Royal Army Chaplains' Department

The Royal Army Chaplains' Department (RAChD) is an all-officer corps that provides ordained clergy to minister to the British Army.

Royal Army Chaplains' Department
Cap Badge of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department; for Jewish padres the Maltese Cross is replaced by a Star of David
Active23 September 1796 - present
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Motto(s)"In this Sign Conquer"
MarchPrince of Denmark's March (Trumpet Voluntary)
Chaplain GeneralClinton Langston


The Army Chaplains' Department (AChD) was formed by Royal Warrant of 23 September 1796.[1] Previously chaplains had been part of individual regiments, but not on the central establishment. Only Anglican chaplains were recruited until 1827, when Presbyterians were recognised, but not commissioned until 1858.[2] Roman Catholic chaplains were recruited from 1836, Methodist chaplains from 1881, and Jewish chaplains from 1892.[3] During the First World War some 4,400 Army Chaplains were recruited and 179 lost their lives on active service.[3] The Department received the "Royal" prefix in February 1919.[3] During the Second World War another 96 British and 38 Commonwealth Army Chaplains lost their lives.[3]

From 1946 until 1996, the RAChD's Headquarters, Depot and Training Centre were at Bagshot Park in Surrey, now the home of The Earl and Countess of Wessex.[4] In 1996, they moved to the joint service Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House near Andover.[5]


There are about 150 serving regular chaplains (commonly known as "padres") in the British Army; these can belong to one of several Christian denominations, or to the Jewish faith. Uniquely within the British Army, the Royal Army Chaplains' Department has different cap badges for its Christian and Jewish officers.[6]

Army chaplains, although they are all commissioned officers of the British Army and wear uniform, do not have executive authority. They are unique within the British Army in that they do not carry arms. At services on formal occasions, chaplains wear their medals and decorations on their clerical robes (many chaplains have been decorated for bravery in action, including four Victoria Crosses: James Adams, Noel Mellish, Theodore Hardy and William Addison).[7]

The RAChD's motto is "In this Sign Conquer" as seen in the sky before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge by the Roman Emperor Constantine. Its regimental march, both quick and slow, is the Prince of Denmark's March, erroneously known as the Trumpet Voluntary.[8]


The Museum of Army Chaplaincy is located at Amport House near Andover, Hampshire.[9]

Representative denominations in the RAChD

Chaplains are either classified as Jewish or as a member of one of the following eight Christian denominational groups:

There are also religious advisors from other faiths.[10]

However, an Army chaplain is expected to minister to and provide pastoral care to any soldier who needs it, no matter their denomination or faith or lack of it.[11] In 2011 following a freedom of information request on Ministry of Defence spending on chaplaincy, the National Secular Society requested that £22m of spending should come directly from churches while professional counselling should continue to be funded by the tax payer,[12] in order to better serve the non-religious in the military.[13] The proposal was rejected by the Church of England.[12] As of 2018 there are no non-religious chaplains in the British armed forces although organisations such as the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association and the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN) continue to advocate for it.[14]


Chaplains are the only British Army officers who do not carry standard officer ranks. They are officially designated Chaplain to the Forces (CF) (e.g. "The Reverend John Smith CF"). They do, however, have grades which equate to the standard ranks and wear the insignia of the equivalent rank. Chaplains are usually addressed as "Padre" /ˈpɑːdr/, never by their nominal military rank.

The senior Church of England Chaplain is ranked within the church hierarchy as an Archdeacon – he or she holds the appointment of Archdeacon for the Army whether or not he or she is also the Chaplain-General. The Senior Roman Catholic Chaplain (usually a CF1) is sometimes ranked as a monsignor.[15]

List of Chaplains General

Deputy Chaplain General

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Special Reconnaissance Regiment
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Royal Logistic Corps

Some notable Army chaplains

See also


  1. Museum of Army Chaplaincy webpage. British Army official website.
  2. Snape p 146
  3. "History of Army Chaplains". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  4. "Bagshot Park". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  5. "Army Forces Chaplaincy Centre". Defence Academy. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  6. "Military Cap Badge Royal Army Chaplains Department (Jewish)". Intriguing history. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  7. "Padre VC Holders". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  8. "Marches of the British Forces". Archived from the original on 12 June 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  9. "Museum of Army Chaplaincy". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  10. Taneja, Poonam (13 January 2014). "Army imam: Muslims can be good soldiers". BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  11. "Royal Army Chaplains' Department". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  12. McManus, John. "Military chaplain funding queried by secular group". BBC. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  13. Bingham, John. "Military losing faith in God". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  14. "MoD open to Humanist chaplains". The Scotsman. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  15. "They gave their today". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  16. "No. 13938". The London Gazette. 4 October 1796. p. 945.
  17. "No. 16348". The London Gazette. 6 March 1810. p. 335.
  18. "No. 18044". The London Gazette. 13 July 1824. p. 1155.
  19. "No. 20620". The London Gazette. 7 July 1846. p. 2500.
  20. "No. 24199". The London Gazette. 13 April 1875. p. 2081.
  21. "No. 25442". The London Gazette. 17 February 1885. p. 677.
  22. "No. 27379". The London Gazette. 22 November 1901. p. 7653.
  23. "No. 33048". The London Gazette. 19 May 1925. p. 3374.
  24. "No. 34010". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1933. p. 3.
  25. "No. 36791". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1944. p. 5189.
  26. "No. 39375". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 November 1951. p. 5772.
  27. "No. 42088". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 July 1960. p. 4811.
  28. "No. 43898". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 February 1966. p. 1755.
  29. "No. 46349". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 September 1974. p. 7900.
  30. "No. 50799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1987. p. 450.
  31. "No. 53946". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 February 1995. p. 1747.
  32. "No. 55854". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 May 2000. p. 5644.
  33. "No. 59866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 August 2011. p. 14713.
  34. "A Second World War D.S.O., and Great War O.B.E. group of seven to Reverend A.T.A. Naylor, Army Chaplain's Department". Bonhams. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  35. "Top appointment for Catholic army chaplai". Independent Catholic News. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.

Further reading

  • Bergen, Doris. L., (ed), 2004. The Sword of the Lord: Military Chaplains from the First to the Twenty-First Century. University of Notre Dame Press ISBN 0-268-02176-7
  • Kennedy, Geoffrey Anketell Studdert The Unutterable Beauty, ISBN 1-84685-110-6
  • Loudon, Stephen H. Chaplains in Conflict. The Role of Army Chaplains since 1914. Avon Books, London: 1996. ISBN 1-86033-840-2
  • MacDonald, David R. Padre E. C. Crosse and 'the Devonshire Epitaph': The Astonishing Story of One Man at the Battle of the Somme (with Antecedents to Today's 'Just War' Dialogue), ISBN 978-1-929569-45-8
  • McLaren, Stuart John (ed.) Somewhere in Flanders. A Norfolk Padre in the Great War. The War Letters of the Revd Samuel Frederick Leighton Green MC, Army Chaplain 1916–1919. The Larks Press, Norfolk, UK ( 2005. ISBN 1-904006-25-6
  • Montell, Hugh (2002) A Chaplain's War. The Story of Noel Mellish VC, MC. ISBN 1-84394-008-6
  • O'Rahilly, Alfred The Padre of Trench Street (about Jesuit Father William Doyle), ISBN 1-905363-15-X
  • Purcell, William Woodbine Willie. An Anglican Incident. Being some account of the life and times of Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, poet, prophet, seeker after truth, 1883–1929. London: 1962
  • Smyth, Brigadier The Rt Hon. Sir John, Bt, VC, MC In This Sign Conquer. The Story of the Army Chaplains. London: 1968
  • Snape, Michael The Royal Army Chaplains' Department, 1796–1953. Clergy under Fire. Boydell Press, 2007. ISBN 1-84383-346-8
  • Teonge, Henry The Diary of Henry Teonge Chaplain on Board HM’s Ships Assistance, Bristol and Royal Oak 1675–1679. Edited by Sir E. Denison Ross and Eileen Power. London: Routledge, [1927] 2005.
  • Thornton, Sybil "Buddhist Chaplains in the Field of Battle" in Buddhism in Practice, ed. Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995)
  • Wilkinson, Alan The Church of England and the First World War. SPCK, London: 1978, reprinted by SCM, London: 1996. ISBN 0-334-02669-5
  • Padres at War: Army chaplains bring comfort to the front line. Royal Army Chaplains' Department webpage. British Army official website.
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