Baton (symbol)
The ceremonial baton is a short, thick stick, carried by select high-ranking military officers as a uniform article. The baton is distinguished from the swagger stick
Swagger stick
A swagger stick is a short stick or riding crop usually carried by a uniformed person as a symbol of authority. A swagger stick is shorter than a staff or cane, and is usually made from rattan.-History:...

 in being thicker and less functional (not used as a crop). Unlike a staff of office
Staff of office
A staff of office is a staff, the carrying of which often denotes an official's position, a social rank or a degree of social prestige.Apart from the ecclesiastical and ceremonial usages mentioned below, there are less formal usages. A gold- or silver-topped cane can express social standing...

, a baton is not rested on the ground. Unlike a royal sceptre
A sceptre is a symbolic ornamental rod or wand borne in the hand by a ruling monarch as an item of royal or imperial insignia.-Antiquity:...

, a baton is typically flat-ended, not crowned on one end with an eagle or globe.

Classical era

The origin of the command baton is remote but common to all pastoral societies and the ones in Egypt and Rome are manifest through art. In western Europe most are later variations of the ones consuls
Roman consul
A consul served in the highest elected political office of the Roman Republic.Each year, two consuls were elected together, to serve for a one-year term. Each consul was given veto power over his colleague and the officials would alternate each month...

 received and that represented the over all command of those tied to the fasces
Fasces are a bundle of wooden sticks with an axe blade emerging from the center, which is an image that traditionally symbolizes summary power and jurisdiction, and/or "strength through unity"...

that represented the Roman tribes that composed the Roman people. With time they came to be extended to the commanders that held the supreme authority, civilian and military over the provinces of the Republic, and later under the dictatorships and finally the Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...


A short, heavy, white baton was the symbol of the imperial mandate given to a Roman military legate
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

. He held it high proclaiming "above your head and mine" to represent the Emperor.

It is possible that the Spartan cipher rod, Scytale
In cryptography, a scytale is a tool used to perform a transposition cipher, consisting of a cylinder with a strip of parchment wound around it on which is written a message...

, also had a related military status, pre-dating the Roman baton, but the first detailed reference in Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 dates from the Roman period.

Napoleonic era

Aping the Romans, the French kings and then Napoleon, provided their marshal
Marshal , is a word used in several official titles of various branches of society. The word is an ancient loan word from Old French, cf...

s with ornate batons, sewn with stars or bees, respectively. Other armies copied the practice for their marshals. The Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 was awarded at least 11 marshal's batons by different countries; 10 are now displayed at his home, Apsley House
Apsley House
Apsley House, also known as Number One, London, is the former London residence of the Dukes of Wellington. It stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic interchange and Wellington Arch...

. The Russian baton was stolen on 9 December 1965 and has not been recovered.

Third Reich

During the Third Reich, marshals and grand admiral
Grand Admiral
Grand admiral is a historic naval rank, generally being the highest such rank present in any particular country. Its most notable use was in Germany — the German word is Großadmiral.-France:...

s carried ceremonial batons, specially manufactured by German jewelers. Seven styles of batons were awarded to 25 individuals. Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 earned two different-style batons for his Field Marshal and Reich Marshal promotions.

All the batons, except Raeder's, were of similar construction: a shaft decorated with Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

es and Wehrmacht eagles. Air Force (Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

) shafts added Balkan crosses, while Navy (Kriegsmarine
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

) shafts added fouled anchors. Ends of the batons had ornate caps.

The seven styles of Third Reich batons:
  1. The first baton awarded was to Army Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg
    Werner von Blomberg
    Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg was a German Generalfeldmarschall, Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces until January 1938.-Early life:...

    . This baton's shaft had a light blue velvet covering material. It is now in the National Museum of American History
    National Museum of American History
    The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Among the items on display are the original Star-Spangled Banner and Archie Bunker's...

     in Washington, DC.
  2. The first Air Force baton awarded was to Hermann Göring after his promotion to field marshal. While of similar construction to the Blomberg baton (with light blue velvet shaft covering), it incorporated the Balkan cross Air Force symbols. Additionally, the endcaps were inlaid with many small diamonds. It is now in the National Infantry Museum
    National Infantry Museum
    The National Infantry Museum is a museum located in South Columbus, Georgia, just outside Fort Benning, the home of the Infantry. The museum honors the history of infantry forces in the United States Army.The museum is in size and cost $107 million to build...

    , Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia.
  3. The next baton awarded was to Grand Admiral Eric Raeder. This baton's shaft had a dark blue velvet covering. This baton differed from other Third Reich batons by having a chainlink pattern sewed over the crosses, eagles and anchors. At war end, the baton was reportedly disassembled and sold in pieces.
  4. Nine Army batons were awarded in the summer of 1940 to newly promoted field marshals. The batons' shafts had red velvet coverings and differed only in identifiying enscriptions on the endcaps. Eight more batons of this style were later awarded to other field marshals upon their promotions. The first group was manufactured for 6,000 marks (about 15,000 USD in 2008) each. Most of the batons are now in museums or private collections.
  5. Three Air Force batons were awarded in the summer of 1940. They had blue velvet covering and Balkan crosses, differing only in individual endcap enscriptions. One more baton of this style was awarded in 1943. The 1940 Air Force batons were slightly more expensive to manufacture than the 1940 Army batons.
  6. The only other Navy baton was awarded to Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz
    Karl Dönitz
    Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

    . It had a blue velvet shaft covering and incorporated a U-Boat symbol on one of the endcaps. It is now in the Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury, UK, and was donated by Major General J. B. Churches, who captured Dönitz at war's end.
  7. The only reich marshal baton was presented to Hermann Göring in 1940. While similar looking to the other 1940 batons, it incorporated exceptional materials. The shaft was white elephant ivory, not velvet-covered metal. The endcaps incorporated platinum in the inscription banding and over 600 small diamonds. The baton was manufactured for 22,750 marks (about 55,000 USD in 2008). It is now in the US Army's West Point Museum, Highland Falls, NY.


The traditional baton of the Aymara Indians featured in an alternative inauguration ceremony for the first Indio president of Bolivia in January 2006.

External links

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