Military colours of the Royal Militia

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This article by Ralph Mollet was first published in the 1960 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

Military Colours were flags carried by infantry regiments and battalions.

From the earliest time at which men fought in organised bodies of troops, the latter have possessed some sort of insignia visible over all the field of battle, and serving as a rallying-point for the men of the corps and an indication of position for the higher leaders and the men of other formed bodies.

In the Roman army the eagle had all the moral and sentimental importance of the colours of today.

The application of the word colour to such insigna dates only from the 16th century.

The ceremonial observances and honours paid nowadays to the colours of infantry were in fact founded for the most part by the Germans, for whom the flag was symbolical of their intense regimental life and feeling.

Colours paraded during the Militia review on St Aubin's beach on 24 May 1908

British Army

In the British Army colours are carried by guards and line battalions, each battalion having two colours, the Queen's and the Regimental. The size of the colour is 3 ft 9 in by 3 ft and the length of the stave 8 ft 7 in.

The Regimental Colour has a gold fringe and gold and crimson tassels, and bears various devices and battle honours. Both colours are carried by subaltern officers, and an escort of selected non-commissioned officers forms the rest of the colour party.

The ceremony of presenting new colours is most impressive. The old colours are trooped before being cased and taken to the rear. The new colours are then placed against a pile of drums and then uncased by the senior majors and the senior subalterns. The consecration follows, after which the colours are presented to the senior subalterns. The battalion gives a general salute when the colours are unfurled, and the ceremony concludes with a march past.

The practice in the British Army of leaving the colours behind on taking the field dates from the battle of Isandhlwana (22 January 1879) in which two lieutenants lost their lives in endeavouring to save the colours of the 24th Regiment.

Old Militia colours

  • The First or North West Regiment consisting of the men of the Parishes of St Ouen, St John and St Mary had their first Colour presented on 12 June 1810, these were replaced by colours presented by Miss Gibaut on 7 July 1851, these are now laid up in St Ouen’s Parish Church
  • The Second or North Regiment, consisting of the men of the Parishes of St Martin and Trinity, Colours were presented in July 1862, by Mrs Lempriere, of Rozel, and are now laid up at St John’s Parish Church. They replaced the old colours presented in 1822.
  • The Third or East Regiment consisting of the men of the Parishes of St Saviour, Grouville and St Clement are now at St Saviour’s Parish Church. These were presented on 12 June 1810 and laid up in 1878.
  • The Fourth or South Regiment consisted of two battalions: The St Helier Battalion, whose old colours are now laid up at St Helier’s Parish Church, and the St Lawrence Battalion, presented by Lady de Veulle on 17 August 1841, are now laid up at St Lawrence Church.
  • The Fifth or South West Regiment consisting of men of the Parishes of St Brelade and St Peter. Colours were presented on 17 July 1851 by Mrs Pipon to replace the colours presented in 1811. Both these colours are now laid up at St Brelade’s Church.

Reorganisation

When the Royal Militia was reorganised in 1878 and one regiment was established consisting of three battalions, the history of their colours is as follows :

  • The First or West Battalion colours given by the Western Parishes and presented by Lady Marett on 3 September 1879. Laid up at St Mary’s Parish Church 2 August 1925.
  • The Second or East Battalion colours given by the Eastern Parishes and presented by Mrs. Robin of Steephill. Laid up at St Martin’s Parish Church, 2 August 1925.
  • The Third or South Battalion colours given by the Parish of Saint Helier and presented by Lady Lothian Nicholson, 16 July 1879, laid up at St Helier’s Parish Church, 2 August 1925.

In 1928 the Royal Militia was reorganized to form a force with an establishment of some 250 men. They were presented with colours by the States of Jersey. After the Second World War the Royal Militia was disbanded and one of the final chapters in the long history of this ancient Jersey Institution was enacted on the 10 January 1954, with due solemnity these last colours were laid up in St Helier’s Parish Church.

The Militia was made a Royal Militia on 6 January 1831, on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Jersey, all the regimental colours having inscribed on them “Jersey 1781".

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