Heritage Structure | Chapter 5 – Colours

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  1. This chapter must be read in conjunction with Chapter 4, Section 1.
  2. Colours are an organization’s most prized possession. They are presented personally by the Sovereign or by an individual, normally the Governor General, nominated to act on the Sovereign's behalf. Historically, Colours marked and provided a rallying point for army regiments in the line of battle. Today, they are no longer carried in action or held by a unit in a theatre of war. They continue, however, as visible symbols of pride, honour and devotion to Sovereign and country.
  3. On presentation, Colours are consecrated by the Chaplain General assisted by the unit chaplains. When the Chaplain General is unable to be present, he will personally designate a chaplain to officiate for him. Through this means, Colours are sanctified and devoted to service as symbols of honour and duty; all members of the unit, regardless of classification, rededicate themselves to constancy in the maintenance of these qualities. Once consecrated, Colours are closely guarded and they are honoured by the appropriate compliment while uncased.
  4. Every effort must be made to prevent the loss of Colours to enemy forces. Colours shall not be taken overseas during active operations, including United Nations, NATO, international and other peacekeeping type operations, and units serving overseas at the outbreak of hostilities shall immediately return their Colours to Canada. They are to be destroyed on threat of capture by hostile elements.
  5. Traditionally, the Colours of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery are its guns, though the word "gun" is now deemed to include rockets and missiles on launchers, and any other main-equipment weapon system of the artillery. It is impracticable in modern times to consider guns as Colours on non-ceremonial occasions, but they are always treated with dignity and respect. When on ceremonial parade with formed artillery units or sub-units; however, artillery guns are accorded the same compliments as other Colours (See A-DH-201-000/PT-000 The Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial, chapter 1, section 2, sub-paragraph 29b)


  1. Colours may only be presented to combatant or potentially combatant navy and air force higher formations; army, air force and special forces units organized and roled to stand in the line of battle; and the Royal Military Colleges of Canada, which are treated for these purposes as if they were an infantry battalion.
  2. The following are entitled to single Colours, with their type noted in brackets:
    1. Royal Canadian Navy (Queen's Colour);
    2. armour regiments:
      1. horse guards and dragoon guards (Standard),
      2. others (Guidon);
    3. operational flying squadrons with 25 years service or which have earned the Sovereign's special appreciation for outstanding operations (Standard); and
    4. Special forces units (Standard)
  3. The following are entitled to a stand of Colours composed of a Queen's Colour and a command/college/regimental Colour:
    1. Royal Canadian Air Force;
    2. Royal Military Colleges of Canada; and
    3. infantry battalions, other than those from rifle regiments (rifle regiments have no Colours as their original tactical role precluded them from carrying and using Colours on the battlefield). See Note below.


While the drums of rifle (voltigeur) regiments may be emblazoned with battle honours and distinctions, as are the drums of all infantry regiments, they are not to be treated as Colours and compliments are not authorized to be paid to them.


  1. Colours are designed in accordance with standard patterns for easy recognition. (See Annex A.) There is some flexibility to select a central identifying device on an army Colour, or to choose which battle honours are to be emblazoned if a unit possesses more than the number allowed for any one war (see Chapter 3). Units applying for a new Colour must do so through the chain of command to NDHQ/ DHH. Justification shall be provided for any request to deviate from standard patterns, or any use of a central badge other than the principal badge of the unit concerned. DHH will comment on any military custom and protocols involved, if required. When all details are settled, DHH will forward the application to the Canadian Heraldic Authority for painting and follow-on submission to the Governor General for approval. New uses of Royal devices must first be approved personally by the Sovereign. See also Chapter 6, Section 9.
  2. Once the design is approved, DHH will initiate procurement of the Colour and advise the unit when the manufacture is complete.
  3. The DHH Coordinator, as Inspector of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Colours and Badges, is charged with the responsibility of inspecting manufactured Colours for design accuracy and quality, and for Colour acceptance. The applicable unit will be invited to participate in the inspection whenever feasible.


  1. After a unit is advised that a Colour has been manufactured and accepted, a request for presentation by the Governor General shall be forwarded through the chain of command (see CFAO 61-16), with an information copy to NDHQ/DHH, to include:
    1. the location of the proposed ceremony;
    2. the preferred date of the proposed ceremony and two alternative dates;
    3. a programme outline for the visit, including any activities planned to take place in connection with the presentation ceremony; and
    4. the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the unit project officer.
  1. If the Governor General is not available to officiate at the presentation, the command headquarters concerned shall make arrangements with the appropriate provincial lieutenant-governor in accordance with CFAO 61 – 16. Should the lieutenant governor not be able to make the presentation, the unit shall advise NDHQ if it wants the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to make the presentation. As approval of the Governor General is necessary, the formal invitation to the CDS shall not be extended until authority to proceed is received from NDHQ.
  2. Any proposal that the Sovereign or other member of the Royal Family visit Canada on an official basis requires Government approval in accordance with CFAO 61-16. Should a unit wish to invite a royal personage to present a Colour, a formal request shall be forwarded through the chain of command to reach NDHQ a minimum of one year before the presentation date. In addition to the details required by paragraph 12, the unit shall include:
    1. a detailed substantiation for the request that the Sovereign or member of the Royal Family present the Colour; and
    2. a statement that the unit is willing to undertake, if necessary, the payment of the expenses incurred by the royal party which arise from attendance at a Colour ceremony.
  3. If the presence of the royal personage requested cannot be arranged, NDHQ will advise the unit through the chain of command. The unit may then submit a new request for presentation in accordance with paragraph 12.
  4. Subject to the approval of the Governor General, regiments who have a colonel-in-chief who is not a member of the Royal Family, may request that he or she makes the presentation, following the same procedure as described in paragraph 13.


  1. DHH holds new unconsecrated Colours on behalf of the Governor General and does not have the authority to issue them to a unit until 30 days prior to the confirmed presentation date.
  2. Unconsecrated Colours will normally be shipped via military or civilian mail services to units; however, units may, with prior coordination and through their own arrangements, have escorts pick up Colours at the office of the Inspector of CAF Colours and Badges at DHH.


  1. New Colours shall not be granted the dignity of Colours until consecration has taken place, nor shall they be carried on parade until they have been consecrated. Once Colours have been consecrated and presented, they shall be accorded the highest honours at all times and treated with great respect and care.
  2. When new Colours are replacing old Colours that are declared non-serviceable, they are presented and consecrated in the same manner as the original ones.
  3. Colour-bearing units converted to units of The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery or the Canadian Military Engineers may continue to hold and parade their Colours when the unit is parading alone on exclusively unit occasions and no non-unit personnel are present in an official capacity (see note below). These Colours shall not be maintained or replaced at public, non-public or private expense. In all other cases, and when the above are worn out, units converted to non-Colour-bearing status shall lay up their Colours at the time of the conversion.


Colour-bearing units converted to artillery or army field engineer retain the right to parade their Colour as, by definition, The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery also possesses Colours (see paragraph 5 above) and, along with the Canadian Military Engineers and Joint Task Force Two, has been awarded an honorary distinction "to take the place of all past and future battle honours and distinctions gained in the field." (See Chapter 3, Section 1 paragraph 13.)

  1. Because of their symbolism and purpose, Colours belong to a separate class from other flags and are not paraded with other flags in any Colour party.
  2. When a stand of Colours is carried, the Queen's Colour occupies the position of honour, i.e., on the right of the Colour party.
  3. Colours are not uncased after retreat or before sunrise unless the place for the parade is illuminated.
  4. Colours on parade mark and identify the formation or unit concerned. They are normally positioned in the centre or at the fore of the body of personnel they represent; see A-DH-201-000/PT-000, The Canadian Armed Forces Manual of Drill and Ceremonial.
  5. Parading Colours. In Canadian practice, Colours and Colours parties are never paraded separately from the military body whose presence they mark and whose honour and duty they represent. They are only paraded as an integral part of the formation or unit concerned. An order to a unit which implies giving up control of its Colours can be seen as a sign of disgrace. Except as detailed in sub-paragraph c. below, commanding officers are responsible for ensuring that their Colours are never paraded with or by another unit. Thus:
    1. In general, whenever a unit or a major portion of a unit is paraded on a ceremonial occasion, the unit's Colour or Colours may also be paraded.
    2. Except for guards of honour including escorts (see Chapter 13), when small portions of a unit are paraded separately they are regarded as detachments rather than the unit itself. In these cases the Colour or Colours remain with the unit.
    3. Colour parties from different formations or units are never combined into a single massed Colour party except immediately prior to joining their units at the beginning of a joint parade or after a joint consecration, or after being fallen out from their units to be lodged, deposited or laid up. Under special circumstances, Colour parties of several battalions of the same regiment may be combined when these battalions are brigaded on a purely regimental parade and not scheduled to manoeuvre separately; the combined Colour party then marks the entire regimental line. (If units manoeuvre, the Colours take post back with their battalion.)
  6. Command Colours are paraded when ordered by NDHQ or the commander of the appropriate command, for example for a Royal or State guard of honour, or on ceremonial occasions when the personnel on parade represent the command as a whole. They are not paraded on those occasions which only represent individual subordinate units or other sub-components of the command.
  7. The Queen's Colour of the Royal Canadian Navy is not paraded on board ship or in a foreign territory.


  1. Commanding officers are responsible for the safeguarding, care and maintenance, and appropriate manner of the display of Colours. When at rest, Colours should be displayed uncased in an air-tight glass case, customarily in an officers' mess or other guarded lodging location, and protected from direct sunlight and fluorescent lamps. Only incandescent lighting, low-UV fluorescent lamps or fluorescent lamps fitted with filtering sleeves should be used.
  2. Stands of Colours are most effectively displayed with the Colour pikes crossed. Since the Queen's Colour should be on the left as viewed from the front, the reverse of the Queen's Colour and the obverse of the regimental Colour will then be seen by viewers from the front (see Figure 5-1-1). Protocol and precedence determines the positions of the Colours, not the pikes. It is common, therefore, to cross the pike of the Queen's Colour behind that of the command/college/regimental Colour so that the latter is readily accessible when it alone is needed for a parade.
  3. A single Colour should be placed on wall brackets positioned at an angle sufficient to permit the display of the Colour, i.e., at an angle of approximately 45 degrees. Normally, the pike of a single flag displayed against a wall is lowered to a viewer's left (see Chapter 4, Section 2). However, since a few Colours (e.g., a Guidon with too many battle honours to be accommodated on one side) have a different obverse and reverse, single Colours should be displayed angled to the viewer's right– i.e., the pike should travel downward from the viewer's right shoulder to the left foot – so that the obverse side of the Colours will be displayed (see Figure 5-1-2).

Figure 5-1-1 Displayed Stand of Colours

Figure 5-1-2 Displayed Guidon

  1. Colours carried outside are normally cased in the event of very heavy rain. If a Colour does get damp, it must be removed from its case as soon as possible after the parade and suspended horizontally on its pike to dry thoroughly before being replaced in a wall case or returned to the leather case.


  1. When a Colour is issued it comes complete with the following accoutrements:
    1. Colour pike, or lance;
    2. pike head, which is the Crest of the Royal Arms of Canada;
    3. black leather Colour case,
    4. carrying belt, and
    5. tasselled cords.
  2. Colours for newly formed battalions in foot guards regiments and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) are issued with a wreath of laurel.
    1. The Colours of foot guard regiments are decked with the wreath when carried on duty on specific dates related to regimental battle honours.
    2. The Colours of the PPCLI are decked with the wreath at all times when uncased.


  1. With proper maintenance, Colours should remain in service for many years. There is no set replacement time as this is related to frequency of use. Colours are never replaced as a requirement for a celebration or major event such as a Royal visit.
  2. Colours are not replaced until they are worn out. Minor repairs, such as re-attaching fringes and sewing down loose threads or devices, shall be done locally through base or unit supply budgets. DHH also holds a small stock of flag cords, fringes, pikes, Colour cases, pike hardware, etc., that may be supplied to units for repairs.
  3. Colours shall not be commercially dry cleaned. If necessary, a soiled Colour may be brushed gently with a clean soft brush.
  4. Should major repairs be necessary, the commanding officer shall request these directly to NDHQ/DHH. The request shall include:
    1. details of abnormal usage or accidental damage;
    2. an accurate description of the extent of damage, including colour photographs, clear colour photocopies or electronic files of the areas requiring repairs;
    3. estimated cost of repair; and
    4. names of commercial agencies which the unit is satisfied can undertake repair, or a recommendation that the Inspector of CAF Colours and Badges undertake final inspection and responsibility for repair.
  5. Should DHH inspection be necessary, Colours will normally be shipped without escort, but must be given maximum protection in packaging and shipment. Non-sulphurous tissue paper is recommended. The Colour may be folded and placed in an attaché case or other suitable container.
  6. When a Colour is repaired, it is still considered to be the same consecrated Colour so long as its principal identifying devices, the set of badges and devices emblazoned in the centre, are retained. It is simply taken back into use. Pieces which are removed during repair lose their sacred status once separated from the whole. Such pieces still belong to the Crown and, to prevent anyone from claiming that they "own" part of a Colour, all remnants shall be burnt to ashes.
  7. Should the Inspector of CAF Colours and Badges deem that replacement is necessary, the unit will request through the chain of command for replacement. The appropriate command will request the change and assign a command priority to the unit.

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