Customs and Traditions
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HIGHER STRUCTURE

THE COLONEL IN CHIEF

His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester was appointed Colonel in Chief of the RAMC on 1st July 2003. He is the third to hold this position following HRH The Duke of Connaught first appointed in 1919 and who was followed by HM The Queen (later the Queen Mother) in 1942.

THE COUNCIL OF COLONELS COMMANDANT

The Council of Colonels Commandant is comprised of four Colonels Commandant, one of whom is selected to be Representative Colonel Commandant for each calendar year. They are selected from serving officers of at least the rank of Colonel or retired officers of at least Lieutenant Colonel rank. Their tenure of appointment is normally five years but may be extended to six years.
The main responsibilities of the Council are to guard Corps traditions, to foster esprit-de-corps and to represent Corps interests. To carry out these responsibilities they routinely meet four times a year.

REGIMENTAL HEADQUARTERS AND MUSEUM

The Regimental Headquarters is located in Robertson House, in the Sandhurst estate at Camberley, Surrey. The Museum of Military Medicine is located in Keogh Barracks, Mytchett, which is located just to the east of Aldershot. Regimental Headquarters is presided over by the Regimental Secretary and incorporates the RAMC Charity and the MEDIC Magazine. The Journal of the RAMC has passed to the management of BMJ Publications Ltd Magazine.

The Museum has a full time Director and staff and is responsible for researching and recording the history of the Army Medical Services. It also runs a shop selling a wide variety of souvenirs and some uniform items.


DRESS DISTINCTIONS

THE BADGE BACKING FOR THE BERET

All male and female Warrant Officers Class 2 and below, when wearing the beret, wear a dull cherry cloth backing to the badge. The backing, ovoid in shape, is sewn directly onto the beret. Its vertical measurement is 54mm and 38mm at its widest horizontal measurement.

The origins of this backing can be traced to February 1956 when it was formally introduced into the Corps. It was as a result of a suggestion by the then Commandant of the RAMC Depot, Colonel HC Benson RAMC, that some sort of distinctive backing to the beret badge was desirous amongst soldiers. The colour stems from the facings of the dress uniform of the Corps.

Since 2013, the Colonel in Chief and the Colonels Commandant RAMC have also worn the maroon backing behind their beret badges.

THE BADGE

The badge of the RAMC is described as: The Rod of Aesculapius with a Serpent entwined, surrounded by a wreath of Laurels and surmounted by a crown. Below is a motto 'In Arduis Fidelis'. The literal meaning is 'In Hardship Faithful' which is commonly translated as 'Steadfast in Adversity'.

THE LANYARD

When wearing No 2, Service, Dress, all ranks of the Corps wear a dull cherry lanyard on the right shoulder. The lanyard, first introduced in 1952, has a loop at each end and is secured by passing the lanyard over the shoulder and the top loop through the bottom loop. The loose end is worn securely fastened in the right breast pocket by males. Females wear a slightly modified lanyard, there being no breast pocket on their service dress.

THE STABLE BELT

The present pattern of belt was introduced in 1981. It has the following specifications:

  • Width of belt: 3 inches
  • Length: variable, adjusted by means of a chrome sliding buckle
  • Material: webbing woven in three 1 inch strips running the length of the belt, the strips in the three Corps Colours; Dull Cherry at the top, Blue in the middle and Old Gold at the bottom.
  • Fastening: a chrome locket bearing the RAMC Badge in the centre with Royal Army Medical Corps around the outside.

TRADE QUALIFICATION BARS

RAMC Class 1 and 2 Tradesman in the rank of Corporal and below wear bars of worsted tubular braid on the outside of the right sleeve of the No2 dress jacket.

Class 1 Tradesmen and women wear two bars and class 2 one bar. The first bar is located 165mm from the bottom of the cuff and the second bar 13mm above it.
The origins can be traced back as far as May 1886 when orderlies of the Medical Staff Corps wore bars of scarlet braid on the right sleeve of the tunic. Over the years these fell into disuse but were re-introduced in 1956.


REGIMENTAL

THE CORPS MARCHES

The first March to be used by the Corps was John Philip Sousa's Washington Post, composed and adopted in 1899.

It was replaced by Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still in 1914. This was replaced in 1923 by Bonnie Nell which was itself replaced by Here's a Health Unto His Majesty in 1948.

Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still was re-introduced in the 1950s as the Corps Slow March.

THE COLOURS OF THE RAMC

  • DULL CHERRY was the colour of the facings of the early uniforms and has been universally adopted by many of the medical services throughout the world.
  • BLUE was the colour of the uniform of the Medical Staff Corps in 1898.
  • OLD GOLD denotes the Royal within the title.

THE ROYAL WARRANT

There follows a reproduction of the original Royal Warrant which signified the formation of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

VICTORIA R.I.
'Whereas We have deemed it expedient to alter in certain respects the conditions under which the officers employed upon the medical duties of Our Army are at present serving;
'Our will and pleasure is that officers below the rank of Surgeon Major-General serving in Our Army Medical Staff shall be formed into a Corps together with the warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of Our Medical Staff Corps;
'It is Our further will and pleasure that the designation "Medical Staff Corps" shall be abolished and that the corps formed as above mentioned shall be styled "The Royal Army Medical Corps".
'The following alterations will consequently be made in the ranks of the medical officers of Our Army:

Present Rank New Rank
Surgeon-Colonel Colonel
Brigade Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel
Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel
Surgeon-Major Major
Surgeon-Captain Captain
Surgeon-Lieutenant Lieutenant

'The medical staff of Our Army shall in future consist of surgeon-generals (ranking as major-generals), and the title of surgeon-major-generals now serving shall be altered accordingly.
'Officers of Our Royal Army Medical Corps holding appointments in Our household troops shall be borne as seconded officers on the establishment of Our Royal Army Medical Corps, etc.
'Given at Our Court at Windsor, this 23rd day of June, 1898, in the 62nd year of Our Reign.

'By Her Majesty's Command,
'Lansdowne.'

The Colonels of the Corps joined the Staff of the Army, thus coming Late RAMC, in common with all other Colonels in the Army, in 1907. Initially the General Officers of the Corps were graded as Surgeon Generals. They in turn were passed to the Staff in 1907 and it wasn’t until 1918 when they adopted normal Army ranks of Lieutenant General and Major General.

CORPS DAY – 23rd JUNE

The News and Gazette of the Royal Army Medical Corps dated July-August 1948, stated:

‘The twenty third of June will in future be known to all past and present members of the Royal Army Medical Corps as 'Corps Day'. The Director General's wish is that wherever more than-a handful of the Corps are serving, Corps Day shall be celebrated in the morning by a Church Service, a Commanding Officer's parade and a March Past. The afternoon is to be an unofficial half-holiday when sports and the like will be arranged’.

THE COLLECT OF THE ARMY MEDICAL SERVICES

Almighty and everlasting God, who sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Saviour and Healer of men; we ask you to bless the work of the Army Medical Services. Grant that we who are called to share in this ministry of healing may ever have present in our minds the example of our Lord, and his tenderness and sympathy for all human suffering. Give us grace and patience faithfully to fulfil our calling and crown our work with good success; for the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

THE COLLECT OF THE ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS

O God, whose blessed Son was made perfect through suffering, give Thy grace, we beseech thee, to thy servants of the Royal Army Medical Corps, that by loyalty in hard service after the example of Saint Luke the beloved physician, we may be found faithful in ministering to those that need, for His sake who went about doing good, the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

THE GRACE OF THE ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS

God bless this food and wine to sustain the work of these thy servants in the Royal Army Medical Corps and keep us mindful that it is not for ourselves but for others that we strive. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Amen.

THE BOOKS OF REMEMBRANCE AND WESTMINSTER ABBEY

THE GOLDEN BOOK 1914-1918

The Golden Book is the work of Mr Grailey Hewitt BA and his assistants. It contains the names of the 743 Officers and 6130 Other Ranks who died in the service of their country during the Great War.

The writing is in the style of the Italian 15th century, from which our modern printing types are derived. It is therefore easily legible.

It will be noticed that every page in the book is different. Many of our typical English trees and shrubs are represented, such as the oak, elm, beech, hazel, chestnut, ivy, etc., whilst a delicate filigree of the humbler forms of flower and creeper has been introduced for contrast, such as clover, forget-me-not and buttercup. Birds and butterflies have been added to introduce living interest into the pages.

The whole book is linked together by the parable of the Prodigal Son as recounted by St. Luke, the Patron Saint of the medical profession. A text from this parable appears at the beginning of every alphabetical division, and a small picture illustrating the story has been introduced into the initial letter of the text.

Opposite the title scene is a larger page from the parable, with a conventional portrait of St. Luke. A portrait of Aesculapius, the Father of Medicine, appears opposite the preface.

THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE 1939-45

The second Book of Remembrance is of large quarto proportions and consists of a title page and one hundred and fifty three page of names, the former being written in burnished gold. The names of the fallen are written in black, in the style known as 'slanted pen half uncial', and is founded upon a tenth century manuscript book in the British Museum probably written in Winchester. Details showing the rank and date of death are written in italic with vermilion.

Larger vermilion names occur at the beginning of each letter, this serves to break the monotony and decorates certain pages with the larger sized writing, the added colour and the gold paragraph marks. The writing was done by swan and turkey quills which have been used by scribes since the third century A.C.

The vellum was prepared at Brentford and consists of 158 leaves of cream calf skin. The binding which is of dull red Morocco leather, bears the Corps crest together with the British floral emblems toothed in gold. The pages are hinged on guards which ensure that they will lie flat when the book lies open in its case.

It was designed and executed by Mr MC Oliver, ARCA and bound by Mr GW Frewin.

On 10th June, 1949, the book was taken to Buckingham Palace by the Director-General, who was accompanied by the Representative Colonel Commandant, the secretary of the War Memorial Fund and the artist. It was very closely inspected by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Colonel-in-Chief, RAMC, who graciously expressed her approval and admiration of the book and congratulated the artist on his work. On 27th June, it was dedicated in Westminster Abbey and after the service placed in the Chapel House.

The book records the names of two thousand four hundred and sixty three all ranks of the Royal Army Medical Corps who made the supreme sacrifice during the Second World War.

THE THIRD BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE

The third Book of Remembrance mirrors the previous two books in its style but not its compilation.

It records all the names of those members of the Corps who died in an operational theatre since the end of World War 2. They are arranged on monthly pages, each name on the page being recorded in date of death order.

The book was presented to the Colonel in Chief for approval in early 1998. During Corps Week 1998, our Centenary year, it was dedicated by the Dean of Westminster Abbey and then took its place alongside the other two books.

A special cabinet to match the initial one was constructed to house the book.

In July 2004 the three books were moved from the Chapel House to the Nave of the Abbey and placed under the RAMC Memorial Window.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

For The Fallen - Lawrence Binyon (1869-1943)

CEREMONY OF TURNING THE PAGES

This ceremony originated in November 1929 and was originally carried out on the first Monday of every month at 1100hrs by one Non-Commissioned Officer and four Privates of No 18 Company RAMC. Between 1976 and 1988 the ceremony fell into abeyance. It was resurrected in 1988 as a monthly event but now takes place on the first Saturday of the month five times per year. Dates can be found in the ‘Blue Book’ and on the Association web site. The ceremony was initially only carried out by Regular RAMC units in the south of England. In 2000 it was extended to all RAMC units including those of the Reserves.

On completion of the ceremony those participating are presented with a certificate to commemorate their role, signed by the Representative Colonel Commandant, and their names are also recorded in a commemorative book.

THE MEMORIAL WINDOWS

The Royal Army Medical Corps has the unique distinction of having a Memorial Window in Westminster Abbey. This came about in recognition of the fact that members of the Corps, their friends and relatives had contributed ten thousand pounds to towards the restoration of the Abbey.

The window which overlooks the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, was dedicated by the Dean of Westminster on 22nd May 1927.

At the head of the Window is a quatrefoil containing the shield of St Edward the Confessor. On the left light is the figure of St. Edward (died 1066). His left hand holds a ring which he gave to St John, who appeared to him in the guise of a pilgrim. From the wrist of the right hand, which holds a sceptre, hang tablets inscribed with the opening words of the King's charter to the Abbey. In the right-hand light is the figure of Abbot Edwin (died 1071).

Within the canopy above St. Edward is a picture representing him touching for the King's Evil; and the corresponding figure in the other light represents the giving of the ring to the pilgrim.

At the RAMC Memorial Service held on the 11th June 1946, the window was re-dedicated by the Dean of Westminster in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, Colonel in Chief of the Royal Army Medical Corps. The inscription had been altered to include those members of the Corps who fell in Second World War.

The Window and the subsequent alterations were designed and carried out by Mr JN Comper.

Placed immediately below the windows is a memorial tablet to those members of the Corps who fell during the Great War. It was designed and executed by Mr Wilcoxson of the Royal School of Art, South Kensington and was unveiled on 13th July 1922 by HRH The Duke of Connaught, who was at the time Colonel in Chief of the RAMC. A further tablet was installed below it, in March 1987 and commemorates those who lost their lives during the Second World War.

OTHER MEMORIALS

Memorials to the fallen of the RAMC and its forefathers abound throughout the world including the memorial windows in both Westminster Abbey and Cathedral in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and in St Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin.

There are however two other main memorials, that commemorating the fallen of the Boer War on Gun Hill Road Aldershot, unveiled 24th May 1905 and the RAMC Memorial located within the Singapore Garden, Keogh Barracks which was unveiled on 22nd June 1997.

BEARING OF ARMS BY THE RAMC

The RAMC is protected under the Geneva Convention and as such bears arms for personal protection only. This is reflected when on parade in that swords and bayonets may be worn but must remained sheathed.

Officers' pay compliments by saluting in the normal manner with the right hand. The sword sheathed, is grasped by the sheath with the left hand to maintain it in a vertical position.

Soldiers armed with the rifle pay compliments in the normal manner, but without the bayonet being fixed.

CORPS NICKNAMES

  • Rape And Murder Corps
  • Rob All My Comrades
  • Run Away Matron’s Coming
  • Linseed Lancers
  • Poultice Wallopers
  • Can’t Manage A Rifle

ALLIANCES

The Royal Army Medical Corps is officially allied to the following foreign armed forces medical services:

The Canadian Armed Forces Medical Branch
Australian Military Forces The Royal Australian Army Medical Corps
New Zealand Army Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps
Pakistan Army Army Medical Corps
Sri Lanka Army The Sri Lankan Army Medical Corps
Zambian Army Zambian Army Medical Service
South African Defence Forces South African Medical Service

ANTECEDENTS

  • Army Medical Board formed (thus becoming described as the Medical Department of the Army) 1793
  • Hospital Conveyance Corps (soldiers) raised 4 May 1854 - 21 July 1855
  • Medical Staff Corps (soldiers) raised 11 June 1855 – 1 August 1857
  • Army Medical Department 02 February 1873 – 1 August 1884(regimental medical officers transferred in from regiments)
  • Army Hospital Corps (soldiers) raised 1 August 1857 - 1 August 1884
  • Medical Staff (officers) 1 August 1884-23 June 1898
  • Medical Staff Corps (soldiers) raised 1 August 1884 - 23 June 1898
  • Royal Army Medical Corps (amalgamation of Medical Staff and Medical Staff Corps) formed 23 June 1898.

THE VICTORIA CROSS

(ARMY MEDICAL SERVICES)

The Victoria Cross was introduced by Royal Warrant dated 29th January 1856. It was awarded retrospectively to cover acts of gallantry, which took place during the Crimean War (1854 -1856). The cross is manufactured by Hancock's, the Jewellers, using metal taken from cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War.

The following awards have been made to members of the Army Medical Services of the British Army:

  • Surgeon J Mouat - 26 October 1854 - Balaklava, Crimea
  • Surgeon TE Hale - 8 September 1855 - Sebastopol, Crimea
  • Assistant Surgeon HT Sylvester - 8 September 1855 - Sebastopol, Crimea
  • Surgeon HT Reade - 14-16 September 1857 - Delhi, Indian Mutiny
  • Surgeon J Jee - 25 September 1857 - Lucknow, Indian Mutiny
  • Assistant Surgeon WM McMaster - 25 September 1857 - Lucknow
  • Surgeon AD Home - 26 September 1857 - Lucknow
  • Assistant Surgeon W Bradshaw-26 September 1857 - Lucknow
  • Assistant Surgeon W Temple - 22 September 1864 - New Zealand
  • Surgeon WGN Manley - 29 April 1864 - Tauranga, New Zealand
  • Surgeon CM Douglas - 7 May 1867 - Andaman Islands, Indian Ocean
  • Surgeon JH Reynolds - 22/23 January 1879 - Rorke's Drift, Zululand
  • Lance Corporal JJ Farmer - 27 February 1881 - Majuba Mountain
  • Captain LS LeQuesne - 4 May 1889 - Burma
  • Surgeon Major OEP Lloyd - 6 January 1893 - Burma
  • Major W Babtie RAMC - 15 December 1899 - Colenso, South Africa
  • Lieutenant HEM Douglas RAMC - 11 December 1899 - South Africa
  • Lieutenant ET Inkson RAMC - 24 February 1900 - South Africa
  • Lieutenant WHS Nickerson RAMC - 20 April 1900 - Wakkerstroom, South Africa
  • Surgeon Captain TJ Crean - 18 December 1901 - Tygersloof, South Africa
  • Surgeon Captain A Martin-Leake - 8 February 1902 - Vlakfontein, South Africa
  • Lieutenant A Martin-Leake VC RAMC - 29 October to 3 November 1914 at Zonnebeke
  • Captain HS Rankin RAMC - 19/20 September 1914 - Haute-vesnes
  • Captain GA Maling RAMC - 25 September 1915 - Fauquissart
  • Captain JL Green RAMC - 1 July 1916 – Foncquevillers
  • Captain WB Allen RAMC - 3 September 1916 - Mesnil
  • Captain NG Chavasse RAMC - 26 October 1916 - Gillemont
  • Captain H Ackroyd RAMC - 31 July/1 August 1917 – Ypres
  • Captain NG Chavasse VC RAMC – 1 August 1917 - Wieltje
  • Captain J Fox-Russell RAMC - 6 November 1917 - Palestine
  • Lance Corporal HE Harden RAMC - 23 January 1945 - Brachterbeek, Holland

A Bar to the Victoria Cross has only been awarded on three occasions; to Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Colonel) Martin-Leake and Captain Chavasse, both RAMC, during the Great War, and to a New Zealand Infantry Officer, Charles Hazlitt Upham, who was awarded his VC and Bar during World War 2.

A further VC in the possession of the RAMC is that recovered from beneath the foundation stone of the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley, on its demolition on 7th December 1966. The VC was placed beneath the foundation stone by Queen Victoria when she laid it on 19th May 1856. It must be, therefore, one of the earliest VCs struck.

FURTHER READING

Below are listed the main sources of RAMC History. There are many more books dealing with individual units and military medicine in general. The museum library has a large collection.

  • A History of the Army Medical Department (2 Vols)
    By Sir Neil Cantlie. Churchill Livingstone 1973
    ISBN 0443010668
  • The Medical VCs
    Impressions Litho 1988
  • The Royal Army Medical Corps
    By Redmond McLaughlin. Leo Cooper Ltd 1972
  • A Short History of the Royal Army Medical Corps
    By Colonel F Smith. Gale & Polden 1931
  • Not Least in the Crusade
    By Peter Lovegrove Gale & Polden 1951
  • RAMC
    Anthony Cotterell. Hutchinson & Co Ltd 1945
  • The Story of the RAMC
    By Maj Gen RE Barnsley. RHQ RAMC Booklet
  • A Centenary History of the RAMC
    By JSG Blair. Scottish Academic Press 1998
    ISBN 07073 0769
  • BeretPatch

    RAMC Beret Patch

    TurningThePages

    Turning the Pages

    VictoriaCross

    The Victoria Cross

    WW1Book

    The World War 1 Book of Remembrance

    WW2Book

    The World War 2 Book of Remembrance

    The RAMC Association

    William Boog LeishmanIn 1926, the RAMC Association was formed to further the camaraderie of WW1 Corps veterans with Sir William Leishman being the first President. There are now some 38 branches around UK with a predominantly veteran membership although most serving Corps members also are members centrally. The Association has traditionally been supported by Corps Funds and especially for the expenses of the branch standards and standard bearers.