REGIMENTAL Colours have played an important role in military operations for millennia.
Often displayed as flags, the emblems have been used as rallying points on battlefields and to pinpoint the location of commanders in conflicts dating back to Ancient Egypt.
Often presented by royalty, Colours are cherished and respected by troops.
So it is that when they are retired, or ‘laid up’ – due to the addition of battle honours, a new era for a regiment, or simply through wear – they are given special treatment and placed in a location important to that regiment.
It has been so for the 62nd Regiment of Foot (The Wiltshire Regiment) for hundreds of years.
When retired, the Regiment’s colours are ‘laid up’ at Salisbury Cathedral until they have ‘completely disintegrated’, as is tradition, which can take decades.
So, it was an important occasion this month when a set of colours was removed from the cathedral after being laid up for more than 175 years.
After Evensong on Tuesday, March 7, a moving ceremony was held at which the remains of the colours were taken down after a ‘long and noble service’.
They were handed back to Regimental Association representatives during a ceremony conducted by The Venerable Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum.
Also present were the Dean of Salisbury, Canon Treasurer and The Revd Peter Atkinson, Minor Canon for Young People, Esther Lycett, Head Verger, and members of the Rifles Regimental Association.
The colours will now be cremated before being interred in the garden of the Rifles Wiltshire and Berkshire Museum, in the Cathedral Close, in May.
The colours removed were carried in Sicily and Italy between 1806 and 1814, as well as in North America from 1814 to 1815, lost for eight months in the Ganges in 1842, before eventually being laid up at Salisbury Cathedral in 1848 after the regiment’s return from India.
The colours can be seen in a painting by Henry Martens of the 62nd Regiment at the Battle of Ferozeshah in December 1845.
Now, their long journey has come to an end.