'Colours': The symbol of a regiment

Major David Goodacre,1 SCOTS
Image caption Major Goodacre explains the importance of the Colours to soldiers

Colours have become the symbol of the spirit of a Regiment.

They bear the battle honours and badges granted to the Regiment in commemoration of the gallant deeds performed by its members from the time it was raised.

The Colours carry upon them all the battle honours of the Regiment.

As such have major significance for each and every soldier in that Regiment. The Colours are the embodiment of a Regiment.

They record the proud and costly history of each Regiment and as such they are guarded and escorted with unbelievable zest.

Colours are treated with reverence.

As a symbol of a regiment they are always guarded and paid compliments.

Colours are never capriciously destroyed - when too old to use they are replaced and then laid-up in museums, religious buildings and other places of significance to their regiment.

In most modern armies Standing Orders call for the Colours to be intentionally destroyed if they are ever in danger of being captured by the enemy.

Rallying point

The practice of carrying Colours to act both as a rallying point for troops and to mark the location of a commander is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5000 years ago.

It was formalised in the armies of medieval Europe, with standards being emblazoned with the Commander's coat of arms.

As armies became trained and adopted set formations, each regiment's ability to keep its formation was potentially critical to its success.

In the chaos of battle, not least due to the amount of smoke, dust and noise on a battlefield, soldiers needed to be able to determine where their regiment was.

Since it was formalised in 1751, each battalion of Line Infantry regiments of the British Army carry two colours - collectively called a stand.

These are large flags mounted on a pike; The Queen's Colour is based on the national flag with the Regiment's insignia placed in the centre.

Regimental Colours vary in design across the Infantry; for The Royal Regiment of Scotland, as a Royal Regiment, the background is dark blue.

The design of The Royal Regiment of Scotland Colours, common to all seven battalions, truly reflects the many great and varied feats of arms in which the antecedent Regiments of Scottish infantry have been involved across the globe over the last 378 years of service.

Battle honours

The Royal Regiment of Scotland has amassed 339 Battle Honours, the oldest of which was awarded to The Royal Regiment of Foot (The Royal Scots) at the Battle of Tangier in 1680; and it is important to clarify that no Battle Honours have been 'lost'; all of them appear in the Army List, but only a limited number can be carried on the Colours due to the physical limitations.

Until 1914 all Battle Honours awarded to an infantry regiment, less Rifles, were emblazoned on the Regimental Colour.

In 1924 regiments were allowed to emblazon 10 Great War Battle Honours on the King's Colour.

In 1956 they were authorised to emblazon a further 10 from the Second World War on the, by then, Queen's Colour.

To accommodate the accumulation of amalgamated honours, post 1958 regiments were authorised to emblazon up to 40 Battle Honours on both Colours, still in accordance with the split between battles of the two world wars and other battles.

The total has since been increased; up to 43 Honours from the two world wars are now permitted on the Queen's Colour and 46 Honours (covering the Pre - 1914 and post - 1945 campaigns) is considered to be the maximum which can be carried on the Regimental Colour.

Regimental Colours can also carry Honorary Distinctions, Corner Badges and Cyphers.

The Queen's Colour

The Honorary Distinctions were generally awarded to mark a particular campaign, such as the Sphinx for the Egypt campaign against Napoleon in 1804.

Corner Badges and Cyphers related specifically to the traditions of an individual Regiment or its links with a past or present member of The Royal Family.

The Queen's Colour of The Royal Regiment of Scotland bears 32 Battle Honours from the 1st and 2nd World Wars common to two or more of the antecedent Regiments.

Each antecedent Regiment also selected a further 1st or 2nd World War Honour for inclusion.

Finally, the Curator of the National War Museum of Scotland selected a further five from the remaining proposed Honours to complete The Regiment's 43.

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