RNZAF Command and Staff School Crest
The original RNZAF Command and Staff School crest, approved by Clarenceux King of Arms in 1962, incorporates an owl – representing wisdom – perched upon the sword of an RNZAF officer – representing military command.
NZDF Command and Staff College Crest
The current New Zealand Defence Force Command and Staff College badge (pictured), adopted in 2004, retains much of this symbolism with the addition of the crossed silver ferns – representing New Zealand – on a background of the three Service colours – dark blue for the Royal New Zealand Navy, red for the New Zealand Army, with the light blue of the Royal New Zealand Air Force being central in recognition of the College’s historical ties to the Air Force.
The College motto, in Latin on the original RNZAF Command and Staff School crest, 'In Sapientia et Virtute Robur', can be translated as ‘Strength through Wisdom and Virtue’. The English translation of the motto is in current use. In practice, the College also adheres to the principle of ‘Train for Certainty, Educate for Uncertainty’.
Significance of the owl
In 1868, the Owl resting on crossed swords and surmounted by a crown was unofficially adopted as the badge of the British Army Staff College in Camberley, England. The owl was chosen as it was the favourite bird of Minerva, the Roman goddess of war and of wisdom, and therefore considered a suitable emblem for a military college.
Within military forces, and especially those having a close association with the United Kingdom, the accepted symbol for learning and education is the owl. The New Zealand Defence Force Command and Staff College has followed in this tradition.
Each country tends to adopt one of their own native owls within their crest or badge: the UK has a Tawny Owl, and New Zealand has adopted the Morepork (Ruru).
On 5 August 2004, the NZDF Command and Staff College was presented with a mounted specimen of its traditional symbol, a Morepork. Our particular bird, or ‘Nyctimene’ as she has been named, comes with the blessing and certification of Department of Conservation (Tag Number 664). The name Nyctimene was chosen as this was the name of Athena's owl
In New Zealand the Morepork is a protected species, therefore special permission had to be sought from the Department of Conservation for an approved taxidermist to undertake the necessary work required to preserve the specimen. Additionally, the Morepork had to have died either by natural causes or accidental death. In the case of our owl, she hit power lines in the Hamilton area and was handed to the Department of Conservation by a member of the public. The Department of Conservation gave permission for the Command and Staff College to hold a mounted owl for educational purposes, and the College became a registered site for the bird.
Nyctimene is available for viewing by all visitors to the Command and Staff College, and her display is supported by information on both her classical background and her New Zealand heritage.