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Other military peeps know more than me

OK, so brave bloke, well done.

An off-duty soldier who tackled a gunman to the ground when he threatened shoppers in Southampton has been awarded a bravery medal.

Good, such things should be recognised.

Now, to try to read between the lines:

The officer in the Royal Logistic Corps, who currently serves as a Quartermaster in 101 Logistic Brigade,

I didn’t know that officers would or could be quartermasters. Sure, the function, but I thought the British army reserved that word for sergeants and WOs. Or maybe nomenclature has changed or summat. But this:

Capt Williams, 42, of Salisbury,

This isn’t a commentary on the bravery nor the individual. Rather, it’s an exercise in deductive reasoning. Or, even, the value of general knowledge.

Williams laddie was once Private Williams. To be a Captain – army style – at 42 is a dreadful record for a commissioned entrant. So dreadful that I’m not sure it is possible. Culling of someone promoted so slowly would already have happened. It’s not possible to join up old enough for that to be part of a normal promotion path either.

However, that looks about right for someone who joined as a squaddie, rose to sergeant, non com, WO etc and then made the leap to commissioned. The age of the Captain makes us think that he’s done the rising through the ranks thing. The very fact that he’s 42 and not a Major is what makes us think so.

I think at least, would argue that even if wrong the preponderance of probabilities would lead us to that conclusion.

No particular point to this other than that it’s fun to see what can be gleaned from odd bits of knowledge about the world out there – promotion prospects in the Army leading us to this conclusion about this medal earner.

19 thoughts on “Other military peeps know more than me”

  1. Familial only. Somethings are learnt by osmosis in childhood……I do actually recall my father on one occasion talking about it being one of the grander differences between the US and Royal navies of his time. Some 25% of US officers had joined, originally, as ratings (so memory has him saying), very much more than the RN had. They were proud of this. He thought it was OK, but that it could, at times, lead to problems.

  2. From Wikipedia:
    “ In the British Army, the quartermaster (QM) is the officer in a battalion or regiment responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, they are always commissioned from the ranks and hold the rank of captain or major.”

    I never knew that; didn’t realize promotion from the ranks had been a routine thing (albeit only in this specific area). Very surprised that it’s long-standing practice.

    Anyone know why? Perhaps so that you can break them if they’re caught selling things round the back (but couldn’t they do something similar to a warrant officer)? Perhaps an idea that only officers can count (but seems unlikely; counting seems like a technical skill that would have been regarded as a slightly dodgy one for an officer to have)? Or is it just a theory that only officers can be trusted with valuables, so it needs to be an officer, but they don’t want to waste a ‘proper’ officer on the stores, so they promote one instead (which sounds a bit circular)?

  3. A good friend rose through the ranks. Did some live firing somewhere sandy. Retired as major. Not sure about the pension. Long service but is pension based on average earnings or final salary?

  4. Unless conditions of service have changed since I retired (in 1983), a soldier would normally retire at age 40 or on completion of 22 years service. A Warrant Officer class 1 (RSM or RQMS) can apply for a commission, meaning they may be able to remain in the Army until 55 years of age. RSMs tend to become Admin Officers while RQMSs become Quartermsters. In my last unit, the Admin Officer was an ex RSM I served with. He said that, on commissioning, it was ironic that he had gone from the second most powerful person in the regiment, after the CO, to ‘that amiable old duffer of a squadron’s AO pushing paper’.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    In the Signals we had 2 QMs, General and Technical. My guess is that the tradition of them coming through the ranks is the specialist knowledge requiring a large dollop of who you know. It’s also a good way of maintaining institutional knowledge.

    We also had technical and traffic officers, both of them reserved for those who went through the ranks.

    I came across more than one CO who would have mess dinners for his Sandhurst trained officers only as a way of keeping the oiks out. This didn’t tend to worry those who’d come through the ranks as they didn’t enjoy mixing with young subalterns.

  6. In the Fleet Air Arm, nearly every new entrant then (1960’s) started as a Middie, going straight to officer entry at Brittania in Dartmouth. There were very few coming up from the ranks and they were known as Upper Yardmen, like most RN expressions fairly ancient in origin. They’d done their usual trade entry at other ranks, done some time and then were inducted at Dartmouth.
    Strangely, I was at grammar school and good friends with one such, who joined as an aircraft artificer (a skilled technician with a very technical training) and then went on to be an Upper Yardman, went to Dartmouth (acquiring what is known as a “Dartmouth filter”, whereby one goes from speaking with one’s own particular accent to that nasal “upper class” twang that all officers used to have) and then went off to train on and eventually fly Sea Kings and F4s. He was sent on an exchange scheme to the States, where he drove F14s, one flight in such being pretty dramatic, and earning him a fairly serious American commendation.
    His last trip was in a Harrier in 1982, operating as a “Two and a half” (Navy for Lieutenant Commander) in the Air Group on Hermes.
    He’d already been closely involved in several attacks on Argentinian forces, and was last off the deck in his group of four. It was apparently a pretty foul night.
    His Harrier was seen to explode and disappeared. He was later awarded the DSC posthumously. I think
    neither aircraft or pilot were ever found.

  7. I came across more than one CO who would have mess dinners for his Sandhurst trained officers only as a way of keeping the oiks out.

    Was just reading (inspired by this thread) that this was official practice in the army up until the First World War. QM Commissions were not full dining members of the officers’ mess.

    BiND, did you know Col. Mike Butler (also of Dorset and Signals)?

  8. But full career ones are based upon rank. Be a major, get a major’s pension.

    Ah, back in the day. AFPS75 is long gone now (although I’ve got a preserved one knocking around in Glasgow somewhere, waiting for me to get old enough.) As has its 2005 replacement. We now have AFPS15, which uses ‘Career Average Revalued Earnings’ – basically 1/47 of your annual pay, with in scheme uplift for inflation.

    It’s still ridiculously generous compared to even the remaining private sector defined benefit schemes, and certainly much better than I can afford to buy myself in the day job, despite earning much more than my military day rate.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset


    BiND, did you know Col. Mike Butler (also of Dorset and Signals)?

    Doesn’t rung a bell, but as its 30 years next month since I left that doesn’t mean I didn’t know him, just that the memory is long gone 🙁

    As to pensions, obviously from what SE says its changed but it used to be that you had to hold substantive rank for 2 years (IIRC) to get the pension of that rank. No promotions just before leaving to bolster a pension.

  10. Except, BiND, to Field Marshal (and other 5*), until the Bett Report did away with those.

    I don’t have any skin in that game, but didn’t APFS05 have something about ‘highest paid 2 years in the last 5?

  11. It’s because of the rare blokes like him that have risen through the ranks that 2,000 troops deployed to sort out Covid-19 problems are more effective than hundreds of times more (not frontline) NHS workers.

  12. “ In the British Army, the quartermaster (QM) is the officer in a battalion or regiment responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, they are always commissioned from the ranks and hold the rank of captain or major.”
    Anyone know why?

    I’d imagine because it’s one of those jobs in the military where you have to know what you’re doing rather than it being taken for granted that membership of the “elite” is sufficient qualification for giving orders. Weren’t Engineers somewhat similar? If it’s just a matter of throwing other ranks lives away with gay abandon, amateurs are sufficient.

  13. It’s because of the rare blokes like him …

    They aren’t that rare. Lots of ex-ranks in my unit, as an example, both the Late Entry (ex-SSgt or WO) type and (being a weird unit) an unusual number of Direct Entry officers. Including the CO and the Chief of Staff.

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