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A Significant Journey - Dining with the Colours 19 November 2010

Why was having The Colours at the 2010 Reunion significant..?  It was to show our veterans their journey and to help with their healing.
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.  REgimental Colour 1RNZIR from period W3 Coy deployed [NZDF]
Queens Colour 1RNZIR from period W3 Coy deployed [NZDF]  
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 Sovereign.   
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.  The 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 Commisioner to Malaysia [Torrance]
likely late 1969, Capt Jim Brown MC guard commander, VIP likely NZ High Commissioner to Malaysia [Torrance]

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 soldiers.
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.

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