Military Health Service Heraldry
November 2006

The South African Military Health Service, formerly called the SA Medical Service, was formed in 1968 by centralising the Army, Air Force, and Navy medical branches. It was given equal status with the other three services in 1979. The Army heritage is the most influential, and SAMHS heraldry thus follows Army practice. Murrey (called "ruby red" in SAMHS parlance) is the dominant tincture in SAMHS arms.

Arm-of-Service Emblem

The traditional Rod of Aesculapius has been the emblem of the military medical services since early in the 20th century. Later framed inside a "Castle of Good Hope" outline, it served as the SAMS/SAMHS emblem until 2003, when the present form of the badge, with its 9-pointed engrailed frame suggesting a sunburst, was introduced.

Cap Badges
The SAMS took over the cap badge of the Army's medical corps, which depicted the traditional Rod of Aesculapius. Its present badge, adopted in the early 1980s, depicts the rod against a Maltese cross.

Colours
Some SAMS units carry unit Colours. From 1988 to 1994, units also carried the short-lived National Colour, which was a ceremonial version of the then national flag, fringed in gold, with a golden protea finial on the staff.

Flags
The SAMHS has its own arm-of-service flag, consisting of a ruby red ensign with the national flag in the canton and the arm-of-service emblem in the fly. Because of changes in national flag and SAM(H)S emblem, there have been three versions of the flag. You'll find a detailed discussion and illustrations on the Flags of the World website.

Tartan
1 Medical Battalion Group wears the McKenzie tartan as part of its insignia.

Unit Arms

Unit coats of arms were adopted in the 1970s, and are worn on the sleeves, as shoulder flashes. Most of them are ruby red (murrey), and many feature a Rod of Aesculapius, with two cobras instead of the generic serpent, and the unit's number or initials in chief. Medical battalion group arms display fitchy Maltese crosses; example: 3 Medical Battalion Group.

References/Sources/Links
Calendars, illustrated with unit arms, published by Castrol in the 1980s and '90s
Owen, CR: Military Badges and Insignia of Southern Africa (1990)

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