Heraldry has been called the "shorthand of history" and with its own specific rules, symbols and shields in use for over eight hundred years, it is still of value today. Heraldry was first used as identification method in battle, but spread to other spheres of society. Heraldry was always part of the military and is still more visible in use by the military than other parts of society. It is these rules, terminology, and symbolism that influenced the choice of topic to understand the meaning of the emblems. Heraldry is a science that studies the rules and terminology of armorial bearings, as well as the colourful and artistic emblems of individuals, families, communities or nations. In ancient times man used symbols to distinguish and to identify with his world view. Ancient man's symbolic illustrative or carved signs evolved from totems being used as emblems of identification with clan members, to flags, badges and shields used in the army and logos used as trademarks. It grew into a science of heraldry with hereditary and regulating rules and systems. Symbols can mean different things to different people, the construction and reconstruction of meaning rely on the different cultural contexts in which it is used. It is these cultural contexts and the cohesion between them that will unveil the deeper meaning and worth of heraldic emblems. The study aims at compiling a catalogue of South African Army military units by presenting the emblems of the different units to understand the significance of the emblem for its users. To achieve this an exploratory and descriptive investigation on heraldry and South African military heraldry was done, defining esprit de corps, symbolism, identity, traditions, indigenous elements and totemism. The study focuses on the period 1994 to 2014 to give a snapshot of emblems in use during this period. It was mostly the emblems of higher headquarters that changed. The colours of the old flag of orange, white and blue changed to green, gold or yellow, red, blue, black and white. In spite of changes, the unit emblem still forged a strong bond of identity amongst members.
Mini Dissertation (MHCS)--University of Pretoria, 2017.