What is a Korporal?


Korporal is the German and Danish spelling of the English corporal. Korporal is used in a number of armed forces as the lowest rank of the non-commissioned officers group. However, in the German Bundeswehr, it is considered a high enlisted personnel rank. In Switzerland the rank is used in the Fire Department as well.

In former German armed forces, the designation of the lowest NCO rank was “Corporal”.


Korporal is a rank of the enlisted men rank group (EN group) in the Austrian Bundesheer, and is equivalent to NATO code OR-3. In the k.u.k Army it still counted to the NCO rank group and was allowed to wear the yellow-black port epée.

Today and in the comparison to the German Bundeswehr it is equivalent to the EN-rank “Hauptgefreiter/ Stabsgefreiter ”. In peacetime the Korporal might be tasked to command a small sub unit, e.g. a fileteam (de: Trupp, 2 to 8 men) or a squad (de: Gruppe, 8-13 men).

During United Nations missions and in NATO Partnership for Peace the rank Korporal will be designated in English with Corporal (Cpl) and is equivalent to NATO code OR-3.

k.u.k. Army

Korporal (Hungarian: Tizedes) was also a rank of the k.u.k. Austro-Hungarian Army. Rank insignia were two white celluloid-star on the stand-up collar of the Waffenrock on gorget patch (German: Paroli). Stand-up collar and background of the gorget patch showed a particular egalisation colour. This rank was corresponding to the ranks of enlisted men as follows:

  • Bataillonshornist (Battalion bugler).
  • Bataillonstambour (Battalion drummer).
  • Geschütz-Vormeister (Gunner-corporal) artillery.
  • Gewehr-Vormeister (Machinegun-corporal ) infantry.
  • Unterjäger (Rifles-corporal) mountain troops.
  • Waffenmeister 3. Klasse (Weapon master 3rd class) artillery and weapon arsenal.


In Denmark, the rank of Korporal was first given insignia in 1812, when the rank was given two chevrons. It was originally the lowest NCO, but in 2008 it became the highest enlisted rank.

By 1972, the rank was only temporarily given. On 1 October 2008, 23 Overkonstabel from the Army were the first to be permanently appointed korporals, since 1972, while simultaneously being made an enlisted rank.

On 09 March 2012, 12 naval and 12 aviation specialists, were appointed korporals. In the Navy, the degree is intended for employees who act as assistant instructors.


Korporal is the second highest enlisted rank in the German Bundeswehr, that might be comparable to corporal (OR-4) in Anglophone armed forces. However, as distinguished from the corporal in Anglophone armed forces, the korporal belongs to the rank group of enlisted men.

The ranks Korporal and Stabskorporal were introduced by the Bundeswehr in October 2021 as the new most senior ranks for enlisted men, senior to Oberstabsgefreiter. Pay grade of Korporal is A6, that is the same pay grade as the NCO rank Stabsunteroffizier (OR-5).

Soldiers have to have served for at least three years in the rank of Oberstabsgefreiter before being considered for promotion.

In September 2021, the rank insignia for Korporal and Stabskorporal were introduced.


In Norway, the rank is only used by the Norwegian Army. Here Korporal is split into 4 classes and is the “specialist officer” (Norwegian: spesialistbefalet) rank group:

  • Korporal 1. Klasse (Corporal 1st Class).
  • Korporal (Corporal).
  • Visekorporal 1. Klasse (Specialist 1st Class).
  • Visekorporal (Specialist).


In the Military of Switzerland the Korporal is the lowest NCO-rank. The rank is higher than the enlisted rank Obergefreiter.

Until the so-called Army reform XXI (with effect from January 1, 2004) the regular Korporal appointment was to squad leader (de: Gruppenführer, 8-13 men). However, in 2014 this appointment was upgraded to Wachtmeister (OR-5). The Korporal rank was converted to military specialist without any command function.

Korporal is also a rank designation in the “Switzerland armed forces postal system”, and in CBRN Defence.

In United Nations missions and in NATO Partnership for Peace the rank Korporal will be designated in English with Corporal (Cpl).

Other Armed Forces

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands the promotion to “Korporaal” is possible after a longer service time in the enlisted men rank group. There are two corporal ranks:

  • Korporaal OR-3.
  • Korporaal der 1e klasse OR-4.

Vatican City

In the Pontifical Swiss Guard there are two corporal ranks:

  • Korporal; and.
  • Vizekorporal.


In the Polish armed forces there are the two Korporal OR-4 rank :

  • Kapral [short: kpr.] (en: Corporal).
  • Starszy kapral [short: st. kpr.]) (en: Senior corporal).


In Prussia the “Corporal” commanded an up to 30 men strong so-called Korporalschaft. The rank sequence was as follows:

  • Gefreiter.
  • Korporal.
  • Sergant and/or Feldwebel.

In 1856 the designation korporal was changed to Unteroffizier. Until 1807 the (aristocrat) officer aspirants were called Freikorporal (transl. Free corporal).

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