RMR Received First Colours 100 Years Ago

Presentation of Colours by H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught, 04 January 1919 at Unter Eschbach, Germany.

Westmount, Quebec – 04 January 2019: The Royal Montreal Regiment received their first set of Colours precisely 100 years ago today.

Military Colours have been in use for many centuries, and from the outset fulfilled two practical needs. First, they were a rallying point in battle and second, a mark of family distinction. Early man often fixed his tribal markings to staffs; medieval knights carried armorial bearings on their banners or shields. When the British army adopted a Regimental system at the beginning of the 17th century, each company was allotted a colour. Since 1751, regiments have been permitted a Regimental Colour and a Sovereign’s Colour. When Colours are presented they are consecrated during a ceremony that was standardized in 1867.

Consecration of Colours by Honourable Major (Rev) A.H. Creegan, 04 January 1919 at Unter Eschbach, Germany.

The Royal Montreal Regiment has received four sets of Colours over the course of the last century. The first occasion (in 1919) was unique in the annals of British and Canadian history. This was the first time that a Regiment had been presented with Colours on foreign conquered soil at the end of a victorious campaign. At Unter Eschbach, Germany, on January 4th, 1919, H.R.H. Prince Arthur of Connaught presented the Regiment with its first Colours.

RMR’s current Regimental Colour, presented in 1989

Prince Arthur of Connaught presenting colours to Lieutenant. C. H. Sullivan

As written in the 14th Battalion (RMR)’s war diary on this day 100 years ago:

Hitherto the Regiment has been incomplete, not having its own colours, but Mrs. E.A. Whitehead of Montreal kindly donated very fine colours which were brought to Germany by Capt. G.V. Whitehead and Capt. H.G. Brewer, M.C.

            The Regimental Colours were to-day presented to the Battalion by Prince Arthur of Connaught.  The ceremony took place at 2:00 p.m. in a field at Unter-Eschbach and was favoured with brilliant sunshine.  The Battalion was drawn up on three sides of a hollow square.

            True to the practice of the British Royal Family, the Prince arrived punctually to the hour and received the Royal Salute.  He was accompanied by the Divisional and Brigade Commanders and members of their staffs.

            Major (Rev.) A.H. Greegan made a short address and consecrated the colours.   Major C.B. Price, D.S.O., D.C.M., handed the King’s Colour to the Prince who then presented it to the Battalion, being received by Lieut. C. H. Sullivan on bended knee.  The Regimental Colour was handed to the Prince by Capt. J.H. McKenna, M.C. and received by Lieut. A.D.C. Parnell.

            The Battalion then closed in and the Prince made a short address, saying in substance: that it was unique in the history of the British Army for a Battalion to be presented with its colours at the close of a successful campaign and in enemy territory, that he desired to express on behalf of the English part of the British Army, the admiration and good feeling towards the Canadian Forces.   That the Canadians had shown magnificent fighting qualities and he was sure that they would make as good citizens as they had soldiers.  That he regarded himself as a proud and happy man to be privileged to present the colours to a Regiment with so proud a record.

            The Prince ended his address, which was soldiers speech to soldiers, by calling for three cheers for His Majesty the King, and received a right royal response.

            The Divisional Commander then called for three cheers for His Royal Highness, which was given with great lustiness.

            The colours having now been presented, there remained what proved to be the most stirring part of the ceremony, a scene which no one privileged to take part will ever forget.

            The Battalion dressed back, and on the Commanding Officer’s Command, gave the Colours the “General Salute.”  The Colour Party then wheeled about and proceeded to take its place in the ranks, the Band playing the National Anthem in slow time.

            By happy circumstance the breeze freshened, blowing the colours out allowing them to  be seen in their full beauty.  Every man while saluting the colours outwardly, in the manner prescribed, must also deep down in his heart have paid homage to them.   It was indeed a scene to stir emotions that as a race we cannot talk about and have no words to express.

            The Battalion then marched past in column of fours, the Prince taking the salute.

            Many times during the past four years the Battalion has proved its mettle on the enemy, and today showed that also on an important ceremonial parade it is second to none.

Three cheers for the King!
Special thanks to Captain (ret’d) Hamilton Slessor for assisting with this article.
Images courtesy of Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group