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The Colour Sergeant

  • The rank of colour sergeant was introduced into the British Army in 1813 as the protector of the Ensign and the Colour. Today we call those things "The Colours"

There was/is no such rank in the Australian Army except at the Royal Military College Duntroon, where it was a rank within the Corps of Staff Cadets. 

The escorts in a Colour Party are often Staff Sergeants and for ceremonial occasions, when Colours are on parade, they are referred to as the colour sergeants.

The rank did exist in Colonial Units. The most famous Australian ever to hold the rank was General Sir John Monash who was Colour Sergeant of 4th Battalion Victorian Rifles.
  • The symbols of the badge are:
    • The Crown to symbolise the Nation
    • The Union flag to symbolise the colours
    • Crossed swords to indicate the role of the Colour Sergeant, namely the protection of the Colours
    • 3 chevrons below the crossed swords to indicate that wearer had already attained the rank of Sergeant and was, therefore, a respected soldier.

2 Colour Sergeants of the Victorian Military Forces in the early 1890s.

When Colour Sergeant James Milton resigned from the Volunteers after 20 years of service his fellow soldiers presented him with a life size portrait of himself. 

Sergeant Milton is resplendent in his red uniform of the 4th Regiment, New South Wales Volunteer Infantry.

Pattern 1890-1898 unlined scarlet wool serge frock with single concealed coarse linen pocket inside left front. Frock has five gilt 'QUEENSLAND' and VR cypher buttons (made by Hobson & Sons, Lexington St, London), and is stencilled in black inside right front 'B 7810'. Frock has 12.5 cm slit at the bottom of each side seam, two waist hooks, blue stand collar and pointed cuffs both edged, and decorated in the case of the cuffs, with flat white worsted braid. Shoulder straps, which taper from 7.4cm at seam to approx 2cm at neck, are secured with smaller gilt buttons of the same pattern, edged with flat white worsted braid and have a separately applied 'KENNEDY' which has been embroidered in a white semi-circle on scarlet cloth. Each sleeve bears embroidered crossed flags insignia.
Members of 9/49th Battalion AIF marching to St John's Cathedral for a laying-up of colours ceremony. Identified left to right: CQMS Woodcroft; Captain C J Stead with the King's Colour; Lieutenant T Cox DCM carrying the regimental Colour; Sergeant Pratt; Warrant Officer Butler. Obscured in the background (left is Sergeant Dalziel VC. (From the 49th Battalion war diary AWM 52 Item 8/3/88).
Castlemaine, Vic. c. 1894. Studio portrait of Sergeant Robert Gartside (born 1862). Gartside enlisted in the 4th Victorian Rifles in 1885 and was promoted to Colour Sergeant in 1894. 

He was wounded in the South African (Boer) War as a Lieutenant at Wolve Kuil on 14 Febuary 1901 while serving with the 3rd Imperial Australian Bushmen. He retired as a Major in 1903. 

He re-enlisted in 1914, and served as Second in Command of 8th Battalion as an acting Lieutenant Colonel. 

He was killed in action at Gallipoli while leading a charge of the 7th Battalion near Tommies' Trench on 8 May 1915. He was posthumously awarded the Volunteer Decoration (VD). (Donor: G.W. Gartside).

Sometime after the 1870s and probably in the late 1880s or early 1890s the crossed swords disappeared from the Colour Sergeant's badge.

This roughly equates with the end of the practice of taking the Colours into battle. 

The last time that British Colours were last carried into battle was by the 58th Foot (later the 2nd Battalion The Northampton Regiment) whose Colours were carried at Laing's Nek in the 1st Boer War on 28 January 1881.

Colour Sergeant Victorian Military Forces c.1893

Colour Sergeant badge c.1890

The rank of Colour Sergeant has only been used in Australia (since Federation) by the Corps of Staff Cadets at Royal Military College Duntroon. See above. Image by Mike Chappell from the Osprey Publishing title The Australian Army at War 1899-1975. ISBN 0-85045-418-2.

At the same time as the crossed swords disappeared from the badge the second flag made an appearance. 

In Australia, at the Corps of Staff Cadets the flags became stylised Australian flags.

Colour Sergeant Badge of Rank of the Colour Sergeant in the Coldstream Guards, 2003. In recent times the crossed swords have been re-instated for Colour Sergeants in Rifle Regiments in the UK.

Uganda, East Africa. 1982. Group portrait of the Warrant Officer and Non-commissioned Officer Wing of the Commonwealth Military Training Team in Uganda. Left to right: standing: Sergeant (Sgt) Codner, Jamaica Defence Force; Sgt McLeod, Kings Own Scottish Borderers; Sgt Caughey, Royal Australian Regiment (RAR); Colour Sergeant (CSgt) Rudge, Grenadier Guards; Sgt Orth, RAR; CSgt Brayn, Coldstream Guards; Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Wazid, Guyana Defence Force; seated: Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Fullerton, Jamaica Defence Force; WO2 Peter Stammers, RAR; Warrant Officer Class 1 Chainsukh, Guyana Defence Force; Major Casey, RAR; WO2 Tombs, Grenadier Guards and SSgt McArthur, Guyana Defence Force. (Donor P. Stammers)
Some images and text from AWM. Some images from Australian Army Badges: Cloth insignia of the Army in Australia 1860-1993 by J K Cossum ISBN 0 949530 14 X

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