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Honorary Colonels

Our Honorary Colonels


What is an Honorary Colonel ?

An Honorary Colonel is an officer on virtually all issues except operations.

They work behind the scenes and provide a much needed connection between the community and the Canadian Forces. Each unit decides who they want as an Honorary Colonel. On the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff, the Minister of National Defence approves all honorary appointments. These unpaid positions are usually for tenures of three years, but they are renewable.

While some Honorary Colonels are former Air Force members, many are not. Members Air Force Honorary Colonels program come from a diverse range of backgrounds, including many well-known public and community figures.

Honorary appointments bring with them certain responsibilities. Their duties include:
Fostering esprit de corps;
Developing, promoting and sustaining strong community support for the unit;
Establishing and maintaining liaison with unit charities and associations;
Maintaining close liaison with the unit Commanding Officer or Commandant and other honoraries in the area;
Assisting the unit in hosting parades and other unit functions;
Carrying out other duties or providing expertise in matters where they are qualified through background and knowledge when requested by higher authority;
Assisting the unit through the donation of plaques, trophies for competitions/course.
Honorary rank is “honorary and advisory,” and honorary rank does not confer authority or command function. Honoraries can provide continuity within the unit on matters of community events and activities, unit traditions etc. – of importance can be speaking to new recruits and young officers on unit history and traditions.


A complete list of our Honorary Colonels is being compiled

A  Short History of the Honorary Colonel Position

While the Canadian tradition of appointing Honoraries to units originated with the British military, it has only been in practice in Canada for a little over a century. The first Honorary Colonel appointment in Canada was in 1895 when Lieutenant-Colonel the Honourable J.M. Gibson, a provincial secretary in the Ontario Government, was appointed to the 13th Battalion of Infantry.

The Air Force began the practice of nominating Honorary Colonels some 75 years later. The first appointment was that of Air Commodore Leonard Birchall, the well-known "Saviour of Ceylon," who was appointed to the 400 City of Toronto Squadron. He continued in that capacity until December 1992.

Other Air Reserve units and squadrons soon followed with nominations and appointments of Honorary Colonels and Lieutenant-Colonels but it was several years later before the Regular Force squadrons and units followed suit. Under the direction of Lieutenant-General Dave Huddleston, then Commander of Air Command, nominations suddenly grew for Regular Force squadrons, with the majority of appointments taking place in 1992. The only exception to that pattern was Squadron Leader Frank Hanton, DFC, recognized as the top "Train Buster" of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. His appointment as Honorary Colonel of 2 Canadian Forces Flying Training School came three years earlier in May 1989.

More than 225 distinguished Canadians have served the Air Force through the Honorary Colonel programme since 1970. In fact, the program has seen the appointments of many well-known Canadian media personalities, sporting heroes and corporate executives throughout the years.

With approximately 60 current appointments at any one time, the Air Force Honorary Colonels' program provides a powerful and effective means to foster esprit de corps, promote and sustain strong community support and connect Canadians with their Air Force in all parts of the country.

A complete list of all current Canadian Forces Honorary Colonels is available from the Royal Canadian Air Force government site.