TRIVIA – Indian raptor stamps and the story of the owl crest…













Special cover on 8th International Raptor Conference – 6th February 2014.



The story behind the owl logo of Defence Services Staff College:


owlAfter Independence, the new Staff College had to have its own crest and motto. Brig Verma adopted the existing crest and motto of the Quetta Staff College – the owl with the Latin motto ‘Tam Marte Quam Minerva’. When this crest was put up to Army HQ for approval, it was turned down as inappropriate and ill-omened symbol, and a new crest with a Hindi motto was asked for. Brig Verma argued very persuasively for the retention of the owl and suggested two or three mottoes in Hindi. These also met the same fate, this time on philological grounds as they seemed to have an admixture of Punjabi. Army HQ wanted the owl to be replaced by a flacon. As this controversy was going on, Brig Verma continued to use the old crest and motto of the Quetta Staff College.

The falcon lost to the owl for its pride of place on the Staff College crest when Gen Lentaigne had a copy of a drawing of a falcon from a bird book sent to Army Headquarters. The owl, though not officially recognized, continued to be used as a crest of the Staff College, but it had ‘the status of an alien diplomat without his proper credentials’. A professor of the Mayo Art School, Lahore, was soon after commissioned to design a suitable crest with a motto. His design made the owl look like a parrot. The last design which was put up had a banyan tree as the main motif with an anchor resting against the trunk, a pair of crossed swords below it and wings sprouting from the sides of the tree. The Ashoka Lions topped the design which was further embellished all around by a wreath of lotus leaves. The artist had used seven different colours to brighten it up.

The owl retained its position as the crest with the crown on its head and the Latin motto around the two cross swords on which it remained perched. The swords are the emblem of Mars (the Roman God of war) and the owl is the emblem of Minerva (the Goddess of wisdom). The Staff Colleges at Camberley, Quetta, Kingston (Canada) and Queens cliff (Australia) have the owl as their crest, Greenwich has a pelican, Andover/Bracknell a hawk, the Joint Services Staff College at Latimer a cormorant, and the Imperial Defence College a lion with wings holding a trident. The Navy and the Air Force never objected to the owl.

Despite all this, the owl was not to be officially recognized for some more years to come. The crest, too, was not to take note of the Naval and Air Wings and conversion of the College as a Defence Services institute for the next few years.

It was in 1963 that the Owl perched on crossed swords against a maroon background was approved by the Chiefs of Staff and the motto Yuddham Pragya – (To War with Wisdom) received their final blessings in 1964. The wise old owl won the war for its survival after fighting its battles tenaciously for sixteen long years.

[Source: Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Tamil Nadu.]

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