The Minute Book
Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Colours for the RCN
Topic: RCN

George VI presents the King's Colours to the Royal Canadian Navy at a ceremony in Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, in 1939. (Source)

Colours for the RCN

Exploring the files available on line from the Library and Archives Canada can produce some interesting historical trivia. From the records of the office of the Governor General we can discover correspondence related to the approval and acquisition of Colours for the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Governor General of Canada, His Excellency, General, The Right Honourable Lord Byng of Vimy approached the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 11 July 1924 regarding Colours for the Royal Canadian Navy:

"With reference to your despatch, Miscellaneous, of the 21st May, on the subject of the use by the Royal Navy of Colours corresponding to those of the King's Colours as carried by Military Forces, I have the honour to request that His Majesty the King may be graciously pleased to approve the use of Colours by the Royal Canadian Navy under similar conditions to those approved for the Royal Navy, the Colours to be kept at the Royal Canadian Naval Barracks at Halifax and Esquimalt, the home bases of the Royal Canadian Navy."

In a letter from the office of the Secretary of State to Lord Byng, it was confirmed that His Majesty the King had approved of a proposal for RCN Colours. These Colours were to be of the same pattern and usage as those authorized for the Royal Navy. The letter, dated 31 March 1925, closed with the following paragraph:

"The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty could, if desired, supply a colour complete with staff, cord, tassels, badges and colour belt, and I should be glad to learn whether your Ministers wish to have a colour sent out accordingly."

Fleet Order 12057/1924

Orders regarding the use of RN Colours; Fleet Order 12057/1924. Following instructions clarified that "The Colours are never to be landed on territory outside the British Empire."

The Lord Commissioners' kind offer led to an assumption, an attempt to double the offer, and a glimpse at the paucity of the Militia and Defence budget.

On 22 April, 1925, the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs signed off a letter to the Governor General's Secretary which stated: "I have the honour to represent that the Department of National Defence accepts with thanks the kind offer of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to supply a colour complete with staff, cord, tassels, badge and colour belt for the use of the Royal Canadian Navy." The letter went on to reiterate the necessity for two colours, one to place located at Halifax and the second at Esquimalt. The Governor General forwarded the acceptance and requirement for two colours to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the same date.

Five weeks later, on 29 May, 1925, a reply came:

"Your telegram of April 22nd. It seems possible that paragraph 3 of my despatch of March 31st No. 156, may have been read as meaning that the Admiralty would supply the Colours free of charge. Intention was that they should be supplied on repayment basis and I regret this was not more clearly stated."

"Admiralty cannot at present give exact estimate of cost but anticipate cost of each set will run into three figures. In these circumstances will await further telegram from you before taking action on your telegram of April 22nd."

£70 sterling in 1925 would be worth approximately £3800 ($7700 Cdn) in today's money.

Historical value converter

Currency Converter

Later correspondence, dated 12 June, 1925, confirmed that the cost of a set of colours (excluding delivery costs) would be £70, 10 s.

On 17 June, a letter from the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs to the Governor General's Secretary stated that the purchase of Colours would have to wait:

"I have the honour to request that His Excellency may be humbly moved to inform the Colonial Secretary, by telegraph, my Ministers state that no provision has been made in the appropriation for the Royal Canadian Navy 1925-26 for the provision of a Service Colour for the Royal Canadian Navy, and it is not possible therefore to purchase the Colour at present."

"The question of purchasing Colours will be considered in 1926 when the Naval Estimates for 1926-1927 are being prepared, and a further communication on the subject will be forwarded in due course."

The Governor General, as requested, informed the Secretary of State for the Colonies of the delay.

It was in October, 1926, that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs sent a message to the Governor General asking if a decision had been reached. And it was on 4th December, 1926 that confirmation of the readiness to purchase two Service Colours for the Royal Canadian Navy was sent to Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and preparations for a formal requisition were placed into motion.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 October 2015 12:07 AM EDT

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