Colours and Sounds (Naval Traditions Part I)
This video showcases two of the Navy’s most storied traditions, the Colours ceremony and the practice of piping.
Pipes and Meaning
The boatswain’s pipe, a special pipe instrument, is used to signal commands during ceremonies, such as the Colours ceremony and Sunset ceremony, and to pass commands to the crew. The issuing of commands using a boatswain’s pipe is known as piping. Here is a selection of pipes used on board Navy ships, together with the commands they represent.
The still or alert is used to call the crew to attention, and is also piped as a mark of respect paid to a certain occasion or rank. With certain exceptions, the still is only accorded to persons who are specifically entitled to it.
The still is piped at the hoisting and hauling down of Colours during the Colours and Ceremonial Sunset. The still is also piped between sunrise and sunset if the ship is passing by or is being passed by another ship that is:
1. Carrying the President’s flag
2. Carrying other distinguishing flags or pennants
3. A flag ship
4. Carrying a Commanding Officer of a higher seniority
5. A foreign warship with a Commanding Officer of a higher seniority
If the seniority of a foreign warship’s Commanding Officer is not known, our RSN’s ships are to pipe first.
Piping the side originates from the tradition of hoisting officers aboard ship in a chair. This call remains in use on board the ship as a mark of respect to officers when embarking or disembarking.
The side is piped when the officer arrives and again when he leaves. If the officer arrives or departs by a brow, he is piped once only as he crosses the brow. (Prior to piping the side, the “still” may be piped to alert all hands on deck to stand to attention, until the “carry on” is piped.)
The side is to be piped for the following between Colours and Sunset:
1. The President of Singapore
2. Chief of Defence Force
3. Chief of Navy, Chief of Army and Chief of Air Force
4. Officers of flag ranks
5. Line Commanders, including Fleet Commander; Commander MSTF; Flotilla Commander; Squadron Commander; and Commanding Officer of commissioned ship
6. Officer of the Guard (when flying distinguishing flag or pennant)
The side is to be piped for all foreign Naval Officers in uniform at all hours. In addition, the side should normally be piped for an officer entitled to it — even though he may be accompanying an officer senior to him, who is not entitled to the call.