Regimental Colours: A Brief History

The Regimental Colours represent the heart and spirit of the Regiment as it holds the battle honours on it which recalls the past deeds and services of those who served. They create a sense of pride and loyalty in the soldier and in the hearts of all the ranks of the Regiment. Today they are a memorial to the great deeds that the Regiment participated in, a symbol of their spirit.

Colours are no longer carried on active service but they were at one point the rallying call of a regiment in the battlefields. They have a long history of being carried into battle as they were used to identify military units as far back as the ancient armies of Egypt, Macedonia, Greece and Rome.

The term ‘Regimental Colours” is descriptive of the infantry flags, which evolved in the British Army, and refers to the two flags of a battalion, the senior of which is called the Queen’s (or King’s) Colour, and the junior, the Regimental Colours. Together they are referred to as a “stand” of colours.

The Queen’s, or First, Colour symbolizes the unit’s loyalty to the Crown. The Regimental, or Second, Colour, symbolizes a whole spectrum of ideas, beliefs and emotions which may be characterized as representing the “Spirit of the Regiment”. It is customary to place on the Regimental Colours the names of distinctive battles in which the regiment took part, this custom did not originate until 1784.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment has both Colours with the Regimental Colours having the following battles emblazoned on it from the First World War: Albert (Beaumont Hamel) 1916; Arras 1917; Langemarck 1917; Cambrai 1917; Courtrai; Le Transloy; Ypres 1917 – 18; Poelcappelle; Bailleul and Gallipoli 1915-16.

The Newfoundland Regiment was first presented with the King’s Colours on June 10, 1915 at Stobs Camp, Hawick, Scotland, a gift of the Newfoundland Chapter of the Daughters of the Empire. The group had hoped to present the colours before the Regiment left St. John’s however they had not arrived in time from England. The ceremony is described by Nicholson in The Fighting Newfoundlander as follows:

“It was an impressive ceremony. The Regiment, drawn up on three sides of a hollow square, was inspected by the G.O.C. in C., General Sir Spencer Ewart, and by Sir William MacGregor, who had been Governor of Newfoundland from 1904 to 1909. The colours, resting across the piled drums of the band, were then unfurled and handed by Captain Carty to Lady MacGregor, who while the Regiment presented arms, placed them in the hands of the kneeling officer in charge of the colour party, Lieutenant Jack Fox. After a number of congratulatory speeches, suitably replied to by the Colonel, the proceedings terminated with a march past by the full Battalion.”

At the conclusion of the war and with the return to St. John’s of the Regiment the colours were marched to Government House where they were presented to Sir Alexander Harris. These colours would be used in various ceremonies that were held especially those on July 1 and November 11, however at the ceremony in 1953 they were missing as they were considered to have been too well worn and fragile to be paraded anymore. Three months later, October 21, His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Leonard Outerbridge, presented the Regiment with new Queen’s and Regimental Colours.

In this ceremony the old colours were trooped in traditional manner through the ranks of the Regiment for the last time. The Regiment then formed a hollow square, and the new colours, draped across the piled drums, were consecrated and dedicated by the Padre, Honorary Captain D.E. Noel, who asked for God’s blessing that they might “be ever carried in the cause of justice and righteousness.” The old colours were then placed on display in Government House where they stayed until a few years ago when it was decided that they were to be presented to the Newfoundland Museum for safe keeping.

Source: Regimental Pilgrimage: France and Flanders 2006, The Royal Newfoundland Regiment.


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