The first recorded instance of a commission from the ranks in the history of the British Army is that of Sergeant Littler of the Befordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. In August, 1708, Littler swam across the river a Lille, let down the drawbridge for the attackers, and so assisted to capture the citadel of the fortress. For this brave deed, he was given a commission in the Buffs, was transferred to the 1stFoot Guards in 1726, and became Lieutenant-General of that regiment in 1738.

Picture – Siege of Lille 

Later, there was the outstanding case of Trooper William Robertson, who rose from the ranks, commanded the Staff College, was Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and finally gave a living illustration of the saying that every soldier’s knapsack holds a field-marshal’s baton.