Military Wiki

Regimental colours are the ceremonial flags of military regiments. Historically, their roots can be traced back at least as far as the Roman Empire. In many countries, regiments may have two colours, rather than one. One is called the king's colour or the national colour representing the military's loyalty towards a king or a nation, with a design typically based on the king's heraldic attributes or a national flag. The second colour is then designated the regimental colour representing the regiment itself. Countries which follow (or have historically followed) this system include Canada, Prussia, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Colours are members of the class of military flags which also include standards and guidons.

British Army

The Regimental Colour of the Welsh Guards born aloft during the 2010 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

In the British Army colours are mainly carried by infantry regiments, equivalent items for armoured and cavalry regiments are standards and guidons, and for the Royal Artillery their guns are their colours.

A stand of colours normally comprises

  • a Queen's Colour, usually with the design of the Union Flag with a gold circle in the centre, within which the regiment's name (and sometimes initials or number) are inscribed; and
  • a Regimental Colour, usually a plain flag in the colour of the regiment's "facings" (traditionally the colour of the lining of the redcoat jacket) or the Cross of St George or The Saltire, with the regiment's insignia in the centre.

Both are 3′0″×3′9″ (914mm×1143mm).[1] Variations to the above do exist; several infantry regiments carry a third colour that is permitted to be paraded on special occasions, usually those specific to the regiment:

  • The Guards regiments each have at least one State Colour; this is usually crimson with various regimental devices and honours. They are only used by Guards of Honour, not found by the Queen’s Guard, mounted on State occasions when the Queen is present. They are only lowered to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and, until her death, the Queen Mother. They are also lowered on other State occasions only when the Queen is present, even if the Guard of Honour is mounted in honour of some other personage.
  • The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Highland Fusiliers have extra colours in addition to the Queen's and Regimental Colours which were awarded after various battles.
  • The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment: The 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, as the linear descendant, bears the Third Colour initially born by the 2nd Regiment of Foot, later renamed the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) which, for one reason or another, was never taken away from the regiment in the 18th century when new regulations on colours were implemented.

Not all regiments follow the system of having just a stand of colours:

  • Rifle regiments (a kind of light infantry) traditionally do not carry colours; this goes back to their formation, when they were used as skirmishers and sharpshooters. While individual units may have had banners or pennants to distinguish themselves from other units, regiments as a whole never needed a full stand of Colours. Battle honours are inscribed instead on drums or cap badges.
  • The Honourable Artillery Company is today an artillery regiment and has both a stand of Colours (Queen's and Regimental) and Guns. The latter are also regarded as colours and accorded the same compliments just as the Royal Artillery regard their guns as their Colours.

In general British and Commonwealth infantry or line regiments embellish only their Regimental Colours with battle honours. The practice of adding a regiment's or a battalion's battle honours onto its Regimental Colours came into existence around 1784. Exception is made to regiments of the Foot Guards where battle honours can be seen on both their Regimental and Queen's Colours. Additionally specific regiments may have other devices on either of their colours.

Colours are normally presented to a regiment or a battalion by the head of state or another important personage (e.g. a Governor-General) in a high-profile military parade ceremony. The presentation of a new colour (or colours) to a regiment is normally performed once every few decades, and the old or retired colours are formally kept in the regiment's church or chapel where they are left to decay.

A regiment's colours are highly revered, and salutes must be given to them.

The term "regimental colour" (in the sense of not being the Queen's Colour) was first mentioned ca. 1747,[2] stating that regimental colours are

  • Also called the Second Colour of a regiment or battalion as it is second in seniority to the King's or Queen's Colour
  • Its appearance should be constituted of the colour of regiment's facings with a Union Flag on its top left hand corner
  • In the centre of the Colour is a stylized version of the regiment's insignia with its ranking number in Roman numbers

While colours remain important for ceremonial use, they are no longer carried into battle. The last occasion on which they were present in action was in 1881 at Laing's Nek, when they were carried by the 58th Foot.[3]


Canadian military units also utilize colours.


During the September Campaign, Polish troops had "Honor i Ojczyzna" (Honour and Fatherland) motto on all their banners. In communist Poland, the motto was changed to "Za naszą Ojczyznę Polską Rzeczpospolitą Ludową" (For our fatherland The People's Republic of Poland). In 1993, the motto was changed to "Bóg, Honor, Ojczyzna" (God, Honour, Fatherland).

Russia and Soviet Union

From the late 1930s onwards, each regiment in the armed forces of the Soviet Union (especially the Army and Air Force) had its own colour, which was produced to a standard design:

  • Obverse - red field, a red star yellow bordered and the full name and number of a military unit/school below. Each unit has its own inscription.
  • Reverse - red field, a gold hammer and sickle and the motto "For our Soviet Motherland!" (За нашу советскую родину!, Za nashu sovyetskuyu rodinu)

The Soviet Navy colours had the 1935 official design with them(it was later revised in 1950), with the exception being to units honored with the Order of the Red Banner, Naval Headquarters Commands and Naval Air Forces, plus even the Defense Minister's own naval colour, and that of the Navy Minister until 1964(and later of the Navy Commander-in-Chief), which had different designs, with the addition of the Armed Forces General Staff's own naval colour. Early flags even had the WPKA Naval Command insignia (official, Inspector General's, and the Army General Staff, represented by crossed blue rifles) beside the hammer and sickle, even the flags of the People's Commissar for National Defense and the People's Commissar for Naval Affairs had different designs, plus that of the Navy General Staff, the WPRA Navy honorary colour and the various flags of naval officers and ship ensigns. The cruiser Aurora since 1978 has had a different version of the 1950 ensign, flanked by the Orders of the Red Banner and of the October Revolution on the top sides of the star, as the Aurora was the only naval recipient of the latter order in 1967 while in 1918, the Military Red Banner Order was conferred to the ship.

Regimental colours of the Guards units

The colours of those regiments that were classed as "Guards" was slightly different. These had the portrait of Lenin, the Za nashu motto and the abbreviation "USSR" (СССР, SSSR) on the obverse and the small star with hammer and sickle in its centre, unit's name and a motto on the reverse of the colour. The mottoes were different for every regiment (for example, those regiments made Guards in the Great Patriotic War bore the motto "Death to the German invaders", Смерть Немецким захватчикам, Smyert' Nyemyetskim zahvatchikam). In some Guards units, early flags had different designs on the obverse and reverse. Even the Lenin portrait was different in some flags. The Navy Guards units still had the 1935 design, with the addition of the Guards ribbon below, except for units which were honored with the Order of the Red Banner and became Guard units later. The difference is in the red five-pointed star, in which Red Banner Guard unit flags had applied the Guards ribbon below aside from the Order of the Red Banner on the star.

See also


  2. "Regulations for the Uniform Clothing of the Marching Regiments of Foot, Their Colours, Drums, Bells of Arms, and Camp Colours", 1747
  3. Haythornthwaite (1995), p. 35


  • Haythornthwaite, Philip J. (1995) The Colonial Wars Sourcebook, London: Arms and Armour Press, ISBN 1854091964

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).