The article that follows was first published in the Spring edition of the Falcon in 2014. It is written by Major George Pearce (Retired) and is a wonderful story of our Regiment’s relationship with the late Colonel-in-Chief. As you receive this message, a contingent from the active Regiment are returning from London after having attended Her Majesty’s funeral.
Corporal John Perkins (Retired) represented the Regiment’s veterans in Ottawa for the National Ceremony of Remembrance yesterday.
HLCol Sasha Darling
A SPECIAL FALCON ESSAY (Spring 2014): COLONEL-IN-CHIEF: THE MOST HONOURABLE OF HONORARY MILITARY APPOINTMENTS
by Major (Ret) G.L. Pearce CD
“Gentlemen, our Colonel-in-Chief,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second”.
This special toast is the reserved privilege of the officers of the Regiment and usually follows the traditional Loyal Toast to the Queen at formal Mess dinners. The personal link between the Queen and Her Regiment is seen in the operative word ‘our’. On such occasions, the honour of toasting the Queen as our Colonel-in-Chief is an exclusive custom belonging to 48th Highlanders only. The personal, possesive nature of this toast precludes participation by anyone else.
The fundamental fact to understand about the honour of having the Royal appointment of Her Majesty the Queen (or other member of the Royal Family) as Colonel-in-Chief of a regiment is that the appointment originates as a request from the unit desiring the honour. It is not something that is automatic, ordered, assigned, or otherwise conferred by any level of administrative authority, civil or military. It happens as a result of a proposal by the regiment which, after due consideration, may receive royal approval and, if so, it is granted personally by the Sovereign.
The process is unique and usually begins in an informal manner to determine if the request might be considered. Although unofficial at first, the procedure requires the utmost skill in diplomacy as well as a thorough knowledge of the regiment or corps to be proposed. If there follows sufficient encouragement from the court advisers closest to the royal personage requested, advice to proceed with a formal application would ensue.
Obviously such factors as the regiment’s order of precedence (length of service), battle honours, role and status within the Ministry of National Defence etc. all weigh considerably in enhancing the regiment’s prestige. However, ultimate royal approval rests as an exclusive prerogative of the Sovereign regardless of which member of the Royal Family is sought to be Colonel-in-Chief.
When the 48th Highlanders of Canada proffered their request for HRH The Princess Elizabeth to be their Colonel-in-Chief, the matter had to be deferred to the Sovereign, HM King George VI, who then gave royal approval for his daughter to accept the appointment on December 1st, 1947. That date and appointment is shared with only Le Regiment de la Chaudiere in Levis QC, the two regiments having been so honoured for a longer period of time than any others in Canada. At present, two armoured regiments, the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery, the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers and ten infantry regiments to date have the distinction of having The Queen as Captain-General or Colonel-in-Chief. ( See Annex “A”) The appointment of Colonel-in-Chief is not to be confused with the honorary appointments of Colonel of the Regiment in units of the Regular Army or Honorary Colonel, for units of the army’s Primary Reserve and sometimes formations of other components of the Canadian Armed Forces, such as squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The Colonel-in-Chief of a regiment is usually (but not always) its royal patron who does not have an operational role but is kept informed of all important duties and activities of the regiment as well as paying as many personal visits as affairs of state will allow. The Colonel-in-Chief is the guardian of the regiment’s history and traditions, who acts to promote ethos, recognition and pride in service.
Trooping the Colour in celebration of The Queen’s birthday occurs several times in the life of a regiment, although not always on the traditional day of the public holiday.
The 24th of May has remained unchanged in Canada since the reign of Queen Victoria, although our present Queen’s actual birth date is April 21, 1926. While the traditional reasons for the parade remain constant, the date is subject to change in Canada when Royal Tours, with the Colonel-in-Chief present, require strict scheduling for such events as the presentation of new colours, a Royal Review of the Fleet or a special anniversary or commemoration. In Canada, the anniversary of the Coronation June 2, Confederation (Canada Day) July 1st or the inception of a regiment or province are all appropriate choices.
The Queen’s Colour is trooped on the following occasions:
1 ) when Her Majesty The Queen is in attendance;
2 ) when a member of the Royal Family is in attendance representing The Queen;
3 ) when the official representative of the Queen in Canada is present, being the Governor General or a Lieutenant Governor of a province or
4 ) in celebration of The Queen’s Birthday whether or not the Sovereign or other official representative of the Sovereign is present, for example the Chief of Defence Staff or Commander, Canadian Army.
During the Royal Tour of 1939 by their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the King unveiled Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa in commemoration of all Canadian servicemen and women who made the supreme sacrifice during the Great War 1914-18. This significant unveiling served also to raise the curtain on the outbreak of the Second World War only a few months afterwards and to cement the bond of loyalty and affection of all Canadians to the Crown with the time-honoured phrase: For King and Country. This Royal Tour also marked the only time that the Sovereign’s annual birthday parade was celebrated by Trooping the Colour outside the United Kingdom with the Sovereign present.
The first post-war ceremony of Trooping the Colour by the 48th Highlanders was a very special celebration of the The King’s Birthday as it occurred during the regiment’s Diamond Jubilee in 1951. His Excellency Field Marshall The Earl Alexander of Tunis, last British-born Governor General of Canada, took the salute. In the presence of the official representative of HM King George VI in Canada, the King’s Colour was trooped in Varsity Stadium before a capacity audience. The ensign was Lt John M. Lowndes (later Col J.M. Lowndes OstJ, CD, QC ). The same year, Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth as Colonel-in-Chief , first visited her 48th Highlanders of Canada at University Avenue Armoury, Toronto on 13 October 1951 with Lt. Col. M.E. George CD Commanding Officer and Regimental Sergeant Major (WO1) Fred Wigmore MM, CD on parade. The Regiment was represented at the Coronation of Her Majesty on 2 June 1953 by Major (later LCol) K.C.B. Corbett CD and Band Sergeant Piper J. R. Stewart (later Pipe Major (WO1) J. Ross Stewart MMM, CD)
During the tenure of Lt. Col. Hamish K. MacIntosh MBE, ED (1955-1958), the ceremony of Trooping the Colour by the 48th Highlanders was of high priority, a rather unheralded accomplishment for a militia regiment which at that time and since has found the ceremony, while of utmost importance to the regimental family, a difficult tradition to maintain due to DND budget restrictions which have affected “paid strength reductions” and conflicting time to achieve the priority of basic training standards. In 1956, the Regiment, resplendent in full dress scarlet, trooped the Queen’s Colour carried by Lt. John MacFarlane (later LCol J.I.B. MacFarlane CD, Commanding Officer of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada). The salute was taken by the Queen’s first Canadian-born Governor General, the Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey PC, CH, CC, CD at the Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand which held the largest audience ever to see the trooping by the 48th Highlanders.
A most significant Royal Tour coinciding with the celebration of Canada’s 92nd birthday on Dominion Day (as it was called then) created a unique but unforgettable benchmark in the history of the Regiment. No less than five regiments, all with The Queen as Colonel-in-Chief, had requested that Her Majesty present new colours.
Nothing is more sacred and personal than to have the Colonel-in-Chief perform this ceremony for the entire regiment, on parade at one time, when new colours are consecrated to the Glory of God. The logistics of mounting five separate regiments in as many ceremonies, each including the trooping of the old colours, forced an abridged single ceremony in which only a colour party from each regiment, in order of precedence, would receive new colours from the Queen. The stage was set for Parliament Hill, Ottawa July 1, 1959. While this departure from ceremonial custom was disappointing in some respects, due to the jealously guarded rivalry among regiments, the plan was executed as ordered and remains unique for The Canadian Guards (no longer in the order of battle), the Governor General’s Foot Guards, The Canadian Grenadier Guards, 48th Highlanders of Canada and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s). The 48th Field Officers for the Colours were Major (later LCol) D.C. Haldenby CD and Major P.A.G. Cameron CD (later BGen PAG Cameron OMM, CD). Ensigns were 2Lt (later Major) J.A. Brown and 2Lt (later Major) K.G. McVittie.
Reservists are appropriately called “Twice the Citizens”. As citizen-soldiers who devote almost equal time from their civilian occupations to military training, they join regiments within their communities as volunteers to address preparedness in the national interest and, more often than not, initiate ways to give something back to the community from which they come, for example, on June 1,1963 the Regiment trooped the colour in celebration of the Queen’s Birthday, again at the CNE Grandstand, but on this occasion all contributions that were received with requests for tickets were donated to the Ontario Society for Crippled Children.
The Royal Tour of 1984 marked the Bicentennial of the Province of Ontario for which Central Militia Area (the military designation for the entire province) was charged to produce a significant production to welcome HM The Queen and HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Exhibition Stadium. The Queen’s York Rangers (1st American Regiment) (RCAC) , despite their title, is not one of the regiments of which Her Majesty is Colonel-in-Chief but a special request was tendered on this occasion to have The Queen presented a new cavalry guidon (equivalent to a regimental colour) to which Her Majesty graciously consented. A guard of honour comprising 50 personnel from each of four regiments representing the 200 years of the bicentenary was formed by 7th Toronto Regiment RCA, 2nd Field Engineer Regiment, RCE, 48th Highlanders of Canada and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, each having The Queen as Captain-General or Colonel-in-Chief. From this initial format the production evolved into a combined military musical pageant and full-scale military tattoo with a cast of 1,372 before a stadium audience of some 60,000 which was televised coast to coast in Canada and the United Kingdom. The expansive cast grew in direct proportion to the enthusiasm of volunteer participants including military units in vintage dress, highland dancers, United Empire Loyalists and other historical re-enactment societies. It was the largest pageant ever mounted by massed bands and troops of the Canadian Army Primary Reserve.
In all of this the focal point was and remains Elizabeth Regina (EIIR) by the Grace of God Queen of Canada. Status and prestige are the robes of conferred Royal privilege.
Privilege in the armed forces is earned as a result of recognized distinguished service – never claimed or rewarded by a warped sense of entitlement. The privilege of prestige that comes with the Royal appointment of Colonel-in-Chief is very personal for all ranks. It allows the recipients to refer to their Queen as “Our Colonel-in-Chief” to which Her Majesty, as head of the Regimental Family refers, in her own words, to “My Regiment”. Nothing could be more personal than that. It is important to remember that whether the regiment’s choice be a member of the Royal Family or not, the inexorable purpose of all such appointments, royal or otherwise, is the same: to maintain a direct link between the regiment and the Monarch.