Red Shield Defence Services remembers its beginnings

September 7, 2018

The history of the Red Shield Defence Services in Australia dates back to the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th century.


Troop work officers Adjutant Mary Murray and Lieutenant Hurley with soldiers outside The Salvation Army’s welfare tent (Soldiers Home) during the Boer War.

Territorial archivist for The Salvation Army, Lindsay Cox, wrote in an article for the Salvos’ Hallelujah magazine that the Boer War caused feelings of deep anguish within General William Booth. The Salvos’ founder wrote in his journal, “I am like a father with a divided household. My children are on both sides. Whoever wins, I lose.”

“Booth’s belief in Christian brotherhood and the internationalism of The Salvation Army led him to order a relief party be sent to ‘minister comfort and practical aid to men of both armies–British and Boer alike’.” 

In 1899, after the outbreak of the war in South Africa, General Booth sent Adjutant Mary Murray and three other English Salvo officers to serve troops on both sides of the conflict. Their arrival at Cape Town in South Africa in November 1899 coincided with that of the first Australian troops. 

“So, from that day on, The Salvation Army has always had a ministry with serving Australians,” says current RSDS Chief Commissioner, Brett Gallagher. “One hundred and twenty years later, we’re still there serving those who serve. That’s something that we’re very proud of.” 


The Red Shield Defence Services held its annual conference in Brisbane last month and celebrated the anniversary with a dinner for current and past ‘Sallymen’ and women deployed to war zones, areas of conflict or peace-keeping missions.

“We want to once again thank them for their service, and remind our current [Red Shield Defence Service] representatives that we stand in a long line of people that have been serving those who serve our country.”

There are Salvation Army Red Shield Defence Services representatives at defence force bases across the country, including the Royal Military College Duntroon; Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera Barracks, Brisbane; Holsworthy Barracks, Sydney; Edinburgh Defence Precinct, Adelaide; Lavarack Barracks Townsville; and Robertson Barracks Darwin.

Red Shield Defence Services representatives provide a wide range of support services as well as training or instruction. This may include leading sessions on suicide prevention or alcohol use, religious ceremonies, memorials, Anzac Day and other civic observances, pastoral care, welfare and personnel advice to command and participation in as many unit activities as possible.

The Salvation Army is also involved in staged deployment with Australian troops to the Middle East. Last year the Salvos’ Captain Kenny Delamore was embedded in the Middle East region and this year Jason Lilley from Holsworthy Barracks also served there. 


First appeared in Others magazine


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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