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Remembered Today:

Honorary Colonels...go to war?


dutchbarge
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Helo,

In researching an OSD tunic to a RFA(T) full colonel, I've discovered over 40 "Hon. Col."s commanding Territorial RFA Regiments. Were these chaps "Colonels of the Regiment" figureheads, advisors or did they actually command the Regiment and accompany them to war?

This is all part of my quest to sort out colonels who did NOT wear red staff tabs. I apologize if the discussion is getting tiresome or if I seem a bit thick. For a Yank, understanding British colonels is as hard as getting the hang of cricket. Substantive colonels, brevet colonels, full colonels, Colonel of the REgiment and Hon. Col. are a lot to keep track of.

CHeers, Bill

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Bill

You might like to Google "Honorary Colonels British Army" and get a selection of articles on the subject. There is one from the Canadian Forces which might particularly help. My impression is that the Hon Col. doesn't go to war as an Hon Col. !

Sotonmate

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We've had some associated discussion on this before (we could really do with an index). In one case I think an hon Colonel went to war as the Lt Col of one of his regiment's service battalions

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I reckon Princess Anne would.

Different kind of Hon Col - in any case only if it were a cavalry regiment!

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I reckon Princess Anne would.

I think she has - when that bloke tried to kidnap her in the Mall a few years back. ;)

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Just a brief note. August 1914 the Denbighshire Hussars 'adjusted' their officer roll. The Honorary Chaplain - became an Honorary Colonel; but didn't become an active member; he was, after all, The Archbishop of StAsaph. The retiring CO was also given an Hon Col title, but remained at Wrexham growing roses throughout the war. ^_^

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What, if anything, did colonels command? Companies were commanded by captains or lieutenants (first lieutenants in a pinch), Battalions by Lt. cols (sometimes majors), Brigades by brigadier generals and divisions by Lt. or major generals and so on. Nothing for the colonels to command?

I've seen plenty of colonels listed by regiment on army lists. Bunches in the RA, RE. Were they involved in their regiments or just carried on the regiments list for promotion/pay while they were on staff duty?

Regarding staff duty, I assume every unit had a staff of some sort, but when one hears 'staff' one assumes general, AG or QM. Did corps, army , division, brigade have staff positions into which a colonel might fit?

My own experience with colonels was that they were best avoided. Always looking for someone to do something unpleasant for a general officer.

Cheers, BIll

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Wasn't the Kaiser the Honorary Colonel of a couple of British regiments? I seem remember one battalion (RB's ?) being referred to as "The Kaiser's Own".

And King George and the Tsar found themselves in similar situations with German regiments IIRC.

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"Honorary Colonels were very like Colonels in the USA. I mean like Colonel House or Colonel Parker or the one who invented cardboard chicken in a greasy bucket."

Not really. Before the war it became the practice to bestow an honorary rank on officers retiring after long and honorable service. It was usually one or two above that with which they retired - thus some majors became honorary colonels.This caused some confusion when they rejoined on the outbreak of war and as I said before I believe at least one became the lt col in command of one of the service battalions of his regiment.

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Alexander of Tunis commanded a unit in the Baltic after the Great War composed of I think Latvians very successfully. In the Second World War the unit fought with the Germans in Italy, and where captured. He visited them in the POW camp, and they guards were very upset he went in unguarded. His reply was along the lines "nonsense my boys, I'm the Colonel in Chief"!

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Honorary Colonels were very like Colonels in the USA. I mean like Colonel House or Colonel Parker or the one who invented cardboard chicken in a greasy bucket.

I've got several 'honorary colonel' certificates in a box in the garage. They are indeed given out like party favors in the US. But there are honorary colonels and Honorary Colonels. I don't think my certificate from the Thunderbirds (for finding them hotel rooms over a particularly crowded weekend) would qualify me to be the Hon. Colonel of say the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade, or, apologies to the Queen, the Guards.

I note that Lord Mayors and the nobility figure prominently amongst the ranks on Hon. Cols. Surely their role as an Hon. Col. must have been greater than one who say finds motel rooms?

Cheers, Bill

PS: They now have roasted (non greasy) chicken for health fetishists.

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I was working at Barts and they have a very nice wall with names of 'Officers died in the Great War.' Intrigued I looked and found that most of them were 60 somethings who died at home. Except the Indian one. He died in December 1914 in France and Flanders!

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"Honorary Colonels were very like Colonels in the USA. I mean like Colonel House or Colonel Parker or the one who invented cardboard chicken in a greasy bucket."

Not really. Before the war it became the practice to bestow an honorary rank on officers retiring after long and honorable service. It was usually one or two above that with which they retired - thus some majors became honorary colonels.This caused some confusion when they rejoined on the outbreak of war and as I said before I believe at least one became the lt col in command of one of the service battalions of his regiment.

Who was it complained the other week of a failure to recognise irony?

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Colonel F, Russel, Parkinson, a former C.O. of the 1st Welch took over command of the 11th (S) Welch, soon after it was raised in Aug 1914, and I believe he reverted to L/Col whilst in command, he had been specially selected by Lord Kitchener.

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What about the Honorary Colonels who were German ?

We have an article here about female honorary colonels in 1913.

http://www.pickelhauben.net/articles/Women...tal%20Chef.html

8th%20Grenadiers.jpg

My wife and I both retired as Colonels in the American Forces. Both of us were appointed Kentucky Colonels, by the Governor of Kentucky but the really fun one is that my wife was appointed an Admiral in the Texan Navy by the governor of Texas upon her retirement from the Air Force!

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I think that many of the foreign and/or women colonels were honorary Colonels in Chief which is very definitely a purely ceremonial position

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Wasn't the Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm an Honorary Colonel of the 11th Hussars (PWO) before the War, and then commanded an Army against the British ?

Sotonmate

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I fear that there is some confusion creeping in to this thread. During WW1 serving British full Colonels ('bird colonels' in US parlance) did not command anything, apart from a few coastal defence sectors in UK, and held senior staff positions. Indeed, any serving officer above Lt Col was considered to be on the staff and hence the red tabs. Hon Colonels were either figurheads for a regiment or unit or in a few cases were officers who had held that rank in a temporary capacity during their active service and on retirement were granted that rank without the pension pertaining to it. In the former case they received no army pay and were chiefly involved in regimental policy.

I hope this clarifies matters a little.

Charles M

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As said earlier it was the practice before the war to bestow an honorary rank on retiring officers with long and/or significant service. These officers would often retain a relationship with their regiment ( and remained members of the mess etc.) Usually the rank so bestowed was one of two above that with which they retired so a regiment could have several honorary colonels. This was quite different from the habit of bestowing an honorary colonelship on some dignitary (male or female) where what was done was to make them honorary colonels in chief. When war broke out many men retired with an honorary rank rallied to the colours where their experience could often be utilised.

Colonels (non honorary) were often men who had considerable expertise in some specialism and who were not expected to rise to General rank. They were frequently to be found in command of specialist units such as places where weapons or fighting techniques were developed.

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Colonel was a rank and some were appointed Acting or Temporary Brigadier General because there was no such rank as Brigadier General (and never has been in the British army). Serving colonels were general staff nad hence wore general staff insignia although their badge of rank was field officer grade not general officer.

However, then there were and are the appointments of Regimental Colonel, Honory Colonel, Colonel Commandant and Colonel in Chief.

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