A Private was a
soldier of the lowest military rank (equivalent to NATO Rank Grades
OR-1 to OR-3 depending on the force served in).
The term dates from the Middle Ages where privates were known as
"private soldiers" who were either hired, conscripted, or feudalized
into service by a nobleman forming an army. As a military rank, such
usage dates to the 18th century, when Napoleon Bonaparte's army
first established the permanent rank of private.
Canada entered the 20th Century with the rank designation Private
firmly fixed. A private generally wore no special rank insignia. The
term remained constant through to Unification.
Some regiments/corps used traditional rank titles in place of
private; these included:
Trooper - mounted
(cavalry or armoured)
Rifleman - Rifle
Sapper - engineer
Driver - service
Craftsman - RCEME/LORE/EME
After Unification, the Canadian Forces had three levels of Private;
Private (Recruit), Private (Basic), and Private (Trained). All
persons holding the rank of Private were referred to as such and the
qualifier shown in brackets was used in written records only.
- Self explanatory.
Private (Basic) -
After finishing recruit training, a member becomes a Private
(Basic). This rank is continued through trades training and
- A Private (Basic) became a Private (Trained) after 2-1/2 years
of service, and completion of their trade's initial
qualification level (variously referred to as TQ1 (Trades
Qualification 1), or QL 3 (Qualification Level 3). A Private
(Trained) was the only "Private" to wear rank insignia, where
his rank was denoted by a 1-bar chevron.
The Private (Trained)
was also known by other titles, depending on unit and/or trade.
Craftsman - EME
Rifleman - Rifle
Sapper - Canadian
In terms of authority
and responsibilities, the rank of Corporal was often seen as
equivalent in the post-Unification armed forces, and the term
"Corporal/Private" was often used. Corporals no longer required
leadership training for promotion to that rank, and that grade
represented a private with additional trades training and time in
rank but no leadership responsibilities (though he was in practice
often given minor leadership tasks).
Before Unification of the Armed Forces, a private wore no insignia
regardless of level of training, but could be appointed Lance
Corporal, for which he wore a one-bar chevron. A corporal at that
time was the equivalent of a post-Unification sergeant in that he
required leadership training for promotion and was considered
sufficiently trained and experienced to command a section of
infantry (or equivalent in other branches).
The official abbreviation for Private in Canada has always been Pte.
It is sometimes seen incorrectly abbreviated in the American style,
Pvt, in the media.