What are the origins of the 8-pointed star?

Every Fire and Rescue Service in the UK has their own unique badge, however,
they are all based upon the eight pointed star that represents the cross of St. John.

The 8-Pointed Star

Every Fire and Rescue Service in the UK has their own unique badge, however, they are all based upon the eight pointed star that represents the cross of St. John.

The eight points or ‘tenets’ are said to represent the knightly virtues of:

  • Tact
  • Gallantry
  • Dexterity
  • Observation
  • Perseverance
  • Loyalty
  • Explicitness
  • Sympathy

The origins of the eight pointed star can be traced back to the time of the Crusades in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The star originates from the Maltese Cross which was the emblem of the Knights of Malta and was used by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem during the Crusades.

The Knights of Saint John was primarily a charitable, non-military organisation. A white or silver cross on a dark background was adopted by these knights. They were sometimes known as ‘hospitallers’ because of their charity toward the sick and poor in setting up hospices and hospitals. Later, they assisted the knights of the crusades with their goodwill. They also gave military assistance in an effort to win back the Holy Land. Many members were called upon to perform heroic deeds. These included rescuing fellow Knights and extinguishing fires. In acknowledgement of this bravery, these Knights wore a Maltese Cross inscribed with their actions. It is likely that this is where the association of the Maltese Cross with firefighters was born.

Used by Fire Services

Wherever the line between myth and truth lies is not exactly known. It can be said that the Maltese Cross and also any derivatives are regarded as a symbol of protection and courage. In simple terms it identifies with the fact that the firefighter who wears the badge could, and sometimes does, lay down his/her life for others. This is in the same way as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives so many years ago.

When the star was first used in this country for the badge of a firefighter is not easy to establish. One of the earliest examples 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. It was one of the main organisations that existed nationally. They provided many things for fire brigades throughout the country, including:

  • Uniform
  • medals
  • rules
  • training
  • technical standards

Auxiliary Fire Service

The Auxiliary Fire Service was formed in 1938 and the Home Office adopted the eight pointed star. 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 the Home Office published a National Fire Service Circular detailing the new rank markings and style of cap badge. This was to be based on the chromium eight pointed star with the centre being of a design specific to each individual fire brigade.

The eight pointed star remains the symbol of the fire and rescue service today. All services across the country incorporate the design into their badge.