Heraldry Online Blog

1 January 2016

Arms for Aviators: Chief Enarched Nebuly

Chief Enarched Nebuly

l to r: USS Thach, an RAF Officer, Plowman

In 1993* my father was granted the Arms: “Argent three Anchors Sable each entwined by a Serpent Gules on a Chief enarched nebuly Azure three Martlets rising Or“.

The “chief enarched nebuly” represented the curvature of the earth as seen when flying above the clouds during his career with the Royal Air Force and then with British European Airways/British Airways.

However, it would appear that this was not the first time that an enarched chief had been used in British Arms associated with an aviator.  The January 1985 edition of the Middlesex Heraldry Society’s journal, The Seaxe, notes that an exhibition to celebrate the College of Arms’ Quincentenary displayed the Arms of an, as yet, unidentified Royal Air Force officer of “Argent a chief enearched nebuly Azure“.

In international heraldry, it may well have been first used around 1981 by the US Navy for the USS Thach.  The ship was named after the outstanding Navy aviator, John Thach.  The blazon for the ship’s Arms was: “Azure two chevronels couched fretted Argent interlaced with an anchor palewise Or, on a chief enarched nebuly of the last a trident head issuant from chief points to base Gules“.  The rational for the design is given as;

“The enarched nebuly chief refers to the sky and naval aviation; the three tines of the red trident representing “Fighting Three” and Admiral Thach’s aggressive leadership of that squadron for which he was highly decorated. The interlaced chevronels and anchor emphasize the importance of naval air to the fleet and symbolize the “Thach Weave”, a fighter tactic developed by and named for Admiral John Smith Thach.”


*My father’s grant may well have set a record for the slowest to be granted, but that is another story.

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