Britain's most awesome rank, the pioneer sergeant

The Royal Army, as well as the armies of some commonwealth nations, has a peculiar rank in its structure that allows the soldier to wear a full beard and apron and carry a large ax while on parade.

Pioneer sergeants, as they are known, date back to the 1700s when the men selected for this duty were expected to act as a unit blacksmith as well as a sort of early combat engineer, cutting the way through forests and other obstacles to allow other troops to move behind them with additional equipment and arms. They also had … other duties.

Fair notice to the horse lovers: This next duty of the pioneer sergeant makes the whole thing very dark, very fast. (Source: Pinterest)

One of the grislier duties of the pioneer sergeant was to cut the legs off of dead horses after they fell, whether in combat or due to some other injury or illness. The horses had one branded leg that would identify them. Collecting it prevented soldiers from selling their horse and claiming it had died to get a free replacement.

And while the apron would certainly have come in handy during that duty, it also served as protective gear when the pioneer sergeant was working at a forge. The beard worked with the apron to protect the soldier from the heat and slag.

British Army pioneer sergeant

(Photo: YouTube/Forces TV)

The Australian Army officially adopted the beard for pioneer sergeants in 1965 when a governor general suggested it for the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, pioneer sergeant was officially authorized a beard in 2007. As of 2009, only the 2nd Bn. was actually taking part in the tradition, as the 4th Bn. had re-flagged as a commando unit and had no pioneer sergeants.

In this video from Forces TV, a pioneer sergeant discusses the accoutrement of his position as well as what life is like for this rare and badass rank:

TOP ARTICLES
This is how Hanoi reacted to the epic Ken Burns 'Vietnam War' documentary series

Ken Burns' "Vietnam War" was released to relatively little noise in Vietnam. Here's a look at what audiences there had to say.

7 epic songs that prove 'Call of Duty' knows how to lay down tracks

Video game music has improved a lot since 8-bit days. A lot.

The Army is looking for ways to keep generals from misbehaving

Struggling with behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling, and career management programs.

These are the heroics that earned this EOD Petty Officer a Silver Star

Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized EOD 1st Class Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy.

This why the national anthem is played before sporting events

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that the "The Star-Spangled Banner" be played at all military ceremonies and other various occasions.

The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

The Navy is exploring how to use unmanned aircraft to extend the range of fighter jets by 1,000 miles. The concept, at this time, is called the MQ-25 Stingray.

How the Pentagon plans to spend $700M to drop drones

ISIS has been using drones to drop bombs on Iraq Security Forces, and the Department of Defense is looking for a better defense against them.

The third Invictus Games just kicked off in Toronto — and it's awesome

Competitors, celebrities, royalty, and spectators came together Sept. 23 to kick off the 2017 Invictus Games at the sold-out Air Canada Centre.

This was one of the world’s first swing-wing fighters

The Flogger was a ground-breaking plane for the Soviet Union.

This service's Gold Star program supports the military families that have lost

Gold Star family members are now offered Gold Star ID cards, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii.

THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY

We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles

COMPLETE SURVEY TO WIN