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CEF Rank Insignia
For someone not previously exposed to military ranks, it can be rather confusing. There are three main points to remember: The first, that ranks are broken into two categories:

  • Other Ranks: Private to Warrant officer II. Other Ranks are further broken down into:

    a) Private;

    b) Junior Non-Commissioned Officers (Jnr NCO) Lance-Corporal and Corporal; and

    c) Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (Snr NCO) Sergeant to Warrant officer II.

  • Commissioned Officers: Lieutenant to Field-Marshall. A commission is a patent from the monarch which allows a person to be an officer of the Crown and carry out official acts and duties.
The second key point is that a soldier was "promoted" to a rank, then "appointed" to a position identified with that rank. For example, a soldier would be promoted to Warrant Officer II and appointed as the Company Sergeant-Major. For an officer example: an officer could be promoted to Captain, and appointed as a Company Commander.
Other Ranks: Private to Warrant Officer II
The Other Ranks' chevrons were made from the identical worsted braid as was worn on the officer's cuff-ranking. Crowns, royal cyphers, exploding bombs, guns, and other rank insignia was manufactured from padded insignia with embroidered detailing. For the Senior NCO ranks above the rank of sergeant, the rank insignia is usually found in brass, although period photos prove that cloth rank was also used.

Nothing. I wore this rank for four years. It was great!
Lance - Corporal

The most junior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in the CEF was the Lance-Corporal (LCpl). The rank insignia of a Lance-Corporal was one chevron worn point down.

The next rank in the CEF was the Corporal (Cpl). The rank insignia of a Corporal was two chevrons worn point down.

A Sergeant (Sgt) was a Senior NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in the CEF. The rank insignia of a Sergeant was three chevrons worn point down.
Company Sergeant-Major and Quarter-Master Sergeant up to 1915.

Sergeants in the appointment of Company Sergeant-Major and Quarter-Master Sergeant wore three chevrons worn point down with a crown at the top until May 1915.

After May 1915, Company Sergeant-Major went to the crown worn by itself as show below. After May 1915, the three chevrons worn point down with a crown at the top shown here was worn only by the Company Quarter-Master Sergeant.
A Company Quarter-Master Sergeant. As the 170th Infantry Battalion was raised in 1916 (after the May 1915 change), he can only be a Company Quarter-Master Sergeant.

Engineers in this appointment wore an embroidered exploding bomb instead of the crown, and the Artillery wore an embroidered gun.
Warrant Officer up to 1915 or Warrant Officer II 1915-1919

Up to May 1915, an embroidered crown was worn by Warrant Officers. A Warrant Officer was typically employed in the appointment of Regimental Sergeant-Major until May 1915.
In May 1915 the rank of Warrant Officer was split into two different classes, Class II being the lower and Class I the superior. As of May 1915 the crown shown here was worn by Warrant Officer II, usually while employed as a Company Sergeant Major.
A Company Sergeant Major wearing the post - 1915 rank.
Regimental Quarter-Master Sergeant

The rank insignia of a Regimental Quarter-Master Sergeant worn until May 1915 was four chevrons worn point up with an embroidered star at the top. This rank was changed in 1915 to a crown surrounded by oak leaves. I suspect this insignia was normally in brass but embroidered examples may have existed. The example here is a WWII example, just to show the pattern.
Warrant Officer I 1915-1919

In May 1915 the new rank of Warrant Officer 1 was introduced. Warrant Officer 1 were usually employed as the Regimental Sergeant Major. It should be noted that this rank was not recognized in Canada and was only worn overseas.
A Regimental Sergeant Major wearing the post - 1915 rank.
The intent of this section is only to show the officer ranks. For information on the wearing of rank on the cuffs or shoulder straps, please refer to the page on Officer's Pattern Tunics.

From November 1902 officers wore a series of cuff rings and scallops made from worsted braid with embroidered rank pips and crowns. At some point during the war officers in the BEF started wearing their rank on their shoulder straps and were given the option of wearing their rank on the sleeves or shoulder straps in 1917. Soon after, officers of the CEF followed suit.
The illustrations below are from a Canadian Pacific Railway booklet published for Christmas in 1918. It shows both the cuff and shoulder straps ranks for Second-Lieutenant to Field Marshal.
Scans kindly provided by Michel Perrier
From left to right:
  • Left: Captain
    3 pips + 2 rings

  • Center: Major
    Crown + 3 rings

  • Right: Lt. Colonel
    Crown + pip + 3 rings
A close up of embroidered rank and pips for a Lieutenant. Note the faded spot in between the two cloth pips where his single 2nd Lt. pip was. When he was promoted to Lt., the single pip was moved down and an additional rank pip was added. Also note the leather strip around the circumference of the cuff opening and twin wound stripes.
The cuffs on highland units are not scalloped and have their own unique pattern as show by this highland cuff-rank for a Captain.
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