Senior officer rank
As the head of the Polish Legions fighting on the Austrio-Hungarian side in World War I, Józef Piłsudski was given the rank of Brigadier that otherwise did not exist in the Austro-Hungarian military.
In many countries, especially those formerly part of the British Empire, a brigadier is either the highest field rank or most junior general appointment, nominally commanding a brigade. It ranks above colonel and below major general.
The rank is used by the British Army, the Royal Marines, the Australian Army, the Indian Army, the Sri Lankan Army, the New Zealand Army, the Pakistan Army and several others. Although it is not always considered a general officer rank, it is always considered equivalent to the brigadier general and brigade general rank of other countries. In NATO forces, brigadier is OF-6 on the rank scale.
"The grade of brigadier-general, also called, almost interchangeably, brigadier, first appeared in the British army during the reign of King James II. A warrant of 1705 placed the grade directly below major-general, but the appointment was always considered temporary and not continuous. The British were ambiguous over whether the holder was considered a general officer or a senior field grade office".
The title is derived from the equivalent British rank of brigadier-general, used until 1922 and still used in many countries. "Brigadier" was already in use as a generic term for a commander of a brigade irrespective of specific rank. Until the rank was dissolved in 1922, brigadier-generals wore a crossed sword and baton symbol on its own.
From 1922-28, the British rank title used was that of colonel-commandant, with one crown and three 'pips', a rank which, although reflecting its modern role in the British Army as a senior colonel rather than a junior general, was not well received and was replaced with brigadier after six years. Colonel-commandant was only ever used for officers commanding brigades, depots or training establishments. Officers holding equivalent rank in administrative appointments were known as "colonels on the staff", also replaced by brigadier in 1928. Colonel-commandants and colonels on the staff wore the same rank badge later adopted by brigadiers.
Until shortly after World War II, brigadier was an appointment conferred on colonels (as commodore was an appointment conferred on naval captains) rather than a substantive rank.
In Commonwealth countries, and most Arabic-speaking countries (in which the rank is called amid), the rank insignia comprises a crown (or some other national symbol) with three stars, (sometimes called "pips"), which are often arranged in a triangle. A brigadier's uniform may also have red gorget patches. It is otherwise similar to that of a colonel (colonel's rank insignia have a crown/emblem with two stars/"pips".)
The Canadian Army used the rank of brigadier (following British tradition, with identical insignia) until the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968. The rank then became brigadier-general with the insignia of St. Edward's Crown surmounting a crossed sword and baton over one gold maple leaf.
Until 1788, a rank of brigadier des armées ("brigadier of the armies"), which could be described as a senior colonel or junior brigade commander, was used in the French Army. The normal brigade command rank was field marshal (maréchal de camp) (which elsewhere is a more senior rank). During the French Revolution, the ranks of brigadier des armées and maréchal de camp were replaced by brigade general (général de brigade).
In common with many countries, France now uses the officer rank of brigade general instead of a "brigadier" rank; this was the rank held by Charles de Gaulle. The brigadier des armées held a one-star insignia, while the général de brigade inherited the maréchal de camp two-stars insignia. The disparition of the brigadier rank is the reason that there is no one-star insignia in the French Army.
Many countries in South and Central America were formerly Spanish or Portuguese (Brazil) possessions. Brigadier [-general] is used in Latin America, in the normal sense of brigade commander rank (e.g. Colombia, Chile), although most Latin American nations instead use the rank of brigade general. In Mexico, brigadier general is the rank below brigade general, both ranks falling between colonel and divisional general.
However, both the Argentine and Brazilian Air Forces use a curious system of variations on brigadier for all (Argentina) or most (Brazil) general officers. The origin of this system is not entirely clear, but in the case of Argentina may be due to army air units being commanded by brigade generals before the establishment of the Air Force as an independent armed force.
In the Argentine Air Force these ranks are, in decreasing order of seniority:
In the Brazilian Air Force these ranks are, in decreasing order of seniority:
- Tenente-brigadeiro ("lieutenant-brigadier", equivalent to almirante-de-esquadra (squadron admiral) and general de exército (general of the army)).
- Major-brigadeiro ("major-brigadier", equivalent to vice-almirante (vice admiral) and general de divisão (divisional general))
- Brigadeiro ("brigadier", equivalent to contra-almirante (rear admiral) and general de brigada (brigade general))
Above these is the highest Brazilian Air Force rank of marshal of the air, used only in wartime
The rank of a brigadier was established by Felipe V in 1702 as an intermediate rank between colonel and true generals. In some Iberoamerican republics (see below), the rank survived after independence. In Spain, brigadiers came to be considered full generals in 1871, and in 1889 they were renamed general de brigada.The historical rank is distinct from the current NCO rank of brigada, although sometimes translators confuse the two. The name has survived as a cadet rank at the Spanish Naval Academy.