Ardians and Bannerets

“Ardian Smith? Banneret Wycliff reporting, sir.”

“At ease, Banneret… I’ve read the reports regarding Flight Leader Jones and her superior, Reeve Patterson, and am most impressed with their performance in the recent air battle. In fact, the Reeve’s exemplary performance inspired a letter from Second-Ardian Thompson of your regional HQ, recommending Patterson’s promotion to Banneret. You have much to be proud of.”

“Thank you, Ardian, sir. No one deserves promotion more than Reeve Patterson.”

Conference between alien officers in next year’s Star Wars sequel? No, this is how discussion might go in Britain’s Royal Air Force, had the list of ranks proposed at its inception been adopted.

Until late in World War I, British air operations were conducted by the Royal Flying Corps, a branch of the Royal Army, and the Royal Naval Air Service, affiliated with the Royal Navy. But the growing strategic importance of air power during WWI, along with inter-service rivalries and questions about effective chain-of-command, led in 1918 to organization of the Royal Air Force as an independent military service, equal in stature to the Royal Army and Royal Navy.

With creation of the world’s first independent air force, and no tradition of ancient air armadas to draw upon, there was interest in creating a distinct set of new titles unique to the Royal Air Force, and the ranks above — Ardian, Reeve, Banneret, Second-Ardian, and Flight Leader — were among those advanced for consideration.

Not that things would have turned out any differently, militarily, but it is certainly fun to ponder how different the hierarchy of the world’s air forces might sound today, had those early proposed titles been accepted.

“Mr. Prime Minister? Ardian Smith has arrived, bringing with him Banneret Wycliff, Reeve Patterson, and Flight Leader Jones to receive their decorations.”

“Show them in.”  ©2009 Gregory N. Brown

4 thoughts on “Ardians and Bannerets

  1. In contrast to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, the
    British Army does not include “Royal” in its title. Primarily this is
    because historically the British Army is the Army of Parliament and not the Crown. The modern Army takes its precedence and traditions primarily from the parliamentarian forces fighting in the English Civil War. This position was confirmed by the Bill of Rights of 1689, requiring Parliamentary Authority to maintain a standing army in peacetime.

    The RN, RM and RAF wear a single cap badge and have a single ensign, whereas each component of the Army has its own distinctive cap badges and carries the Union Flag as its ensign. The components are often (but not always titled “Royal”), but NEVER should the term be used to describe the Army as a whole.

  2. What Robin says is right on the money. Indeed, the absence of “Royal” when referring to the British army also is a legacy of the traditional British fear of a regular army, a fear they passed on to us here in America. The English and later the British always feared a large standing army (a fear also dating to the English Civil War period) as a potential threat to British liberties. No such fear is attached to the Royal Navy or Air Force as these branches cannot occupy homes, seize citizens, or cause general mayhem. Note that our own Constitution calls for the maintaining of a navy, yet only the raising of an army. Our Founders felt that having a permanent navy was just fine, but they only wanted to raise an army during times of peril.

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