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Major general (United Kingdom)

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Major general (Maj Gen), is a 2-star rank in the British Army and Royal Marines. The rank was also briefly used by the Royal Air Force for a year and a half, to August 1919. In the British Army, a major general is the customary rank for the appointment of division commander. In the Royal Marines, the rank of major general is held by the Commandant General.


A major general is senior to a brigadier but subordinate to lieutenant general. The rank has a NATO rank code of OF-7, equivalent to a rear admiral in the Royal Navy or an air vice-marshal in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries.

The rank insignia is the star (or 'pip') of the Order of the Bath, over a crossed sword and baton, similar to that of a deputy chief constable in the police.

In terms of orthography, compound ranks were invariably hyphenated, prior to about 1980. Nowadays the rank is almost equally invariably non-hyphenated. To see the confusion in a source as definitive as the London Gazette, compare the entries in these two editions from 1979: firstly: from June, and then: from November. When written as a title, especially before a person's name, both words of the rank are always capitalised, whether using the 'traditional' hyphenated style of, say, the two World Wars, or the modern un-hyphenated style. When used as common nouns, they might be written in lower-case: 'Major-General Montgomery was one of several major-generals to be promoted at this time'.

British Army usage

In the British Army, a division is commanded by a major general. However, other appointments may also be held by major generals. For example, the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is a major general.

Until around the 1980s, the heads of each branch of service, such as the Royal Armoured Corps, the Royal Artillery and the Corps of Infantry were major-generals. Other, administrative, commands were also appointments for a major-general. In addition, in wartime, the senior officer of the Royal Army Chaplains Department, the Chaplain-General, and similar appointments, were accorded 'the relative precedence' - that is to say the equivalence rather than the full powers and authority - of the rank of major-general.

Royal Marines usage

The Commandant General Royal Marines has held the rank of major general since 1996, when the post was downgraded from major general. As in the British Army, a Royal Marine major general ranks below lieutenant general and above brigadier.

Royal Air Force usage

From its foundation on 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force (RAF) briefly maintained the rank of major-general. The service was a wartime amalgamation of the Army's Royal Flying Corps and the Navy's Royal Naval Air Service, so the Third Service ranks were a compromise between these two traditions. The insignia of the rank was derived from that of a Royal Navy rear-admiral and featured a broad gold stripe on the cuff below one narrow gold stripe. The two stripes were surmounted by an eagle (volant and affronty) under a king's crown. The RAF replaced the rank of major-general with the rank of air vice-marshal on the 1 August 1919.

Despite the short duration, the significance of the RAF to modern warfare was indicated by the number of senior officers who did wear the rank of major-general in the RAF:

  • Edward Ashmore
  • Sefton Brancker
  • George Cayley
  • Edward Ellington
  • Philip Game
  • The Honorable Sir Frederick Gordon
  • Frederick Heath-Caldwell
  • John Higgins
  • Mark Kerr
  • Charles Lambe
  • Charles Longcroft
  • Godfrey Paine
  • Geoffrey Salmond
  • John Salmond
  • Ernest Swinton
  • Frederick Sykes
  • Hugh Trenchard
  • References

    Major-general (United Kingdom) Wikipedia

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