refers to two different military occupations. In land armies, it is a term referring to a military individual, or unit, who specializes in supplying and provisioning troops. In naval usage, it means a navigator
on a ship. The equivalent naval occupation to the land army Quartermaster is purser
For land armies, the term was first coined in Germany
and initially denoted a court 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 organising supplies.
In the British Army
, the Quartermaster
(QM) is the officer in a battalion
responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, he or she is always commissioned
from the ranks (and is usually a former Regimental Sergeant Major
) and holds the rank of captain
. Some units also have a Technical Quartermaster, who is in charge of technical stores. The Quartermaster is assisted by the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
(RQMS) and a staff of storemen
. The QM, RQMS and storemen are drawn from the regiment or corps
in which they work, not from the Royal Logistic Corps
, which is responsible for issuing and transporting supplies to them. Units which specialise in supply are known as "supply" units, not "quartermaster" units, and their personnel as "suppliers".
From at least the English Civil War 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, the cavalry adopting commissioned, regimental Quartermasters as described above.
From Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
- 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.
United States Army
In the United States Army
, the term is used to describe all supply personnel and units that are part of the Quartermaster Corps
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, Regiment and Brigade/Division. His function is more a control and supervision function: a staff officer for the respective commander. The Qm has a direct subordinated at company level: it is the Company Quartermaster Seargent (QMS
- the English definition for international engagement and also a new grade insignia = see "Gradstrukturen der Armee XXI_revidiert" since 2001 on Swiss army ranks
). The Company quartermaster seargent
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 Defence Forces
In the IDF, the Quartermaster is defined mostly as "camp commander" who is in charge of logistic issues, ceremonies and parades and above all of 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 on their left shoulder.
In the French Navy
, Quartermaster (Quartier-maître
) is a junior rank equivalent to a French Army Corporal
. The French rank has nothing to do with supplies. This rank is also used by many other navies based on the French Navy. Quartermaster was similarly a junior naval rank in the German navy.
United States 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
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 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 Storekeeper (SK) which would be equivalent to the Army quartermaster.
United States Coast Guard
The structure of ranks and job specialties of the United States Coast Guard
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
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 ratings permitted to hold command of a cutter or small boat station (command otherwise being reserved for officers), the other "command rating" being Boatswain's Mate.
Through a historical oddity, pirates
during the Golden Age of Piracy
elevated the rank of quartermaster to much higher powers and responsibilities than it had aboard any merchant or naval vessel.
Pirate quartermasters, like pirate captains, were usually elected by their crews. 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. It was generally also the quartermaster's responsibility to lead the pirate boarding party when coming aboard another ship. Several quartermasters, notably Calico Jack Rackham, succeeded to command and became captains in their own right 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, Cordingly and Botting, and overwhelmingly borne out by the primary sources, including Ringrose, Dampier, Snelgrave, Trott, and George Roberts.
A Scout quartermaster
within the Scout movement
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
, etc.), tarps, camping trailers, dining flys, etc.
Quartermaster is also the highest rank in the Sea Scouts, BSA, an older youth (14-21) co-ed program. Quartermaster is equivalent to Eagle Scout and Venturing Silver.