HomeNewsLetters to 150A short history of the rank of Warrant Officer

A short history of the rank of Warrant Officer

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The badge of an ATC CWO.

Recently, the squadron had to dig out the regulations for the appointment of cadet warrant officers.  Promotion to flight sergeant is a fairly simple matter, but warrants are only issued by HQAC under advice from Wing HQ.  The last cadet to be appointed to warranted rank while serving at 150 Sqn is now Flt Lt Emma Jackson-Tweedle, the CO at Cowley.  We’ve had others, but they have all come to 150 as CWOs.  In order to become a WO you must be appointed an instructor cadet, have achieved staff cadet and be assessed by the area commander Sqn Ldr Beardsley.  The assessment takes the form of an observed lesson delivered by the cadet and an interview on various aspects of the ATC, RAF and staff responsibilities.  We thought we’d take this opportunity to examine the rank of warrant officer which is a more recent innovation than either the NCO ranks of sergeant and corporal, or the commissioned ranks. (Ed.)

The Tate and Lyle’s of a WO.Warrant officers were first introduced by the Navy.  Young men hoping for a commission would serve as warrant officers (called midshipmen) until they passed their lieutenant’s exam.  At the same time, older seamen who had reached the top of their trade skills, e.g. carpenter, gun-captain, bo’sun etc would be granted warrants in recognition of their importance to the running of the ship.  The Royal Air Force inherited the ranks of Warrant Officer Class I and II from the Royal Flying Corps in 1918. It also inherited the rank badges of the Royal Arms and a crown respectively. Until the 1930s, these ranks were often known as Sergeant Major 1st and 2nd Class. In 1939 the RAF abolished the rank of WO2 and retained WO1 as simply Warrant Officer, which it remains to this day. The RAF has no equivalent to WO2 (NATO OR-8), WO being equivalent to WO1 (NATO OR-9) and wearing the Royal Arms.  In 1946 the RAF renamed its aircrew warrant officers Master Aircrew, a designation which still survives. In 1950, it renamed warrant officers in technical trades Master Technicians, a designation which only survived until 1964.  When the ATC was formed in 1941, the RAF recycled the old army badges for WOII; adult warrant officers were given the crown and cadet warrant officers the crown with wreath use previously by regimental quarter-masters.  Adult warrant officers were permitted to use the coat-of-arms badge after completing eight years service, but this was discontinued in 1980.

The rank of Warrant Officer is worth a few moments thought.   All warrant officers are different from the ranks below and above them.  They are not commissioned; they are not saluted and cannot be promoted to commissioned rank.  In order to move from warrant officer to pilot officer you must surrender your warrant and be appointed to a commission – it’s not a simple promotion in the same way as corporal to sergeant, or pilot officer to flying officer.  At the same time, a warrant officer is different also from the stripe bearing ranks of Flight Sergeant and below.  A warrant officer, like a commissioned officer is granted a special appointment to issue commands in the name of a higher authority.  In the RAF a warrant officer is issued a Warrant by the Queen, hence the ‘Tate & Lyles’ badge which is the Queen’s personal coat of arms.  In the ATC, both adult and cadet warrant officers are issued a Warrant by the current Air Officer Commanding Air Cadets.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2009 22:30