Ranks in the French Army

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Rank insignia in the French army, except for general officers, depends on whether the soldier belongs to a "foot arm" or a "horse arm". All arms are designated either a foot or horse arm. In foot arms the main insignia colour is gold, but in horse arms the main insignia colour is silver/white. In addition. However, the artillery uses gold as the main colour, despite being a horse arm, and the spahis use gold as the main colour despite being part of a horse arm, the armoured cavalry arm.
  • Foot arms: Infantry, Naval troops, Foreign Legion, Engineering, etc.
  • Horse arms: Armoured Cavalry arm, Train, Artillery, etc.
The ranks in the Armée de Terre :


The title of Maréchal de France is awarded as a distinction, rather than a rank. The marshals wear seven stars and a baton.

Famous examples include Turenne, Joachim Murat, Michel Ney, Guillaume Brune, Louis Nicolas Davout, André Masséna, Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, Marie Pierre Koenig and Alphonse Juin.

An infamous example would be Philippe Pétain, who became famous as Maréchal Pétain, Chief of State of the Vichy France puppet regime and retained his title even after his trial and imprisonment and after he was stripped of other positions and titles.

Another particular example is Marshal de MacMahon, the only President of the French Republic with Irish clansman descent together with Charles de Gaulle, who ruled the Third Republic from 1875 to 1879.

Six Marshals of France have been given the even more exalted rank of Marshal General of France: Biron, Lesdiguières, Turenne, Villars, Saxe and Soult.


Officers are divided into
  • the regular officers of the Army
  • the commisary of the Army
  • the officers of the technical and administrative corps of the Army.
They all wear the same insignia and titles.

Généraux - General officers

  • Général d'armée: Army General: In command of an army. This is not a genuine rank, but an appointment of Divisional General.
  • Général de corps d'armée: Corps General: In command of an army corps. This is not a genuine rank, but an appointment of Divisional General.
  • Général de division: Divisional General: in command of a division.
  • Général de brigade: Brigade General : in command of a brigade, or of a légion in the Gendarmerie
The title "général" originates in the ancient rank of "capitaine général" (literally, "captain general"), who was in command of the whole army.

There is no distinction between infantry and cavalry generals, since they are all supposed to be able to command any type of unit.

Officiers supérieurs - Senior officers

In the below descriptions, "horse-mounted" does not refer to current units (the only remaining horse-mounted unit is a ceremonial unit in the Republican Guard) but to some traditional affiliation of the units.
  • Colonel : in command of a regiment or a groupement (in the Gendarmerie). During the French Revolution, they were called "chef de brigade". Mounted arms wear silver. The origin of the difference in metal color is that infantry officers once wore silver epaulettes, while those of the cavalry and other arms wore gold, and the color of the rank badge had to differ from these metals in each case.
  • Infantry
  • Cavalry and other horse-mounted arms (armes à cheval)
  • Lieutenant-colonel: same responsibilities as a colonel. They were called "major" during the First French Empire. Notice that the metal colors alternate silver and gold in each case, as opposed to those of the colonels. This characteristic goes back at least to alternating stripes on the headdress of that empire.
  • Infantry
  • Cavalry and other horse-mounted arms (armes à cheval)
  • Commandant: also called chef de bataillon in the infantry, chef d'escadrons in the cavalry and chef d'escadron in the artillery.
The word "colonel" originates in the title capitaine colonel, "the one who commands a column (regiment). Lieutenant-colonel is the one who can "stand for" a colonel (lieu-tenant, tenir lieu = to stand for). Chef, "chief", comes from Latin caput="head".

Officiers sulbalternes - Junior officers

  • Capitaine: in command of a company (infantry), a squadron (cavalry) or a battery (artillery)
  • Lieutenant: in command of a section (infantry), a peloton (cavalry) or a brigade (gendarmerie)
  • Sous-lieutenant: same prerogatives as the lieutenant
  • Aspirant : Acting Officer or Officer Candidate.
  • Aspirant : Reservist Officer, Student Officer or Cadet. During the first years at the schools of École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr or École militaire interarmes or Ecole des Officiers de la Gendarmerie Nationale


  • Major: same prerogatives as the lieutenant.
Note the difference with English ranking systems, where "Majors" rank as commandants.

Sous-officiers - Non Commissioned Officers

  • A Major is equivalent to the rank of Sergeant Major in the US, UK , Canada, etc. There are relatively few Major in the armed forces, about one per regiment or brigade.
  • Adjudant-chef : often same responsibilities as the lieutenant. In the horse-mounted arms (armes a cheval: cavalry and transportation), they are addressed as "lieutenant", otherwise addressed as "adjudant"
  • adjudant-chef (des armes à pied)
  • adjudant-chef
  • Adjudant : often same responsibilities as alieutenant
  • Sergent-chef (infantry) or Maréchal des logis-chef (cavalry), addressed as "chef"
  • Sergent-chef : Chief Sergeant
  • Maréchal des logis-chef : Chief Marshal of Lodgings
  • Sergent (infantry) or Maréchal des logis (cavalry) : in command of a group
  • Sergent : Sergeant
  • Maréchal des logis : Marshal of Lodgings
  • Eleve Sous-Officier NCO candidats at the ENSOA.
The adjudant is the adjoint ("aid") of an officer, and the sergeant "serves" (Latin serviens).

Aspirants or sous-lieutenants are junior officers and are often aided by adjudants or adjudants-chefs, who are experienced NCOs/warrant officers.

Full lieutenant are experienced junior officers, served by sergeants when commanding their unit.

Militaires du rang - Enlisted

  • Caporal-chef de première classe. Distinction created in 1999.
  • Caporal-chef (infantry) or Brigadier-chef (cavalry) : in command of a team
  • Caporal (infantry) or Brigadier (cavalry) : in command of a team. Note that in many armies, a Brigadier is a colonel in charge of a brigade (the Swiss army reserves the title of "general" for times of war), and thus effectively ranking général de brigade.
  • Soldat de première classe. This is a distinction rather than a rank.
  • Soldat de deuxième classe: No rank insignia. Depending on the arm, they are called
  • fantassin (infantry)
  • légionnaire (Légion étrangère)
  • artilleur (artillery)
  • sapeur (engineering, including the sapeurs-pompiers de Paris)
  • chasseur ("Hunter": light troops)
  • chasseurs à pied (Light Infantry)
  • chasseurs à cheval (Light Mounted Infantry)
  • chasseurs alpins (Light Alpine Infantry)
  • dragon (Dragoon: Mounted Infantry unit)
  • cuirassier (Cuirassier: Heavy Cavalry unit)
  • hussard (Hussar: Light Cavalry unit)
  • transmetteur (signals corps)
  • conducteur (trains).
  • Bigor (Artillerie de la marine; see Troupes de marine): A term either from the gunner's order to fire (Bigue de hors) or a term for a species of sea slug (bigorneau) because they would stick to their emplacements and couldn't be removed easily.
  • Colo (Troupes Coloniales): The former term for the Troupes de la Marine when they were Colonial troops.
  • Marsouin (Troupes de marine): From a term for the Harbour Porpoise, due to their duties at sea or on land.
  • Para (Troupes aéroportées): Airborne troops.
  • Poilu (Infanterie): "Hairy One". A derogatory term, much like the Commonwealth Forces term Pongo ("Smelly one"). Ony used when speaking of french soldiers of WW1.
There are also distinctions to distinguish volunteers and conscripts, and bars for experience (one for five years, up to four can be obtained).

Ingénieurs du service du matériel

  • Ingénieur général de première classe
  • Ingénieur général de deuxième classe
  • Ingénieur en chef de première classe
  • Ingénieur en chef de deuxième classe
  • Ingénieur principal
  • Ingénieur de première classe
  • Ingénieur de deuxième classe
  • Ingénieur de troisième classe

Table of ranks

Maréchaux de France - Marshals of France
Maréchal de France
Marshal of France is not an actual rank, but a "state honour"
Officiers généraux - General officers
Général de brigadeGénéral de divisionGénéral de corps d'arméeGénéral d'armée
Commands a brigadeCommands a divisionCommands a corps. This is not an actual rank, but an appointment of général de division.Commands an army. This is not an actual rank, but an appointment of général de division.
Six stars used to be used by the general commanding the defences of Paris. This insignia is not in use anymore.
Officiers supérieurs - Senior officers
Commandant (Chef d'escadron(s) in some arms)Lieutenant-colonelColonel
Officiers subalternes - Junior officers
Major - Major
Sous-officiers - Sub-officers
Élève sous-officierSergent ("Foot arms") / Maréchal des logis ("Horse Arms")Sergent-chef ("Foot Arms") / Maréchal des logis-chef ("Horse Arms")AdjudantAdjudant-chef
A four chevron sergent-chef major existed up till 1947
Militaires du rang - Rank and File
Soldat 1e classeCaporal ("Foot arms") / Brigadier ("Horse Arms")Caporal-chef ("Foot arms") / Brigadier-chef ("Horse Arms")Caporal-chef (1e classe) / Brigadier-chef (1e classe)

See also

The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre (English: Land Army), is the land-based component of the French Armed Forces and its largest.
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The French Army Light Aviation (French: Aviation Légère de l’Armée de Terre, ALAT) is a the aviation service of the French Army.
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The Troupes de marine (literally "Naval Troops", often translated as "marine troops") are an elite corps of the French Army with naval heritage. The Naval Troops are dedicated to service overseas.
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French Foreign Legion (French: Légion étrangère) is a unique elite unit within the French Army established in 1831. It was created as a unit for foreign volunteers, because foreigners were forbidden to enlist in the French Army after
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Chasseurs Alpins (English: Alpine Hunters or Alpine Chasers) are the elite mountain infantry of the French Army. They are trained to operate in mountainous terrain and in urban warfare.
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French ArmyStructure of the French Army

1re Brigade M̩canis̩e Р1st Mechanised Brigade in Chalons en Champagne

Main article: 1st Mechanised Brigade (France)

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The Chief of the Staff of the French Army (French: Chef d'État-Major de l'Armée de Terre, CEMAT) is the professional head of the French Army.
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(in French)
  • Les hélicoptères de l'armée de terre : situation et perspectives - Report from the French Senate (in French)
  • Le rôle des drones dans les armées - Report from the French Senate (in French)

  • ..... Click the link for more information.
  • military history of France encompasses an immense panorama of conflicts and struggles extending for more than 2,000 years across areas including modern France, greater Europe, and European territorial possessions overseas.
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    The Croix de Guerre (sometimes lowercase in French, Croix de guerre, meaning "Cross of War") is a military decoration of both France and Belgium, where it is also known as Oorlogskruis (Dutch).
    ..... Click the link for more information.
    Ribbon Awards
    Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur
    Ordre de la Libération
    Ordre national du Mérite
    Ordre des palmes académiques
    Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
    Ordre du Mérite Agricole
    Ordre du Mérite Maritime

    The principal French military awards

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    Spahis were light cavalry regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the indigenous populations of Algeria, Tunisia and Morroco. The name is the French form of sipahi, a word derived from Persian for an Ottoman cavalry corps.
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    The Marshal of France (French: Maréchal de France) is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements.
    ..... Click the link for more information.
    worldwide view of the subject.
    Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page.

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    Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne, often called simply Turenne (September 11, 1611 – July 27, 1675) achieved military fame and became a Marshal of France. He was the most illustrious member of the La Tour d'Auvergne family.
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    Joachim Napol̩on Murat, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, King of Naples and Sicily, 1st Prince Murat (born Joachim Murat) (Italian: Gioacchino Murat; March 25, 1767 РOctober 13, 1815), Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Cleves and Berg, Marshal of France, was King of
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    Michel Ney, Duke of Elchingen, Prince of the Moskowa (January 10 1769 – December 7 1815), known as Le Rougeaud ("red faced" or "ruddy"[1]) by his men and le Brave des Braves
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    Guillaume Marie Anne Brune (March 13, 1763—August 2, 1815) was a French soldier and political figure who rose to the rank of Marshal of France.

    The son of a lawyer, he was born at Brive-la-Gaillarde, Corrèze.
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    Louis Nicolas d'Avout (May 10, 1770 – June 1, 1823), better known as Davout, Duc d'Auerstaedt, prince d'Eckmühl, was a Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Era.
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    André Masséna, Duke of Rivoli, Prince of Essling (May 6 1758–April 4 1817) was a French military commander during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He is considered by military historians as one of the greatest field commanders in history and is often ranked among
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    Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque (November 22, 1902 - November 28, 1947), was a French general during World War II, he became Marshal of France posthumously, in 1952.

    He was born Philippe François Marie, comte de Hauteclocque
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    Jean Joseph Marie Gabriel de Lattre de Tassigny (2 February 1889 – 11 January 1952) was a French military hero of World War II.

    Born at Mouilleron-en-Pareds, he graduated from school in 1911, and fought in World War I.
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    Alphonse Pierre Juin (16 December 1888 – 27 January 1967) was a Marshal of France.

    Juin was born at Annaba in Algeria, and enlisted in the French Army, graduating from the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr in 1912.
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    Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph P̩tain (24 April 1856 Р23 July 1951), generally known as Philippe P̩tain or Marshal P̩tain (Mar̩chal P̩tain), was a French general who reached the distinction of Marshal of France, later Chief of State of Vichy France
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    Vichy France, or the Vichy regime, was the government of France from July 1940 to August 1944. It succeeded the Third Republic.
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    A puppet state is a country that is nominally independent, but in reality, under the control of another power.[1]

    The term has two distinct but related meanings.
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    Marie Edme Patrice Maurice de Mac-Mahon, 1er Duc de Magenta, Marshal of France (13 July 1808 - 16 October, 1893) was a French general and politician. He served as Chief of State of France from 1873 to 1875 and as the first president of the Third Republic, from 1875 to 1879.
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    This article is part of the series:
    Politics and government of

    • Constitution
    • Fifth Republic
    • Government of France
    • President

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    Irish people (Irish: Muintir na hÉireann, na hÉireannaigh, na Gaeil) are a European ethnic group who originated in Ireland, in north western Europe.
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    Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle ( ) (November 22, 1890 – November 9, 1970), in France commonly referred to as Général de Gaulle
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