Field-marshal's baton

I recall a proverb from Napoleonic France, about the period’s unprecedented level of careers-open-to-talent: “Every private carries a field-marshal’s baton in his knapsack.” So far as I know, military officers, for obvious practical reasons, generally carry no rank insignia but those that can be attached to their uniforms. What is a field-marshal’s baton? Why did they use it? Is it still in use, in countries that have such a rank in their military?

A field marshal is essentially equivelant to a high-ranking general. I don’t know of any specific countries which still has that specific rank. The baton was a symbol of office. In theory, it was there to direct troops with, though I think they didn’t actually wave it around.

According to Wikipedia, there are several countries that have a field marshal rank, although in some cases it is an honourary rank and in some cases it is granted only during wartime.

The rank insignia for a field marshal in the British Army incorporates two crossed batons.

There’s some interesting information here, including a mention of the baton as the field marshal’s insignia.

Smiling Bandit has it in one. The baton is a symbol of office/rank. Its bestowal resembles the awarding of a sword to a newly dubbed knight in some en-knight-ment ceremonies.

However, “essentially equivalant to a high-ranking general” doesn’t quite cut it. The rank of Field Marshal is the fifth level upward of general officer, after brigadier (general), major general, lieutenant general, and [unmodified, full, four-star] general – and note that these ranks are consistent, but that titles for them vary considerably, from country to country.

Aside from the very specialized case of Gen. Pershing, the U.S. never had occasion to need the fifth-level rank until World War II. And the ranking general, who would have been the first to be promoted to Field Marshal, was Gen. George Catlett Marshall. “Field Marshal Marshall” not being euphonious or amusing to anyone, we substituted the rank of “General of the Army,” parallel to “Admiral of the Fleet” which was the five-star rank in various Navies. The rank still exists on the U.S. Army T.O., though it’s never been filled since the death of Omar Bradley, the last surviving five-star general.

Are there Field Marshals in any contemporary European or other armies?

Knighting ceremonies? Dubbing? As in "I dub thee ‘Sir Lion.’ "

It wasn’t just a matter of need. The U.S. military avoided ranks like “admiral” and “field marshal” intentionally, because they wanted to avoid granting titles that sounded like titles of nobility. And they wanted to make sure that no one ever got a rank that seemed to put them higher than George Washington.

I’ve heard this a lot, but it seems a rather petty and silly reason for refusing to use the title. I’m not sure I believe it.

The last link above confirms that there indeed are British field marshals, including Prince Edward. The last time the title was granted, according to the list, was 1994 (to Lord Inge).

Prince Philip is a field marshal in the New Zealand army.

Apparently Nepal’s King Mahendra was a field marshal in the eyes of the British and Pakistani armies. And apparently his full name with all his titles was:

They’re called swagger sticks. Think Colonel Klink.

Didn’t Colonel Klink carry a riding crop?

“Baton” means “staff” (I’m not sure it’s obvious in english.

Here’s a picture of a french marshal’s baton (in this case awarded posthumously to general Leclerc for his service during WW 2). Towards the middle of this page you can see a portrait of Rommel holding his baton.

It was a originally a commanding staff, and a symbol of a general’s authority, similar to the king’s scepter.

As shown by the pictures I linked to above, German field marshalls at least still had one during WW2 and french marshalls too in the 50s. If a marshall title was granted tomorrow, I’ve no reason to assume the recipient wouldn’t get a “baton”
[In France, marshall is a title (“distinction”), not a rank, and only awarded for service in time of war. Marshalls are the only french officers who are called “sir” (“Monsieur”).]

There are still marshals in the Russian army.

I wonder whether the batons are linked to the Roman fasces?

I don’t think you had to be a field marshal to carry one. Here is a picture from the BBC sitcom Dad’s Army which has Captain Manwaring with one.

I think that’s a swagger stick…

Hey–it got very lonely in the desert, you know.

A Field-Marshal’s baton is very different than a swagger stick (also known in WW2 as an “officer’s cane.” I have seen quite a few of the latter; generally about 2 ft in length, made of some very light wood (almost balsa-like, in fact), and covered with a sewn leather casing.

A swagger stick can be quite fancy (at least the unofficial ones carried off-base on leave), and I have seen them with sterling silver and even gold finials, usually with the regimental badge engraved or embossed. They can be quite plain, as seen by this Canadian WWI soldier’s bamboo swagger stick.

A Sergeant-Major on parade would carry a much more substantial stick, in fact a giant pair of calipers, known as a pace stick, or drill stick. More than you wanted to know about the British Army and its pace-sticks.

I had my first taste of single malt whisky given to me by a Field-Marshal.

Does the field-marshal’s baton have a knob on the end? :slight_smile:

Sure, where else?

Douglas MacArthur held the rank of Field Marshal in the Filipine Army.

[trivia]We had a Commander Commander at our local naval base.[/trivia]

He was a legal officer and might have been a direct commission. If not he would have been a Lieutenant JG Commander. A Lieutenant Commander and a Lieutenant Commander Comander on the way to becoming Commander Commander.

I love it!!

Some years ago, the Bishop of Fort Worth in the Episcopal Church was a gentleman with the surname of Pope. A very high churchman, he converted to Catholicism, returned to the Episcopal Church, and then went back to Catholicism, which led the impish headline writer at the local newspaper three wonderfully weird headlines:
Pope Turns Catholic
Pope Leaves Catholic Church
Pope Turns Catholic – Again!

Yeah, now that you mention it, I think it was. It’s been a long time since I saw an ep of HH. Thanks, acsenray, and sorry to all for giving wrong info.