Quartermaster refers to two different military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 occupations depending on if the assigned unit is land based or naval.

In land armies
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

, especially US units, it is a term referring to either an individual soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

 or a unit who specializes in distributing supplies
Materiel is a term used in English to refer to the equipment and supplies in military and commercial supply chain management....

 and provisions to troops. The senior unit, post or base supply officer is customarily referred to as "the quartermaster". Often the quartermaster serves as the S-4 in US Army, US Marine Corps units and NATO units.

In many navies it is a non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

 (petty officer
Petty Officer
A petty officer is a non-commissioned officer in many navies and is given the NATO rank denotion OR-6. They are equal in rank to sergeant, British Army and Royal Air Force. A Petty Officer is superior in rank to Leading Rate and subordinate to Chief Petty Officer, in the case of the British Armed...

) rank for personnel responsible for their ship's navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

. In the US Navy, the quartermaster is a position responsible for the ship's navigation and maintenance of nautical chart
Nautical chart
A nautical chart is a graphic representation of a maritime area and adjacent coastal regions. Depending on the scale of the chart, it may show depths of water and heights of land , natural features of the seabed, details of the coastline, navigational hazards, locations of natural and man-made aids...

s and maps. Aboard merchant ships, the term quartermaster usually refers to the Able Seamen
Able seaman
An able seaman is an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship. An AB may work as a watchstander, a day worker, or a combination of these roles.-Watchstander:...

 assigned to bridge watch
Watchstanding, or watchkeeping, in nautical terms concerns the division of qualified personnel to operate a ship continuously around the clock. On a typical sea going vessel, be it naval or merchant, personnel keep watch on the bridge and over the running machinery...

es. A naval quartermaster's main task is to steer the ship and apply the helm order
A tiller or till is a lever attached to a rudder post or rudder stock of a boat that provides leverage for the helmsman to turn the rudder...

s given by the Captain
Captain (nautical)
A sea captain is a licensed mariner in ultimate command of the vessel. The captain is responsible for its safe and efficient operation, including cargo operations, navigation, crew management and ensuring that the vessel complies with local and international laws, as well as company and flag...

 or watch officers.

Land armies

For land armies, the term was first coined in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 as Quartiermeister and initially denoted a court
Noble court
The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

 official with the duty of preparing the monarch's sleeping quarters. In the 17th century, it started to be used in various militaries in the sense of organizing supplies.

British Army

In the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

, the Quartermaster (QM) is the officer in a battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

 or regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, he or she is always commissioned from the ranks (and is usually a former Regimental Sergeant Major
Regimental Sergeant Major
Regimental Sergeant Major is an appointment held by warrant officers class 1 in the British Army, the British Royal Marines and in the armies of many Commonwealth nations, including Australia and New Zealand; and by chief warrant officers in the Canadian Forces...

) and holds the rank of captain
Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

 or major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

. Some units also have a Technical Quartermaster, who is in charge of technical stores. The Quartermaster is assisted by the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant is a military rank in some militaries, and an appointment in others.-Irish Defence Forces:Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant is a rank in the Irish Army and Irish Air Corps equivalent to Warrant Officer Class 2 in the British Army...

 (RQMS) and a staff of storemen. The QM, RQMS and storemen are drawn from the regiment or corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 in which they work, not from the Royal Logistic Corps
Royal Logistic Corps
The Royal Logistic Corps provides logistic support functions to the British Army. It is the largest Corps in the Army, comprising around 17% of its strength...

, which is responsible for issuing and transporting supplies to them. Units which specialize in supply are known as "supply" units, not "quartermaster" units, and their personnel as "suppliers".

From at least the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 period until 1813, the Quartermaster was the senior NCO in a British cavalry troop (in which context he had nothing to do with supply). In that year, the position was replaced by the new appointment of Troop Sergeant Major
Troop Sergeant Major
In the British Army, the Troop Sergeant Major is the senior NCO in a Royal Artillery troop, usually a Warrant Officer Class 2.This differs from a cavalry troop or infantry platoon, in which the highest-ranking NCO is usually a sergeant....

, with the cavalry adopting commissioned, regimental Quartermasters as described above.

Canadian Army

From Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps was an administrative corps of the Canadian Army. The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps RCOC can trace its roots back to the Canadian Stores Department. Formed in 1871, the Canadian Stores Department was a civil department of the Canadian Government...

 Standing Orders:
For many centuries – indeed perhaps as long as there have been organized military units – the appointment of quartermaster has been significant in armies. Until recent times, the British Army almost invariably rewarded an outstanding RSM by appointing him quartermaster of his battalion, thus ensuring the unit an experienced officer who knew the unit thoroughly and would prove difficult to mislead or beguile. [The past tense is in fact incorrect, as the British Army still has this policy.]

As the complexities of the Army and its material increased, an officer with greater professional technical knowledge of the problems that surround stores management was required for the Quartermaster’s duties. Under authority of Canadian Army Order 201 – 16 dated 8 February 1954, the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps assumed these responsibilities and undertook to train and provide unit quartermasters and staff for all Corps of the Canadian Army (Regular) except the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and Royal Canadian Dental Corps.

In recent years, the Quartermaster has been a specially trained officer of the Logistics Branch, though CFR (Commissioned From Ranks) officers have been known to accept regimental appointments such as quartermaster.

Imperial Russian Army

The Quartermaster was responsible for intelligence operations in the Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...


United States Army

In the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, the term is used to describe all supply personnel and units that are part of the Quartermaster Corps.

Swiss Army

In the Swiss Army, a Quartermaster (Qm) is an Officer (from 2 Lt. to Colonel) in charge with the coordination of the "Kommissariatsdienst" (accountancy, post-service, fuel resupply, "all sort of food" resupply and others) of a Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

, Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 and Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

. His function is more a control and supervision function: a staff officer for the respective commander. The Qm has a direct subordinate at company level: it is the Company Quartermaster Sergeant (QMS
Quartermaster Sergeant
Quartermaster Sergeant is a class of rank or appointment in some armed forces, especially those of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.-Ireland:Quartermaster Sergeant appointments in the Irish Defence Forces include:...

 - the English definition for international engagement and also a new grade insignia = see "Gradstrukturen der Armee XXI_revidiert" since 2001 on Swiss army ranks
Swiss army ranks
The military ranks of the Swiss Army have changed little over the centuries, except for the introduction, in 2001, of a new set of warrant officers. The rank insignia for all personnel are worn on shoulder boards with the appropriate background colour . Recruits of all services do not wear any rank...

). The Company quartermaster sergeant
Company Quartermaster Sergeant
Company quartermaster sergeant is a military rank or appointment.-Canada:A Company Quartermaster Sergeant in the Canadian Forces is the non-commissioned officer in a company who is in charge of supplies. The CQMS also serves as deputy to the Company Sergeant Major and is the second most senior NCO...

 is known since the 18th Century as Fourier or Einheits-Fourier and has the rank equivalent of a Senior Non-Commissioned-Officer like the Company Sergeant Major (since 2001 Company Chief Sergeant Major, CMS) and they are ranked (for better understanding in NATO-ranks even Switzerland, as a neutral State is not part of NATO) OR-7 in the Senior NCO's category (in German: Höhere Unteroffiziere). For technical questions, the QMS is subordinated to the Qm officer (Qm 2 Lt, Qm 1 lt or Qm Captain incorporated in the Staff of a Battalion/Group). The tasks of resupply are assigned at company level to the two SNCO's (CSM and QMS). The QMS is the material executor of the Qm tasks at company level and for the command chain together with the CSM, directly subordinated to the Company Commander (Captain) as Staff NCO's. The "Fourier" is also the substitute of the Chief Sergeant Major (Hauptfeldweibel), if considering the Command Platoon by itself.

Israel Defense Forces

In the IDF
Israel Defense Forces
The Israel Defense Forces , commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal , are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel...

, the battalion Quartermaster is also the commander of the battalions support company, known as the battalion headquarters company. In the standing army he is usually a Captain, but the role is a Major's role. In the reserve army he is usually a Major. While most of the staff officers are directly under the command of the battalion commander, the Quartermaster has a lieutenant, a logistics officer and a junior ordnance officer (the battalion's ordnance platoon commander) under his direct command. He is in charge of all logistics issues in the battalion and also in charge of the battalion's headquarter's day to day life.
He is commissioned as an officer by the Ramatkal (the army's general chief of staff), and as a logistic officer by Kalar (the army's general logistic officer).
In large camps and higher headquarters (brigade, division and corps HQ), apart from the staff officer in charge of logistics, there is also a role defined mostly as "camp commander," who is in charge of the HQ logistic issues, ceremonies and parades and discipline. These duties differ slightly in the Air Force and Navy. The ranks of IDF Quartermasters vary from Sergeant Major to CWO, depending on the size of the camp. However, most soldiers refer to him as "Rasar" (the Hebrew acronym for the rank of 2WO) without regarding his actual rank. Quartermasters are identified (in all IDF branches) by wearing a blue-white aiguillette
An aiguillette is an ornamental braided cord most often worn on uniforms, but may also be observed on other costumes such as academic dress, where it will denote an honour. Originally, the word "aiguillette" referred to the lacing used to fasten plate armor together...

 on their left shoulder.

Royal Navy

In the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and Commonwealth navies (Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal New Zealand Navy, South African Navy), the quartermaster is the seaman who is functioning as the helmsman
A helmsman is a person who steers a ship, sailboat, submarine, or other type of maritime vessel. On small vessels, particularly privately-owned noncommercial vessels, the functions of skipper and helmsman may be combined in one person. On larger vessels, there is a separate officer of the watch,...

. In harbour, the quartermaster is the senior member of the gangway staff and is responsible for supervising the boatswain's mate and the security of the brow.

Belgian Navy

In Belgium, the naval ranks of quartermaster, chief quartermaster, and first chief quartermaster are used (in French: quartier-maître, quartier-maître-chef, premier quartier-maître-chef)

French Navy

In the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

, Quartermaster (Quartier-maître) is a junior rank equivalent to a French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

Corporal is a rank in use in some form by most militaries and by some police forces or other uniformed organizations. It is usually equivalent to NATO Rank Code OR-4....

. The French rank has nothing to do with supplies. This rank is also used by many other navies based on the French Navy.

US Navy

The quartermaster is the enlisted member in charge of the watch-to-watch navigation and the maintenance, correction, and preparation of nautical charts and navigation publications. He is also responsible for navigational instruments and clocks and the training of ship's lookouts and helmsmen. He performs these duties under the control of the ship's navigator or other officer if there was no officer navigator. In the modern navy, a quartermaster is a petty officer
Petty Officer
A petty officer is a non-commissioned officer in many navies and is given the NATO rank denotion OR-6. They are equal in rank to sergeant, British Army and Royal Air Force. A Petty Officer is superior in rank to Leading Rate and subordinate to Chief Petty Officer, in the case of the British Armed...

 who specializes in navigation. The rating abbreviation is QM. The symbol used for the rating and worn on uniforms is a ship's wheel.

On US Navy submarines, the job of a quartermaster is done by a qualified navigation electronics technician (NAV-ET). Along with the job of a Navy surface QM, NAV-ET's are also responsible for electronic systems that deal with navigation, internal communications, atmosphere monitoring, and remote valve indication or manipulation.

After 2004, the US Navy disestablished the Signalman rating (SM) who were responsible for visual communications and incorporated many of the personnel and their responsibilities in the QM rating. The US Navy rating dealing with supply and logistics is Logistics Specialist (LS) which would be equivalent to the Army quartermaster.

US Coast Guard

The structure of ranks and job specialties of the United States Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 is similar to the that of the United States Navy. The Coast Guard used a Quartermaster rating until the summer of 2003, when the rating was merged into the Boatswain's Mate
Boatswain's Mate (US Coast Guard)
The most versatile member of the Coast Guard's operational team is the boatswain's mate . Boatswain's mates are masters of seamanship. BMs are capable of performing almost any task in connection with deck maintenance, small boat operations, navigation, and supervising all personnel assigned to a...


The Coast Guard's Quartermasters had the same duties as the Navy's, with the exception that—at some point after World War II—the Coast Guard folded the duties of its Signalman rating into the Quartermaster rating. Also, in recent decades, Quartermaster was one of the only two Coast Guard enlisted men permitted to hold command of a small boat station (command otherwise being reserved for officers), with the other enlisted man's "command rating" being the Boatswain's Mate.

Pirate quartermasters

Through a historical oddity, pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy
Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy is a common designation given to one or more outbursts of piracy in maritime history of the early modern period. In its broadest accepted definition, the Golden Age of Piracy spans from the 1650s to the 1730s and covers three separate outbursts of piracy:the buccaneering...

 elevated the rank of quartermaster to much higher powers and responsibilities than it had aboard any merchant or naval vessel.

Pirate quartermasters (quarter deck masters), like pirate captains, were usually elected by their crews. It was the quartermaster's responsibility to lead the pirate boarding party when coming aboard another ship. This was usually done from the quarter deck which was the place where two ships touched during the boarding attack. The quartermaster ranked higher than any officer aboard the ship except the captain himself, and could veto the captain's decisions whenever the ship was not chasing a prize or engaged in battle. The quartermaster also was chiefly responsible for discipline, assessing punishments for crewmen who transgressed the articles
Pirate code of the Brethren
A pirate code was a code of conduct invented for governing pirates, and first introduced by the Portuguese buccaneer, Bartolomeu Português. Generally each pirate crew had its own code or articles, which provided rules for discipline, division of stolen goods, and compensation for injured...

. Several quartermasters, notably Calico Jack Rackham, became captains after the previous captain was killed or deposed.

Although a minority of pirate scholars dismiss the accepted version of the pirate quartermaster's importance, it is well supported by the extant secondary sources such as Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson (pirate biographer)
Captain Charles Johnson is the British author of the 1724 book A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, though his identity remains a mystery. No record of a captain by this name exists. Some scholars have suggested that "Charles Johnson" was actually Daniel...

, Cordingly and Botting, and overwhelmingly borne out by the primary sources, including Ringrose, Dampier
William Dampier
William Dampier was an English buccaneer, sea captain, author and scientific observer...

, Snelgrave, Trott, and George Roberts.

Long John Silver
Long John Silver
Long John Silver is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of the novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Silver is also known by the nicknames "Barbecue" and the "Sea-Cook".- Profile :...

 from the novel Treasure Island
Treasure Island
Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of "pirates and buried gold". First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in the children's magazine Young Folks between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island; or, the...

was ship's quartermaster under the notorious Captain Flint
Captain Flint
Captain J. Flint was the fictional captain of a pirate ship, the Walrus, in the novel Treasure Island of the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson...

. He was said to have been the only man whom Flint ever feared.


A Scout quartermaster within the Scout movement
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

 is responsible for maintaining all the normal camping supplies in a Scout troop. This may include, but is not limited to, camping supplies, tents, "chuck boxes" (containers holding food and cooking supplies), stoves, camp fuel (propane, Naphtha
Naphtha normally refers to a number of different flammable liquid mixtures of hydrocarbons, i.e., a component of natural gas condensate or a distillation product from petroleum, coal tar or peat boiling in a certain range and containing certain hydrocarbons. It is a broad term covering among the...

, etc.), tarps, camping trailers, dining flys, etc.

The Quartermaster Award
Quartermaster Award (Boy Scouts of America)
The Quartermaster Award is the highest rank attainable in the Sea Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America.-Award:The award consists of a medal suspended from a blue ribbon; the ribbon is suspended from a silver colored bar bearing the design of a double carrick bend knot...

 is also the highest rank in the Sea Scouts, BSA, an older youth (13-21) co-ed program. A Quartermaster (Kwartiermeester) is in the Netherlands the assistant patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol (Bak), in Flanders it is the patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol (Kwartier).

See also

  • Scout quartermaster
  • Quartermaster Center and School
    Quartermaster Center and School
    The Quartermaster Center and School is a subordinate command of the United States Army's Combined Arms Support Command and is located at Fort Lee, Virginia.-Description:...

  • Quartermaster Corps
  • Quartermaster general
    Quartermaster general
    A Quartermaster general is the staff officer in charge of supplies for a whole army.- The United Kingdom :In the United Kingdom, the Quartermaster-General to the Forces is one of the most senior generals in the British Army...

  • Army Quartermaster Museum
    Army Quartermaster Museum
    The United States Army Quartermaster Museum, located at Fort Lee, Virginia, is one of a number of small museums in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The museum's aim is to preserve and exhibit the history of the Quartermaster Corps, which was formed in 1775 and to date it has collected more than 20,000...

External links

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