Military ranks

Hi everyone,
I have decided to try and learn the UK military ranks, purely for general quiz knowledge. When looking into it I’ve found out there are 4 military types in the UK - Navy, Marines, Army & Air Force and there are 10 officer ranks in each. Although some of them use the same titles/ranks this means there are 40 ranks to remember. I’d like to be able to recall which rank is higher/lower than another and also what rank is equivalent in another force. The following link is a wiki page detailing this info, which also lists the US equivalents (this makes 80 ranks).
How would you guys go about this? Can you suggest any methods I can use. I have an understanding of the major system/pegs etc. I LOVE mnemonics. I am aware of memory palaces and journeys, etc, but struggle creating these myself.

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I personally would use a memory palace or peg list for this, mainly because they get pretty easy to make with practice. But you are not pinned down to those two methods.

You want your base to be any group of things with a set order, because that way you can just work through the ranks, starting with the highest which you could identify by a theme or place (in case of memory palaces and peg lists), or even markers, like making the image pure gold to show that it is the start of a new set of ranks. You then work your way down the ranks until reaching the OF-1, or OF(D) if you want to count those.

Now, know there are not 10 ranks, there are 10 codes. You will find many defence forces where some ranks occupy the same NATO-code, but that does not mean the ranks are the same. These codes are just to help identify where ranks lay when comparing them internationally. Between UK and US, there are not many insane differences, but there is an interesting one to use as an example. An army lieutenant is OF-1, but a navy lieutenant is OF-2. Despite both being lieutenants, the navy lieutenant is higher in rank than an army lieutenant. The OF-code would help an officer from another country identify what he is dealing with. In these lists it is only OF-1 that has a double rank, but for example Belgium also has a double rank in OF-3. these are sometimes mentioned as OF-1a (for the highest of the bunch), OF-1b, etc.

There are also cases where a certain OF-number is skipped. Bolivia, for example, has no OF-6.

This also means that there are 11 ranks (12 if you count the candidate). If you want to memorize the ranks, this is an important thing.

Now, how I would approach it is with a memory palace, a room for each of the branches. For the field marshal, you could imagine an air marshal grabbing the locus and running away across a field, while being chased by whoever in your system is 10. For general I would imagine one of those north korean generals with enough medals to by lifted off the ground by a large magnet. The number 9 person is hitting him with the locus, but he has to keep standing straight.

A lieutentant-general to me is a small general, and a major-general would be an extremely large one. A brigadier might have something to do with a bridge or so, while a colonel reeks of cologne. You name it, your fantasy is the limit.

I hope my approach helps you ahead a little :slight_smile:


Thanks for that Mayarra.
I think what I may try is the ‘Numbered Room System’ that I read about in ‘How to Remember Anything’ by Dean Vaughn. That way I can have a fairly plain room(s). I’ll probably colour code the rooms (white for Navy, blue for Air Force, Green for Army - not sure for Marines yet). I’ll probably have something specific in each room too to further embed the images (ship for Navy, tank for Army, spitfire for Air Force - again not sure for Marines, maybe a rigid inflatable). Any suggestions/feedback on this?

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So… I’ve thought about it some more.

For the RAF ranks, I’ve decided to use a Spitfire cockpit as my palace. I found a good website that has photos and descriptions of the buttons/switches/dials, etc, ( and have picked 10/11 of these objects as Loci and will try and link these to the ranks.

I have opted for a left to right, bottom to top order so the lowest rank is 1st at the bottom and the top rank is the uppermost loci, as listed below:

  • OF1 - Left pedal - Pilot officer/acting pilot officer
  • OF1 (again) - Right pedal - Flying officer
  • OF2 - Throttle - Flight lieutenant
  • OF3 - Steering lever/wheel - Squadron leader
  • OF4 - Fuel gauge - Wing commander
  • OF5 - Landing gear indicator - Group captain
  • OF6 - Temperature gauges - Air commodore
  • OF7 - Flaps switch - Air vice-marshal
  • OF8 - Artificial horizon - Air marshal
  • OF9 - Tachograph - Air chief marshal
  • OF10 - Reflector gunsight - Marshal of the RAF

Still got to work on linking the ranks to the loci, but am open to suggestions.

What do you guys think?

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That looks like a good idea for a memory journey.

Are you visualizing the insignia? bars, oakleafs, eagles, stars? (That’s US military stuff).

What about visualizing people you know that held those ranks?

@deeptravel - Thanks for throwing the spanner in :slight_smile: I wasn’t going to until you raised it. Do you have any suggestions about incorporating these without confusing myself? I’ll have a think to see how many people of the specific ranks I can think of to help on this.