Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Standards/banners/colors I.

This is coolbert:

The military parading of colors [flags] today is largely a ceremonial function. But was not always so. Precious little is known by the lay public of the military tradition or significance of carrying into battle standards/banners/colors. The practice [carrying colors into battle] that ONLY RECENTLY, WITH THE ADVENT OF MODERN WARFARE AND THE WIDESPREAD USE OF AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, HAS CEASED!!

"In military organizations, the practice of carrying colours or standards, to act both as a rallying point for troops, and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago"

Originally a staff or standard, such as the Roman aquila [eagle]. In the modern sense, “colors”, two flags, one a national flag, representing the sovereign [king], the other a unit [organizational] flag.

"The first is the National Color . . . The second is the Organizational Color"

“As armies became trained and adopted set formations, each regiment's ability to keep its formation was potentially critical to its, and therefore its army's, success. In the chaos of battle, not least due to the amount of dust and smoke on a battlefield, soldiers needed to be able to determine where their regiment was.”

Think of the phalanx of the Greeks, the cohorts of the Romans, the regimental squares of the black-powder era. Closely bunched troops, forming “squares” and other tightly packed formations as used during the particular era. Where the standard or colors went, so went the soldier. A point of reference that could be relied upon during a time of chaos."

NOT merely objects or “pieces of cloth”! Have a significance and symbolism of marked proportions! CONSECRATED ITEMS, BLESSED!!

"Colours are consecrated. Consequently they can serve as an altar for a drumhead service"

Legal proceedings [courts martial] or religious services can be held in the presence of the colors, regardless of the location. [drumhead refers to ”in the field”!] Perjury or irreligious behavior while the colors are present IS CONSIDERED TO BE AN ESPECIALLY EGREGIOUS VIOLATION, PUNISHABLE IN A SEVERE MANNER!!

See here the blessing of the colors - - the Russian Women's Legion of Death [all woman combat battalion from World War One].

As to heroics that can be involved in guarding the colors from enemy capture!

". . . in most modern armies, standing orders now call for the Colours to be intentionally destroyed [or saved if they can be] if they are ever in jeopardy of being captured by the enemy."

From John Keegan: "The Face of Battle"

"A contributor to the New Statesman, writing in October 1973, affected to believe that 'all the stories of deeds of heroism in defence of military colours can only have been so much myth-making.'"

So much myth making??


"for a regiment to lose its colours was (and still is) a major disgrace, with the capture of an enemy's colours (or equivalent) being seen as a great honour. This is why that, whenever the colours are paraded, they are always escorted by armed guards and paid the highest compliments by all soldiers and officers, second only to those paid to the sovereign."

Escorts for which the defense of the colors was intended. Escorts willing to pay the ultimate price to prevent the colors being captured and the unit dishonored!

The ultimate price equals DEATH!!




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