O Tempora, O Mores

The Times used to be rather good at these sorts of things. I have no doubt that there will be the occasional letter coming in as the sort of people who announce their weddings (and christenings, and tend to get obituaries in the paper) point out that the young shavers who write the paper these days seem not to understand the important distinctions in life.

To his army comrades in Iraq he was known as the Beast of Basra. Others, noting the way that he always seems to be at the centre of the action, call him Bullet Magnet or Mad Mick. To Prince William, who served with him in the Household Cavalry, he is legendary.

Squadron Corporal-Major Mick Flynn is Britain’s most highly decorated frontline soldier. In a career that has spanned four decades and taken him from Northern Ireland to the Falklands, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, he has experienced some of the fiercest fighting and received two of the highest possible awards for bravery.

OK, very good, we have a Squadron Corporal-Major in the Household Cavalry. Blues or Life doesn\’t matter for our purposes here.

However, we then get this:

On first meeting Major Flynn


Major Flynn hopes that


Mick Flynn was born on a council estate in Neath, Glamorgan. As a teenager he started burgling. “If I hadn’t joined the Army I would have ended up in prison,” he says.

His early career survived various fights and a 28-day spell in jail after he went Awol in the US.

This is sounding remarkably unlike the usual blue-blooded background of a Household Cavalry officer you know.

Major Flynn says

But they do seem to be referring to him as an officer.

A CGC and an MC, he\’s written a book and one of the Princes has written the foreword. All very good stuff, but I can\’t help wondering why The Times keeps referring to him as a Major.

For of course he isn\’t one.

\”Corporal Major\” is what the Household Cavalry call a Sergeant Major. \”Squadron\” is what the HC call the equivalent of a company. The actual rank therefore is, to those who don\’t quite get the HC differences, equal to a Company Sergeant Major (WO2 for those who prefer numbers and letters perhaps?)

A CSM with a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and a Military Cross is indeed an honourable warrior but one of the things he isn\’t is an officer and thus he is not referred to as \”Major\”.

Indeed, if we\’re honest about this, a 50 year old Major is someone who has missed the promotion age and is someone just serving out his time until the 55 year kick out date. Most unlikely to actually be in charge of frontline troops, just as one example, given the up or out rigours of the selection process. A CSM of the same age is most definitely not just serving time. It is, in the somewhat odd way that regiments determine status, rather grander to be a Squadron Corporal Major than to be a Major who didn\’t and never will make Lt. Colonel.

Yes, of course, out here in the big wide world this is all rather trivial. But The Times used to be the paper that got these sorts of things right. And there will be some pointing out going on about this.

5 thoughts on “O Tempora, O Mores”

  1. He could be equivalent to a WOI a Regimental Sergeant Major which would make you both wrong.
    Nope you are right just looked it up.

    Tim adds: Google (and Wikipedia, ARRSE etc)are available to both myself and Damian at The Times. I used them but apparently Damian……

  2. Definitely errors of detail.

    But you’re harking back to when The Times was a quality paper. You can’t possibly expect those high standards under the current ownership.

  3. I was wondering what sort of rank a Squadron Corporal Major was.

    Thanks for the explanation.

    Obviously I was the wrong kind of pongo in earlier life.

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