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Royal Canadian Dragoons

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[Royal Canadian Dragoons Canada]
by António Martins

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Royal Canadian Dragoons

This weekend my family and I checked out an "impromptu military base" set up in a local schoolyard not far from my house for the soldiers here aiding in flood relief (now it's more like flood cleanup). (10% of Canada's armed forces are here, I've heard.) This particular "base" had the Canadian flag and another flag flying next to it which I gather was a regimental flag of some sorts. I made some sketchy notes and recreated it at home for you, especially the military flag enthusiasts
David Kendall - 13 May 1997

This would be a Regimental Flag -- in this case The Royal Canadian Dragoons (note: not Dragons!) from Petawawa, Ontario -- suitable for running up a base flagpole, as opposed to the more important Colours or Guidon which are carried on parade. You can see the Royal Canadian Dragoons Guidon at

I don't know much about regimental flags, but the field colours confuse me since I'm pretty sure red over blue signifies artillery, and the RCD are the Canadian Army senior regular cavalry/armor regiment. It is possible that the RCD forms the basis of a Battle Group with support units like artillery attached, and this could be the group's artillery flag, but I wouldn't expect such an ad hoc unit to have a flag. Maybe one of our other military experts can further enlighten us.

The press is calling the Red River flood aid deployment of the Canadian Army the largest operation since the Korean War, but actually there were larger deployments during the 1970 Quebec crisis and the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
T.F. Mills - 13 May 1997

I asked some Canadian Army friends about the RCD flag. I was right about red and blue being Artillery colours, but these are also the colours (tincture) of the Royal Canadian Dragoons -- not to be confused with Colours (flags)!

I wasn't quite exact about the "antelope" badge. It is actually a South African sprinbok, commemorating an action in the Boer War in which a herd of springboks pranced across the battlefield saving the Royal Canadian Dragoons from being massacred by the Boers.

T.F. Mills - 14 May 1997

Mr. Mills mentioned that the Springbok gazelle gained its symbolic importance when an errant springbok on the battlefield saved a group of British soldiers from certain capture by Boers. It was my understanding that in modern day South Africa, the Springbok is a revered symbol of Afrikaaner culture. Is this so, and if so, how did the change come about?

There was no change, nor need there be. The Royal Canadian Dragoons adopted the springbok as their badge after an incident in the South African war (1900) when a herd interrupted a battle and saved them from the Boers. (From a distance the springbok badge looks very much like the white horse of Hannover which also appears on most cavalry guidons). I think this is the only significance of the Royal Canadian Dragoons springbok, but if the Canadians knew the animal had any special significance to the Boers or a Boer unit and they could say "Haha! Your mascot saved our arses!", that would merely be added incentive to use it as a badge.

Commemorative trophies which are either stolen from the enemy or which serve to insult the enemy are very common, and these often end up in badges. During the Napoleonic wars, the British captured quite a few French eagles. At least one became a regimental badge (Royal Scots Greys, now the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards). Although the British and French have been allies since the Crimea, including two world wars, to this day the British jealously guard their trophies and politely refuse to return the original eagles despite repeated requests from the French government.

To make this a bit more vex related: In 1857 the 35th Scinde Horse (now The Poona Horse) of the British Indian Army captured the standard of the Persian 1st Khushgai Regiment of Fars at the battle of Kooshab. The Persian standard had a silver hand at the lance tip allegedly dating from the 11th century (the inscription includes the Islamic date corresponding to 1066 AD). In 1859 the Indian regiment received official permission to make the silver hand their own ferrule (perhaps the only exception to British regulations). The Poona Horse carry the silver hand on their Standard to this day. The palm of the hand is inscribed in Persian, "The hand of God is above all things".
T.F. Mills - 15 May 1997

I didn't quite have the RCD springbok story straight. Here it is from the Royal Canadian Dragoons web page at

"The cap and collar badges worn by the Regiment date from the Boer War.

In July 1900, while a troop of the Regiment was on outpost duty in South Africa, all seemed quiet; but a sentry reported to his officer that a number of springboks (South African gazelles) were bounding frequently into the air as though alarmed. The officer immediately ordered a stand-to in time to drive off an attack by a large party of Boers, who had managed a stealthy approach to the outpost. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lessard, on hearing of this event, requested authority to take the bounding springbok as the Regimental Badge. In 1913 Royal approval to wear the springbok as the Regimental Cap and Collar Badges was given. The badge design is a springbok bounding on a veldt, surmounted on a scroll inscribed: Royal Canadian Dragoons."

T.F. Mills - 16 May 1997

Tom Mills sent the precise badge b/w on yellow. From it I've drawn the blue over red flag with the actual springbok. Since Tom's badge was b/w I'm not sure whether it should have colors or not.
António Martins - 29 May 1997

I may have used clipart, but the colours were faithfully reproduced from the flag, ie that the springbok is yellow and the scroll at the botton is outlined in gold, base is blue, has gold writing, and the reverse is red! (I did a double take when I saw the flag, but clearly, that red spot on the banner in my flag is SUPPOSED to be there!) The horns on the springbok are black and there is a green patch (which I assumed grass) that the beast is standing upon. I tried to make a new gif by changing the colours of the black & white emblem Tom sent, but there were too many shades of black/grey to do a straight colour change, so I gave up. Maybe someone else can change Tom's clipart/Antonio's flag to the colours I had on the flag I posted previously which ARE right - I even took a picture of the flag to check against.
David Kendall - 31 May 1997