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East Swindon | October 16, 2017

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MoD scraps 20 yr service rule required for RAF personal to recognise military service on their Headstones and Memorials

MoD scraps 20 yr service rule required for RAF personal to recognise military service on their Headstones and Memorials
Dale Heenan
  • On July 4, 2017

A campaign involving the very top of the UK Armed Forces, and led by the son of former RAF Officer and a former Lance Corporal who served in Afghanistan, has resulted in the Government publishing a new simplified process to allow military families, local authorities and veteran groups to use Army, Navy, RAF crests and unit badges on headstones and memorials.

The little known rules have scrapped a key requirement that RAF Officers need to serve for 16 years, and non-Commissioned RAF personnel must serve for 20 years, before they became eligible to use the RAF Crest and their Unit badge on their headstones and on memorials. This stood in stark contrast to the Royal Navy and Army who both have a requirement of 1 day’s service.

In September 2016, Swindon Councillor Dale Heenan contacted Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hillier and Defence Secretary Right Hon Michael Fallon MP to highlight the difference in how the RAF, Army and Navy deal with the sensitive issue, and an active review of the policy was started. At the same time, former Lance Corporal Gareth Milner organised an petition signed by hundreds of people to raise awareness of the memorial rules.

Following the General Election, Cllr Heenan wrote to the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon MP seeking an update on progress, and in reply, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Earl Howe confirmed that the review had been completed with a new common policy for the Army, Navy and RAF to be introduced from the 1st July. The new rules published on are retrospective so potentially thousands of military families can benefit, and also apply to war memorials created to commemorate deceased military personnel.

Cllr Dale Heenan, “Gareth saw action in two tours of Afghanistan, and if anything happened to him then his family could decide for themselves if they wished to remember the time he served for his country by including the Army crest and his regiment badge on his headstone. Yet I know of former RAF personnel who saw action in Desert Storm, the first Iraq war, and a friend who is currently on deployment whose families wouldn’t have the option to request the use of the RAF Crest or a unit badge simply because they haven’t seen 16 years service as an Officer and 20 years’ service as an NCO.

My Dad was in the RAF and until Gareth mentioned this issue I never realised such an anomaly existed. While this issue wouldn’t have affected my family, we both felt the rules were from a bygone era and needed to change. It’s great to see common sense prevail. The new rules are simple, easy to follow and treat all Army, Navy and RAF personnel and families the same on a very sensitive issue. If scrapping the length of service rule for the RAF, and simplifying the memorial process for all deceased Army, Navy and RAF personnel makes it a little easier for families at a very difficult time then a good thing has happened.”

Gareth Milner, “It is fantastic that the MoD listened to our campaign. This is an emotional topic, and while it’s a small point, the last thing any family wishes in such a situation is to face arbitrary barriers by the Ministry of Defence. The Government recognised that consistency really should apply to the Army, Navy and RAF, and the new rules could benefit thousands of military families who would like their deceased family members military service to be recognised. There is also the added benefit that these new rules cut the bureaucracy involved in setting up Army, Navy and RAF memorials.”

Lord Howe, in reply to Cllr Heenan last month said, “The RAF completed its review of the policy earlier this year and I can confirm that, for consistency, it will be brought into line with those of the Royal Navy and Army. As such I am pleased to be able to tell you that from 1st July 2017, the criterion for use of the RAF crest will be that the individual must have completed at least one day’s service. The policy change will be applied retrospectively and published in full on the Government website at the beginning of July. ”


The new rules are now available at

The original rules for the three Armed Forces stated,
For the Royal Navy;
A request may be made for the Royal Navy Crest, or for Unit Badges. Any amount of previous service is acceptable.
For the Army;
A request may be made for the Crossed Swords, or for Regimental Badges. Any amount of previous service is acceptable.
For the Royal Air Force;
Those who served with the RAF Regiment may request the use of that Crest, in all other cases only the RAF Crest itself is permitted.
Additionally the Royal Air Force requires that previous service falls into one of the following categories:

1. The deceased had war time RAF service exceeding 6 months between 3 September 1939 and 8 August 1945. Or;
2. The deceased completed 16 years officer service. Or;
3. The deceased completed 20 years airman service. Or;
4. The deceased complete a combination of officer and airman service exceeding 16 years.

A copy of the first letter to the Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hillier in September 2016.

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