Symbols and Uniform
Our shield, our flag, our crest and our uniforms say so much about who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
A unified identity
Our symbols and uniform make us easy to identify for those who need us most, and draw links to our history which, in turn, informs our future. If you’ve ever wondered what our symbols mean, here’s some information to get you started.
The Red Shield
In 1915, Canadian Salvation Army Officer Colonel Walter Peacock designed and introduced the Red Shield into the Canadian-held trenches in France. It was adopted worldwide and replaced the then-used Silver Shield soon after.
The Red Shield is an internationally recognised symbol of Salvation Army service. It represents the shield we provide to people in need of help – spiritual, physical, financial or emotional.
Captain William Ebdon designed the crest in 1878. Its emblems correspond with our doctrines as follows:
- The crown speaks of God’s reward for His faithful people
- The sun represents the light and fire of the Holy Spirit
- The “S” stands for salvation
- The cross of Jesus stands at the centre of the crest and every Salvationist’s faith
- The swords represent the fight against sin
- The shots stand for the truths of the Gospel
- “Blood and Fire” – our motto – describes the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to save all people, and the fire of the Holy Spirit which purifies believers.
You’ll see it at outdoor festivals and events, the dedication of children, the swearing-in of soldiers and occasionally at funerals; around the world our flag is a symbol of our fight for empowerment and social justice. The red on the flag symbolises the blood shed by Christ, the yellow is the fire of the Holy Spirit and the blue represents the purity of God the Father.
In a sense, our martial uniforms are just our “working clothes” for mission. But they also serve some important purposes. Internally they provide a sense of identity and indicate membership. And externally they are a widely recognised symbol of availability and service, so we’re easily identified the world over.
The first Captain of The Salvation Army, a former chimney sweep named Elijah Cadman, instigated the wearing of the military-style uniforms. The original uniform was modelled on Victorian military garb, but has evolved over the years. From frock coats, tall hats and black ties for men and plain dresses and small Quaker-style bonnets for women, to the military-type uniform worn today, we’re constantly adapting our uniforms to keep them up to date.
In Australia, bonnets were replaced by felt hats in the 1970s and the high military-style collars were dropped for both men and women around the same time.
A Salvationist can tell a bandsman from a songster to a general to a commissioner to a colonel to an ordinary soldier, just by looking at their hats. But, most importantly, people in need know help is at hand wherever our uniforms are seen.
Want to learn more? Drop in to our Heritage Centre, 69 Bourke Street Melbourne.