Royal Canadian Air Force Colours

The RCAF’s Previous Colours

The Royal Air Force (RAF) did not issue Colours until after the Second World War and, for the most part, it followed the principles laid down by the British Army even though the air force had squadrons rather than regiments and battalions.

With minor exceptions the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) adopted the same approach as the RAF.

The RCAF was the first of the “Royal Air Forces” to be granted, as a service, the privilege of carrying the King’s Colour. The King’s Colour and RCAF Colour were consecrated and presented in the name of King George VI on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, on June 5, 1950 (the King’s birthday) by the Governor-General, Viscount Alexander of Tunis.

After Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, the King’s Colour was called the “Queen’s Colour”, even though it had the King’s crown at the centre.

At that time, the RCAF chose to have its King’s Colour designed in the army tradition: the Union Flag (informally known as the Union Jack) with the Royal Cypher in the centre. It thus followed regulations set down in 1747.

The RCAF Colour was a light blue flag bearing the current badge of the RCAF – an eagle with its wings outspread – in the centre and a golden maple leaf in each corner. Given the size of the RCAF in the 1950s and its global responsibilities, three stands (pairs) of Colours were approved: two for use in Canada and one residing with 1 Canadian Air Division in Europe.

1950 King’s Colour

The 1950 King’s Colour (renamed the Queen’s Colour when Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne).

1950 RCAF Colour

The 1950 RCAF Colour, embroidered with the RCAF badge of that era.

As airmen and airwomen serve, grow old, and retire, so to do a formation’s Colours.

A new stand of Colours, whose design conformed to new Canadian Armed Forces policy, was presented to Air Command on July 31, 1982, by Governor General Edward Schreyer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Queen’s Colour carried the name “Air Command” on a maple leaf flag and the Command flag had the Air Command badge at its centre, portraying an eagle flying upwards from a crown.

1982 Queen’s Colour

The 1982 Queen’s Colour, with the name Air Command embroidered on the Queen’s cypher at the centre of the Maple Leaf Flag

1982 Command Colour

The 1982 Command Colour, embroidered with the Air Command badge at its centre.

In accordance with tradition and policy, the 1950 Colours were “retired” or laid up, but they continue to be a visible representation of the RCAF’s long history of service to Canada. One set resides in the RCAF Officer’s Mess, Gloucester Street, Ottawa; one in the atrium of 1 Canadian Air Division Headquarters, Winnipeg; and the third at the National Air Force Museum of Canada, Trenton.

With the presentation of new RCAF colours in 2017, the 1982 Colours will be formally laid up at a location to be announced.