Royal Army Chaplains' Department

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Cap Badge of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department. For Jewish padres the Maltese Cross is replaced by a Star of David.
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A post 1953 RAChD No.1 dress cap

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

As of 2007, there are about 150 serving regular chaplains (commonly known as "padres") in the British Army; these can belong to one of several Christian churches, or to the Jewish faith, although currently all active chaplains are Christian.[1] Uniquely within the British Army, the Royal Army Chaplains' Department has different cap badges for its Christian and Jewish officers. There are also chaplains in the Territorial Army and the Army Cadet Force.

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 three Victoria Crosses).

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.

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. In 1996, they moved to the joint service Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House near Andover, formerly the home of the Royal Air Force Chaplain Branch.


The Army Chaplains' Department (AChD) was formed by Royal Warrant of 23 September 1796.[2] 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. Roman Catholic chaplains were recruited from 1836, Methodist chaplains from 1881, and Jewish chaplains from 1892. The Department received the "Royal" prefix in February 1919 for its services during World War I. Some 4,400 Army Chaplains were recruited between 1914 and 1918; 179 lost their lives on active service and three were awarded the Victoria Cross.

The RAChD is the only branch of the Army to perpetuate the tradition of dividing supporting troops into "departments" (officers only) and "corps" (other ranks only).


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

Noncombatant status[edit]

See: Military chaplain#Noncombatant status

Representative denominations in the RAChD[edit]

Chaplains are either classified as Jewish (currently only in the Territorial Army) or as a member of one of the following seven Christian denominational groups:

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.

Most large stations have an Anglican chaplain, a Roman Catholic chaplain, and a third chaplain from a Presbyterian or Nonconformist denomination. Most battalions or regiments have their own chaplain.


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.

Senior chaplains[edit]

Order of precedence[edit]

Preceded by
Army Air Corps
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Royal Logistic Corps

See also[edit]

Some notable Army chaplains


  1. ^ BBC Religions Christianity; Army chaplains
  2. ^ Museum of Army Chaplaincy webpage. British Army official website.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]