Reserve Force heraldry and insignia changes plod along


To date three of 52 Reserve Force regiments and units renamed to reflect South African rather than apartheid and/or colonial origins have new approved heraldry and insignia.

They are Pretoria Armoured Regiment (formerly Pretoria Regiment), Western Cape Reserve Signal Unit (formerly 71 Signal Regiment) and Gauteng Reserve Signal Unit (formerly 7 Signal Group).

New heraldry and insignia applications are “in progress” for another five according to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) directorate: corporate communication (DCC).

Units awaiting the nod of approval from at least five “authorities” are iHawu Field Engineer Regiment (formerly 3 Field Engineer Regiment), Umkhonto Field Engineer Regiment (formerly 19 Field Engineer Regiment), Ukhozi Parachute Engineer Regiment (formerly 44 Parachute Engineer Regiment), iNgobamakhosi Carbineers (formerly Natal Carbineers) and Solomon Mahlangu Regiment (formerly Transvaal Scottish).

Heading the authority list are the State Herald and SANDF Heraldry. Approval must also come from the specific regiment/unit where the new heraldry is to be applied as well as the SA Army Formation involved, for example air defence, armour or infantry with current SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Lawrence Mbatha last on the list to say aye or nay.

The new names, ostensibly to Africanise the former colonial and apartheid era names of Reserve Force units, were announced in August 2019 with the affected units given a three-year window to implement new heraldry.  This includes cap/beret badges, shoulder flashes, other insignia as well as flags, pennants and stationery such as letterheads. Two of those three years will be up next month (September).

That the various elements of a regiment/unit name change are still work in progress was brought home to a recent Army Reserves retreat in Limpopo where a presentation to support the impact of name changes was delivered by Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Eric Kahn.

A point made in the presentation is the change is “total” and does not allow for “old traditions and battle honours to be carried forward”.

The CWO pointed out unit name changes impact on esprit de corps and serving soldiers must be part of the change process. New members must be informed and unit members must know and understand their unit emblems and insignia.

A ceremonial aspect raised was that of regiment/unit colours with those present told “when a total change is made old colours will not be taken into consideration” these must be laid down. “This means battle honours will not be carried over to the new colours and be seen as establishment of a total new unit”.