Colonel was a position found in Reserve regiments, corps or
branches roughly equivalent to the Colonel of the Regiment found in
Regular Force units. Some units were permitted to have an Honorary
Lieutenant Colonel as well.
As the appointment of Colonel of the Regiment evolved in the British
Army in their regular regiments, their Militia and Volunteer
regiments also had Colonels, typically drawn from important local
gentry who had not necessarily served in the regiment. These became
"Honorary Colonels" when they were absorbed into larger regimental
families in order to distinguish them from the overall "Colonel" or
"Colonel Commandant" of the family. Canada evolved a similar system
of Honorary Colonels, though emphasis on the land owning class was
not present; many Honorary Colonels were drawn from local
businessmen or other influential persons. Like the Colonel of the
Regiment, they took an active interest in their regiments, sat on
Regimental Senates, and lobbied for the military and their units.
Eventually, formal regulations for the appointments of Honorary
Colonels and Honorary Lieutenant Colonels were generated.
The first such honorary appointment seems to have been in November
1895 to the 13th Battalion (in 1900 this unit became the 13th
Regiment.) In October 1897 authorization was given for each regiment
of artillery, cavalry and infantry to have such an appointment.
An Honorary Colonel could be appointed for each unit of the Primary
Reserve that, by its establishment, was commanded by a lieutenant
colonel, but excluding those units forming part of a regiment that
has a Colonel of the Regiment.
An Honorary Lieutenant Colonel could be appointed for each unit of
the Primary Reserve that, by its establishment, was commanded by a
lieutenant colonel or a major.
Appointment as Honorary Colonel or Honorary Lieutenant Colonel was
restricted to retired officers of the CF and to "distinguished
Recommendations by units were forwarded to NDHQ/CPCSA for submission
to the Chief of the Defence Staff for concurrence and to the
Minister of National Defence for approval.
The functions of the unit honoraries were similar to those of the
Colonel-Commandant but focused at the unit level;
de corps in the unit
acting as an
advocate of the unit in the community
custodian of unit
corps/branch Colonel-Commandant on matters of significance to
Branch Advisor on matters of significance to the unit
The tenure of appointment of an Honorary Colonel or Honorary
Lieutenant Colonel was normally three years, extensions could be be
granted for a period of one, two or three years with NDHQ/CPCSA
being the approving authority.
Honorary Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels were not entitled to pay,
allowances or other financial benefits but were permitted to wear
military uniform with the correct insignia of rank.
Honorary Colonel R.B. Bennett, former
Prime Minister, visits the 1st Battalion, Calgary Highlanders, in
the UK during the Second World War.