Heritage Structure | Chapter 4 – Flags

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  1. Flags have been used from the earliest times to identify individuals and groups. Ancient armies carried flags emblazoned with eagles, ravens, dragons and other like devices. Medieval flags often bore religious emblems, such as the Cross of St. George. Many flags which originated as the insignia of individuals, gradually came to represent the state or agencies within the state.
  2. Naval signal flags are not included in this manual; see NATO publication ATP 1, Volume II, Allied Maritime Tactical Signal and Manoeuvring Book (NATO Restricted).
  3. This chapter describes modern flags and their usage, and is the authority for the use of all flags within the Canadian Forces (CF).


  1. Flag Types. Many names have applied to the different types of flags, and these names have often changed over the years. The following terminology is now standard in the CF (listed alphabetically by language):
    1. Banner – Originally a square flag borne by kings, princes, dukes and other nobles, the term banner is now generally applied to:
      1. a large flag attached to a horizontal crosspiece, often supported between two poles and carried in processions,
      2. a supplementary flag displayed for identification, e.g., a pipe, trumpet or music stand banner, or
      3. a ceremonial flag granted to a unit to commemorate operational experience, usually in lieu of consecrated colours for units which are not entitled to carry the latter. (Bannière)
    2. Branch Flag (see "Camp Flag".) (Drapeau de branche)
    3. Burgee – A triangular flag (sometimes swallow-tailed) usually flown at the masthead of yachts and vessels as a club or ownership mark. (Cornette)
    4. Camp Flag – A flag flown to identify the location, headquarters or boundaries of a unit, or of units within a branch or a formation. Command, formation, branch and unit flags are all camp flags. (Drapeau de camp)
    5. Colours – A general term with the following meanings:
      1. in Her Majesty's Canadian Ships (HMC ships):
        1. "ships colours" – the ship's ensign, Naval Jack and distinguishing flag or commissioning pennant, and
        2. the morning ceremony of hoisting the ship's ensign and Naval Jack when not underway;
      2. consecrated ceremonial flags carried by designated CF combatant formations and units, including Standards, Guidons, Queen's Colours, and command, regimental and military college Colours; and
      3. any flag flown to denote nationality. (Couleurs)
    6. Command Flag (see "Camp Flag".) (drapeau de commandement)
    7. Distinguishing Flag/Pennant (see also "Pennant".) – a flag of special design authorized to be flown by an individual. It denotes appointment, rank, command, office or authority. It is flown by an individual only while in office, and indicates the actual presence of the person in an establishment, ship, vehicle, or boat. Generically, the term includes personal standards, state personal flags, distinguishing flags for flag/general officers and distinguishing pennants. (Drapeau/fanion distinctif)
    8. Ensign – An ensign was originally an identification flag. In the CF, the term is now specifically used only for:
      1. the national flag, when worn as a ship's ensign,
      2. the CF ensign, and
      3. the air cadet ensign. (Enseigne)
    9. Flag – A generic term for a piece of bunting or other material, attachable to a staff or halyard, and used as a means of identification or signal. (Drapeau)
    10. Guidon – Originally a flag carried by cavalry leaders to guide and rally their troops in battle. The term is still applied to the consecrated Colours of armoured regiments. (Guidon)
    11. Jack – A small identification flag on the bow of a ship used only by defence or naval forces. In the CF, "jack" means:
      1. the Naval Jack worn at the jack-staff of HMC ships in commission, and
      2. the CF Auxiliary Vessels Jack worn at the jack-staff of auxiliary vessels in commission. (Pavillon de beaupré)
    12. Pennant (see also "Pendant" or "Streamer".) – long and narrow triangular flag, sometimes swallow-tailed. It includes:
      1. distinguishing pennant" (or "pennant of command"), and
      2. "commissioning pennant", a pennant worn by HMC ships in commission (sometimes called "captain's pennant" and masthead pennant"). (Fanion)
    13. Pennon (see also "Pennant".) – Originally a long, thin flag, either pointed or forked at the end, borne by a "knight simple", who ranked below the "knight banneret". Much reduced in size, it was later adopted by lancer regiments and is still used for ceremonial purposes on lances and parade markers. (Pennon)
    14. Standard – In an earlier form, a long, tapered flag with fringed or bordered edges and split rounded ends which generally bore its possessor's badge and motto, and varied in size according to the owner's rank. Too large to be carried into battle, it was generally erected or flown to mark the actual position of its owner. In the CF, a "standard" now is:
      1. a flag which depicts the armorial bearings of the person entitled to fly it – the Sovereign and certain members of the Royal Family have personal standards (the term is no longer used with exactitude), which are flown to denote their actual presence, whether in residence or on a visit,
      2. the consecrated Colour of a horse or dragoon guards regiment, or a flying squadron, and
      3. in much its original form, a ceremonial flag of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. (Étendard)
  2. Specialized Terms. Other definitions which apply in this publication:
    1. Breaking (a distinguishing or other flag) – means the action of unfurling a flag which was bound in such a way as to be freed by a tug on its rope after being run close-up. (Déploiement (d’un drapeau))
    2. Canton – means the upper half of the hoist. It is also called the First Quarter and sometimes the Upper Hoist. The canton is considered the place of honour on a flag. (Canton)
    3. Cased Colours – means consecrated Colours enclosed in the cases provided. (Drapeaux consacrés engainés)
    4. Close-up – means to raise a flag to the full height of its pole or halyard, with the head of the flag touching the block. (jusqu’au haut (à bloc))
    5. Deck (a Colour) – means to adorn or furnish the Colour pike with a symbol such as a wreath as specifically authorized by National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ). (orner (un drapeau consacré))
    6. Deposit – means to place consecrated Colours temporarily in the care of a suitable custodian. (Mise en dépôt temporaire)
    7. Dexter – is an heraldic term meaning of or on the right-hand side of a shield, etc. (i.e. to the spectator’s left). (Dextre)
    8. Dipping the Colours – means:
      1. rendering a Royal salute with Colours to entitled dignitaries as noted in Chapter 13, Annex A, or
      2. lowering the ship’s ensign so that it is down to a position two-thirds of the extent of the halyard when returning a salute from a merchant vessel. (Salut avec les drapeaux consacrés)
    9. Displace – means to move a flag/pennant from its position because a more senior flag is to be flown there. (Déplacer)
    10. Flagpole - means an erect pole on which a flag is hoisted. (Mât)
    11. Flagstaff - means a pole on which a flag is mounted for display (see also "Pike"). (Hampe)
    12. Fly – means the half of the flag farthest from the halyard. (Battant)
    13. Finial – see"Pike head". (Fleuron)
    14. Fourth quarter – means the lower half of the fly. (Quatrième quartier)
    15. ChHalf-masting – means positioning a flag so that its centre is halfway down the mast or pole. The position of half-mast will depend on the size of the flag, the length of the mast and its location. (En berne)
    16. Halyard - means the rope which raises or lowers a flag. (Drisse)
    17. Hoist - means the half of a flag nearest to the halyard. (Guindant)
    18. Lance (see "pike".) (Lance (du drapeau))
    19. Lay up – means the expected permanent retirement of consecrated Colours in the care of a suitable custodian. (Mise en dépôt permanente)
    20. Let fly the Colours – means rendering a general salute with Colours to dignitaries not entitled to a Royal salute. (Déploiement des drapeaux consacrés)
    21. Lower Colours – means to lower flags to denote respect, courtesy, mourning, or surrender. (Amener les drapeaux consacrés)
    22. Mast – means an upright lattice-work or long pole erected on a vessel, or a pole erected on land and fitted with a gaff. (Mât)
    23. National Flag – means the National Flag of Canada. (Drapeau national)
    24. Pike – means a pole on which consecrated Colours or other flags are mounted for carrying or display. It was originally a personal weapon mounted on a pole (see also "flagstaff".) (Hampe)
    25. Pike Head – means the decorative ornament (finial) on the top piece of a pike, staff or pole.
      1. for the Queen’s Personal Canadian Flag, Governor-General’s Flag, consecrated Colours and royal banners, the crest of the Arms of Canada, i.e., a crowned lion holding a maple leaf,
      2. for the National Flag, CF Ensign and command flags when carried on a pike – as well as for provincial flags when displayed as an array indoors – a maple leaf, and
      3. for other flags, either a maple leaf or a ball or spear-point finial. (Fleuron)
    26. Royal Family – means those persons, being subjects of the Canadian Sovereign, who bear the title "Royal Highness". (Famille royale)
    27. Second quarter – means the upper half of the fly. (Deuxième quartier)
    28. Sinister – is a heraldic term meaning of or on the left-hand side of a shield, etc. (i.e. to the spectator’s right). (Sénestre)
    29. Stand of Colours – means both the Queen's and command/college/regimental Colour. (Ensemble de drapeaux consacrés)
    30. Superior position – means the mast, or position on a particular mast, which takes precedence over the masts or other positions on a mast. (On a mast fitted with a gaff, the gaff is the superior position.) (Position supérieure)
    31. Third quarter – means the lower half of the hoist; it is also called the Lower Hoist. (Troisième quartier)


  1. When describing the details of a flag, or the positioning of flags, it is assumed that each flag is flying from a staff facing the observer, with the flag flying towards the observer's right. See Figure 4-1-1.
  2. All hues or colours referred to in this publication follow the standard identifications and selections in Canadian Government Specifications Board 1-GP-12C 1965.
  3. Regulations for the design of consecrated Colours are covered in Chapter 5, and of distinguishing flags and pennants for CF flag/general and senior officers in Chapter 14.

Figure 4-1-1 Details of a Flag


  1. The general approving authority for flags in Canada on behalf of the Sovereign is the Department of Canadian Heritage. NDHQ/Director History and Heritage (DHH) has authority for all flags within the CF.
  2. Requests for authorization of all flags in the CF, designs for new flags or proposed changes to existing designs shall be passed for approval through normal channels to NDHQ/DHH, Attention: Inspector of CF Colours and Badges.
  3. All flags issued as normal supply items are provided in accordance with material authorization scale CFS-13, No. D13-101, issued by NDHQ/Director Supply Management.
  4. Some flags, such as most camp flags, are authorized by NDHQ/DHH, but are not provided by public funds. Detailed information is included in the text in these cases.
  5. Consecrated Colours and Royal banners are publicly provided under special arrangements by NDHQ/DHH.


  1. ChFlags may be sewn when torn, and the fly may be trimmed and hemmed up to the point where the overall dimensions appear out of proportion. (Guidelines for Colour repair and replacement are given in Chapter 5.)
  2. Flags are replaced when no longer serviceable or repairable in accordance with the material authorization scale and other instructions noted in paragraphs 11 to 13.


  1. A flag, other than a consecrated Colour or Royal banner, that is no longer serviceable may be destroyed privately by burning. Consecrated Colours or their remains shall be deposited or otherwise disposed of as noted in Chapter 5.


  1. Related instructions and supplementary publications are as follows:
    1. CFAO 2-10, Personnel Branches Within the CF;
    2. CFAO 61-4, Coordinating Authorities for Ceremonial Functions;
    3. CFAO 61-16, Visits by Members of the Royal Family and Canadian Dignitaries to CF Elements and Installations;
    4. ChA-AD-267-000/AF-001/4, Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces;
    5. A-LM-182-001/IS-001, Supplementary Supply Instructions;
    6. A-PD-201-000/PT-000, CF Manual of Drill and Ceremonial;
    7. A-PD-202-001/FP-000, Bands, Vol. I: Band Instructions;
    8. D-87-001-017/SF-001, Specification for Signal Flags and Pennants (Nylon) 15 July, 1976;
    9. Materiel Authorization Scale CFS-13, No. D13-101, Flags and Distinguishing Plates, and Scale CFS-13, No. D13-011, Flags - Unit Colours;
    10. NATO Publication ATP 1, Vol II, Allied Maritime Tactical Signal and Manoeuvring Book (NATO Restricted);
    11. BR 20, Flags of All Nations (British Admiralty):
      1. Vol. I, National Flags and Ensigns (1955), and
      2. Vol. II, Standards of Rulers, Sovereigns, and Heads of State: and Flags of Heads of Ministries, and Naval, Military and Air Force Officers (1958);
    12. Publications – Department of Canadian Heritage:
      1. Arms, Flags and Emblems of Canada (S2-21/1981E), and
      2. General Rules for Flying and Displaying the Canadian Flag and Other Flags in Canada (S2-74/1978); and
    13. Environment Canada, "International Enforcement Procedure Used by Inspections Officers When Boarding Vessels of Canada", January 1973.

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