[LMB] Barrayaran Ranks and The problem of being related to Miles

Ed Burkhead ed at edburkhead.com
Wed Sep 7 16:21:19 BST 2011

The sloppy use of the word "captain" is the source of our confusion.

My analysis is that the word "captain" historically refers to the boss of a
single, independent military unit.

In the Army, that would be captain of a "company" which seems usually to be
between about 70 and a couple hundred soldiers.

In the Navy, that would be captain of a ship.  The ship might have a crew
from a few individuals up to 5,000+.

(An army company is usually a LOT cheaper to establish/equip than a ship,
thus the army captain rank is a lot lower than the navy captain rank.)

Then, to make it more complicated, the Navy established the fixed rank of
captain which is the rank just below admiral.  (Commonly, a "commodore" is a
captain who has been placed in charge of a few other ships beside his own.)
When the armies established a fixed rank of captain it was the third officer
level from the bottom.  Thus you can have a navy "captain" who does not
command a ship and an army "captain" who is not currently commanding a

When Aral was the youngest "captain" in the service, I'd bet that was the
navy _rank_ and not just the status of being captain of a tender or garbage
scow.  Or, perhaps he was the youngest ship captain of a capital ship.

When Miles graduated, he started as an ensign (a navy rank in our world).
The next promotion was to Lieutenant but there was no mention of Miles or
Ivan passing through Lieutenant Junior Grade (JG) or 2nd Lieutenant.

Current U.S. military rank structures
Navy		Army
Ensign	2nd Lt.
Lt. JG		1st Lt.
Lt.		Captain
Lt. Cmdr.	Major
Cmdr.	Lt. Col.
Captain	Colonel
-------	-------	Grades of admiral and general

My working thought is that in the Imperial Service, when serving in the land
forces they use something like current Army rank schemes.  When serving in
the naval forces, perhaps they use the naval rank structure.  Perhaps,
"ensign" is the only term used for the lowest officer rank (O-1) and O-2 is
simply Lieutenant in both the Army track and the Navy track.

I'd bet that Negri and Illyan's rank of "Captain" was almost certainly on
the navy scale (after all - they did get "vice admiral's" pay).

When Miles craved that promotion to Captain (army scale) he didn't want to
max out at Lieutenant, something that usually only happens due to poor
performance (barring disability or death).  

Per the U.S. Army Officer Ranks and Promotion Requirements, "Nearly 100
percent of officers meeting TIS/TIG requirements will be promoted to
Captain."  If Barrayar were similar, Miles would be ashamed to fail to make
It's possible that Lois didn't have a rigorous knowledge of military ranks
and a firm plan for ranks in the series.  I haven't felt confused by this
dual rank structure due to prior experience with these discrepancies but I
sure understand (remembering how long it took me to learn/memorize all this)
how most people might get confused.


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