Colour sergeant (CSgt or C/Sgt) is a non-commissioned title in the Royal Marines and infantry regiments of the British Army, ranking above sergeant and below warrant officer class 2. It has a NATO ranking code of OR-7 and is equivalent to the rank of staff sergeant in other branches of the Army, flight sergeant or chief technician in the Royal Air Force, and chief petty officer in the Royal Navy. The insignia is the monarch's crown above three downward pointing chevrons.
The rank was introduced into British Army infantry regiments in 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars to reward long-serving sergeants; a single Colour sergeant was appointed to each company as the senior NCO. From October 1913 British infantry battalions were reorganised from eight companies to four, leaving two colour sergeants in each new company. The senior of the pair was appointed company sergeant major and the junior company quartermaster sergeant. However, the CQMS of an infantry company continued to be generally addressed as "Colour Sergeant". The Royal Marines retained the rank throughout.
Historically, colour sergeants of British line regiments protected ensigns, the most junior officers who were responsible for carrying their battalions' colours to rally troops in battles. For this reason, to reach the rank of colour sergeant was considered a prestigious attainment, granted normally to those sergeants who had displayed courage on the field of battle. This tradition continues today as colour sergeants form part of a colour party in military parades.
Colour sergeants are referred to and addressed as "Colour Sergeant" or "Colour" ("Colour Sergeant Hewitt" or "Colour Hewitt", for instance) in the Army, or as "Colour Sergeant" or "Colours" in the Royal Marines, and never by the more junior rank of "Sergeant". Unusually, NCOs with the rank of colour sergeant who hold the appointment of company quartermaster sergeant are still addressed and referred to by their rank, not their appointment. In Foot Guards regiments, colour sergeants are addressed as "Sir" and afforded the respect and privileges normally accorded to warrant officers.
During ceremonial events it is from the colour sergeant that the ensign collects the colour of the battalion or regiment.
Colour sergeant is also a rank in the foot guards regiments of the Canadian Forces, specifically the Governor General's Foot Guards and the Canadian Grenadier Guards. It is the equivalent to warrant officer; a colour sergeant wears the rank insignia of a warrant officer (a royal crown) on all uniforms except No. 1 Ceremonial Dress, on which a special rank badge is worn: three chevrons, point down, surmounted by an image of regimental colours.
Canadian colour sergeants are addressed in the same manner as their British counterparts.
Colour sergeant is an NCO rank that was used at different times in the U.S. military. The rank was last used in the U.S. Army during World War I and is still conferred on second class cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point who are assigned to a colour party (one bearer per colour plus two guards). It is also a term used in the United States Marine Corps for sergeants who carry the colours.