Rank And File
I'm sure many of you, like me, were moved by the ceremony last year to honour the town of Wootton Bassett with the title of 'Royal' in recognition of its faithful dedication to those who lost their lives in armed conflict. Thinking about this subject, I thought I'd look at some of the fascinating histories behind the names of military ranks.
For example, I assumed admiral must have something to do with 'admire'. But it actually derives from an Old French word for a Saracen military commander. Sergeant comes from the Latin servire, meaning 'to serve', which is strange as this isn't the lowest rank.
Colonel comes from the Latin word for a column or pillar. Back in the 16th century, the colonel was the commander of a column of soldiers.
I was most perplexed by General. It seemed odd to me that such a high rank should have such a, well, general title! I learned that it is an abbreviation from Captain General. General was added to Captain in the 14th century to indicate a superior rank.