The crest, the flag, and the shield
In 1878, when The Christian Mission became The Salvation Army, Captain William Ebden submitted his design for a Salvation Army Crest that was the forerunner of today’s Crest. He explained his design thus:-
The centre point in the Cross, the universal symbol of the Christian faith.
Twined around it is the ‘S’ for the Salvation which Christ has given by his death on that cross.
The swords are those of the war against sin. The roundels are the shots which represent the truth of the Gospel.
The crown is that of Glory and is the reward for faithfulness. The surrounding rays are those of the Sun of Righteousness and they also remind us of the fire and the light of the Holy Spirit.
‘Blood and Fire’, the Army’s motto, refers yet again to Christ’s sacrifice and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
The design must have found favour almost immediately as it was noted on headwear soon after the 1878 Congress. In 1884 William Booth applied to register the crest as a Trade Mark on a number of items including knives, soap and buttons. Since the submission of Captain Ebden’s first design the Crest has been adapted for use throughout the world, most notably perhaps, in the U.S.A. where, around 1890, due to copyright problems, the crown was replaced with the American Eagle. The U.S.A. copyright on the original crest expired in the early 1980’s and The Salvation Army in the U.S.A. reverted to using the original crest.
The symbolism of the present Crest is explained in the 1997 Orders and Regulations for Officers as follows:-
The round figure ‘the sun’ represents the light and fire of the Holy Spirit.
The cross in the centre represents the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The letter ‘S’ stands for Salvation.
The sword represents the warfare for salvation. The shots represent the truths of the gospel.
The crown represents the crown of glory, which God will give to all his soldiers who are faithful to the end.
The first Salvation Army flag was presented to Coventry Corps in 1878 by The Army Mother, Catherine Booth. Until 1882 the central shape was an image of the sun, but with the commencement of the Army’s work in India it was changed to a star in deference to the Parsees, an Indian religious group, who regarded the sun as sacred. The Army flag itself is not sacred but is a symbol of the beliefs held by Salvationists.
The flag consists of a blue border surrounding a red background in the centre of which is a yellow star. The Army’s motto ‘Blood & Fire’ is also inscribed on the flag together with the name of the corps, centre or section to which the flag belongs.
The blue border represents the holiness of God and the holiness of the life Christians are called to live. The red background is a reminder of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross that all may live lives that are free from sin. The yellow star symbolises the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
In the early years the Salvation Army and its’ officers and soldiers suffered much persecution and the Army flag was often the target of anti-Salvationist groups such as the Skeleton Army. On many occasions in towns such a Folkestone and Worthing, the flag was strongly defended from attack, often at great personal risk.
Today, however, the Salvation Army Flag is regarded with reverence and respect wherever in the world it is flown.
The first orders and regulations for Field Officers of 1886 encouraged every Salvation Army Soldier to wear uniform, even if it be but the wearing of a shield, so that they could be identified as Salvationists. During the First World War, a shield symbol was used on Salvation Army huts for servicemen. This shield was probably red lettering on a white background, although this is by no means certain.
It is unclear as to when the design changed to the red shield with white lettering that we know today, but it was probably around the end of the First World War as in 1918 The Red Shield Club was founded for Salvationist servicemen throughout the world.
In 1919 Bramwell Booth declared that the Salvation army Naval and Military Homes would in future be know as ‘The Salvation Army Red Shield Homes’. In the United Kingdom Territory the name change did not take place until 1947 when the Naval Military and Air Force League was renamed ‘Red Shield Services League Hostels.’
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the War Emergencies Department was re-named the British Red Shield Services Department.
The symbol of the Salvation Army’s Red Shield has become know and respected by service men and women of many nationalities wherever in the world they served.