Tinyeko Captain Ndhlovu

Ditsong National Museum of Military History

March 2021


The Regiment Potchefstroom Universiteit (RPU) is a reserve artillery regiment of the South African Army. The RPU traces back its origin to 1946 August, when it was raised up as the 1 Observation Battery. In 1950, the Battery was renamed the 1 Observation Regiment. In 1960, it was given the name of the Regiment Potchefstroomse Universiteit (in Afrikaans). The Regiment managed to attain its name up to date. This article aims to explain in detail the two symbolic elements that are included in the regimental emblem: unit shield and shoulder flash of the RPU.

The Regimental Emblem of the RPU              Symbolic Elements:

]—————-Artillery Flash: zigzag

]———–The Menorah of the Temple

The RPU have adopted the regimental emblem: unit shield and shoulder flash (see fig 1) which have two symbolic elements that include: (i) the artillery flash (see fig 2) that is associated with the legend of Saint Barbra and (ii) the menorah of the temple (see fig 3.) that is associated with Jewish and Christian religion.

  • Artillery flash

Fig 2. South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Artillery Flash and Beret Bar adopted in 1992. ²

Globally, most artillery unit shield, artillery flash with blue and red colour and beret bar contain “zigzag” devices signifying thunder and lightning. It is traditionally associated with the sound of the discharge and the muzzle flash. It is also associated with the patron saint of the artillery, armourer, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners, mortars, and explosives: Saint Barbra, whose father was struck dead by lightning after executing her for having converted to Christianity. ³’ ⁴

  • The Gold menorah of the Temple.

Fig 3. The Menorah of the Temple. Source: Wikipedia

The menorah of the Temple is defined as an ancient Hebrew seven-lampstand made of pure gold and used in the tabernacle. It was incorporated into the Regimental Emblem: unit shield and shoulder flash of the RPU. Above is an example of a reconstruction of the Menorah of the Temple fashioned by the Temple Institute (see fig 3). The Menorah was a religious symbol of Judaism and Christianity. However, today it reflected uniquely as a symbol of Judaism and the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel. ⁵


The interesting part is that the RPU Regimental Emblem: unit shield and shoulder flash have incorporated two symbolic elements which are the artillery flash that is associated with sound, thunder, and lightning; and the legend of patron saint of artillery Saint Barbra (Christian martyr) and the Menorah of the Temple which are directly associated with Judaism and Christian religious folklore.


Owen, C.R. The Military Badges and Insignia of Southern Africa. Cape Town. Chimperie Agencies. November 1990.

Internet visited.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regiment_Potchefstroom_Universiteit
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regiment_Potchefstroom_Universiteit#/media/File:SANDF_Artillery_Beret_Bar.jpg
  3. https://www.re-museum.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/The-Royal-Engineers-Symbols-and-Other-Info.pdf
  4. https://www.defenceweb.co.za/resources/fact-files/fact-sa-artillery/