About Battle Honours and Honorary Distinctions

Regimental colour

Battle honours, or honorary distinctions as they used to be called, are awarded to provide public recognition and to record a combatant unit's active participation in battle against a formed and armed enemy. Combatant units are units whose purpose is to close with and defeat, neutralize or destroy the enemy as an effective fighting force. For these purposes, army combatant units are further defined as the Artillery and Military Engineering branches as a whole, along with armour and infantry regiments.

The term "honorary distinction" is now applied only to those few badges or other devices specifically awarded as special marks to honour operational activity or experience which lie outside the norms recognized by battle honours. Some units have no individual battle honours, but instead use the motto UBIQUE," meaning "everywhere." This was awarded as an honorary distinction to "take the place of all past and future battle honours and distinctions gained in the field." Several other honorary distinctions have been awarded to individual regiments, principally emblazoned badges carried on their Colours but uniform badges have also been awarded. However, not all badges on Colours are honorary distinctions.

The Canadian Forces battle honours system draws on the rich heritage of the British forces. British battle honours originated with the army, which granted its first honorary distinction in 1695 to the 18th Regiment of Foot who were awarded a badge, the lion of Nassau and the motto "Virtutis Namurcensis Proemium" (The reward for valour at Namur), by King William III for valour at the siege of Namur, Belgium. The naval and air battle honours systems were developed beginning after the Second World War, noting that the naval system reaches back into the 16th Century in terms of battles recognized.

The following link leads to individual battle honours and honorary distinction “charts” for the nearly 300 honours awarded to Canadian military units past and present. These are broken down chronologically and listed in numeric-alphabetical orders within each category.

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