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Naval Colours (Australia)

Last modified: 2005-04-02 by jonathan dixon
Keywords: australia | white ensign | stars: southern cross | southern cross: blue | garter | royal cypher |
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Queen's Colours for the Royal Australian Navy

[Queen's Colours for the Royal Australian Navy] by Martin Grieve, 31 Mar 2004
Click here for a close up of the royal crown/cypher/garter.

There are two [Queen's Colours for the Royal Australian Navy], which are the Australian White Ensign, 36 by 45 inches, with the Royal cipher in gold on white, surrounded by the Garter and crowned, at the lower centre. No fringe, gold and silver cord and tassels. The Naval Crown is used as a finial.
Miles Li, 25 Jan 2002

The two Colours are not identical. The image by Martin is from a photograph of the Fleet Colour, provided by GW Davidson, RAN. In this case, the tag at the end of the garter has been placed centrally at the base of the garter. On the Establishment Colour it is displaced to the left to be in line with the run of the garter.
David Prothero, 31 Mar 2004

Royal Australian Navy silk flag

[RAN silk flag] by Martin Grieve, 3 May 2004

In a book published by the Australian Navy that I looked through today, I saw a colour party carrying an Australian white ensign-type flag that appeared to be the usual 36 x 45 inch dimensions for colours, with fringe, cord, and tassels, but without the royal cypher. Any idea what that would be?
Joe McMillan, 2 Feb 2002

Under British custom, which Australia has inherited, Queen's Colours are only paraded when there are some very important people present (Royalty, for example). Therefore on other occasions the White Ensign, the National Flag or RAAF Ensign, or 'squarish' forms of them, are used instead. I believe such 'squarish' ensigns are not officially specified - The White Ensign I have seen once in a church had white fringes on it!
Miles Li, 3 May 2004

History of the King's/Queen's Colours for the RAN

King George V

In March 1924 King George V approved a Colour for the Royal Navy, that corresponded to the King's Colours carried by the Military Forces. Admiralty Fleet Order 1057/1924 covering its use was passed to the Royal Australian Navy in May. On 16 June 1924 the First Naval Member, Rear Admiral Percival Henry Hall Thompson, agreed that King George V should be asked to grant a similar Colour to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). This was approved in March 1925. Two Colours were ordered, one for the Flagship of the Australian Seagoing Squadron and one for Flinders Naval Depot. The cost, included accoutrements and two films showing the procedures for parading the Colours, was approximately 160 Pounds Sterling.

The Colours were dispatched from London on 19 October 1926 in SS Moreton Bay and arrived at Flinders Naval Base in mid-November. Arrangements were made for the Governor General, Lord Stonehaven to present the Colours on behalf of King George V. A Colour was presented to Flinders Naval Depot, as the main shore establishment of the RAN, during the forenoon, Saturday 22 January 1927. The second Colour was presented to HMA Squadron in the Domain, Sydney on Thursday 27 January 1927. On completion of the parade the Colour was embarked in the Flagship for the Australian Squadron, HMAS Sydney.

King George VI

After the death of King George V in January 1936, approval to replace the Royal Cypher of King George V with that of King Edward VIII was sought in July, and approved in October of that year. Following the abdication of King Edward VIII and the accession of King George VI further representation was made in December 1936 to use the new Royal Cypher on the Colour. This was approved in January 1937. Arrangements were made for the purchase of two new Colours at an estimated cost of 36 Pounds Sterling. They arrived in Australia in June 1937.

It is not certain when the Colours of King George VI were presented to the RAN. It is thought that the Colours may have been given, rather than presented, although the existence of instructions for the laying-up of the former HMA Squadron Colour, tends to cast doubt on this theory. It is probable that a Colour was presented to HMA Squadron around November 1937, and that the Colour issued to Flinders Naval Base was presented at some time in the second half of that year.

Queen Elizabeth II - British White Ensign

Following the death of King George VI in February 1952, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953, a new Colour was presented to the Flinders Naval Depot in March 1954 by the Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Philip. At this presentation the Colours were consecrated, possibly for the first time. All subsequent Colours have been consecrated as an integral element of the overall ceremony. The Fleet Colour was presented on 16 October 1957, apparently without a formal ceremony.

Queen Elizabeth II - Australian White Ensign

In 1967 Queen Elizabeth II approved the replacement of the White Ensign, which had been flown since the inception of the Australian Squadron in 1911, with an Australian White Ensign. The White Ensign was hauled down for the last time in March 1967, and arrangements made to replace the Colours. The design having been approved in December 1967, the new Fleet Colour and Establishment Colour were presented by the Governor General, Lord Casey, at a combined parade in Olympic Park, Melbourne, on 1 November 1968.

Current Colours

In November 1983 it was decided that both Colours should be replaced. It was thought that one might be done in 1986, 75th Anniversary of the RAN, and the other in 1988, Bicentenary of Australia. AGCF made one Colour in 1985 at a cost of approximately 10,000 Australian Dollars, while two replacement sets of accoutrements, less staffs, were manufactured in England by Hobson and Sons, for a further 10,000 Australian Dollars.

The Establishment Colour was presented at HMAS Cerberus on Friday 7 March 1986, by HM Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Australia. The Colour is held in the Maritime Wing of the Defence Force School of Signals HMAS Cerberus, Westernport, Victoria.

The Fleet Colour could not be presented during the Bicentenary Celebrations, and was finally presented by the Governor General, HE Mr Hayden, at Fleet Base East on 17 April 1989. The Colour is held at Maritime Headquarters, HMAS Kuttabul, Sydney.

Adapted from a history of the Royal Australian Navy's Colour by GW Davidson, RAN.
David Prothero, 31 Mar 2004