Royal Canadian Air Force Colours

RCAF Colours Presentation commemorative booklet

Download the RCAF Colours Commemorative Booklet (PDF, 9.7 mb). HTML version below.

Download the RCAF Colours Commemorative Booklet (PDF, 9.7 mb). HTML version below.

Nathans Phillip Square, Toronto
September 1, 2017

Message from the RCAF Commander and Chief Warrant Officer

Our Colours - ceremonial, consecrated flags that are paraded only on special occasions - are our most prized and precious possessions.

On September 1, 2017, we are honoured and humbled to accept the Royal Canadian Air Force’s new Queen’s Colour and RCAF Command Colour on behalf of all our airmen and airwomen. If the RCAF was a combat unit of the 19th century, these colours would ride into battle with us, providing a rallying point to our personnel and symbolizing our valour and determination to win. As we now have the wings to fly, our Colours continue to embody the heart and soul of the Air Force and its people, past and present.

These Colours are only the third stand of Colours in our history, and reflect the new RCAF insignia that followed the restoration of our historic name in 2011. It is a time for us to be proud of our history and to look forward with eager anticipation to the successes and achievements of the coming years.

We are delighted to celebrate this historical event with the citizens of Toronto, a city rich in RCAF history and present-day connections.

And as we mark this remarkable event together, let us remember that our historic Colours carry the words of our motto, which look forward to the future: Sic Itur Ad Astra - Such is the pathway to the stars.

Lieutenant-General Michael J. Hood, Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force

Chief Warrant Officer Gérard Poitras, Chief Warrant Officer, Royal Canadian Air Force

Sequence of Events

  1. Parade Marches On
  2. Officers March On
  3. Arrival of Dignitaries
  4. Inspection
  5. Air Command Colours Trooping
  6. Vintage Aircraft Flypast
  7. Consecration Ceremony
  8. Speeches
  9. RCAF Flypast
  10. Royal Salutes
  11. General Salutes
  12. Parade Marches Off with RCAF Colours

The Colours of the RCAF: A legacy of honour

The origins of military Colours - consecrated ceremonial flags carried by military units - can be traced back more than 2,000 years to the time of the Roman Legions. Originally carried in battle, Colours served as a rallying point and marked the location of the commander. For a unit to lose its Colours was a devastating blow. The tradition of Canadian military Colours, including those of the Royal Canadian Air Force, is based on that of the British Army. Even though Colours are no longer carried into battle, they are a unit’s most prized possession and are presented by the Sovereign or a representative, usually the Governor General. They are carefully protected and displayed, and paraded only during a unit’s most important occasions.

The RCAF carries two Colours: the Queen’s Colour (a maple leaf flag with the Sovereign’s cypher in the centre) symbolizes loyalty to the Crown and the Command Colour (a blue flag with the RCAF’s badge at the centre) symbolizes the RCAF’s pride, cohesion and valour. RCAF operational flying squadrons carry only a unit Colour, which may display the squadron’s battle honours, recording the major military engagements in which it has participated.

The RCAF’s first “stand” of two Colours was presented on June 5, 1950, by the Governor General, Viscount Alexander of Tunis. The RCAF thus became the first of the “Royal Air Forces” to be granted the privilege of carrying the Sovereign’s Colour. Following the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces, a new stand of Colours was presented to Air Command on July 31, 1982, by Governor General Edward Schreyer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The new Sovereign’s Colour incorporated the maple leaf flag in place of the Union Flag, while the Command Colour included the Air Command badge at its centre. This is the stand of Colours being retired today.

With the restoration of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s historical name in 2011, a new badge was approved in March 2013. As a result, new Colours are being presented today, with the Command Colour reflecting the new RCAF badge and the Queen’s Colour reflecting the RCAF’s restored name.

Today’s ceremony honours the past, while looking forward to the future and the RCAF’s ongoing service to Canada and Canadians.

Colour parties

The airmen and airwomen who form the Colour Parties have been specially singled out for their professional excellence and devotion to duty and selected for the sacred duties of carrying, handling and protecting the Colours. They are:

Carrying the Colours of Air Command, from 402 Squadron, Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Captain Louis Martel, Air Combat Systems Officer from Gatineau, Quebec
  • Captain Emily Nissen, Aerospace Engineering Officer from Ottawa, Ontario
  • Warrant Officer Robyn Arnold, Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent from Thunder Bay, Ontario
  • Sergeant Spencer Cass, Airborne Electronic Sensor Operator from Summerside, Prince Edward Island
  • Sergeant Christopher Longman, Aviation Technician from Mississauga, Ont

Carrying the Colours of the Royal Canadian Air Force, from 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, Valcartier, Quebec

  • Captain Ryan Prashad, Pilot from Mississauga, Ontario
  • Captain Ariane Philippouci, Logistics Officer from Montreal, Quebec
  • Warrant Officer Danny Tremblay, Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent from Saguenay, Quebec
  • Sergeant André St-Pierre, Flight Engineer from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec
  • Sergeant Simon-Pierre Fréchette, Avionics Systems Technician from Québec City, Quebec

The RCAF in Toronto: A century of flying in formation

#RCAFProud in #Toronto

The history of the Royal Canadian Air Force began in Toronto 100 years ago, with the first recruitment and training of Canadian aircrew for service overseas starting here during the First World War. In addition to the Toronto-based headquarters of the Royal Flying Corps Canada, Camp Borden near Barrie, the University of Toronto, the Long Branch and Leaside airfields in Toronto, as well as other Toronto-based schools were key locations.

Wing Commander William George Barker (born in Manitoba in 1894) is Canada’s most highly decorated war hero. He was also the first President of the Toronto Maple Leafs. When he died in 1930, his funeral procession was the largest public event Toronto had ever seen, with a 2,000-man guard of honour and more than 50,000 spectators. He is interred at Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery where a monument to his memory was dedicated in 2010.

In the period between the world wars, the establishment of a permanent Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) on April 1, 1924, led to an increased demand for personnel. The government subsidized local flying clubs to train pilots, including the Toronto Flying Club, which operated from an aerodrome on Dufferin Street and Sheppard Avenue West.

The Club supported the formation of No. 10 (Army Cooperation) Squadron (Auxiliary) on October 5, 1932, which was later recognized as the “City of Toronto” Squadron. Renumbered as 110 Squadron, the “City of Toronto” Squadron distinguished itself as one of the first RCAF units to be sent overseas in February 1940. It completed its wartime service as No. 400 (Fighter) “City of Toronto” Squadron.

By 1944, the RCAF was the fourth largest Allied air force. Toronto played a key role in the RCAF’s growth by hosting a number of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan schools, headquarters, research facilities and recruiting establishments. The RCAF was also the first of the three services to recruit women during the Second World War and the first training depot for the RCAF’s Women’s Division was established at Havergal College in Toronto.

The Royal Canadian Air Force War Staff College was established on the grounds of the Strathrobyn Estate (formerly owned by Frederick Burton Robins) in 1943 and two years later was re-designated as the Royal Canadian Air Force Staff College. It became a component of the Air Force College in 1962. Today, at the same location on Yonge Boulevard, the Canadian Forces College is a world leader in defence and security education, research, and outreach, and contributes to RCAF leaders mastering air power.

Following the Second World War, RCAF Station Downsview became the premier air force location, supporting aeromedical training, research and education. Toronto was an innovation leader in Canadian aviation history, home to such aircraft companies as Avro Canada - famous for the CF-100 Canuck and its ill-fated CF-105 Arrow fighter jet - and De Havilland, creator of the D.H.100 Vampire 3, the first fighter aircraft to enter RCAF service. Downsview personnel and facilities played a role in the development of these aircraft.

Wilbur Franks, a graduate and researcher at the University of Toronto developed the G-suit (anti-gravity suit) in 1940 for the Allies. Today that innovative strength is returning with the RCAF Flight Deck in Communitech, the innovation super-hub in nearby Waterloo. Toronto’s Seneca College and the RCAF have an innovative partnership training Air Force pilots under its Bachelor of Aviation Technology program. 

Toronto was home to a number of air reserve units and headquarters in the post-war period, the best-known being 400 and 411 “County of York” Squadrons. Aircraft from these reserve units were common sights over Toronto’s skyline. When Canadian Forces Base Downsview ceased military flying operations, 400 Squadron transferred to Borden, becoming a tactical helicopter squadron, while 411 Squadron was disbanded.

On November 10, 2009, the airport on Toronto's Island was renamed Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in honour of one of the RCAF's most cherished heroes. Among other decorations, First World War flying ace Capain William Avery "Billy" Bishop was the first Canadian airman to receive the British Empire's highest decoration for valour - The Victoria Cross.

Toronto continues to be home to several Royal Canadian Air Cadet squadrons and Royal Canadian Air Force Association (an organization of Air Force veterans) wings.

From flags to flight

The RCAF’s two Colours - the flags being presented and paraded today - are a visible symbol of the Air Force’s pride, honour and devotion to Sovereign and country. The Queen’s Colour symbolizes our loyalty to the Crown. The Command Colour is the most cherished possession of a fighting force. They embody the whole spectrum of ideas, beliefs, emotions and history that, together, may be characterized as “the spirit of the RCAF”.

The RCAF is honoured to receive our new Colours as we continue to build on the legacy left by those who came before. Today’s RCAF has a key role to play in advancing Canadian innovation, whether through our contributions to space and aviation technology, or through the strength of our people who make their own dreams take flight.

As we look to the future, the RCAF - with its distinctive characteristics of agility, integration, reach and power - is well-prepared to prevail over Canada’s geographic and climatic challenges and deliver rapid air power effects over every square metre of our vast land. With our strong foundation and unfailing esprit de corps, each and every airman and airwoman of the RCAF is focused on upholding our ultimate duty as the Guarantor of Canadian sovereignty.

Fly in formation with the RCAF!

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Our Thanks

  • His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada
  • Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
  • His Worship John Tory, Mayor of Toronto
  • The Staff of Toronto City Hall
  • The People of the Greater Toronoto Area
  • Vintage Wings of Canada
  • The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

The airmen and airwomen taking part in the parade are from 16 Wing Borden, Ontario.

Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Rhéaume is the Parade Commander and Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Campbell is the Parade Chief Warrant Officer.

The parade is accompanied by The Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCAF Pipes and Drums.