How Were British and French Officers Chosen

Greetings from Houston! Is there truth to the idea that most mid to high level Officers in the French and British Armies in the Second World War were selected because of their social status, as opposed to their leadership potential? Thanks for your time!

Shout out to my Grand Father, Nathan Kitchens, who served in the US Merchant Marines during WW2.


I can’t speak to the French system – the French aristocrac(ies) never had the same social or political position in French political life after 1789 and 1870 – but the British army of WW2 was much less dependent on the younger sons of Dukes and Earls to staff the officer ranks. You definitely do find titled officers in the records, and there are plenty of aristocratic Majors and Captains, but they’re a minority of the officer corps … most of the officers at the start of the war were drawn from middle-class backgrounds. As the war went on, the army started seeing more working-class junior officers, as the supply of qualified men from higher social status groups disproportionally wanted to be fighter pilots rather than infantry platoon commanders.