Global mission

Today, the Army is still developing in new parts of the world. Each location has different challenges, but the adaptive, people-led approach is remarkably similar to that of early-day pioneers. Always a Spirit-led, organic movement, the Army has particularly achieved impressive growth across Africa over 125 years, with a high percentage of today’s Salvationists being resident in the continent.


Salvation Army work in Africa grew from humble beginnings. Major and Mrs Francis Simmonds, with Lieutenant Alice Teager, ‘opened fire’ in Cape Town during March 1883. Overcoming considerable obstacles, the first organised ministry among African people was established in Natal and Zululand. In 1891 a group headed for Fort Salisbury and planted the Army in Zimbabwe. 

The message of the Army was to reach Mozambique, Nigeria, Kenya (where it was pioneered by Lieut-Colonel and Mrs J Allister Smith), Ghana and Zambia by 1930. Work was to follow in Uganda in 1931 and Tanzania by 1933. The 1930s also saw the mission reach Kinshasa (the Democratic Republic of Congo), Leopoldville and Congo (Brazzaville).

In recent years the Army has reached Malawi, Angola, Liberia and Botswana. Relief work in Rwanda during the mid-1990s led to the start of an evangelical mission, and by 2007 it had spread to Burundi. A year later the Army returned officially to Namibia, after previously working in the country during the 1930s. In 2008, work began in Mali, and in 2010 the first officers were sent to Sierra Leone.


In 1882, Frederick Booth-Tucker pioneered work in India, with a group of four, landing in Bombay. Indian authorities, expecting an 'Army' to land, sent police who were surprised to find a peaceful party of four. The General instructed ‘to the Indians you must be Indians’, and so the group wore traditional dress and adopted Indian names. They faced opposition, with meetings forbidden and some officers imprisoned. However, they developed medical, educational and employment services, and established weaving schools and silk farms. Despite great challenges, the work continued to grow. Today there are six territories each with a large number of officers and soldiers.

In 1895, a group led by Colonel Edward Wright sailed to Japan. Early work was continued by Colonel Henry Bullard and reinforced by the Founder’s visit in 1907. During the Second World War, Army activities were disrupted and, in 1940, the links with International Headquarters were broken. After the ending of hostilities, the territory was re-established in 1946 and continues today.

William Booth’s dying wish was for the Army to reach China.  In 1915, pioneers were sent and Commissioner Charles Jeffries followed. In 1920s China the Army cared for refugees and during the 1931 famine fed 100,000 mouths daily. Under the Japanese occupation of 1941- 45, many Western officers were interned. Post-war the Army made unsuccessful attempts to resolve political difficulties, and China’s link with the international Salvation Army ended in 1952. The Army is still active today in Hong Kong, Macau and in mainland China through its development programmes.

Exciting developments since 2007 have included the first officers appointed to Kuwait, and work beginning in Mongolia, supervised by Korea. In 2009, officers were appointed to Nepal.


Edward Saunders settled in Adelaide, Australia, in 1879. He met John Gore, a fellow English Salvationist, and they held their first meeting. In 1881, the General sent Captain and Mrs Thomas Sutherland to take charge. At first, they faced opposition from publicans and ‘skeleton armies’ who tried to burn down the meeting halls. There were 32 officers and 12 Corps and the work was growing. Today, in Australia, there are two large territories.

In 1883 George Pollard and Edward Wright landed in New Zealand. These inexperienced officers declared they would go through the country until ‘everybody was saved’. Unlike criticism received elsewhere, Christians in New Zealand were generally impressed by the Army. Support for the Army today remains strong in the New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga Territory.

The Salvation Army today is at work in 131 countries worldwide.


In 1881, Kate Booth, eldest daughter of William and Catherine, and three other women arrived in Paris to pioneer work in France. Early meetings faced violent opposition. When police banned leafleting, the pioneers took to the streets wearing sandwich boards. The General visited in 1882 and found 100 soldiers and 80 recruits. Work spread to Switzerland, where opposition was also at first fierce. Kate, known as La Marechale, was briefly imprisoned. In 1883, the authorities ordered the suspension of the Army but by 1886 the work was so firmly established the authorities could not oppose it. Today the Army continues to fly the flag in France and Switzerland.

In 2005, work became officially recognised in Lithuania and ‘Project Warsaw’ was launched to begin work in Poland. In 2007 a fledgeling Army was born in Greece.

North America

The first international Salvation Army work was in the USA. Coventry Salvationist Amos Shirley and his family travelled there in 1879 and started ‘unofficial’ Army work. Amos’s daughter, sixteen-year-old Eliza, obtained a warehouse for meetings and advertised herself and her mother as the ‘Two Hallelujah Females’.  Hearing the news, William Booth was in two minds about extending Army work overseas. However, in March 1880, a pioneer party was sent to America – this included George Scott Railton and seven soldiers. To reach the unchurched, the group held their first public meeting in a New York concert hall. However, to begin with, lack of funds hampered the work; Railton spent the winter sleeping on a pile of copies of The War Cry in a cellar. Today in the USA there are four large territories.

Army activity in Canada was started in 1882 by two English converts, Jack Addie and Joe Ludgate, who had gone to Canada for employment. Major Thomas Moore was sent to officially open Army work. By 1883 there were 200 corps and outposts, with 400 officers, and a Canadian War Cry in print by 1884.

In 1887, Colonel and Mrs Davey and family were sent as pioneers to Jamaica, where they secured a property for an Army Corps to hold 1,500. After enduring heat, poor sanitation, poverty and finally the death of their new baby, they returned home.  Salvationist Raglan Philips continued the Army in Jamaica, and the Caribbean mission spread across the islands in the following years.

South America

Four officers, who knew no Spanish, pioneered The Salvation Army in Buenos Aires in 1890. The fledging work spread to Uruguay later that year. However, it was another 20 years before the Army stormed Paraguay.

In October 1909, soon after their arrival in Chile, Brigadier and Mrs Bonnet commenced Salvation Army work, establishing the first corps in Santiago. Further advances were made when, in 1910, the work was pioneered in Peru. Ten years later the Army flag was raised in Bolivia. The work in Brazil was commenced by Lieut-Colonel and Mrs Miche on 1st August 1922. It was to take another 73 years before the Army's arrival in Ecuador in 1985.

Ensign Charles Pean went to Devil's Island, the French Guiana penal colony, in 1928. He reported: 'Men had feet fast in irons, stretched out on bare boards in a state of indescribable filth.' Pean opened a meeting hall, shelter and farm colony. His goal, the abolition of the settlement, was finally achieved after the Second World War when Pean assisted the liberals in their return to France.

The Salvation Army today is at work in 131 countries worldwide.


Information on all the Generals of The Salvation Army


Information about our uniform, flags and badges

People and symbols

Learn more about founders and symbols that define The Salvation Army.

International Heritage Centre

Telling the story of The Salvation Army from its origins in the 1860s to today.