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Fire Service Badge

The design of the British Fire Service badge is based upon the eight pointed star with the points or 'tenets' of the star representing the following qualities:

  1. Tact
  2. Gallantry
  3. Dexterity
  4. Observation
  5. Perseverance
  6. Loyalty
  7. Explicitness
  8. Sympathy

The eight pointed star is in fact based on the cross of St John. It originated in the Maltese Cross, the emblem of the Knights of Malta, and was used by the Knights of St John of Jerusalem at the time of the crusades.

The Knights of St John of Jerusalem were primarily a charitable, non-military organisation that existed between the eleventh and twelfth centuries. A white or silver cross on a dark background was adopted by these knights or 'hospitallers' as they were known, because of their charity toward the sick and poor in setting up hospices and hospitals. Later they did in fact assist the knights of the crusades with their goodwill and also military assistance in an effort to win back the Holy Land.

The Knights of St John eventually moved to the island of Malta and so the symbol became known as the Maltese Cross. The need for an identifiable emblem for the Knights was crucial, because due to the extensive armour which covered their entire body and faces, the Knights were unable to distinguish friend from foe in battle.

During the battles that took place throughout the period of the Holy Wars, one of the Saracens used fire extensively as a weapon. As the Crusaders advanced upon the walls of a city the Saracens resorted to throwing burning naphtha and oil upon the advancing knights. At sea, the Saracens would sail war vessels containing naphtha, rosin and sulphur into the vessels of the knights.

Many Knights of St John were called upon to perform heroic deeds, rescue fellow Knights and extinguish fires. In acknowledgment of their feats of bravery, these Knights wore a Maltese Cross that was decorated and inscribed in acclaim for their actions. It is, perhaps, here that the first association of the cross with firefighters was born.


Wherever the line between myth and truth lies is not exactly known, but it can perhaps be said without contradiction that the Maltese Cross and also any derivatives are regarded as a symbol of protection and courage. It does, perhaps, in simple terms identify with the fact that the firefighter who wears the badge could, and sometimes do, lay down his/her life for others in the same way as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives so many years ago.

Quite when the star was first used in this country for the badge of a firefighter is not easy to establish. the earliest example found is the brass eight pointed star adopted for use by the National Fire Brigades Association in 1887. This Association was, prior to the formation of the National Fire Service in 1942, one of the main organisations that existed nationally and who provided many of the uniform, medal, rules, training and technical standards for fire brigades throughout the country.

Auxiliary Fire Service

In 1938 when the Auxiliary Fire Service was formed, the Home Office adopted the eight pointed star and then, upon the formation of the National Fire Service in 1942, the same pattern was used with the top 'tenet' being the King's Crown.

In March 1948, just prior to the formation of the new Local Authority Brigades, the Home Office published a National Fire Service Circular detailing the new rank markings and style of cap badge which was to be based on the chromium eight pointed star with the centre being of a design specific to each individual fire brigade


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