Per ardua ad astra

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Other mottos/phrases also incorporate the Latin "ad astra". See the article ad astra (phrase)
"Per Ardua Ad Astra", a 1984 memorial sculpture by Oscar Nemon on University Avenue in Toronto, Canada honouring fallen Canadian airmen and women.
The motto carved into the shelter at Stonefall cemetery in Harrogate, which has Air Force graves from many Commonwealth air forces.

Per ardua ad astra ("Through adversity to the stars"[1] or "Through struggle to the stars"[2]) is the motto of the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces such as the RAAF, RCAF, and RNZAF. It dates from 1912 and was used by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.


"Per ardua ad astra" badge on the Polish War Memorial
"Per ardua ad astra" on the headstone of Lieutenant J. D. Lightbody in Scheldewindeke, Belgium

The first Commanding Officer of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) was Colonel Frederick Sykes. He asked his officers to come up with a motto for the new service; one which would produce a strong esprit de corps.

Not long after this, two junior officers were walking from the Officers' Mess at Farnborough to Cody's Shed on Laffan Plain. As they walked they discussed the problem of the motto and one of them, Lieutenant J. S. Yule, mentioned the phrase "Sic itur ad Astra", from Virgil. He then expanded on this with the phrase "Per Ardua ad Astra", which he translated as, "Through adversity to the Stars". Colonel Sykes approved of this as the motto and forwarded it to the War Office. It was then submitted to the King, who approved its adoption.

The question of where this motto had come from can be answered by the fact that Yule had read it in a book called The People of the Mist by Sir Henry Rider Haggard. In the first chapter was the passage: "To his right were two stately gates of iron fantastically wrought, supported by stone pillars on whose summit stood griffins of black marble embracing coats of arms and banners inscribed with the device 'Per Ardua ad Astra'".

Where Rider Haggard obtained this phrase is still unclear, although it is possible that it originated from the Irish family of Mulvany who had used it as their family motto for hundreds of years and translated it as "Through Struggles to the Stars".

The authoritative translation of the motto is just as uncertain as the source. Since there can be a number of different meanings to "Ardua" and "Astra", scholars[who?] have declared it to be untranslatable. To the Royal Air Force and the other Commonwealth air forces, however, it will remain translated as "Through Adversity to the Stars".[3] Northview Aviation Ltd is the only known organisation that uses "Per Ardua ad Astra" in a tongue in cheek fashion due to its involvement in the VIP aircraft market, hence earning its revenue "through hard work to the stars"


The motto of the Royal Air Force Regiment omits the 'ad astra' part, becoming simply 'per ardua'.

Other uses[edit]


Per ardua ad astra is also the motto of:

  • George L. Armstrong School, Hamilton, Ontario
  • St. Augustine Girls' High School, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Institute of Science, Nagpur, India.[4]
  • Acadia University Engineering Society[5] Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Cathedral Schools in Stavanger and Trondheim (Stavanger katedralskole Kongsgård and Trondheim katedralskole), Norway
  • Antonio DeSouza High School (ANZA), Mumbai, India
  • J.C. Chandisingh Secondary School (formerly Corentyne High School), Rose Hall, Guyana, South America.
  • Dale College (for boys), King Williams Town, South Africa (generally translated by the school as "through hard work to the stars".)
  • Alexandra School, Barbados
  • Uxbridge Secondary School, Ontario, Canada
  • Bulli High School (NSW, Australia).
  • Lacovia High School located in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, West Indies. The school uses the translation "through toil to the stars".
  • Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, India.
  • Lancaster/School House at King Edward VII School, King's Lynn, Norfolk
  • St. Augustine's School, Kalimpong, India
  • St. Augustine Girls' High School, Curepe, Trinidad
  • St. Cyprian’s Special Science School, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria
  • Girls High School, Harare, Zimbabwe (Through hard work, we'll reach the stars)
  • Rice College Secondary School, Westport, County Mayo, Ireland
  • Elgin Superior School, Elgin, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Nackawic Senior High School, Nackawic, New Brunswick, Canada
  • North and South Esk Regional High School, Sunny Corner, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Northview Aviation Ltd, Brook, Kent, England
  • Earth Directorate vessel Searcher (second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century television series).
  • Wantage Hall, University of Reading (United Kingdom)
  • Highbury Grove School, London, UK
  • Jamie Ashton Ltd., Wales, UK
  • Girton Grammar School, Bendigo VIC Australia, (Through hardship to the stars)
  • Ridgeway and Crystal Beach high School, (Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada)
  • Gingerland Secondary School, (Gingerland, St. Georges Parish, Nevis)
  • Tembisa High School, Tembisa, Gauteng, South Africa
  • Lockhart Schweitzer House, Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast, Ghana
  • ProEd Consortium, Hwa Chong Institution, Singapore
  • Renaissance School, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • SMA Negeri 3 (Public High School no.3), Batam, Indonesia


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". RAF. 2013-04-26. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  2. ^ "Royal Australian Air Force Badge". Australian Department of Defence. Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "The Royal Air Force MottoThe Royal Air Force Motto". RAF. 2013-04-26. Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Institute of Science, Nagpur". Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  5. ^ "Ivan Curry School of Engineering ~ Welcome". 2013-03-07. Retrieved 2013-11-04.