Honorary Officers

The Canadian tradition of appointing Honorary Officers to units originated with the British military but has only been in practice in Canada for a little over a century.

The first Honorary Colonel appointment in Canada was that of former Queen’s Own Rifleman Lieutenant-Colonel the Honorable J.M. Gibson, a Provincial Secretary in the Ontario Government. He was appointed as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel to the 13th Battalion of Infantry in 1895.

There are different types of Honorary appointments in the Canadian Army: Colonel-in-Chief, Colonel of the Regiment, Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel. In the Reserve Army, units usually have two Honorary positions: Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel.

Early in the 20th century in Canada Sir Robert Borden described the practice of appointing Honouraries as “of greatest advantage to the Militia to be able to enlist the interest and sympathy of gentleman of position and wealth by connecting them to Regiments.”

That sentiment remains true today. The Honorary is seen to be the guardian of Regimental traditions and history, promoting the regiment’s identity and ethos and being an advisor to the Commanding Officer on virtually all issues excluding operations.

Units select individuals, often former serving members, who they believe will best promote the interests of the unit and request the approval for the Honorary appointment through the chain of command.

Colonels in Chief

In the British and other Commonwealth armies, the Colonel-in-Chief of a regiment is its patron and is generally a member of the British Royal Family. While they do not have operational roles, they are however kept informed of all important activities of the regiment, and pay occasional visits to its operational units.

Many Canadian Regiments are honoured by having members of British Royalty as their Colonel-in Chief, and The Queen’s Own is no exception:

  • Until 1959, almost 100 years after its founding, The Queen’s Own had only one Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty Queen Mary served from 1928 until her death in 1953. A popular and highly intelligent individual, Queen Mary was known for setting the tone of the Royal Family at a remarkably high level.
  • In 1959 Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Kent , graciously consented to assume the role of the Regiment’s second Colonel-in-Chief and continues to be a valuable asset to The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Princess Alexandra’s father, Prince George, the Duke of Kent was killed in 1942, whilst on active service with the Royal Air Force. After serving as Colonel in Chief for over fifty years, she felt it was time to step down at the 150th Anniversary celebrations.
  • As of January 1, 2011, our new Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty Camilla, Queen Consort (then Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall) was already familiar with rifle green in that she was the Royal Colonel of the 4th Battalion Rifles in Great Britain. Additionally, her father, Major Bruce Middleton Hope Shand, MC and Bar was a decorated Second World War soldier who was twice awarded the Military Cross, first for his bravery in action at Dunkirk and later in North Africa

Colonels of the Regiment

Effective August 19, 1958 an amendment to Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Army stated that in the case of a regiment having a regular Army component, a Colonel of the Regiment could be appointed. As Lieutenant Colonel Johnston was in the midst of his term as Honorary Colonel, he was appointed the following month as the first Colonel of the Regiment.

Honorary Colonels

While there were Colonels of the Regiment from 1958 to 1970, there were no Honorary Colonels.

Honorary Lieutenant Colonels

1st Battalion

2nd Battalion

Single Battalion

One thought on “Honorary Officers”

  1. My grandson has recently joined the Canadian navy. We are extremely proud of him.
    We are also from Calgary.
    Our family has a very strong history with the Canadian Armed Forces.
    It is important to us to maintain this history.
    We are very happy to see such a great ambassador.
    She is a self made Canadian success story.


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