Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)

See Captain (armed forces) for other versions of this army and marines rank.

Captain (Capt) is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines and in both services it ranks above lieutenant and below major with a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force. The rank of captain in the Royal Navy is considerably more senior (equivalent to the Army/RM rank of colonel) and the two ranks should not be confused.

In the 21st-century British Army, captains are often appointed to be second-in-command of a company or equivalent sized unit of up to 120 soldiers.[1]

British Army OF-2
British Army insignia
British Royal Marines OF-2
Royal Marines insignia


A rank of second captain existed in the Ordnance at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.[2]

From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force maintained the junior officer rank of captain. RAF captains had a rank insignia based on the two bands of a naval lieutenant with the addition of an eagle and crown above the bands.[3] It was superseded by the rank of flight lieutenant on the following day.[4]

Rank insignia

Badges of rank for captains were introduced on 30 January 1855 and were worn on shoulder epaulets. After the Crimean War a new rank system was introduced which contained the first complete rank insignia in British Army history. A captain's rank insignia was worn on the collar and displayed a crown and a pip (which is now the rank insignia for a lieutenant-colonel).

British-Army-Capt(1856-1880)-Collar Insignia

1856 to 1880 captain's rank insignia

The rank insignia were returned to the shoulder boards in 1880 for all officers in full dress, when the system of crowns and stars was reorganised. From this time, until 1902, a captain had just two stars. The 1902 change gave captains three stars, which continues to be used. In addition to the shoulder badges, officers' ranks were also reflected in the amount and pattern of gold lace worn on the cuffs of the full-dress tunic.

1881 to 1902 captain's rank insignia

From 1902, a complex system of markings with bars and loops in thin drab braid above the cuff (known irreverently as the asparagus bed) was used at first but this was replaced in the same year by a combination of narrow rings of worsted braid around the cuff, with the full-dress style shoulder badges on a three-pointed cuff flap. Based on equivalent naval ranks, captains had two rings of braid. In the case of Scottish regiments, the rings were around the top of the gauntlet-style cuff and the badges on the cuff itself.

World War I British Army captain's rank insignia (sleeve, general pattern)

World War I captain's rank insignia (general pattern)

World War I British Army captain's rank insignia (sleeve, Scottish pattern)

World War I captain's rank insignia (Scottish pattern)

During World War I, some officers took to wearing similar jackets to the men, with the rank badges on the shoulder, as the cuff badges made them conspicuous to snipers. This practice was frowned on outside the trenches but was given official sanction in 1917 as an alternative, being made permanent in 1920 when the cuff badges were abolished.


  1. ^ "Ranks". British Army Website. 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ Holmes, Richard (2001). Redcoat - The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket. HarperCollins. p. 176. ISBN 9780002570978.
  3. ^ Barrass, M. B. (2015). "Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force, April 1918 – August 1919: Initial Uniform Design". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  4. ^ Barrass, M. B. (2015). "Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force 1919 – Present: Final Uniform Design". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 17 April 2016.

Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, airplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. Captain is a military rank in armies, navies, coast guards, etc., typically at the level of an officer commanding a company of infantry, a ship, or a battery of artillery, or similar distinct unit. The terms also may be used as an informal or honorary title for persons in similar commanding roles.

The term "captain" derives from katepánō (Greek: κατεπάνω, lit. "[the one] placed at the top", or "the topmost") which was used as title for a senior Byzantine military rank and office. The word was Latinized as capetanus/catepan, and its meaning seems to have merged with that of the late Latin "capitaneus" (which derives from the classical Latin word "caput", meaning head). This hybridized term gave rise to the English language term captain and its equivalents in other languages (Capitan, Capitaine, Capitano, Capitão, Kapitan, Kapitän, Kapitein, Kapteeni, Kapten, kapitány, Kapudan Pasha, Kobtan, etc.).

Second Captain

Second Captain may refer to:

Flag captain, or second captain, serving as the ship captain of a flagship of a fleet under an admiral whose chief of staff was the first captain of the fleet.

Junior captain, or second captain, a type of Captain (armed forces)

Second Captain, an antiquated rank below Captain (British Army and Royal Marines) used by the British Military during the 19th century, generally in the Ordnance and Royal Regiment of Artillery.

Second Captains, an Irish media company

Second Captains Live, Irish sports and entertainment show

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