Ordnance badges of the United Kingdom and most present and former Commonwealth countries all trace their origins to the Coat of Arms of the Board of Ordnance.
Coming into use in the seventeenth century, but not given royal approval until 1806 when the Arms of the Board of Ordnance was confirmed by a grant from the College of Arms in 1823.
The description of the original grant of arms describes the coat of arms as;
- The blazon is as follows:
- Arms: Azure – 3 Field Pieces in pale, or; on a chief, argent, three cannonballs, proper.
- Crest: Out of a mural crown, argent, a dexter cubit arm, the hand grasping a thunderbolt, winged and inflamed, proper.
- Supporters: On either side, a Cyclops, in the exterior hand of the dexter a Hammer, and in that of the sinister a pair of Forceps, resting on the shoulder of each respectively, all proper.
- Motto: ‘sua tela tonanti’ (‘To the Thunderer his weapons’); also more loosely translated as (‘To the warrior his arms’].
Translated into modern English it reads as:
Shield: Blue background with 2 Field Pieces in Gold, on the Top portion of the shield 3 Silver/White cannonballs.
Crest: rising from a
Silver/White crown, a right arm grasping a thunderbolt, wings against a flaming background.
Supporters: Two cyclops on either the right-hand cyclops holding a hammer, the left-hand cyclops a pair of Forceps, resting on the shoulder of each respectively.
Motto: In the riband, the motto ‘sua tela tonanti’ loosely translated as ‘To the warrior his arms’
The shield with three cannons and three cannonballs is the standard component of the Coat of Arms used on Ordnance cap badges; variations include a riband with either the Corps motto or a descriptor of the corps the insignia belongs to.
Early Australian and New Zealand Ordnance badges had annulus surrounding the shield with the name of the respective Corps inside it.
Many international variations of Ordnance badges have also had national identifiers affixed to the top of the shield, for example, Canada had a Beaver on their 1903 badge, and New Zealand had the letters NZ on various versions of their badge.
The common direction for the cannons is that they always face to the right (Dexter in heraldic terms), the exception is the New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps 1917-23 and South Africa Ordnance Corps 1923-33 badges where the cannons face to the left (Sinister in heraldic terms).
On granting of Royal status, two features were added to most badges:
- Permission was granted to affix the Royal garter in a buckled circle or oval, with the motto “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”. Its translation from “Old French” is “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it.” It is sometimes re-interpreted as “Evil (or shame) be to him that evil thinks” or “shame on anyone who thinks ill of it.”
- Crowns of the reigning Regents were worn.
- The Tudor or “Kings Crown” on badges from 1918 to 1953
- The St Edwards or “Queens crown” from 1953
Listed below are examples of some of the various ordnance badges of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa. Examples of New Zealand pages can be found at Ordnance Badges of New Zealand 1916-1996.
From 1896 the United Kingdom maintained two Ordnance entities.
- The Army Ordnance Department, Comprising of Officers, and
- The Army Ordnance Corps, Comprising of other ranks.
In July 1896, on the recommendation of the War Office, Queen Victoria approved the use of the arms of the Board of Ordnance in that the shield, less the crest and the supporters be incorporated into the badge of the Army Ordnance Department and Corps (AOC). The two cap badges were of similar design, differing only in the wording on the scroll and became the parents of all the Imperial, then Commonwealth Ordnance Corps, with elements of its design utilised by all Commonwealth Ordnance Corps at some stage.
The Army Ordnance Department and Corps were combined in 1918 to form the ‘Royal Army Ordnance Corps,’ remaining in existence until 1993 when it was disestablished to form the ‘Royal Logistic Corps‘.
Formed as the Australian Army Ordnance Stores Corps on 1 July 1902 at the same time as the civilian-staffed Civil Service run Australian Army Ordnance Department.
Entirely placed under military control in 1942 and renamed the Australian Army Ordnance Corps and granted Royal status in 1948. The current design of a badge with a King’s crown was approved in 1948 but only worn as a collar badge until 1956, when a cap badge with a Queens Crown was introduced, which remains in service today.
Created as the ‘Ordnance Stores Corps‘ in 1903. It was renamed the ‘Canadian Ordnance Corps‘ in 1907. Granted Royal designation in 1919 it became the ‘Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps‘. Following the establishment of the ‘Logistic Branch‘ which combined the ‘Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps’ and the ‘Royal Canadian Army Service Corps‘ in 1968 the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps was formerly stood down on 2 July 1974.
The history of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps is traced back to the 15-century formation of the three Presidencies of the East India Company – Bengal, Madras and Bombay, with the formal recognition of the Indian Army Ordnance Corps with the establishment of ‘Board of Ordnance‘ in 1775.
With the global disestablishment of the Board in 1855, the Ordnance State Department and Corps were created which was in turn, in 1885, organised into the Army Ordnance Department for officers and the Army Ordnance Corps for men.
In 1922 the Army Ordnance Department and Army Ordnance Corps were reorganised and renamed Indian Army Ordnance Corps. A similar corps badge to the previous badge was introduced, but with the scroll bearing the words Indian Army Ordnance Corps. This badge continued in use until 1954, when the current badge came into use. The IAOC badge should have been discontinued after India became a republic in 1950, but a delay in finalising the new crest led to its continued usage till 1954.
With Independence in 1950, the “Indian” prefix was dropped, and the corps is now only known as the Army Ordnance Corps.
Other known Indian Ordnance badges were:
- Pagri (Turban) Badge – Ordnance shield surmounted by fist rising from coronet grasping lightning rods, scroll bellow inscription SUA TELA TONANI
- Waist Belt Clasp – Kings Crown) over Ordnance shield in the centre, ORDNANCE around the top, INDIA around the bottom
- Pagri (Turban) Badge – WW1 period – fist rising from coronet grasping
lightning rods surmounted by two wings, no scroll
On the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the Ordnance badge adopted by Pakistan was a modified IAOC badge where the crown was replaced by the Pakistan ensign of Cresent and Star and the word Indian was replaced by Pakistan.
On the 15th of August 1954, a redesigned badge was adopted. Based on the RAOC Pattern badge, this badge consisted of;
- the Ordnance shield of three cannons and three cannonballs
- Pakistan ensign of a 5 pointed Star
- Annulus inscribed with the words ‘Pakistan Army Ordnance Corps’
- The Ordnance Motto ‘Sua Tela Tonanti’ Translated into English reading ‘To the Thunder his Weapons’ inscribed onto the Riband.
A princely state during the British Raj. After India gained independence in 1947, Hyderabad remained independent with the Indian Army taking control of Hyderabad after an invasion codenamed Operation Polo bringing Hyderabad in the Indian union in 1948.
Following the British model, the South African Ordnance Department for officers and the South African Ordnance Corps for men was established in 1923. Combining into a single Corps in 1933 and finally reorganising in 1939 when the Technical Services Corps and the ‘Q Services Corps’ was created.
Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The army of the Short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953-1963) maintained the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Army Services Corps to provide logistical support to the Federal Army. The Rhodesia and Nyasaland Army Services Corps was divided into three branches;
- The Ordnance & Supply Branch – Tasked with the provisioning of all Army arms, supplies, and equipment. 150 soldiers strong.
- The Workshop Branch – Artificers and mechanics responsible for the good maintenance of vehicles, firearms, and other equipment deployed by the Federal Army. The branch was 270 men strong.
- The Supply & Transport Branch – Comprised of one Askari Platoon, two Coloured Afro-Asian Platoons, and one Eurasian Platoon, the Supply & Transport Branch was tasked in delivering the supplies set aside by the Ordnance & Supply Branch to troops in the field. The total size was 180 men.
J.L. Chapple Indian Army Collection catalogue, Part II – Arms and Services, AFI, IST-ISF. (2017). Retrieved from Indian Military History Society: http://durbaronline.co.uk/PDF/PDF6arms-svces.pdf
Copyright © Robert McKie 2017