AskDefine | Define quartermaster

Dictionary Definition

quartermaster n : an army officer who provides clothing and subsistence for troops

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


  1. An officer whose duty is to provide quarters, provisions, storage, clothing, fuel, stationery, and transportation for a regiment or other body of troops, and superintend the supplies.
  2. A petty officer who attends to the helm, binnacle, signals, and the like, under the direction of the master.


officer responsible for supplies

Extensive Definition

Quartermaster 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 as Quartiermeister 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.

British Army

In the British Army, the Quartermaster (QM) is the officer in a battalion or regiment 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 or major. 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.

Canadian Army

From Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps Standing Orders:
''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.

Swiss Army

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.

Naval forces

French Navy

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.
quartermaster in German: Intendantur
quartermaster in Norwegian: Intendantur
quartermaster in Polish: Kwatermistrz
quartermaster in Russian: Квартирмейстер

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

OD, boatswain, captain, caterer, chandler, chief engineer, chief mate, commander, commissariat, commissary, deck officer, donor, furnisher, manciple, master, mate, merchant, naval officer, navigating officer, navigator, patron, pipes, provider, provisioner, purveyor, retailer, sailing master, second mate, shipmaster, skipper, steward, stock clerk, storekeeper, supplier, sutler, the Old Man, victualer, vivandier, watch officer
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