As of 2006, there are 151 serving regular chaplains (commonly known as "padres") in the British Army; these belong to either one of several Christian churches, or to the Jewish faith. Uniquely within the British Army, the Royal Army Chaplains' Department has two cap badges, for its Christian and Jewish officers. There are also chaplains in the Territorial Army and the Army Cadet Force.
Army chaplains, although they are all commissioned officers of the British Army and wear uniform, do not carry arms (and are the only officers not to carry swords on parade). At services on formal occasions, chaplains wear their medals and decorations on their clerical robes (many chaplains have been decorated for bravery in action, including three Victoria Crosses).
From 1946 until 1996, the RAChD's Headquarters, Depot and Training Centre were at Bagshot Park in Surrey, now the home of the Earl and Countess of Wessex. In 1996, they moved to the joint service Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House near Andover, formerly the home of the Royal Air Force Chaplain Branch.
The Army Chaplains' Department (AChD) was formed by Royal Warrant of 23 September 1796. Previously chaplains had been part of individual regiments, but not on the central establishment. Only Anglican chaplains were recruited until 1827, when Presbyterians were recognised. Roman Catholic chaplains were recruited from 1836, Methodist chaplains from 1881, and Jewish chaplains from 1892. The Department received the "Royal" prefix in February 1919 for its services during World War I.
The RAChD is the only branch of the Army to perpetuate the tradition of dividing supporting troops into "departments" (officers only) and "corps" (other ranks only).
Chaplains are either classified as Jewish (currently only in the Territorial Army) or as a member of one of the following five Christian denominational groups:
However, an Army chaplain is expected to minister to and provide pastoral care to any soldier who needs it, no matter their denomination or faith or lack of it.
Chaplains are the only British Army officers who do not carry standard officer ranks. They are officially designated Chaplain to the Forces (CF) (e.g. "The Reverend John Smith CF"). They do, however, have grades which equate to the standard ranks and wear the insignia of the equivalent rank. Chaplains are usually addressed as "Padre" never by their nominal military rank.