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Group Captain (Gp Capt or Grp Cpt in the RAF and Indian Air Force, GPCAPT in the RNZAF and RAAF, G/C in the former RCAF) is a senior commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks above Wing Commander and immediately below Air Commodore. The name of the rank is the complete phrase, and is never shortened to "Captain".

It has a NATOmarker ranking code of OF-5, and is equivalent to a Captain in the Royal Navy or a Colonel in the British Army or the Royal Marines. Group Captain is the rank usually held by the station commander of a large RAF station.

The equivalent rank in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF), Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) (until 1968) and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) (until 1980) was Group Officer. The equivalent rank in the Royal Observer Corps (until 1995) was Observer Captain which had a similar rank insignia.


On 1 April 1918, the newly created RAF adopted its officer rank titles from the British Army, with Royal Naval Air Service Captains and Royal Flying Corps Colonels becoming Colonels in the RAF. In response to the proposal that the RAF should use its own rank titles, it was suggested that the RAF might use the Royal Navy's officer ranks, with the word "Air" inserted before the naval rank title. For example, the rank that later became Group Captain would have been Air Captain. Although the Admiralty objected to this simple modification of their rank titles, it was agreed that the RAF might base many of its officer rank titles on Navy officer ranks with differing pre-modifying terms. It was also suggested that RAF Colonels might be titled as Bannerets or Leaders. However, the rank title based on the Navy rank was preferred and as RAF Colonels typically commanded Groups the rank title Group Captain was chosen. The rank of Group Captain has been used continuously since 1 August 1919.


Although in the early years of the RAF groups were normally commanded by group captains, by the mid-1920s they were usually commanded by an Air Officer. In the post-World War II period the commander of an RAF flying station or major ground training station has typically been a group captain. In the Air Training Corps, a group captain is the officer commanding of a region.

Insignia and command pennant

The rank insignia is based on the four gold bands of Captains in the Royal Navy, comprising four narrow light blue bands over slightly wider black bands. This is worn on both the lower sleeves of the tunic or on the shoulders of the flying suit or the casual uniform. Group Captains are the first rank in the RAF hierarchy to wear gold braid on the peak of their cap, informally known as 'scrambled egg'; however, they still wear the standard RAF officer's cap badge.

The command pennant for a Group Captain is similar to the one for a Wing Commander except that there is one broad red band in the centre. Only the Wing Commander and Group Captain command pennants are triangular in shape.

File:UK-Air-OF5.svg|An RAF group captain's sleeve/shoulder insigniaFile:File-UK-Air-OF5-mess-insignia.svg|An RAF group captain's sleeve mess insigniaImage:UK-Air-OF5-Flag.svg|An RAF group captain's command pennant

Other air forces

The rank of Group Captain is also used in a number of the air forces in the Commonwealth, including the Bangladesh Air Force, Ghana Air Force, Indian Air Force (IAF), Nigerian Air Force, Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the Sri Lankan Air Force. It is also used in the Egyptian Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Royal Air Force of Oman and the Royal Thai Air Force.

The Royal Canadian Air Force used the rank until the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, when Army-type rank titles were adopted. A Canadian group captain then became a colonel. In official French Canadian usage, a group captain's rank title was colonel d'aviation.

Image:RAAF O6 rank.png|An RAAF group captain's sleeve/shoulder insigniaImage:Hellenic Air Force OF-5.svg|A Hellenic Air Force Sminarchos (group captain's) rank insigniaImage:Group Captain of IAF.png|A Indian Air Force group captain's rank insigniaImage:Thai air O5.png|A RTAF group captain's rank insignia

Notable group captains

Use in fiction

  • In the film Dr. Strangelove, Peter Sellers stars as Group Captain Lionel Mandrake.
  • Jack Harkness in the fictional Doctor Who spin-off, Torchwood, wears the rank slide of a Group Captain but is addressed, incorrectly as "Captain". However, in his initial appearance in Doctor Who he is incorrectly wearing the cap and insignia of a Squadron Leader.
  • The (unspecified) military force in the Dr Who story Remembrance of the Daleks is led by Group Captain Gilmour (Simon Williams).
  • In the TV series Hogan's Heroes, RAF Group Captain Rodney Crittendon (Bernard Fox) is transferred to Stalag 13 by Colonel Klink because he is senior to Colonel Hogan. The character has recurring appearances in the series. In most of the programs he was referred to as "Colonel" and not "Group Captain".
  • The website Weebl's Stuff features a game called "Group Captain Suave vs a Large Monkey". In the game the Group Captain incorrectly addresses himself as "Captain".[62483]
  • In the hit TV show The Prisoner in the episode Many Happy Returns when Number Six goes to see his old boss and they talk about the village there is a Commander from the Royal Navy and a Group Captain from the RAF.
  • In the TV show Doctor Who in the episode 'World War Three', when the Slitheen are coming to 10 Downing Streetmarker in their human disguises, there is a Group Captain called Tennant James.

See also


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