Honourable insignia

Colours are the symbol of the spirit of a regiment and carry battle honours and badges granted to the unit to mark deeds performed by its members.

The term ‘colours’ broadly encompasses the four distinctive forms of honourable insignia currently in use by the Australian Army. They are (in order of seniority):

  • standards 
  • guidons 
  • colours 
  • banners.

Emblazoned with distinctions for long and honourable service, colours are a source of pride for soldiers and ex-soldiers alike.

Originally, the colour was the focal point of the regiment and indicated the location of the commander. Even if the commander was killed hope was always present whilst the colours remained intact. The troops would concentrate around the colours on the verge of ultimate defeat — it became the scene of its last defence. Records of epic gallantry and acts of heroic self-sacrifice have been associated with the colours whose safety engendered these acts. The purpose of the colours was to dress off the centre of the regiment and to provide a rallying point if withdrawing or disordered during an attack. 

Regiments who skirmished ahead of the main body did not carry colours, as speed and concealment were essential. These units were termed Rifle Regiments and would instead emblazon their colours on their regimental drums.

This tradition has been adopted by the Australian equivalent of those regiments, for instance Commandos and the Special Air Service Regiment who likewise do not carry colours. The Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery colours are their guns, this tradition was adopted from the British Royal Artillery.


The standard was the largest of all flags flown by armies of the Middle Ages. Unlike the guidons and colours, it was not meant to be carried into battle but was designed to 'stand' in one place. 

In medieval times nobility and high ranking knights carried a square standard while a knight of lesser standing bore a swallow-tailed guidon.

The 1st Armoured Regiment was presented a standard by His Royal Highness Prince Charles in April 1981, making it the only unit within the Army to be so honoured. 

On 13 July 2002, a new standard was presented to the Regiment by the Governor General of Australia, Dr P. Hollingworth, AC, OBE.


Guidons (pronounced gee – ons) are the counterpart of infantry colours and are carried by both the Armoured and Aviation Corps. 

The term 'guidon' is derived from the old French ‘guydhomme’, the flag carried by 'the leader of Horse'. It has always been swallow-tailed and is ranked junior to that of a standard.

In 1913, Light Horse Regiments of the Australian Army were granted approval to carry guidons similar to those of the Dragoon Regiments of the British Army. This was later amended to entitle armoured units converted from Light Horse units to carry a guidon.

Royal Regiments

Infantry colours are made of silk. Units granted the title ‘Royal’ have royal blue colours, while non-royal regiments use dark green.

Prior to 1960, the 6th Infantry Battalion, The Royal Melbourne Regiment, was the only battalion with the Royal prefix. 

In 1960, the Citizen Military Forces was reorganised, combining thirty one infantry battalions into six regiments – a total of twenty battalions. Each new regiment was granted the Royal title and authorised to carry blue regimental colours. 

University regiments continue to carry colours of dark green silk.

Parading of honourable insignia

The Regimental and Queen’s colours are carried by all Australian Infantry Regiments, including battalions of the Reserve and training establishments. These colours are carried by commissioned officers and each is escorted by two senior non-commissioned officers of the battalion. Where multiple colours are paraded together, the Colour Party also has a senior escort.

Standards and guidons of the Armoured Corps are to be carried by Squadron Sergeant Majors with an escort of two senior non-commissioned Officers. 

The Aviation Corps guidons are carried in the same fashion as that of an infantry battalion however, the subaltern is to be a qualified military pilot while the escorts may be selected from any Corps. In this case, all members of the Guidon Party are to be posted to the Regiment parading the guidon.

Laying up of colours

From the early ages, colours have been consecrated which gives them an aspect of sacredness. This cannot be ignored when consideration is given to their disposal.

After service, colours are laid up in sacred or public buildings in order to maintain an atmosphere of veneration. Their preservation is ensured with due regard to their symbolic significance and historic association. Colours are not disposed of or destroyed when their appearance has deteriorated. They are left to turn to dust as do the bodies of the fallen soldiers who served them.

In the past, the custom was for guidons or colours to be laid up in a place selected by the Commanding Officer, or by the last Commanding Officer or Unit Association where a unit is no longer on the 'Order of Battle'. 

In 2011 this was changed so that Chief of Army had final approval on the requested location. 

The following are places that colours have been laid up in the past:

  • the Australian War Memorial in Canberra 
  • a state war memorial
  • a cathedral, church or military chapel
  • a military corps, regimental or unit museum
  • a military corps school
  • Unit or Brigade Headquarters
  • a civic building.

Previously, 'laid up' colours could not be removed from their resting place and taken back into service. This practice has been modified and the colours of disbanded or amalgamated units may be returned to service should the unit be brought back onto the Order of Battle.