The Queens Colour RFA

The Queen’s Colour RFA

Thomas A Adams MBE






It is generally accepted that the practise of displaying and carrying Colours (also known as Standards) originated in Ancient Greece. From mediaeval Europe the Colour or Standard acted in a dual role of both a rallying point for troops as well as to mark, on the battlefield, the location of the Commander. Within the British Army these mediaeval standards developed into the Colours of the Infantry, the Standards of ‘heavy cavalry’ and the Guidons of the ‘light cavalry’. As time passed, Regiments were awarded battle honours, which were added to their Colours. As a result they increasingly became a link to a Regiment’s past and a memorial to the fallen. So significant was this that for a regiment to lose its Colour became a significant disgrace. Equally the capture of an enemy’s Colour was seen as a major achievement. This is why whenever a Colour is paraded, it is escorted by an armed guard and paid the highest respect by all officers and other ranks, second only to those paid to our Sovereign.



Colours are consecrated and, e.g., can serve as an alter for a drumhead service. They are never destroyed. When too old to use they are replaced and then traditionally laid-up in an appropriate church or chapel. Of course today Colours are no longer carried into battle, instead they are carried in parades and reviews and at remembrance ceremonies.


Origins of The Queen’s Colour RFA


In March 2005 Graham Bartram FFI, FVAST the Chief Vexillologist and Trustee of the The Flag Institute was asked to design a national standard for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Association (RFAA). This was consecrated as the RFAA national standard as part of the centenary celebrations of the RFA. In May 2005 the First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West (now Lord West) approved this Standard. A 4:5 Blue Ensign with the badge of the RFA in the fly and a double gold scroll under the Union Flag saying RFA Centenary 1905-2005. With use of the RFA badge – this was modified with the word Service replaced by ‘Association’. The consecration of the this Standard prompted the then Commodore RFA (Commodore Bob Thornton) to explore the possibility of a Colour for the RFA. Following talks with the First Sea Lord it was agreed to discuss it with HM The Queen. She gave her approval for the idea, along with the appointment of HRH The Earl of Wessex as Commodore-in-Chief of the RFA. The Flag Institute’s Chief Vexillologist drafted ideas and arranged a visit to a major manufacturer of Colours for the UK armed forces including the Royal Navy – Hobson & Sons (London) Ltd of Thundersley, Essex. Design of The Queen’s Colour RFA Graham’s design of the Colour was to complement that of the Royal Navy. Made of silk with hand embroidery work. The field is in Midnight Blue, with the Naval-pattern Union Flag forming the upper canton. The central device consists of the Royal Cypher of Her Majesty The Queen surrounded by the Garter, all ensigned by St Edward’s Crown. In the lower fly is the anchor badge of the Admiralty representing the RFA. The field of Colour represents the RFA’s Blue Ensign, as that of the Royal Navy reflects their White Ensign. The design, repainted by the College of Arms. Unfortunately the College get the details of the Garter wrong. They put the Crown above the Garter when it should completely overlap the top of the Garter, to match the Garter on the Queen’s Colour for the Royal Navy.


The Queen’s Colour RFA

Consecration of the Queen’s Colour RFA 18 July 2008 in RNB Portsmouth, aboard RFA LARGS BAY, HRH The Earl of Wessex KG KCVO ADC presented the Colour to the RFA. This followed an inspection of units of the Royal Navy, RFA and the Royal Logistic Corps (Port and Maritime Regiment) who work closely with the RFA. Music was provided by the Band of HM Royal Marines Portsmouth. The ceremony was attended by former First Sea Lord, Lord West, senior officers and invited guests including members of the RFAA. This was the first time that a Queen’s Colour had been formally presented to a non-combatant maritime service.



The Queen’s Colour RFA being laid for it’s first ‘drumhead’ service on

RFA LARGS BAY on the 18 July 2008

[T A Adams]



Bartram, Graham. Queen’s Colour Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Flagmaster 128 (The Journal of the Flag Institute) September 2008.

RFA. Brochure Presentation of the Queen’s Colour to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA LARGS BAY 18 July 2008).