The armed forces custom of carrying Standards or Colours is an ancient tradition.  It can be traced to the days of early man when the family badge was fixed to a pole and held aloft as a rallying point in battle.  Medieval chivalry followed the idea and introduced armorial bearings on banners.  Today, the custom has continued and Standards are jealously guarded and preserved as an embodiment of the units that carry them.  They have become the most important symbol for the units and are treated with great respect.  Squadron Standards were instituted on 1 April 1943 to mark the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force. They have since been awarded by order of the Sovereign to operational squadrons having completed 25 years of service or earned the Sovereign’s appreciation for outstanding operations

The RHKAAF Standard – A proud beginning with a sad ending.

With the departure of the British men-of-war on anti-piracy duties in the north, on 30th May 1854, following a precedent set by Shanghai, an appeal was made by the Lieutenant-Governor  Sir William Caine, for willing citizens to assemble for the purpose of forming an auxiliary police force to protect the lives and property of Hong Kong’s inhabitants.  Ninety-nine worthy gentlemen turned up and the Hong Kong Volunteer Corps was formed.  

Following numerous incarnations, on 1st May 1949 the Hong Kong Defence Force Ordinance came into effect, under which the force contained three branches: the Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers), the Hong Kong Royal Naval Reserve, and the Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force (including the Hong Kong Women’s Auxiliary Air Force).  In 1951 King George VI granted the title ‘Royal’ to what then became the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force

In 1970 the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force was disbanded and the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Hong Kong Regiment became separate entities, each with its own ordinance.  The Hong Kong Royal Naval Reserve, and the Hong Kong Women’s Auxiliary Air Force had previously been disbanded.

The Proud Beginning

In June 1973 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second graciously awarded a Standard to the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force.
This award was made two years earlier than the usual twenty-five years of qualifying service as a result of the squadron‘having earned the Sovereign’s appreciation for especially outstanding operations’.

Designed by the College of Arms it bears the unit’s crest with the motto ‘Semper Paratus’ (Always Ready) implying, in addition to its literal meaning, a readiness to change and adapt to the changing circumstances of Hong Kong. The field of the standard is in blue with a border of chrysanthemums, gold leaves and silver stars: the leaves in gold to echo the decorative frame of the crest, and the stars in silver to identify the background with the sky.

  On 5th March 1979 His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, presented the new Standard at a ceremonial parade held at RAF Shek Kong.

The Standard was proudly received by Pilot Officer Simon Michell to whom, at the hand-over, the Prince quietly commented “For God’s sake don’t drop it!”

In his speech at the presentation the Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Ross Penlington, remarked that, whereas all RAF standards were carried on a staff crowned with a golden eagle, the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force had broken with tradition by having a golden winged dragon.  Contrary to the Western belief that this mythical monster was evil and ferocious, the Chinese regard it as being a benign creature with the task of guarding and protecting the family, ­an apposite symbolism for the RHKAAF.

During its lifetime the RHKAAF Standard has been displayed with pride at numerous functions – including Foundation Day Dinners, and Battle of Britain Day services at RAF Shek Kong.

On 31st March 1993 a final flypast  formation of Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force aircraft took place over Victoria Harbour, at which the Honorary Air Commodore, Air Cdre Ross Penlington OBE AE took the salute from the Jardine’s noonday gun at Causeway Bay.  

Following the flypast, in keeping with tradition, he then fired the gun at precisely noon, ensuring the Royal Hong Kong Air Force went out with a bang.

That same afternoon the Standard was laid up at

St. John’s Cathedral, Central, Hong Kong.

The Sad Ending

On 9th August 2017 photographs were taken of the eight
Standards / Colours resting there.

The ravages of time, coupled with the lingering affect of the corrosive fumes from the infamous Kai Tak nullah had taken their toll on the RHKAAF Standard.

It is fitting that the Standards of the, Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force and one of 28 Squadron, RAF should fly alongside each other.

It is a reminder of happier days, when the two units shared duties with each other and the skies over Hong Kong.

With the benefit of hind-sight it is clear that some form of preservative measures might have been applied before laying up such valuable items of memorabilia, to save them from the continuing ravages of the sometimes harsh conditions of Hong Kong, and in the case of the RHKAAF Standard the highly corrosive affect of the infamous Kai Tak nullah alongside the headquarters at Kai Tak International Airport, even after having been removed from it for some considerable time.

It is a sobering thought that the present state of the Defence Force Colours (awarded 1927, and seen second up on the left in the picture of Eight) is no worse than that of the RHKAAF Standard, even though it was buried in 1941, to keep it out of the hands of the Japanese occupying forces, and only resurfaced when workmen were excavating a building site in March 1956.  In March 1958 they were paraded by seventy-two veterans at the Annual Review of the Regiment then laid up at St John’s Cathedral.

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