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Sapphire135
04-05-2018, 02:39 AM
Does anyone know if it was possible for an enlisted soldier in the British army (circa 1850s & 1860s) to get a battlefield promotion? The character in question joined the army as a poor young man and by the time he returns home, he's become a Captain. I'm just not sure how he would have attained this rank without buying a commission. Any help would be appreciated!

Al X.
04-05-2018, 03:19 AM
A British enlisted soldier in Afghanistan got a "historic" battlefield commission in 2014, so I kind of doubt it. The Brits of the period had a pretty rigid class system in their military ranks from what I understand. Officer appointments were drawn from the wealthy and famous.

But, fiction is fiction, you could spin it as a unique and abnormal promotion.

Sapphire135
04-05-2018, 08:25 AM
Thanks for the response! I thought that a small percentage of British soldiers during the Peninsular wars gained battlefield promotions, so I was hoping the same might apply for mid- 19th century.

Helix
04-05-2018, 09:24 AM
From what I could find, the promotion Al X mentioned was the first in 60 years. So it was happening during the Korean War.

Sapphire135
04-05-2018, 09:30 AM
Thanks, Helix!

Helix
04-05-2018, 09:36 AM
The thing to watch out for, as I understand it, is that soldiers often turned down their commissions because of the costs involved in hanging out with the posh people. You'll probably have to give him a hidden fortune or some sort of secret sponsor.

Have you read any of the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell? They're before your period, but might help.

JNG01
04-05-2018, 05:49 PM
Read Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Rifles series. The time period is 1810-ish, and it addresses exactly the question of how an enlisted man could become an officer through battlefield promotion. If I remember correctly, the main requirements were: (1) literacy; and (2) an act of extraordinary courage that happened to impress an officer possessing enough rank, wealth, and position to offer the promotion and not care about the disapproval of peers in elevating the 'wrong' type of person.

Sapphire135
04-06-2018, 09:27 PM
Thanks! I'll have a look at those.

WeaselFire
04-15-2018, 04:40 AM
Captain is killed in battle, Lieutenant takes over, performs well, is promoted to the Captain's position. Not truly unusual then, and earlier, both are already officers. More often, especially outside battle, commissions were bought by the officers. Buying a promotion turned a lot of the British army into inept and corrupt groups.

Later it was more likely a Sargent killed and Corporal taking over, enlisted ranks were more likely to get battlefield promotions. Nobility was not really involved. Keep in mind, enlisted men were for life, or twenty years, rarely less. Most died in service, only officers really "retired."

Outside the US, battlefield promotion isn't a normal event for a military career. Seniority is what gave you rank.

Jeff

Helix
04-15-2018, 04:50 AM
Captain is killed in battle, Lieutenant takes over, performs well, is promoted to the Captain's position. Not that unusual then, and earlier, both are already officers.

Later it was more likely a Sargent killed and Corporal taking over, enlisted ranks were more likely to get battlefield promotions. Nobility was not really involved.

Jeff

In the time period Sapphire mentions, money was very important. There were a lot of fees to pay.

Al X.
04-15-2018, 08:24 PM
Captain is killed in battle, Lieutenant takes over, performs well, is promoted to the Captain's position. Not truly unusual then, and earlier, both are already officers. More often, especially outside battle, commissions were bought by the officers. Buying a promotion turned a lot of the British army into inept and corrupt groups.

Later it was more likely a Sargent killed and Corporal taking over, enlisted ranks were more likely to get battlefield promotions. Nobility was not really involved. Keep in mind, enlisted men were for life, or twenty years, rarely less. Most died in service, only officers really "retired."

Outside the US, battlefield promotion isn't a normal event for a military career. Seniority is what gave you rank.

Jeff

I wouldn't consider it a 'normal' event in the US military. But, one thing that hasn't been mentioned is that in the US Army, there are routes for enlisted soldiers to obtain a commission. The most common is WOCS helicopter school, where chosen enlisted ranks simultaneously go through helicopter flight school, and warrant officer candidate school. They cannot obtain their flight wings until they have been commissioned as a warrant officer. Warrant officer helicopter pilots will pretty much remain assigned as a pilot through their career, whereas regular 'commissioned' officers will usually have command and other non-flight assignments, particularly as they advance in rank.

The other route is a direct commissioning program. This differs from a battlefield commission in that an enlisted soldier must have at least two years of college to qualify, then they go through OCS, and must make up the remaining two years of a four year degree within a certain time frame. It's kind of a good deal as they don't have to go to school on their own time. I actually enlisted with the intention of going through the direct commissioning program, but decided not to pursue it and completed the remainder of my enlistment as an enlisted man.