What is the Trooping of Colours?

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04 Jul 2023 | MILESTONES

What is the Trooping of Colours?

It's an ancient tradition to show off the flags of a military's regiments.

// Story by Benita Teo / Photos by Kenneth Lin & Chai Sian Liang

The Trooping of Colours is a rarely seen ceremony carried out by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on special occasions such as important anniversaries. It was last performed eight years ago to at the SAF50 parade commemorate 50 years of national defence.

On 1 Jul this year, the Trooping of Colours was performed again at the SAF Day Parade, where the State Colour of each Service was carried and trooped across the parade square. This time, it was to welcome the new Service – the Digital and Intelligence Service that was formed last October – whose marching contingent and State Colour was seen at the parade for the first time.

But what exactly is the Trooping of Colours, and how is it performed?

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The Trooping of Colours is a military custom that dates back to 17th-century England when the Colours of a regiment were used as a visible rallying point in battle. These brightly coloured flags were trooped in front of the soldiers to ensure that they recognised their own regiment. Later, the practice was adapted by the British Army to mark the monarch's official birthday in an annual display of pomp and pageantry.

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Today, the Colours are emblems of loyalty and courage, and signify the high battle readiness of the unit.

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The SAF Military Police (MP) Command Guard-of-Honour (GOH) contingent takes on the role of Colours escort, escorting the State Colours as they move through the parade.

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The MP Command GOH contingent marching through the DIS GOH contingent during the Trooping of Colours. As part of the ceremony, the Colours escort marches through the GOH contingents, passing in between the rows of soldiers.

As they pass through, the GOH contingents stand at "present arms" position. This signifies the pride and respect of every man in the unit and formation for the Colours.

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The MP Command GOH undergoing training ahead of the SAF Day Parade. When paying compliment, the guards at the four corners of the escort face outward to signify all-round protection for the Colours being trooped.

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The Trooping of Colours is the only occasion when the Parade Regimental Sergeant Major (saluting) is given the privilege of drawing his ceremonial sword, to show the highest form of compliment being paid to the Colours before they are trooped.

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Military Police Corporal First Class Mohamad Ammar Raiyan Bin Mohamad Azmi, 21, was part of the Colours escort. The Full-time National Serviceman, who had also marched in the SAF Day Parade last year, said training was intensified to better prepare them for the Trooping of Colours.

"Last year, we started training in late May but this year we started in April. We had to work harder because this is not something we do often or are familiar with. But I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride marching with my friends and completing the parade because we are welcoming the new Service into the SAF."

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It's not just the Colours escort who had to train for the Trooping of Colours; the other GOH contingents also had to familiarise themselves with the ceremony.

"The GOH contingents must stand in the hormat or 'respect' position while the Colours are trooping past. This takes about 15 minutes. They must also make sure they look straight ahead and not allow their eyes to rove around when the Colours escort is marching between the rows," said 1st Warrant Officer George Tay, 47, chief trainer for the Republic of Singapore Navy GOH contingent.

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