The Badge Of The Army Medical Corps

Badge of the Irish Defence Forces Medical Corps.

The badge of the Army Medical Corps consists of a silver hand inset in a bronze oval. The hand recalls the tradition that Nuadad, Chieftain of the Tuatha de Danaan, lost his hand in the battle of South Moytura near Cong, about 1,000 BC. The loss of a limb constituted so serious a blemish in those days that a maimed person could not be king, and consequently Nuadad had a hand of silver made by the artificer Credne Ceard, and fitted by the physician Diancecht, so that he might succeed to the sovereignty. For that reason he was known as ‘Nuadad Airgead Laimh’, ‘Nuadad of the Silver Hand’. This tradition of the early pagan days of our country contains the earliest reference in Western European literature to the successful making and fitting of an artificial limb.

The Bronze oval consists of a staff on either side, round each of which a serpent is twined. The staffs are joined above by a scroll containing the superscription ‘ÓGLAIG NA hÉIREANN’, a version of ‘Óglaigh na h-Éireann’ (Defence Forces of Ireland), and below by a second scroll on which appears the motto ‘COMRAIND LEGIS’. The serpent, which is universally recognised as a symbol of healing, recalls another tradition found in the Book of Invasions, to the effect that Gaedheal (ancestor of the Irish) was bitten by a viper in the desert and cured by Moses with the brazen serpent. The scar of the snake bite remained green and he was subsequently known as Gaedheal Glas.

The motto in the lower scroll ‘Comraind Legis’, a Middle Irish form of modern Irish ‘Comhroinn Leighis’ is taken from the version of the ‘An Táin Bó Cuailgne’, ‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’, found in the Book of Leinster. This manuscript was compiled in 1150 AD, and deals with the much earlier period of civil war shortly before the Christian Era. The two chief heroes of the saga, Cuchulainn and Ferdiadh, engage in single combat on successive days at a ford on the Ulster Border, and at night share their herbs of healing with each other. This chivalrous action was described by the compiler of the manuscript, in the words ‘Comraind Legis’ (equal division of healing) which may be freely translated as ‘impartial treatment of the wounded’, a worthy motto for the Medical Corps.