badge, headdress, British, Royal Army Chaplains' Department
Black metal headdress badge for a Christian Army Chaplain, being a wreath of half oak, half laurel, surmounted by a Queen's crown. On the wreath a Maltese cross with, at its centre, a circlet bearing IN THIS SIGN CONQUER. Within the circlet a quatrefoil. A pair of blades to reverse.
Chaplains were first authorised to wear uniform in 1860 and the Christian version of the headdress badge appears to originate from the badge authorised in 1890, which was an embroidered black Maltese cross edged in gold. The choice of the Star of David for Jewish chaplains after 1892 would have been a logical parallel. Black metal badges were authorised in 1902 for active service.
The addition of a wreath and central motif with motto appears to have been authorised in 1930 (sealed in December 1939), although the leading authority (Kipling and King) states that the original badges were worn only until 1922. It seems that the central quatrefoil device of the new badge may be intended to represent the olive of peace in a similar way that the oak and laurel wreath represents victory.
The crown was changed to a Queen's crown in 1956.
The motto adopted with the new badge in 1930 derives from a story about the Emperor Constantine I, who was to become the first great Christian ruler. It is said that he and his troops saw a vision before the battle of the Milvian Bridge (312AD) that promised him victory if he fought under the name of the Christian god. The vision is usually given in Latin as "in hoc signa vinces" (in this sign you will conquer), and it would have better fitted Army tradition if the Latin had been used for the motto. However, it is said that George V asked for an English version on the basis that the soldiers would not otherwise understand.
The Army Chaplains' Department was created in September 1796, prior to which chaplaincy was a matter for individual regiments. Initially only Anglican clergy were admitted, other denominations being accepted progressively: Presbyterian in 1827, Roman Catholic in 1836, Methodist in 1881 and Jewish in 1892.
The Royal prefix was granted in February 1919 in recognition of the Department's service in the First World War.
The RACD is an officers-only organization, with chaplains, known universally by soldiers as "padres", divided into four classes with a rank-equivalence of Captain, Major, Lt. Col. and Colonel. The two senior chaplains, Assistant Chaplain General and Chaplain General, are ranked respectively as a Brigadier and Major General.
In 1992 the RACD came under the newly-formed Adjutant General's Corps for purposes of general administration but remained otherwise independent.