An impostor in the ranks

Cpl Michael Rogers investigates the myth of Queen’s Corporals.

YOU may have heard of the Queen’s Corporal – a private promoted to corporal after 20 years’ service on merit of raw experience.

Crowned or inverted chevrons would distinguish them among the ranks, and they even had to be saluted by officers.

Once promoted, their rank was said to be unbreakable, unable to be demoted unless by the Queen herself.

This story is usually passed from more experienced soldiers to newer members of their unit, as seriously as taking the oath.

The story has been around Army for decades and its enduring nature might make you wonder if there is a shred of truth behind it.

The question of its actual existence is one that has been asked for almost 90 years.

A writer to the Journal of Army Historical Research in 1935 asked if stories of ‘King’s Corporals’ were true and what their distinguishing insignia was.

‘King’s Corporals’ were mentioned during the second Boer War as being promoted for gallantry in the field. The recipient was said to be promoted by the Commander-in-Chief, the reigning British Monarch, hence a ‘King’s Corporal’.

A submission was made to British Parliament in 1944 asking about the total number of ‘King’s Corporals’ in existence, and their pay and privileges.

Parliament responded that there was no factual basis for such a rank having existed in “living memory”.

The UK and Australian military records are some of the most well-maintained in the world, but there is no official record of such a rank.

It probably was bestowed by Lord Kitchener or the like unofficially during the Second Boer War, and then the story of it spread.

The name likely changed to Queen’s Corporal with the monarch, to keep the story up to date.

The crowned chevrons detail could come from the rank insignia of the British Household Cavalry Regiment, or the Middlesex Yeomanry, a volunteer cavalry regiment that served in the second Boer War.

A simpler explanation is a reimagined staff sergeant insignia.

So, while the official answer is no, the rank does not exist, it probably won’t stop the story from being re-told.


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