Suffolk County Badge

The Golden Key of Suffolk

The County Badge of Suffolk Guides is a golden key taken from the Coat of Arms of the Suffolk Regiment. In the Suffolk Regimental Badge (as in the badges of the Dorset, Essex and Northamptonshire Regiments) there is a castle, with a key hanging below its central gateway, and this is borne in remembrance of the fact that each of these four regiments was engaged in the defence of Gibraltar during one of the most famous sieges known to history, 1779-83.

The castle represents the old castle or fortress of Jarik, which was built upon the northern side of the Rock of Gibraltar by the Moorish General, Jarik Ibn Zeiad, when he captured Gibraltar from the Spaniards at the beginning of the eighth century, and which is still part of the fortifications. The key – generally taken to signify that Gibraltar is the key to the Mediterranean – is derived from a key that was sculptured above the gateway of Jarik’s castle.

In the badge of the Suffolks the name “Gibraltar” stands just above the castle, while round it is a band carrying the words “Montis InsigniaCalpe” – “the Insignia of the Mount Calpe” – and thus both the modern and the classical names of the Rock appear on the badge, for Calpe is the name by which the ancients knew it, and it was one of the two Pillars of Hercules, the other being Abyla, just opposite on the African shore. It is generally believed that the insignia or emblem of the castle and key was given to the place by Henry IV of Castile when the Spaniards finally recaptured it from the Moors in 1462. It was then held by Spain until 1704, when, Britain being then at war with that nation, it was captured by us by an altogether surprising and unprecedented coup. In the great siege of 1779-83 the Suffolks were the senior regiment holding the Rock (they had been sent there in 1769) and in the second year of that siege, being altogether bored by inaction, they suddenly dashed out “like schoolboys out of school” and set fire to the Spaniards attack works, destroying no less than £2,000,000 worth of Spanish effort. A wreath of oak leaves and acorns, with a crown above and the regimental name-scroll below, completes a particularly interesting badge.

The Key was chosen as the County Badge for Suffolk Guides because it is a simple and guide-like symbol. The Key is used as an emblem of honesty and trustworthiness and means that the wearer may be trusted.

The Key to Happiness is service to others, and the Guides of Suffolk hope that their service to others may be a key to open the hearts of the people of Suffolk to all Guides, not only in this County but the World over.

(Taken from the County News, January 1948)

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