Military Standards and Colours

Laying up a tradition of the Anglican Church dating back centuries. It involves placing decommissioned flags and colours in churches or cathedrals and allowing them to decay until there is nothing left.

The colours should slowly disintegrate over time.

The idea is one of symbolism—that a long-honoured flag would at last find a resting place to decay quietly and gracefully. There is a sense of pride in those visiting the cathedral; standing under old, “battered” colours. This allows visitors to honour their unique histories and the men that served under them at the time.

The Military Colours in Birmingham Cathedral

1 – Coldstream Guards Colour

This is the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous active service, which originated in Coldstream, Scotland, during the English Civil War in 1650. When Oliver Cromwell gave General George Monck permission to form a new regiment the Coldstream Guards were created. The regiment has earned a total of 117 battle honours.

2 – “Old Contemptibles”

The British Expeditionary Force to France in 1914 dubbed themselves the “Old Contemptibles” as a result of the Kaiser’s alleged reference to them as a “contemptible little army”.

3 – King’s Colour, 2nd/6th Service Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment

This colour was laid up upon the disbandment of Battalion. The second battalion had been serving since 1931 and was part of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. They had to fight their way back to the beaches of Dunkirk when the German army launched their Blitzkrieg in 1940.

4 – British Legion – West Midland area

The crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick symbolise unity, chivalry and loyalty to our Sovereign, community and nation. The blue indicates loyalty and fidelity whilst the gold signifies service – ‘as gold is tried by fire’. It reminds us of all those who gave their lives for our country.

5 – Queen’s own Hussars Guidon

This was laid up in May 1986, the day that Freedom of the City of Birmingham was granted to the regiment. The home base of the regiment is in Warwick and they recruit from the Midlands area.

6 – Royal Marines Association—Birmingham Branch

7 – Ensign flown by HMS Birmingham (1913)

HMS Birmingham split the German U-boat, U-15, in two after firing and ramming on 9th August 1914. Consequently, the U-15 became the first U-boat to lose to an enemy warship. HMS Birmingham also sank two German merchant ships that year and took part in the Battle of Jutland, 1916, as a member of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, sustaining damage caused by splintering during the night of the battle.

8 – Royal Navy Association, Birmingham Central Branch

9 – Royal Navy Association, Birmingham and District (submarine) flag

Command rank flags to denote the commander-in-chief of the English fleet were used from as early as 1189.

10 – Flag of the state of Maryland, USA

The original flag was presented on May 30th, 1923, to the Bishop Hamilton Baynes in commemoration of Thomas Bray (1656/58-1730). Bray was an English clergyman and abolitionist who helped to formally establish the Church of England in Maryland. Bishop Hamilton had led a mission to Maryland in 1922 prior to the state flag’s presentation.

The difference between Military Standards and Military Colours

Flags and historic banners are encouraged to be preserved by:

  • Being kept in the hanging position, ensuring the suspending edge is strong with no weak areas or visible damage.
  • Not being hung above radiators or a direct draught.
  • Being kept as straight as possible on their poles as creases catch more dust.
  • Having conservation treatment applied if the material is particularly fragile.

Military Standards, Guidons and Colours are different, however; since they belong to the state, they cannot be disposed of without Ministry of Defence sanction.

  • Once colours are laid up, they should stay where they are until completely disintegrated.
  • The remains should then be buried with the staff and lion and crown colour pole mount in consecrated ground without any markings.
  • Royal British Legion Standards differ again from military Standards; They cannot be removed once laid up but can be conserved.

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Birmingham Cathedral, Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 2QB


0121 262 1840

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