South African Defence Force (SADF)

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Up until 1979 the South African Defence Force (SADF) was divided into three branches - Army, Navy and Air Force.

Then, in 1979, a forth branch, the South African Medical Services, was formed. Up until then they had been part of the South African Army.

The lowest rank would be that of an ordinary troops. Their title was dependent on which corps they served in. For example an infantry troop would be called a rifleman. A troop in the armoured corps would be called trooper, while a troop in the artillery would be a gunner. A member of the intelligence corps would be referred to as a scout while a signalman would be a member of the Corps of Signals. Other corps would refer to a troop as a private. In the South African Navy a troop would be go by the title of seaman.

The rank structure fell into Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), Warrant Officers, and Commissioned Officers.

SA Army

SA Air Force

SA Medical Services

SA Navy

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO)

Lance Corporal
* Corporal

Lance Corporal
* Corporal

Lance Corporal
* Corporal

Able Seaman
* AB

Corporal
* Corporal

Corporal
* Corporal

Corporal
* Corporal

Leading Seaman
* Killick

Sergeant
* Sergeant

Sergeant
* Sergeant

Sergeant
* Sergeant

Petty Officer
* PO

Staff Sergeant
* Staff

Flight Sergeant
* Flight

Staff Sergeant
* Staff

Chief Petty Officer
* Chief

Warrant Officers

Warrant Officer
Second Class - WO2
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
Second Class - WO2
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
Second Class - WO2
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
Second Class - WO2
* Warrant

Warrant Officer
First Class - WO1
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
First Class - WO1
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
First Class - WO1
* Sergeant Major

Warrant Officer
First Class - WO1
* Warrant

The senior warrant officer at a unit would often be the Regimental Sergeant Major or RSM. In the navy he/she would be referred to as the Master at Arms.

Officers

Candidate Officer
* CO

Candidate Officer
* CO

Candidate Officer
* CO

Midshipman

A Candidate Officer was someone that was undergoing an officer’s course or had completed an officers course and was waiting to be commissioned as an officer. The rank held no authority as such.

2nd Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

2nd Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

Ensign

Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

Sub Lieutenant
* Lieutenant

Captain

Captain

Captain

Lieutenant

Major

Major

Major

Lieutenant Commander
* Commander

Commandant

Commandant

Commandant

Commander

Colonel

Colonel

Colonel

Captain

Brigadier

Brigadier

Brigadier

Commodore

Major General
* General

Major General
* General

Major General
* General

Rear Admiral
* Admiral

Lieutenant General
* General

Lieutenant General
* General

Lieutenant General
* General

Vice Admiral
* Admiral

General

General

General

Admiral

The ranks of Lieutenant General and Vice Admiral were reserved for the Chief of the Army, Chief of the Air Force, Surgeon General, and Chief of the Navy.

The rank of General or Admiral was reserved for the Chief of the South African Defence Force.

The highest ranks that a national serviceman could obtain was that as corporal as an NCO, or 2nd Lieutenant as an officer. If, however, a person had a degree, such as a doctor, lawyer, etc, they could obtain the rank of lieutenant.

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