Royal Army Chaplains' Department

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Royal Army Chaplains' Department
RAChD QC.gif
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
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Garrison/HQMarlborough Lines, Andover
Motto(s)"In this Sign Conquer"
MarchPrince of Denmark's March (Trumpet Voluntary)
Chaplain GeneralClinton Langston
Tactical recognition flashRoyal Army Chaplains' Department Tactical Recognition Flash.png

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


A post 1953 RAChD No.1 dress cap

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 be Catholic, one of several protestant 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 was located at Amport House near Andover, Hampshire.[9] It closed to visitors in November 2019 and will reopen in the summer of 2021 at a new building at the Defence Academy site at Shrivenham, near Swindon.[10]

Representative denominations in the RAChD[edit]

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.[11]

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.[12] 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,[13] in order to better serve the non-religious in the military.[14] The proposal was rejected by the Church of England.[13] As of 2021 there are no non-religious chaplains in the British armed forces although organisations such as Defence Humanists (previously known as the UK Armed Forces Humanist Association), the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN) and the Defence Secular Society (DSS) continue to advocate for it.[15] The Armed forces of the Netherlands have had Humanist chaplains since 1 September 1964 known as Humanist Counseling in the Dutch Armed Forces.


The insignia of a Chaplain to the Forces 3rd Class.

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.[16]

List of Chaplains General[edit]

Term Began Term Ended Name Notes
4 October 1796 1810 John Gamble Resigned[17]
10 March 1810 1824 John Owen Died in position[18]
12 July 1824 1844 Robert Hodgson Died in position[19]
2 July 1846 1875 George Gleig Retired[20]
7 April 1875 1884 Piers Claughton Died in position[21]
8 February 1885 1 November 1901 Cox Edghill Retired[22]
1 November 1901 1925 John Taylor Smith [23]
1925 1931 Alfred Jarvis Resigned[24]
1931 1939 Ernest Thorold [25]
1939 1944 Charles Symons Retired[26]
6 November 1944 1951 Llewelyn Hughes Resigned[26]
6 November 1951 1960 Victor Pike Resigned[27]
11 June 1960 1966 Ivan Neill [28]
8 February 1966 1974 John Youens Retired[29]
1 July 1974 1980 Peter Mallett [30]
1980 31 December 1986 Frank Johnston [31]
1 January 1987 1995 James Harkness Scottish Presbyterian, first non-Anglican Chaplain-General[31]
3 February 1995 2000 Victor Dobbin Irish Presbyterian minister[32]
13 May 2000 2004 John Blackburn [33]
2004 2008 David Wilkes Methodist
2008 2011 Stephen Robbins
29 July 2011 2014 Jonathan Woodhouse Baptist[34]
September 2014 2018 David Coulter Church of Scotland
December 2018 present Clinton Langston

Deputy Chaplain General[edit]

Term Began Term Ended Name Notes
1915 1919 Llewellyn Gwynne [35]
1941 1945 Alfred Thomas Arthur Naylor [36]
1985 1986 James Harkness Church of Scotland, later Chaplain General
1986 1989 Tom Robinson
1989 1993 Graham Roblin
1993 1995 Alan Dean
1996 1999 John Holliman
1999 2000 John Blackburn later Chaplain General
2000 2004 David Wilkes Methodist, later Chaplain General
2008 2011 Jonathan Woodhouse Baptist, later Chaplain General
2011 2014 David Coulter Church of Scotland, later Chaplain General
2014 2017 Peter Eagles
2017 2018 Clinton Langston later Chaplain General
2018 2020 Michael Fava Catholic[37][38]
2020 present Michael Parker Methodist[39]

Order of precedence[edit]

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

Some notable Army chaplains[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Museum of Army Chaplaincy webpage. British Army official website.
  2. ^ Snape p 146
  3. ^ a b c d "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. 12 January 2012. 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. ^ @DefAcUK (30 September 2020). "The new Royal Army Chaplains' Museum broke ground yesterday in Shrivenham" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  11. ^ Taneja, Poonam (13 January 2014). "Army imam: Muslims can be good soldiers". BBC News. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Royal Army Chaplains' Department". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  13. ^ a b McManus, John (15 October 2011). "Military chaplain funding queried by secular group". BBC News. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  14. ^ Bingham, John. "Military losing faith in God". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  15. ^ "MoD open to Humanist chaplains". The Scotsman. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  16. ^ "They gave their today". Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  17. ^ "No. 13938". The London Gazette. 4 October 1796. p. 945.
  18. ^ "No. 16348". The London Gazette. 6 March 1810. p. 335.
  19. ^ "No. 18044". The London Gazette. 13 July 1824. p. 1155.
  20. ^ "No. 20620". The London Gazette. 7 July 1846. p. 2500.
  21. ^ "No. 24199". The London Gazette. 13 April 1875. p. 2081.
  22. ^ "No. 25442". The London Gazette. 17 February 1885. p. 677.
  23. ^ "No. 27379". The London Gazette. 22 November 1901. p. 7653.
  24. ^ "No. 33048". The London Gazette. 19 May 1925. p. 3374.
  25. ^ "No. 34010". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1933. p. 3.
  26. ^ a b "No. 36791". The London Gazette (Supplement). 10 November 1944. p. 5189.
  27. ^ "No. 39375". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 November 1951. p. 5772.
  28. ^ "No. 42088". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 July 1960. p. 4811.
  29. ^ "No. 43898". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 February 1966. p. 1755.
  30. ^ "No. 46349". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 September 1974. p. 7900.
  31. ^ a b "No. 50799". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 January 1987. p. 450.
  32. ^ "No. 53946". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 February 1995. p. 1747.
  33. ^ "No. 55854". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 May 2000. p. 5644.
  34. ^ "No. 59866". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 August 2011. p. 14713.
  35. ^ Lord Balfour of Burleigh (22 September 1915). "THE DEPUTY CHAPLAIN-GENERAL". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). United Kingdom: House of Lords. col. 836–839.
  36. ^ "A Second World War D.S.O., and Great War O.B.E. group of seven : Reverend A.T.A. Naylor, Army Chaplain's Department". 12 March 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  37. ^ "Top appointment for Catholic army chaplain". Independent Catholic News. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  38. ^ "No. 63164". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 November 2020. p. 18604.
  39. ^ Royal Army Chaplains' Department [@ArmyChaplaincy] (4 June 2020). "We are pleased to announce that The Revd Michael Parker CF, currently serving with @3rdUKDivision, will be the next Deputy Chaplain General. Padre Parker will take up the post in October. #calledtoserve" (Tweet). Retrieved 31 July 2021 – via Twitter.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]