Quartermaster is a military term, the meaning of which depends on the country and service. In land armies, a quartermaster is generally a relatively senior soldier who supervises stores or barracks and distributes supplies and. In many navies, a quartermaster is an officer with particular responsibility for steering and signals. The seaman is a non-commissioned officer rank; in some others, it is not a rank but a role related to navigation.
The term appears to derive from the title of a German royal official, the Quartiermeister. This term meant "master of quarters". Alternatively, it could have been derived from "master of the quarterdeck" where the helmsman and captain controlled the ship. The term's first use in English was as a naval term, which entered English in the 15th century via the equivalent [|French] and Dutch naval titles quartier-maître and kwartier-meester, respectively. The term began to refer to army officers in English around 1600.

Land armies

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 organizing supplies.

British Army

In the British Army, the quartermaster is the officer in a battalion or regiment responsible for supply. By longstanding tradition, they are always commissioned from the ranks and hold 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 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 specialize in supply are known as "supply" units, not "quartermaster" units, and their personnel as "log specs".
From at least the English Civil War period until 1813, the quartermaster was the senior NCO in a British cavalry troop. In that year, the position was replaced by the new appointment of troop sergeant major, with the cavalry adopting commissioned, regimental quartermasters as described above.

Canadian Army

From Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps standing orders:
In recent years, the quartermaster has been a specially trained officer of the Royal Canadian Logistics Service, though CFR officers have been known to accept regimental appointments such as quartermaster.

Imperial Russian Army

The quartermaster was responsible for intelligence operations in the Imperial Russian Army.

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 is an officer in charge with the coordination of the Kommissariatsdienst 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 subordinate at company level: it is the company quartermaster sergeant. The company quartermaster sergeant 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 and they are ranked OR-7 in the senior NCO's category. For technical questions, the QMS is subordinated to the Qm officer. The tasks of resupply are assigned at company level to the two SNCO's. 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 as staff NCOs. The Fourier is also the substitute of the chief sergeant major, if considering the command platoon by itself.

Israel Defense Forces

In the IDF, the battalion quartermaster is also the commander of the battalions support company, known as the battalion headquarters company. In the standing army he is usually a captain, but the role is a major's role. In the reserve army he is usually a major. While most of the staff officers are directly under the command of the battalion commander, the quartermaster has a lieutenant, a logistics officer and a junior ordnance officer under his direct command. He is in charge of all logistics issues in the battalion and also in charge of the battalion's headquarter's day-to-day life.
He is commissioned as an officer by the ramatkal, and as a logistic officer by kalar.
In large camps and higher headquarters, apart from the staff officer in charge of logistics, there is also a role defined mostly as "camp commander," who is in charge of the HQ logistic issues, ceremonies and parades and 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 without regarding his actual rank. Quartermasters are identified by wearing a blue-white aiguillette on their left shoulder.


Royal Navy

In the Royal Navy and Commonwealth navies, the quartermaster is the seaman who is functioning as the helmsman. In harbour, the quartermaster is the senior member of the gangway staff and is responsible for supervising the boatswain's mate and the security of the brow.

Belgian Navy

In Belgium, the naval ranks of quartermaster, chief quartermaster, and first chief quartermaster are used.

French Navy

In the French Navy, Quartermaster 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.

Norwegian Navy

In the Norwegian navy, quartermaster is a rank equal to an army sergeant.

United States

U.S. 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. They are also responsible for navigational instruments and clocks and the training of ship's lookouts and helmsmen. They perform 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.
On U.S. Navy submarines, the job of a quartermaster is done by a qualified navigation electronics technician. Along with the job of a Navy surface QM, NAV-ETs are also responsible for electronic systems that deal with navigation, internal communications, atmosphere monitoring, ship's entertainment systems, re-circulatory air systems and remote valve indication or manipulation.
After 2004, the U.S. Navy disestablished the signalman rating ; signalmen were responsible for visual communications, and many of the personnel and their responsibilities were incorporated in the QM rating.
The U.S. Navy rating dealing with supply and logistics is logistics specialist which would be equivalent to the Army quartermaster.

U.S. Coast Guard

The structure of ranks and job specialties of the United States Coast Guard is similar to 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 rating.
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 enlisted ratings permitted to hold command of a small boat station, with the other enlisted man's "command rating" being the boatswain's mate.

Pirate quartermasters

s during the Golden Age of Piracy elevated the rank of quartermaster to much higher powers and responsibilities than it had aboard non-pirate merchant or naval vessels. On pirate ships, the quartermaster was often granted a veto power by a pirate ship's "Articles of Agreement", in order to create an officer who could counterbalance the powers of the pirate captain. Pirate quartermasters, like pirate captains, were usually elected by their crews.
It was often the quartermaster's responsibility to lead the pirate boarding party when boarding another ship. This was usually done from the quarter deck.
The quartermaster ranked higher than any other 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. Several quartermasters, notably among them Calico Jack Rackham, became captains after their previous captain was killed or deposed.
Although a minority of pirate scholars dismisses the accepted version of the pirate quartermaster's importance, it is well supported by the extant secondary sources such as Charles Johnson, David 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 or pack. This may include, but is not limited to, camping supplies, tents, "chuck boxes", stoves, camp fuel, tarps, camping trailers, dining flys, etc.
The Quartermaster Award is also the highest rank in the Sea Scouts, BSA, an older youth co-ed program. A quartermaster is in the Netherlands the assistant patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol, in Flanders it is the patrol leader of a Sea Scout patrol.

In popular culture