The following was a response to the ‘The Honourable and Ancient Appointment of Conductor, RLC’ by John McKenzie first published in Crown Imperial, Page 5, Issue 90 (Spring 1998), with the kind permission of the Editor.

This response can be found in the Crown Imperial, Correspondence pages 4 & 5, Issue 92 (Autumn 1998) and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Editor.


‘Dear Mr Stubbs

I must disagree with John McKenzie’s statement in his interesting article in the Spring 1968 issue, that the Conductor “is the most senior WO in the Army”. He is I’m afraid only one of the most senior. Mr McKenzie is not alone in his belief. It is a canard repeated in a recent issue of ‘Regiment’*.

I do not have access to a great many reference books, here in Athens, but a copy of King’s Regulations 1912, paragraph 295, shows the precedence of Warrant Officers as

 (I)      Conductor AOC

Master Gunner 1st Class

Schoolmaster (when a 1st Class WO)

Staff Sergeant Major 1st Class

“The Warrant Officers in groups (I) and (IV) respectively rank with one another according to their day of promotion or appointment.

Queen’s Regulations 1961, paragraph 391 states

Seniority between those of the same substantive rank will be determined in accordance with their dates of promotion to that rank. Seniority of individuals promoted so the same day will be determined as follows.

(i) In a different Corps, by Corps precedence as shown in paragraph 931.

Paragraph 391 (f) then shows in tabular form

(I)      Conductor RAOC

Master Gunner 1st Class RA

Staff Sergeant Major 1st Class RASC

Academy Sergeant Major RMAS

Queen’s Regulations 1975 (the latest edition I have) shows at Chapter 9, paragraph 9.169 the grouping

(I)      Conductor RAOC

Master gunner 1st Class HA

Academy Sergeant Major RMAS

Paragraph 9 169 states “a. Grouping. By custom and for administrative purposes appointments of Warrant Officers are listed in the groups shown in Paragraph 9.169” Paragraph 9.163 reiterates the rules of seniority given in QRs 1961 quoted above.

In 1974 there was some correspondence in RAOC Manning Office newsletters on WO1 appointments in the RAOC. I quote from Colonel R. Matthews, the OIC RAOC Manning, “The question of Seniority is quite separate from that of precedence. Seniority is dealt with in QRs 1961 391 (a) and (b) though it should be noted that seniority itself does not confer the exclusive right to exercise authority over those of equal rank (see ORs 1961 393(b)) The list of appointments which may be held by Warrant Officers 1 Class in QRs 1961 391 (f) reflects the order of precedence in which they are regarded in the Army. (This) stems from custom and is used for administrative purposes. It should not confer any individual seniority nor any legal authority of one appointment, or the holder of that appointment, over another**.

So please Conductors do not lord it over the Academy Sergeant Major or any passing Master Gunner 1st Class. Incidentally wasn’t it the Academy Sergeant Major who said of Conductors, “Mention drill and they think of Black and Decker”!

Conductors do share with Staff Sergeant Majors the privilege of acting in the place of a subaltern officer when required and of taking part as an officer on parade (But not to salute) QR’s 1975, paragraph 9.199 b(2) refers. They were not always held in such high regard. Whilst there were certainly Conductors before 1879 the term was used far “a miscellany at quasi-military appointments of varying statements and appointments….As disparate as artillery transport, siege engineering, the custody and transporting of ammunition and stores”, only in the late 18th and 19th century do the tasks performed by Conductors begin to resemble those eventually undertaken by the Military Conductors of 1879

Until the use at Sergeants as Conductors is the Crimean War and later (in New Zealand) in 1860, Conductors through the ages had bees civilians.  They did not enjoy a very high status, for example during the Peninsular Campaign of 1912, although Conductors were employed in large numbers (154) they were ranked fourth in the pecking order of Commissariat personnel, below clerks, interpreters, storekeepers receivers and issuers, only ahead at artisans such as bakers and carpenters***.

Further information regarding the dress and insignia of Conductors can be found in the Army Historical Research Society’s Special Publication No. 4 ****

*        ‘Regiment’, issue 23 - The Royal Logistic Corps and its predecessors title to as illustration to a Mess Dress Jacket Page 42.

**      RAOC Manning Office monthly newsletter of June 1974 et seq.

***    Article “The Conductor of Supplies 1879-1892” Lt Col. (Retd) I H W Bennett, Royal Logistic Corps Journal, October 1995.

****  The Society for Army Historical Research, Special Publication No 4, “The badges of Warrant and Non-commissioned Rank in the British Army Major N.P Dawnay, 1949.’

Yours sincerely

L Brady

Note from the Conductor Web Site Editor, Dec 02:

Mr Brady is of course welcome to his view and his article adds greatly to the debate.  However, he is in error on 2 points.  Firstly, ‘Seniority’ has little to do with the Conductors appointment and secondly, He misses the statement found elsewhere on the site – the reference to ‘…Superior to ALL NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND INFERIOR TO ALL COMMISSIONED OFFICERS….’.  Clearly the appointment was a civilian one and its regard as a lowly appointment is irrelevant since the appointment was ‘militarised’ and placed in the army structure as ‘Superior to…etc’.

Click Here for a Follow-Up to Mr Brady's letter

Back to the Top