A Significant Journey - Dining
with the Colours 19 November 2010
Why was having The Colours at the 2010
was to show our veterans their journey and to help with their
From the end of WW2 until well into the 1990's every regular force
New Zealand Army infantry soldier, after first doing All Corps basic
training at Waiouru, was posted to 1st Battalion Depot Burnham to do
their infantry basic training. At the end of this training
they emerged from the camouflage and cordite as a trained
professional infantryman, awarded a red diamond to wear on the left
sleeve of his uniform and posted to the active strength of the
Battalion. As part of this training every infantry soldier was
taught the regimental history, the story of 20 Battalion and 28
Maori battalion were common, and how their ancestors feats of
courage and sacrifice were recorded as battle honours on the
Regimental Colour. In effect these early veterans were presented
as ‘Giants’ of courage and endeavour that the new soldiers should
want to emulate.
So 1st Bn Depot was the spiritual birthplace of each New Zealand
infantry soldier, a place he had to go to first prove himself before
he was accepted for active service. But 1st Bn Depot as the depot
of the 1st Battalion as such did not have Colours, these being with
the 1st Battalion in Malaysia.
Each battalion in the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment has their
own Colours. There are two, made out of silk and gold thread
which reflects a units history of loyalty and service. And it is
the nature and mana of the Colours that today they are rarely on
display, always guarded and never touched with a bare hand. It
wasn't always so with the Colours frequently carried into battle as
a rallying point and place of resolve, so it could be said that a
soldier had served before the Colours and literally fought and died
for the Colours.
The Queens Colour [shown left] is only paraded in the presence of
the Queen, an heir, or the Governor-General. It can however be
displayed at Officers Mess dining-in nights, or other mess nights or
occasions when the battalion Commander [CO] is present. The Queens
Colour has no battle honours, just the crest of the reigning monarch
and the unit identity and reflects trust by and loyalty to the
The Regimental Colour [shown right] is the soldiers Colour, it has
their ancestors battle honours displayed along with the unit
identity. The Regimental Colour can be paraded any time the CO so
directs, and it was paraded at least twice in Malaysia in the period
leading up to the W3 deployment to Vietnam, but the soldiers would
have to have been part of the Escort to the Colour to see it. They
would never have seen the Queens Colour as there was no Regal
occasion to justify its display.
The 1RNZIR Regimental Colour carried in the photo below is the
one illustrated above right - this and the Queens Colour were laid
up in April 1997 in preparation for the presentation of new 1RNZIR
Colours which are very different in appearance.
old and present
Colours of 1 RNZIR are shown at this link
although the present Regimental Colour shown has the uncorrected
'South Vietnam" dates of 1967 -1970 which was
changed at Tribute08.
likely late 1969, Capt Jim Brown
MC guard commander, VIP likely NZ High Commissioner to Malaysia
This photo has the 1RNZIR Regimental Colour on parade in Terendak in
1969, with a Guard from B Company 1RNZIR. The ensign is Lt
John Fisher, the guard commander [with sword] is Capt Jim Brown MC ,
and these officers and most of the soldiers in the Guard would
deploy to Vietnam with W3 Company.
Some years after Vietnam the battle honour ‘South Vietnam’ was added
by Royal assent to the the Regimental Colour of 1RNZIR. W3
veterans had now become ‘Giants’ for future generations of infantry
In the early-1970’s [around 1974] a case was made to create a second
regular battalion from the strength of 1 Bn Depot. The new
battalion was titled 2nd/1st Battalion RNZIR – it could not be
called 2 RNZIR as that territorial battalion already existed and a
regular battalion had precedence over a territorial unit so it
became the ‘second 1st Battalion’ RNZIR which is a neat slight of
hand. So the spiritual home of infantry soldiers now had their
own colours and although Vietnam wasn’t one of its battle honours
the Regimental Colour had the honours of all the Giants we had
emulated in Vietnam. Time to go full circle and start the journey
from the beginning. The W3 2010 Reunion provided the opportunity.
A request was made to CO 2/1 RNZIR for his unit Regimental Colour to
be present at the W3 reunion dinner on 19 November 2010. The
request was assisted because both the Colonel of the Regiment and
the Honorary Colonel of 2/1 RNZIR were W3 veterans and would be
present. It also helped that CGS in 2008 had apologised to
veterans and welcomed us back into the NZDF family. But when the CO
2/1 RNZIR announced out of the blue that the Queens Colour would
join the Regimental Colour at the Dining-in it showed that the
present infantry units actually had a real respect for Vietnam
veterans, much like W3 soldiers had for WW2 veterans. And the W3
veterans knew that despite all the talk about what a great job we
did, they had never before had the honour of dining in the presence
of ‘The Colours’ – it said more than respect, it probably said
‘welcome home’ in a really tangible sense. So there was healing,
restoration of mana, renewed pride and comradeship. And the CO
2/1RNZIR said, when proposing the toast to ‘The Regiment’, that he
saw W3 as the ‘Giants’ that encouraged him and his soldiers today.
Some of the W3 soldiers had never been paid that compliment before.
They enjoyed it.
Finally, journey over.
'I Was There' - add a comment