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Lieutenant-general (United Kingdom)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

British Army insignia
Royal Marines insignia
Please see "lieutenant general" for other countries which use this rank

Lieutenant general (Lt Gen), formerly more commonly lieutenant-general, is a senior rank in the British Army and the Royal Marines. It is the equivalent of a multinational three-star rank; some British lieutenant generals sometimes wear three-star insignia, in addition to their standard insignia, when on multinational operations.

Lieutenant general is a superior rank to major general, but subordinate to a (full) general. The rank has a NATO rank code of OF-8, equivalent to a vice-admiral in the Royal Navy and an air marshal in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the air forces of many Commonwealth countries.

The rank insignia for both the Army and the Royal Marines is a crown over a crossed sabre and baton. Since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the St Edward's Crown, commonly known as the Queen's Crown, has been depicted. Prior to 1953, the Tudor Crown, commonly known as the King's Crown was used.

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Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart. Not sure how well I’m pronouncing that, but I’ll be calling him Adrian throughout the remainder of this video. With his eye patch and empty sleeve, just his image alone is enough to ask questions. This guy served as a British officer in the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War, survived two plane crashes, was shot in the head, face, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear, tunneled out of a prisoner-of-war camp, broke his back, and bit off his own fingers when a doctor refused to amputate. Born in Brussels in 1880, Adrian spent his early years in both Belgium and England. At the age of six, he moved to Cairo, Egypt so his father could practice law there. Adrian was Catholic and learned to speak Arabic. In 1891, he attended an English boarding school and then went on to college, but left to join the British Army during the Boer War in South Africa in 1899. Early in the war, Adrian was wounded in the stomach and sent home. His father was furious about him leaving college, but allowed him to stay in the military. Adrian was given a commission in the Second Imperial Light Horse and soon saw further action in South Africa. He was made a second lieutenant of the 4th Dragoon Guards in 1901. In 1902, he was transferred to British India. In 1904, after returning to South Africa, Adrian was made an aide-de-camp to the commander-in-chief there. Having remained a Belgian subject during this entire time, Adrian finally became a naturalized British subject in 1907. When World War I began, Adrian first served in British Somaliland. In an attack upon an enemy fort, he was shot twice in the face, losing an eye and also a portion of his ear. In 1915, he took part in fighting on the Western Front in France, commanding three infantry battalions and a brigade. He was wounded seven more times during the war and lost his left hand in 1915. He even bit off his own fingers when a doctor declined to remove them. He had been shot through the skull, ankle, hip, leg, and ear. He received several promotions in rank throughout the war, eventually attaining the rank of major. He also received several awards and medals for his service, including the Victoria Cross, the highest honor for combat in the British Empire. Even after having been wounded so severely, Adrian later said of his experiences, “Frankly, I had enjoyed the war.” After the war, Adrian went on to serve in Poland for a few years, surviving an airplane crash and a brief period of captivity. He retired from the army in 1923 with the honorary rank of major general. Adrian began to lead a peaceful life on a large estate in eastern Europe near the Soviet border. His retirement was later interrupted in 1939 when he was recalled to duty and appointed as the head of the British Military Mission to Poland. Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in September and the Soviets soon joined in the attack from the east. Adrian’s estate was taken during the fighting. Adrian went on to serve in Norway and Northern Ireland throughout 1940 when he turned 60 years old. With the Nazis preparing to invade Yugoslavia, the Yugoslavs asked for British aid. Adrian was sent to Serbia to negotiate with the Yugoslavian government, traveling in a Wellington bomber across the Mediterranean. After refueling in Malta, the plane’s engines failed and the aircraft crashed into the sea about a mile from Italian-controlled Libya. Adrian was forced to swim ashore where he was captured by the Italians. Adrian was made a prisoner alongside several other officers who Rommel had captured in North Africa in 1941. Adrian attempted to escape several times, even tunneling for seven months. He once escaped and evaded recapture for eight days, disguising himself as an Italian civilian. In August 1943, Adrian was released from his imprisonment as the Italian government secretly planned to leave the war and sent him back to the British with the message. Less than a month after returning to England, Adrian was summoned by Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He was given the rank of acting lieutenant-general and sent to India to later go on to China as Churchill’s personal representative. Before leaving for China, Adrian attended the 1943 Cairo Conference organized by Churchill, U.S. President Roosevelt, and Chinese General Chaing Kai Shek. A photograph of these leaders gathered in Cario shows Adrian standing behind them on the far right. Adrian spent his next years working with Chiang Kai Shek in China and often traveling to British India. During his time in China, Adrian fiercely denounced communism and called Mao Zedong a fanatic. When he met Mao at a dinner, he interrupted his speech to criticize him for holding back in the fight against Japan for domestic political reasons. Mao was stunned for a moment and then laughed. When the Japanese surrounded in August 1945, Adrian flew to Singapore to take part in the formal surrender. Near the end of his career, Adrian met American General Douglas MacArthur in Tokyo. He retired at the age of 67 in October 1947 with the honorary rank of lieutenant-general. On his way home to England, Adrian stopped in French Indochina as a guest of a military commander. He slipped coming down some stairs and fell, breaking his back and several vertebrae. He eventually recovered in an English hospital. After Adrian’s first wife died in 1949, he remarried in 1951 at the age of 71 to a woman 23 years younger than him. He settled in County Cork, Ireland where he took up fishing and hunting during his later years. Adrian died at the age of 83 in 1963. If you enjoyed this video, be sure to hit the like button and subscribe to my channel for future videos. You can also like my Facebook page for updates there. Leave a comment below with any feedback, additional information you may like to share, or suggestions for future videos you would like to see. You can check out another video on the WWII double agent, Juan Pujol Garcia right here. Thanks for watching.


British Army usage

Lieutenant General John Cooper wearing both three-star insignia and British lieutenant general insignia
Lieutenant General John Cooper wearing both three-star insignia and British lieutenant general insignia

Ordinarily, lieutenant general is the rank held by the officer in command of an entire battlefield corps. The General Officer Commanding NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps is a British lieutenant general. Historically, I Corps and II Corps were commanded by British lieutenant generals. Additionally, three lieutenant general appointments also exist within the extant British Army's Headquarters. They are the Commander Field Army, the Commander Home Command and the Chief of Materiel (Land) in Defence Equipment and Support (double-hatted as the Quartermaster-General to the Forces).

Royal Marines usage

Although the senior appointment in the Royal Marines, the Commandant General, has held the lower rank of major general since 1996, prior to this date the Commandant General was a lieutenant general or full general. However, as a few more senior positions in the British Armed Forces are open to officers from different services, Royal Marines officers can and do reach the rank of lieutenant general, being posted to Joint Forces or MOD postings. Examples include Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, Lieutenant-General Sir James Dutton and Lieutenant-General Sir David Capewell.

Royal Air Force usage

From 1 April 1918 to 31 July 1919, the Royal Air Force maintained the rank of lieutenant general. It was superseded by the rank of air marshal on the following day. Although Sir David Henderson was an RAF lieutenant general, the then RAF Chief-of-Staff, Sir Hugh Trenchard never held this rank. Additionally, the retired Royal Navy admiral, John de Mestre Hutchison, held an honorary RAF commission in the rank of lieutenant general.[1]

The RAF lieutenant general rank insignia was similar to the naval rank insignia for a vice-admiral, with a broad band of gold being worn on the cuff with two narrower bands above it. Unlike the naval insignia the RAF lieutenant general insignia did not have an executive curl.[2]


  1. ^ Barrass, M. B. (2015). "Lieutenant-General J de M Hutchison". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ Barrass, M. B. (2015). "Commissioned Ranks of the Royal Air Force 1918–1919: Interim Uniform Design". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
This page was last edited on 3 July 2018, at 09:22
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