There’s more to being part of a Legion Colour Party than meets the eye.
The Colour Party is the group of Legionnaires, in full uniform, who carry the flags in a parade or ceremony, under the direction of the sergeant-at-arms.
It not only takes stamina – holding the flag pole in position while marching or standing – but there’s a whole vocabulary of commands, specific to the honour: ‘By the right, quick march,’ ‘Colour Party, deposit colours,’ ‘Carry colours.’
To provide training, and ensure that participants understand what is expected so that every ceremony runs smoothly, Bradford Branch 521 of the Royal Canadian Legion hosted a drill seminar on Saturday morning, under the direction of Bradford Sergeant-at-Arms Mike Giovanetti.
It started out as an in-house event, primarily for Bradford Legionnaires, “but when it went on Facebook, it went viral,” said Giovanetti, who is also Zone E-2 leadership development vice-president.
Participating in the session were Denis Mainville, president of the Lefroy-Belle Ewart Legion Branch 547 and Zone E-2 sergeant-at-arms; Lefroy Sergeant-at-Arms Dan Dixon; and, from Aurora Legion Branch 385, second vice-president Nancy Gradeen and Sergeant-at-Arms Brenden Hawley.
They came out in full uniform and, with the help of taped recordings of the Last Post, Piper’s Lament and Reveille, went through the procedures and the commands, both inside the Legion Hall and outside at the cenotaph.
“We’ll do the Last Post because I want everyone to know how to do that properly, how to dip the flag,” explained Giovanetti. “One thing you never do is let the flag touch the ground.”
With the participants taking turns carrying the Canadian flag, which remains upright, and the Legion flag, which dips when flags are lowered, they ran through the commands and practised the drills.
But it was more than just practice. Saturday was also Vimy Ridge Day, marking the 105th anniversary of the decisive First World War battle that not only turned the tide in that conflict but helped to define Canada as a nation.
It was the first time that all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought as a single unit – and succeeded in capturing Vimy Ridge where other allied armies had failed.
The victory came at a high cost, though: nearly 3,600 Canadian soldiers killed, and more than 7,000 wounded, in just four days of intense fighting.
In addition to the Last Post and Reveille, Giovanetti read a Vimy Ridge Day prayer honouring the fallen as the Colour Party stood at attention.
For more information about the Royal Canadian Legion, and its role in supporting and honouring Canada’s veterans, click here.