GENBRIT-L Archives

Archiver > GENBRIT > 1998-02 > 0887322576

From: "Jim Gordon" <>
Subject: Re: Colour Sergeant (1814-1833)
Date: 12 Feb 98 22:29:36 GMT

Iain - Come back to me privately, I'd like to compare/contrast the Colour
Sgt/1Sgt responsibilities/development.

The Colour Serjeant (proper 19th century spelling) WAS the senior Sergeant
in an Infantry company. The rank was introuced 6 Jul 1813 as a reward for
distinguished service. At the time the pay was 2s/4d a day. The original
badge of rank was a crown above the Union Jack, the staff upright and the
flag flying to the left (that is, to the wearer's rear as enlisted rank
badges were worn only on the left sleeve). Beneath this were two crossed
straight swords. points uppermost. Underneath the whole was a single
chevron of double narrow gold or silver lace.
In 1868, it was changed to three chevrons under crossed Union Jacks,
surmounted by a crown (i.e. Staff Serjeant). When the "double-company"
system (i.e. two companies were consolidated into a single company) was
introduced early in the 20th century, the Colour Sergeants of each pair of
companies became the Company Sergeant-Major (the senior of the two) and the
Company Quartermaster-Sergeant. (The preceding plagiarized from "A History
of the Regiments and Uniforms of the British Army" by Maj. R. Money Barnes)
Just an aside: The equivalent rank/post in the U.S. Army is First Sergeant.
Preceding WW2, the 1st Sgt ranked with a Technical Sergeant (The highest
enlisted rank at the time was Master Sergeant, the next enlisted grade).
Traditonally (taken with a grain of salt) the 1/Sgt could whip any man in
the company. The 1/Sgt was the company commander's right hand man: He and
the Company Clerk conducted the day-to-day operations of the company. As
far as enlisted men were concerned in those days, the 1/Sgt (and probably
the Colour Sgt) WAS GOD ALMIGHTY!
Then as the Army grew during WW2, the 1/Sgt became the enlisted
administrative offical of the company (as, according to Iain, did the
Colour Sergeant).

Jim Gordon, Laurel, MD USA

Iain Kerr <> wrote in article
> on 11 Feb 98, RaiderD97 wrote...
> >Could anybody please tell me what the duties of a colour sergeant were
in those
> >early years of the nineteenth century in a British regiment of foot?
Also, how
> >many colour sergeants would there be in a British regiment?
> Dennis,
> A colour sergeant was a staff sergeant (rank badge a crown over three
> who was often the senior non-commissioned officer in a company. The name
> from an ancient tradition of two colour sergeants providing the escort to
> regimental colours which were usually carried by a junior officer).
> There would have been one colour sergent per company.
> In later years, the colour sergeant became more involved with company
stores and
> the development of company sergeant majors provided the disciplinary
> Yours aye,
> Iain
> in Windsor, Berkshire
> Web Page at
> email address

This thread: