Rank and Responsibility

Table of Ranks & Responsibilities

Table of Ranks & Appointments

Staff Officers

Rank & Appt Abbreviations



►►Lieutenant General

►►Major General

►►Brigadier General

►►Brigadier (1928-1968)

►►Col.-Commandant (1922-1928)


►►Lieutenant Colonel




►►2nd Lieutenant

►►Officer Cadet

Warrant Officers

►►Chief Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class I (1915-1968)

►►Master Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class II (1915-1968)

►►Warrant Officer (1968-)

►►W.O. Class III (1939-1945)

Non-Commissioned Officers

►►Staff Sergeant (1900-1968)


►►Lance Sergeant (1900-1968)

►►Master Corporal (1968-2000+)


►►Lance Corporal  (1900-1968)

Non-Commissioned Mbrs (Men)




Master Gunner

Platoon Sergeant Major

Honorary Ranks


Colonel of the Regiment

Honorary Colonel

Colonel Commandant


A corporal was a junior Non-Commissioned Officer in the Canadian Army throughout the 20th Century. In French the rank title is Caporal.

The rank insignia of a corporal was traditionally a 2-bar chevron worn point down.

In the pre-Unification military, corporals occupied command positions. Section commanders in the infantry, for example, in both World Wars were authorized to hold the rank of corporal. In troops of tanks in the Second World War, a Troop Corporal was a crew commander in charge of his own tank.

A corporal could also be appointed Lance Sergeant. He would receive the pay of a corporal but have the responsibilities and privileges of a sergeant.

Other Titles

In the Royal Canadian Artillery, the British tradition of unique rank designations has been emulated, and corporals are referred to by the title "Bombardier."

In British Rifle Regiments, a distinction was drawn between Corporals and Acting Corporals. The appointment of Lance Corporal did not exist, and a private could be appointed "Acting Corporal" instead and wore the 2-bar chevrons of a corporal. Some regiments were unaware of these distinctions; the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, for example, carried soldiers appointed Lance Corporal (and wearing 1-bar chevrons) on its rolls in the Second World War. The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada distinguished between Acting Corporals and Corporals through the use of a distinctive "qualification disc" worn above the 2-bar chevrons.


The following notes on Unification and its impact on the rank system are courtesy David Willard:

The pre-unification system of rank (Private, Corporal, Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Warrant Officer II Class and Warrant Officer I Class) and appointment (Lance Corporal and Lance Sergeant) were a development that evolved through the British system for centuries. It was tried, tested and true for the Army's system of organization and addressed the whole concept of command and control efficiently. It attached a degree of prestige and status to the various levels of supervision/leadership. For example not everyone was automatically promoted to a higher rank simply for being a good soldier or doing one's job well. The individual had to be outstanding amongst his peers, and prove that he was, through tough training and leadership courses which had to be passed to certain standard to qualify. Of course battlefield promotions were another matter where the outstanding qualities observed alone qualified the individual for obvious reasons. This older proven system was advantageous for another but less important reason. Internationally, our ranks and their levels of responsibility were understood by most other nations. A foreign soldier - perhaps a belligerent in a UN setting - knew when he was dealing with a Canadian Corporal that this NCO was a leader of men, schooled in the art of war and no one to fool around with. I can remember tours in Egypt and Cyprus where senior officers would negotiate with Canadian Jnr NCOs almost on an on-par basis, there was (that much) respect. The post-unification system has destroyed the status and respect that several ranks had at one time.

Paul Hellyer's basic concept - integration - was a good one. It had meant an integration of logistics and support services - why have three different logistical organizations cutting contacts, keeping files, and awarding three different contracts for the same materiel? The government, however, further likened the need for National Defence in Canada to a US Marine Corps model. This showed no understanding of what made the three arms (navy, army and air force) tick in Canada. Tradition to the military is the food on which they are nourished and provide for a sense of organization, family and probably most important, ideals to be used as benchmarks for excellence and ability to prevail on the battlefield.

One might compare the situation to a case where a politician or non-elected human rights commissioner descended on the world renowned Ottawa Heart Institute reorganizing the administration and operation of the unit. One need only imagine them telling the heart doctors how they were going to perform surgical operations, to the point of advising them on which instruments they could have, to realize how ridiculous it would be.

At the time of Unification, servicemen were given a raise in pay to keep them enrolled. Signing bonuses of $200.00 were given for each year to a maximum of five that they re-enlisted for. $1000.00 in 1967 was a life changing amount, possibly worth about ten times as much in 1999 dollars. Rank was given away next; anyone who had ever had a Junior NCO course was automatically promoted to Corporal. Everyone who had 4 years of service automatically went on a new Junior Leaders Course to get him promoted to Corporal. Corporal was now a giveaway, it meant nothing as far as status was concerned, it was a shoe-in for everyone.

The problem was that at that time, Corporals were then section commanders. The actual commander now was leading a whole section of his rank peers. There was actual fighting in the ranks and discipline was poor. So another level was instituted - Senior Corporal. But that was not enough, they then introduced the "B" Corporal (indicating he had qualified Part B of the Junior NCO Course). They changed the chevrons to have a little crown sewed on over the hooks.

Chevrons and crown of the "B" Corporal. DND photo via Joe Costello, rcsigs.ca. (DND/National Defence Image Library (NDIL) IH71-10)

From left to right: Standard 2-bar chevron (pre-Unification); 2-bar chevron with qualification disc as worn by a trained corporal of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada; insignia of a "B" Corporal as worn on Battle Dress (courtesy Ed Storey), a CF 2-bar chevron, and an early pattern 2-bar chevron with maple leaf.

Canadian Forces personnel receiving refugees from Uganda at Longues Pointes in October 1972. Library and Archives Canada photo


After Unification, there was much friction between the A and B corporals. Again, according to Willard:

We took turns being B Corporals as there were now so many of us. There was no continuity and of course this was unworkable. Finally instead of putting it back to what everyone knew was workable, they developed a new appointment...Master Corporal. But who would become the Masters? It was decreed that those wearing the B Corporal crown at the time would become the appointee. New leadership qualities had to established....this took years and years to even get to the point where the right people were in charge. In the process, the rank of Corporal was destroyed in the Canadian Army. Almost the exact same thing happened to the rank of Captain.

Master Corporal was never enshrined as a rank, however, and corporal was deemed to be the substantive rank of members carrying the appointment of Master Corporal. On pay documents, for example, for many years corporal was listed as "Cpl (A)" and Master Corporal as "Cpl (B)".


In the Regular Force, four years of experience was necessary for non-accelerated promotion to corporal, along with the second level of trades training; in the Reserve Force, the minimum time in rank as a private varied from 1 to 2 years.


The rank of Corporal was severaly downgraded after unification, along with the attendant responsibilities. A corporal in the Canadian Army in 1967 had the same duties and responsibilities that a sergeant had after unification.

Another effect of Unification was to delete the appointments of Lance Corporal and Lance Sergeant.


Willard adds: "The system has been very rapidly changed for the worse. A better concept would have been "lateral trade progression" - it is possible to give a man status, prestige and more money without promoting him in rank. Unfortunately, the Canadian Army never went this route."

Canadian Army Ranks/Appointments
Non-Commissioned Ranks
Private  | Lance Corporal | Corporal | Master Corporal | Lance Sergeant | Sergeant | Staff Sergeant
Warrant Officers




Warrant Officer | Warrant Officer Class III | Warrant Officer Class II Warrant Officer Class I |  Warrant Officer | Master Warrant Officer | Chief Warrant Officer
Officer Cadet  | 2nd Lieutenant | Lieutenant | Captain | Major | Lieutenant Colonel | Colonel | Colonel Commandant | Brigadier
 Brigadier General | Major General | Lieutenant General | General


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