlin, Germany: Ch.Links Verlag. p. 234. ISBN 978-3861534785. 
  11. ^ a b MINDEF, History Snippets, 1992 - The SAF Warrant Officer School, 7 January 2007. Accessed 19 March 2007.
  12. ^ RMAS Lecture OS005 - The Exemplary Officer, Military Etiquette
  13. ^ "Instructor Ranks". ACF. http://www.armycadets.com/join/instructors/ranks/. "Adult instructors who hold "non-commissioned officer" army ranks. On appointment you will be a Sergeant Instructor and there exists the opportunity to rise to Regimental Sergeant Major Instructor (RSMI). Along the way you are likely to be a detachment instructor and later a detachment commander. From there you will likely take responsibility for a number of detachments as a Company Sergeant Major before rising to the rank of RSMI where you will be the senior non-commissioned rank in your county!" 
  14. ^ "ACP 31 Section 1", HQAC Official Site
  15. ^ "ACP 31 Section 5", HQAC Official Site

External links


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