The recent announcement that the 8th Type 26 Frigate will be named HMS London has been welcomed by many but the ships motto has left many scratching their heads.

Thirteen ships of the Royal Navy have been named London, after the city of London, the city of course having the motto ‘Domine Dirige Nos’, which means ‘God Guide Us’. This motto was used by some of the previous vessels named after the city.

Despite the MoD suggesting in communication to other commentators that the last three vessels did not have ‘God’ in their mottos and that this motto is a continuation of this trend, after a quick check I have verified that the last three vessels to bear the name HMS London used both ‘Dirige Nos’ and ‘Domine Dirige Nos’ depending on source and time period. The motto of the thirteenth HMS London however is simply ‘Dirige Nos’, which means ‘Guide Us’.

The rise in people having ‘no religion’ (irreligion) was confirmed in the UK’s 2011 census, which saw irreligion rise from 7.7 million in 2001 to 14.1 million, a rise of 10.3 percentage points. According to the 2011 census, 25% of England has no religion, 7% of Northern Ireland, one third in Scotland and one-third of Wales.

According to YouGov, Christianity is perceived to be on the decline. Additionally, Mori Polls have shown that British Christians support a secular state. Britons are amongst the most skeptical about religion, with most people under the age of 25 now identifying as non-religious.

That being said, is this really a good enough reason to change the historical motto of a proud Royal Navy name, a motto taken from a major, global city? Much of the UK Defence Journal team are non-religious too. Religion and history however, are intertwined and to separate them like this seems like an odd move.

The well respected defence commentator Sir Humphrey has discussed this in far greater detail than I at ‘The Thin Pinstriped Line’ website, which can be found here. It’s certainly worth a read.


  1. Well considering “GOD” or any other supranational entity doesn’t exist (except Zardoz of course) it would appear to be a sensible facing up to reality.

    Won’t stop Daily Mail reading types reving up the Rage bus over this….

          • I dislike the Daily Mail and those who tend to read it tend to fit into a certain pattern of thinking. Does that make me a bigot? No more than people who declare their dislike for the Guardian and Lefty loony Guardianistas…

          • Guys. No-one wind up Fedaykin and Steve. As atheists they’re only ever one step away from mass murder. Just like their fellow atheists Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot. Don’t worry guys we’ll pray for you !

          • I’m not wound up but rather amused by those revving up the rage bus over such a non-issue.

            FYI I have no problem with ‘God’ being used in the motto even as an Atheist (you guessed correct there) I feel no particular concern about a motto including a reference to something I don’t believe exists.

            Actually I am more concerned about the revelation that recruits are forced to attend some form of Religious service, for an Atheist that is far more of an issue.

            As for the tired old reference to mass murder, Religion in all its myriad forms over many thousands of years wins the prize for most blood spilt in its name. As far as I am aware Mao’s, Stalin’s and Pol Pot’s crimes were not done in the name of Atheism unlike many a religious atrocity over the years.

            Hitler was a Catholic not an Atheist and committed his crimes in the name of NAZISM. To quote the man himself;

            “The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life.”

            If you want to pray for me David crack on no fuss to me.

          • @David Steeper

            Hitler was a christian and he included many pagan and christian religious practices into the nazi party. He was very much religious.

            Stalin was a Russian Orthodox. He also continued to practice this faith throughout his life.

            Pol Pot was brought up as a Buddhist and then adopted Maoism which is in itself effectively a religion. He only wanted to eliminate standard religion from his country because it could be used as a tool against him. In effect he wanted to be the god. Again this shows he was very much religious.

      • As someone who has served on a fair number of RN vessels, I can safely say most matelots don’t really care about this kind of thing, most couldn’t even tell you the ‘motto’ of the boat. I was on Sceptre for over 9 years straight and would have to Google the bloody motto. Non story peeps.

    • It’s not specifically the removal of the reference to God that bothers us, it’s the altering of traditions for no real reason. The past 13 ships had the same motto, the City of London itself still uses the same motto, changing this ship’s motto seems pretty pointless.

      • Lee1: Stalin was most certainly not Russian Orthodox. After the Nazis invaded their communist ally, Stalin for a while pretended to traditional beliefs just to buck up morale, but he was a dialectical materialist, atheist, to the end. Hitler waffled on religion, he hated Catholicism since it possessed power outside the state. Religious belief is independent from moral behavior, though.

    • Hum….

      The fact is that the majority of folk in the UK still beleave in a God. It is not fashonable to point this out. So why not have God in the moto. After all it is the tradditional form of words for the City.

      Rob N

      • Actually most research now points to the UK having 52% of people that do not believe in God. (Which also easily tallies with all the people I come across, which to be honest seems closer to 80%).

        • Correct, it has been wavering around that figure for a few years now. Cant say it worries me much but this version seems more inclusive to me as it covers both those with and without religion which seems fair especially if both versions have previously been used. Having done a lot of research into Thames Ironworks and old aircraft firms in recent years I come across a lot of apparent contradictions in the use of logos, names, badges et al there was very little consistency in an unconnected world. If we simply went with tradition for traditions sake we would be putting sails and masts on our Frigates so to me this is a common sense decision.

          • I think it is just nuts to have a moto ‘Guide Us’ when you leave out who is to guide. Perhaps that says it all for the UK in 2018!

          • In which case “God Guide Us” is also an odd motto as you can’t be guided by a fictional character. It might as well say “Robin Hood Guide Us” Or a better option would be “Batman Guide Us”…

    • I agree in principle. There is always a sense of needless or over-exasperated indignation, usually from the DM, DE and alikes.

      At the same time, myths and legends have their place in the RN. It is unnecessary to change a motto that has ‘god’ in it, while the RN has a fondness for naming ships after Greek & Roman mythology. Especially while the City of London still has the motto and no one seems to be caring about it, and the ship’s name, motto, badge and legacy is a sort of representation of the city itself.

    • You just made a strong claim to truth.

      Presumably you have evidence to back up this claim – or are you:
      1) merely expressing a strongly held opinion with language that doesn’t actually support your beliefs
      2) trusting in blind faith that your assertion is true
      3) repeating someone else’s statements without actually critically appraising it
      4) poised and ready to give us useful evidence and argument positively asserting your case?

  2. I doubt that there are many sailors in a full blown storm at sea or under fire who do not pray to God. The 2011 census highlights that 75% of England are religious, that includes London. Get it right Royal Navy, stop bowing to the minority. Give HMS London its full historic motto.

    • Well said Helions. This is no more than another pathetic cave in by the “we mustn’t upset anybody” brigade. The problem is ..they do upset people…me. And where did this daft word “irreligious” come from. The word is atheist or is saying that too frightening in that it may bring down the wrath of…..?
      Also, good point Callum. Tradition also matters.

      • Highlight this from Geoffrey for other idiots on this forum….

        I agree. And it is THIS that matters, not what newspapers one reads!!!!!!

        Deary me….

  3. Regardless of ships Moto. We need 13 of these ships. 8 ASW optimised, 5 GP aka Australian Hunter class. Let’s get this done. We are a rich country and it is about time HMG invested in our nation’s armed forces.

  4. Many people don’t sign up as the concept of swearing allegiance to mythical entities and outdated monarchies is simply a joke. Devotion to people, values and country etc would be a realistic and appropriate commitment to many.

    • Really…they don’t sign up because of having to swear an allegiance? I doubt that. If you sign up to defend your country you can’t pick out the bits you like and those you don’t like or we might as well all give up along with the millions who have gone before.

      • Pete
        That is without a doubt the most ass backwards excuse I have ever heard of to not serve your country. Face it if that is your beyond paper thin excuse you wouldn’t do your duty unless they set the conscription office on you. And then dragged you kicking and screaming to basic.

        • I would happily do my duty to serve the nation and the country but it is absolutely hypocritical to swear allegiances to concepts that are. Imho, false or redundant to my values. My personal values are very closely aligned to those spouted by many religions.

          Does it matter if some people believe in one value stream or another when it comes to standing up for the nation. No… . of course it doesn’t.

          But to have to pretend to be part of those particular and, history shows, quite decisive value streams, is sheer nonesence.

          We all recognise that both recruitment and retention into the armed forces are challenging. Issues such as this are, IMHO, a part, albeit a small but contributory part, of the problem.

          Of more significant concern remains the issue that anyone who probably thinks through and risks assesses the proposition of joining the armed forces, and the navy in particular, will be considering the half hearted efforts at arming the vessels we do have with appropriate and sufficient weoponary to have a fighting chance.

          People on this forum would be better focusing on efforts to support the Rn being properly armed than worrying about the demise of a motto that, in the opinion of many, relates to contested ideological concepts.

          ….. Stands back and awaits to be sentenced to be burnt at the stake..

      • I would certainly do my duty for country…. Not for outdated concepts. Give those who serve the systems tools and critical mass to do the job they may have to do… Don’t get upset when someone with an understanding of the modern world and values removes symbols of ancient history.

        Just a view

    • Total piffle as most dont even know they have to swear an oath of allegiance prior to them trying to join! Yet more crap from someone who knows naff all about the subject matter being discussed!

  5. So once again it’s the small vocal minority of a population that dictates a national policy. The west’s idea of democracy seems a little strange.

  6. As the old saying goes, there are no atheists in foxholes, and I am sure even the non religious would agree that there is a place for God in times of extreme stress, e.g., during a modern battle. Besides, with MOD budget shortfalls these days I think the armed forces need all the prayer they can get, given there are so few frigates anyway.

    • Whatever your thoughts about it, it does raise a good point at the end about the motto of Dreadnought.

      Regardless of anyones religious thoughts on this, I hope it’s just an oversight. One could argue that the name ‘Agincourt’ is far more offensive to our French friends.

      The motto, like the name and crest, should in part, honour the vessels and crews that came before it.

      • Ah Yes. That reminds me of the fuss when Waterloo was home to the international station.

        Let’s all so conveniently forget that the French have a station called Austerlitz.

        PC brigade yet again.

      • Thanks for clearly demonstrating to everyone one of the many reasons why I don’t like your blog and cannot recommend it to others. Your evidently not sorry as demonstrated by your schnide second paragraph. I don’t write my own blog as I don’t need to. There are plenty of good defence websites, of which ukdefencejournal and the users comments comes near the top for me. I feel you add barely anything to this that warrants wasting time trawlling trough what you have written. Real clear defence is also a good one along with janes

        • So stop reading it then. There you go, problem solved!

          Every blog has different appeal to people – but you’ll forgive me if I sound mildly hacked off when people choose to slag off something that I invest a lot of my spare time doing without reason or foundation – its easy to criticise, far harder to do.

          • Sorry but I have to agree with SirH here, his work is far more in-depth than mine and certainly more so than the comments section on this website.

            Also, John, I’ll reference what I please.

          • Sorry George, I’m not sure why you have chosen to step in here. I’ve got nothing against the work you do for this site. I’m not sure what you are agreeing with SH about…? And I’m not sure why you have chosen to put down your own work. I’m well aware you will reference what you please, unfortunately saying so comes across as rather childish. Also what you have said discredits the other posters when you under value what they have to say. You do find some nuggets of gold in the comments people put on here, more so than can be said for ttps.

        • “Your evidently not sorry as demonstrated by your schnide second paragraph.” –

          Sorry for what? His own editorial choices?

          Let me take a wild stab in the dark here, do you not like what he has to say over recruitment and inclusivity issues?

  7. I’m not religious but happy to identify as a cultural Christian. Removing “god” from a motto like that is just silly.

  8. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin)
    “If you wish for peace, prepare for war”

    Presumably the RN motto will have to change for being too aggressive? 🙂

    Or HMS Prince of Wales Motto “Ich Dien” (“I Serve”) for the considerable % of the population who don’t believe in the monarchy.

    “However, the law still stipulates that the acting British sovereign mustn’t be a Catholic”

    If you make one change for fear of upsetting someone, go the whole hog or not at all. It would be utter lunacy for the RN to waste so much time on nonsense when they got better things to be doing.

    • ‘Memor Es Tuorum’.
      “Be mindful of your ancestors”.

      I think the motto used by HMS Glasgow is appropriate in this case.

      As a side note, all the other T26 mottos remain unchanged. If anyone’s interested:

      Glasgow: “Be mindful of your ancestors”
      Cardiff: “Keen in emergency”
      Belfast: “What shall we give in return for so much?”
      Birmingham: “Forward”

  9. tbh the armed forces do waste a lot of time and money on religion.

    Are they more poly-theist now?

    I see parralels in commercial businesses paying union reps. Surely it’s all personal choice and the whole does not pay my phone bill, with which I spend the majority of time in dedicated worship.

    Tradition is the evil of inefficiency, mainly why I chose not to sign up, having spent tens of thousands being trained for military service.

    • My issue with it is that ‘God guide us’ has a substance (even to an atheist such as I), particularly in times of conflict where matters of life and death are the consequence of taking decision aboard ship.

      ‘Guide us’ just makes it sound like they are lost!

      • I’m an atheist also, but a country should not be too hasty in dumping its traditions without replacing them with something meaningful.

  10. If you are not continuing the ships motto then why bother with the name?
    What could possibly be offensive about asking ones God for guidance? The motto did not name a specific God or Gods so what was the issue? Why grant the atheists privilege when they seem to have a inability to have the ability to function as an adult in a world where guess what the majority of humanity has always and will always believe in some form of deity?
    A note irreligion/agnosticism does not equate to atheism and while atheism and agnosticism has increased in Britain, the percentage of atheists worldwide has dropped significantly since the 80s.

    • How do atheists not have the ability to function in the adult world? That is a very curious statement, as a functioning adult atheist I would love to know what you mean by that?

    • Really don’t think it has anything to do specifically with atheists, but rather just PC bs in general. I was born and raised a Catholic going to Catholic schools for 16 years, where I became and remain a stance atheist. Let I’m extremely disappointed in the MOD for changing tradition for no reason.

  11. The PC brigade continue apace… Daily toasts where the last ones. However the old toast where and are still in use.

    Sunday “Absent friends”
    Monday “Our ships at sea”
    Tuesday “Our men” (changed in 2013 to “Our sailors”)
    Wednesday “Ourselves”
    Thursday “A bloody war or a sickly season”
    Friday “A willing foe and sea-room”
    Saturday “Our wives and sweethearts” (Usually with the reply “May they never meet!”; changed in 2013 to “Our families”)

  12. The legal head of the armed forces (the sovereign) is also the head of the state religion (Church of England) therefore the rationale for removing “God” from the motto is very limited!

  13. For technical accuracy, I’m suprised that the MOD didn’t change it to “GPS Guide Us” 😉

    Presumably we’ll be dropping “souls” from SOS next.

  14. Your blog’s spot on Sir Humphery – the best informed and most balanced I’ve found. I recommend it to my military colleagues. Ignore the critics.

  15. Wouldn’t care if it was just down to the fact that religion has taken a backseat in British society, but you just KNOW the real reason is the PC hacks in the civil service thought it would be too uninclusive to feature in the motto

  16. I am certainly one of the 52% without religion, but can see no point in changing traditionl latin mottos; after all you may as well say we’re scrubbing latin as well because nobody uses it in modern society. With regard to this particular ‘new’ motto though, who is ‘Guide Us’ supposed to be requesting succour from? It appears to indicate they haven’t got a clue who’s going to aid them – in which case it comes across to me as ‘(God) Help Us!’

  17. Most UKDJ comment thread ever. Watching you lot have your daily rants is one of my guilty pleasures and this one is absolutely brilliant. If someone can crowbar in Brexit and maybe a Corbyn comment you will have peaked.

  18. If your going to go PC by not including any reference to god, then change the GODDAMN motto. ‘Guide us’, is such a vague and floppy term. Might as well just change it entirely.

  19. Good god it’s finally gone. Most people in this country are not religious and I strongly suggest they would prefer our navy to rely on a decent navigation system and charts as opposed to a deity. As for the traditionalists they mastermind a navy that became outdated and outclassed; traditionally they’ve done it wrong and they will continue to do it wrong. There are much more important things to fight for than a functionally irrelevant motto.

  20. Unbelievably Entertaining Thread this Is, a bit like Farcebook but with Grown up words. Can’t wait for later when the Alcohol Kicks In. !

  21. So now it’s just going to be “Guide us”? Who’s going to guide us? Isn’t that just asking to be laughed at since that is suggesting that we need something on Earth to guide us, like another country or another ship? It was much better off as the traditional motto.

  22. I’m actually more bemused by the sight of the ship’s Chaplain standing on the ramp as QE enters harbour, seems positively Monty Pythonesqe. Perhaps the Spanish could do the same on the Juan Carlos 1 in which case their ships motto can be “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

    As for HMS London, “Direct Us” works just fine with “direct” being a valid translation of “dirige” as Sir H points out in his blog. Nothing to do with being PC, just more relevant to a younger generation that will be serving on her.

    As for tradition, haven’t some of the previous commentators been complaining in the past about the Army’s sentimental attachment to old and now irrelevant regimental cap badges and how that drives up cost? A tradition that is worth carrying forward however is that of service by past ships that carried the name, that can has resonance and meaning for a future crew.

    • I have commented on the cap badges so that may have been me.

      Issue not cost but keeping too many infantry battalions to avoid political flak over famous names while the rest of the supporting units get the chop. That is artillery. Engineers. Signals. REME. RAMC. AAC. RLC.

      No issue with the cap badges per se as I think the sense of camaraderie, identity and belonging is important.

      • Trouble is that if needed units are getting the chop then that’s a “cost” even if the total spend hasn’t changed. Also to be clear, I am not against tradition if it serves a purpose for the military personnel serving today or in the future. Just not for a continuation of practices just because its been done in the past.

  23. It seems rather amusing that while HMS London will be removing ‘GOD’ from its motto the future HMS Dreadnought seems to be keeping the word with this tweet from 2016.

    All of this seems to be very unnecessary to me with the city still keeping the full motto, but does make sense with the semi-recent army recruitment campaigns being overtly PC, perhaps this is a byproduct of this?

  24. Talking about newspapers IMO the only idiots are the ones who read communist anti forces rubbish printed in the Mirror guardian independent Observer the four lefty loon papers still lobbing strong for prosecutions against past and present service man .

  25. The usual anti “PC brigade” brigade is here, and I would like to point out something. Political correctness works both ways. In other words, political correctness may be the reason to remove “God” from a motto, but it is also the reason why religion is still allowed to have such a large part in the armed forces today. I’d have thought that our obsession with not upsetting Sky Dad’s followers would be over in this day and age (this is a sentence designed to upset the same people who like calling others “snowflakes” for being offended). This is nothing news really, there’s no point in having a strong opinion about it at all since it makes absolutely no difference.

    • How you can take anything seriously from that report when It clearly states that the vessel costs £ 8 billion, God only knows. I didn’t bother reading any further.

  26. I really do not understand most atheists.

    I have not once heard a positive argument to support atheism – not one. I have heard plenty of arguments against theism but not one for atheism. How can one affirm a belief when one has no evidence for it? Surely that is the height of irrationality?

    Moreover, one may say – I haven’t seen any good arguments for theism, therefore I don’t believe in a God but that is irrational too – absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.
    Most of use do not assume the negation of a belief, idea or concept simply because we are ignorant of the arguments or have not yet been satisfied by an argument – we sit on the fence. We may have an opinion leaning in one direction or the other but we don’t simply state outright something is not “A”, when in fact it could be “A” but we simply haven’t been convinced by the arguments. We say, we don’t know – we are agnostic and awaiting further evidences. For instance, we see an object lying on a desk, it looks heavy. So we pick it up to confirm or otherwise our first opinion. If we don’t have the opportunity to pick the object up we cannot prove our opinion. We still hold our first opinion but that opinion doesn’t magically become true simply because we believe it. The truth about something is not dependent on our perceptions and preconceived beliefs about the thing.

    Or say we see a shadow moving on a surface, through kitchen window – perhaps it looks like the figure of a person but from our angle, lack of light and weary eyes, it certainly is not one we’re familiar with. Perhaps its a trick of light, an object moving in a breeze or perhaps it is a person doing jobs, we can’t tell. In our ignorance of the truth we don’t say it is one or the other. If a lady came out of the house and told us, we’d be justified in making a decision but if a guy came along and said – its a trick of light, the strobing effect of a lamp in a fan we’d say – how do you know. Even if he gave a brilliant explanation, he still doesn’t now. The person who “knew” was the lady but then you have to ask if you trust her. One would be justified accepting as true the testimony of the lady but not the guy. If you never met the lady you’d be as justified in accepting the shadow was of a person, as a trick of light, even if the guy came along and gave his exquisite analysis. At the end of the day, neither yourself nor he went in the house, so you cannot know. The only one who knows is the lady but perhaps she smells of vegetables, wears awful jumpers and passionately talks of a person doing outrageous jobs and things you would never expect – can you still believe her? So you’re stuck in a conundrum, believe the weird lady who can know or accept the superb and insightful analysis of a highly persuasive guy who certainly doesn’t, but has a persuasive theory. In my opinion, categorically stating there is no person in the absence of knowing is not rational. One is justified in accepting the guy’s argument as theory but certainly not fact. One has to remain open minded but in this case, it isn’t “atheism” it is agnosticism.

    Now, however, if all one is saying is – I live without God in my life or as though God or gods do not exist – then that is altogether something else. Cats, babies, the braindead – all live in such a fashion, but that is frankly trivial.

    So what are atheists actually saying, what do they actually mean? Are they making claims they cannot prove and expecting the rest of us simply to accept it on blind faith, or are they making trivial statements about their lives and implying something more with their words, than those words actually mean?


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