George II created the rank of field marshal in 1736. It is a rank that has been attained by only the most senior and distinguished officers. All those officers promoted to field marshal prior to 1995 remain on the active list and hold the rank for life. No serving officer has been promoted to the rank since 1995. The Sovereign has bestowed the rank on certain very senior retired officers, but they do not return to the active list.
A field marshal would almost certainly be a peer, baronet or knight. It should be ascertained whether he prefers his military rank or his title to be used e.g. ‘Dear Field Marshal Simson’ or ‘Dear Sir John’ when beginning a letter. Envelopes should be addressed ‘Field Marshal Sir John Simson KCB’. When addressed in person, military personnel may address him as ‘Field Marshal’ or ‘Sir”. Civilians may address him as ‘Sir John’.
How to Address a Field Marshal
The recommended style of address is as follows (if a peer):
|Beginning of letter||According to title|
|End of letter||Yours sincerely|
|Envelope||Field Marshal Lord Blank, GCB|
|Verbal communication||According to title*|
|Invitation||Field Marshal Lord Blank|
|Joint invitation+||Field Marshal Lord Blank and Lady Blank|
|Description in conversation||According to title. If reference is made to rank, Field Marshal Blank or Field Marshal is used in full|
|List of Directors or Patrons||Field Marshal Lord Blank, GCB|
|Place card||Field Marshal Lord Blank|
*A younger man, or a more junior officer in any of the Armed Forces, addresses him as 'Sir'.
+ Note: Traditionally, invitations to a married couple, when sent to their home address, are addressed to the wife alone, with both names being inscribed on the invitation card. It has become increasingly acceptable, however, to address the envelope with both names.