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France: Ceremonial flags of Veterans' Associations

Last modified: 2019-06-26 by ivan sache
Keywords: veterans | standard-bearer |
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Flags of Veterans' associations

Veterans' (anciens combattants) associations use ceremonial flags that have a common design.
These flags are usually a French tricolor flag with writings (usually the name of the association) and an emblem related to the association (for instance, the Cross of Lorraine for associations related to the Free French Forces).
Such associations exist at different levels (national, regional, municipal, professional...). Several of them have recently extincted after the death of their last member. In such cases, the flag is either (ceremonially) buried with the last member or offerred to a local museum, municipality, etc.

Ivan Sache, 19 September 2009

Standard-bearers in Veterans' associations

Standard-bearer's good practices

The shoulder strap shal be placed on the right shoulder, to keep the official decorations, which are placed on the left, visible. The flag staff shall be hold in the right hand, like a gun.

In official parades, the standard-bearers shall form a two-to-four row, the width of the row baing constraint by the local configuration, especially the width of the street. Precedence shall be set up according to the emblems' decorations (National orders - War Cross - Veterans' associations - Other associations) and not according to the personal merit of the standard-bearers. The standard-bearers shall always march after the band, except when the band, as a unit, is part of the ceremony.

In war memorial ceremonies, the standard-bearers shall arrive in procession, stand on the sides of the monument and salute it. They shall also salute after the Last Post and at the end of the ceremony. They shall leave in procession. The flags shall never be packed in front of a monument but at some distance of it.

In religious ceremonies, the standard-bearers shall ask the celebrant about where they shall stand. The standard-bearers shall form a guard of honour at the entrance of the sanctuary and then follow the authorities welcomed by the celebrant. The standard-bearers shall salute the altar in the beginning and end of the ceremony and, for Christian celebrations, during the Elevation. The standard-bearers shall form again a guard of honour for the exit of the sanctuary, unless a parade is immediatly scheduled.
In funerals, the standard-bearers shall proceed as described above, marching after the coffin. They shall move as close as possible to the coffin during the absolution and march behind the coffin for the exit, forming a guard of honour to the hearse and saluting the defunct. In some instance, the standard-bearers shall leave the sanctuary before the coffin and salute three times. If they are present in the cemetery, they shall form a guard of honour around the tomb and salute after the prayers.

The standard bearers shall salute only:
- the President of the Republic;
- the military colours;
- the Last Post and in ceremonies, as described above.

In funerals, the black cloth covering the coffin can be replaced by a Tricolor cloth. Originally granted to the holders of the Combatant's Card or of the Volunteer Combatant of the Resistance's Card, this privilege was extended to the holders of the titre de reconnaissance de la nation (soldiers and civilians who have participated for at least 90 days to a conflict) and to the réfractaires au STO (the civilians who refused to work in Germany during the Second World War).
[Protocole et droit du porte-drapeau, by Constantin Lianos, President of AACLE (Amicale des Anciens Combattants de la Légion étrangère de Marseille)]

An emblematic use of a Tricolor cloth on a coffin occurred on 17 March 2008 for the national funerals of Lazare Ponticelli, the last French combatant (poilu) of the First World War, deceased on 12 March 2008 at the age of 110, "echoing" the national funeral of General de Gaulle in November 1970 (photo).

Ivan Sache, 21 June 2008

Standard-bearer's honour diploma

The Standard-bearer's honour diploma was created by a Decree from the Ministre des Anciens Combattants, dated 26 July 1961. Terms of awarding were modified in 1978 and are currently prescribed by Ministerial Order dated 19 December 1986 (text).

The applicants should fulfill the following requirements:
- The eligible emblems are the national flag, the regimental flags, the flag of the Red Cross and hospital staff, as well as the flag of Civil Defence, which regroups the rescuers-first-aid-workers;
- The applicant should have completed, for at least five years, consecutive or not, as incumbent or substitute, the official assignment of Standard-bearer.

The application shall be proposed either by:
- An association of war veterans or victims;
- An association of national orders (Légion d'Honneur, Médaille Militaire, Ordre National du Mérite);
- An organization of Officers or NCOs regularly registered at the préfecture;
- The Mayor of a municipality, to honour the firemen, the rescuers-first-aid-workers and the hospital staff.

The applications shall be reviewed by the departemental service of the National Office for War Veterans and Victims.
The diploma shall be delivered on behalf of the State Secretary for the Ex-servicemen and War Victims.
The list of the honour diploma holders shall be published in the Official Bulletin of Decorations, Medals and Awards.

Ivan Sache, 15 October 2001