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Salvation Army Symbols

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The Salvationist's Uniform


While many denominations of the Christian Church have a distinctive form of dress for the clergy, The Salvation Army is almost unique in its allocation of its distinctively martial apparel for clergy and laity alike. Salvationists advocate the priesthood of all believers, thus the uniform (which relates to a priestly garb) is also worn by non-officers. In a sense, a Salvation Army uniform is a Salvationist's "working clothes" for mission.

Uniforms have been worn in many forms since the Army's earliest days. The first evangelists of the Christian Mission (early name of The Salvation Army) wore suits of clerical cut, with frock coats, tall hats and black ties. Women evangelists wore plain dresses and small Quaker type bonnets. After the Mission became the Army (1878), it was agreed that a military type uniform should be adopted.

The first captain of The Salvation Army, a former chimney sweep name Elijah Cadman, is credited with instigating the wearing of the military-style uniforms after declaring at an early meeting, "I should like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everybody know I meant war to the teeth and salvation for the world."

The original Salvation Army uniform was modelled on Victorian military garb, but has evolved over the years. For example, in Australia, bonnets for women we replaced by felt hats in the 1970s and the high military-style collars were dropped for both men and women about the same time. The Army is continually reviewing the style of the uniform to ensure it is up to date.

The Salvationist's uniform currently serves three purposes: internally its use provides a sense of identity and indicates membership; externally it provides a widely recognised symbol of availability and service; internationally it is the most recognised and recognisable cultural icon for Salvationists, part of the glue that holds the denomination together.

The effect of uniform-wearing is to give an extraordinarily high visibility and visual impact in public. The negative effects that Salvationists have to guard against are exclusivity within the Army's congregations and a sense of smugness or spiritual superiority, and complacency (mistaking the wearing of particular garments for being in a right relationship with God).

The Red Shield

The Red Shield is an internationally recognised symbol of Salvation Army service to those in need. It represents the shield we provide to people in need of help, whether it be spiritually, physically, financially or emotionally.

At the turn of the century, one of the symbols of The Salvation Army was a silver shield with the words 'Salvation Army' emblazoned across it. The shield was worn as a badge by many Salvation Army personnel, particularly those serving with the British Defence Forces. To distinguish the officers, their silver shields had red embossing.


Two stories are held about how the silver shield became today's red shield.

The correct account is that Colonel Walter Peacock, a well-respected Canadian Salvation Army Officer, designed and introduced the 'Red Shield' into the Canadian-held trenches in France in 1915. It was adopted worldwide soon after. A short biography of Walter Peacock is published in the Canadian Salvation Army Historical Society's "News & Views", September 1998.

As a result, the silver was replaced by the red enamel and became known as the 'Red Shield', a symbol of Salvation Army service to those in need.

A more fanciful account is that following the Boer War, an Australian Salvationist, Major George Carpenter, was concerned that the silver shield worn by Salvationists in times of war would reflect light, particularly during the night, giving the location of troops to the enemy. Unfortunately, there is no sustainable evidence for this account.

The Crest


The crest is a meaningful symbol of the Salvationist's beliefs.

Captain William Ebdon designed the crest in 1878 and the only alteration to his original design was the addition of the crown. Its emblems set forth the leading doctrines of The Salvation Army as follows:

The crown speaks of God's reward for His faithful people

The sun (the surround) represents the light and fire of the Holy Spirit

The 'S' stands for salvation from sin

The cross of Jesus stands at the centre of the crest and the Salvationist's faith

The swords represent the fight against sin

The shots (seven dots on the circle) stand for the truths of the Gospel

'Blood and Fire' is the motto of The Salvation Army. This describes the blood of Jesus shed on the cross to save all people, and the fire of the Holy Spirit which purifies believers.



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