A Brief History Of
The Commonwealth Green Pennant Awards.

When the new Commonwealth emerged onto the world stage in Delhi on 15 August 1947, raising the words equality, freedom and friendship to the Pinnacle of man's achievement, equality and freedom were widely celebrated, and friendship taken for granted. Reeling from the effects of a bloody war, her cities scarred and ravaged, Britain was still the much respected mother country but preoccupied. Europe too cried out for the same inspired leadership that had held the torch of freedom aloft during its darkest hours - to little avail.

Perhaps there were too many leaders; the age of deeds had given way to the age of words. But the comradeship that came off the battlefields would not lie down. It continued to flow through the Commonwealth despite the pessimism of its leaders - hence the 14 Commonwealth Expeditions (1965-1992) which became known as Comex, distinguished by a little green flag (pennant) with Prince Philip's cypher and the Asoka wheel in gold. . The story of that little green flag is told in Journey of a Lifetime. But in the words of the author, 'it is more than just a story: it is a pibroch; it is a raga; it is a song; it is an award; and it is an adventure in all these respects'.

  1. The Commonwealth Green Pennant Awards, endorsed at the 1995 CHOGM in New Zealand, are a tribute to the thousands of young men and women (and some not so young) from many Commonwealth countries who took part in Comex. They were all volunteers - recruited from the same age group as might be called upon in a shooting war - and were prepared to expose their strengths and weaknesses to public view; to its hostility as well as its generosity. In their going was laid the foundations of the Green Pennant Awards, presented for the first time during the 1997 CHOGM in Edinburgh.

  2. The idea of Comex was conceived at the same time as Ten Tors at Denbury, a camp for Junior Leaders in Devon: Ten Tors as an outlet for the spirit of adventure in an overcrowded, highly regulated island, and Comex as an extension of that spirit abroad across the barriers that divide people . Both were launched under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Both were hugely successful.

  3. To date about 100,000 young men and women have taken part in Ten Tors. Comex has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands throughout the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, South East Asia, North America and Africa.

  4. The Comex strategy was an adventurous journey by land, sea and air with appropriate entertainment the means of meeting large numbers of people.

  5. Training was supervised by the Services and Industry, and progressively by members of previous expeditions. Costs were shared by commercial sponsorships, individual participants, local authorities and central government.

  6. Comex 1 of 210 university students was launched at the invitation of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. The first contingent was formed in Edinburgh, followed by Cambridge, Cardiff, London and Oxford with other Commonwealth countries represented. Comex 1 ran into the Indo Pakistani War; Indian and Pakistani members remained on board - courtesy of both countries; the mission was completed and the expedition flew back to the United Kingdom in the specially chartered Air India Kanchenjunga without cost to the taxpayer. Thirteen expeditions followed.

  7. Comex 2 was made up of contingents from twelve universities and suffered the loss of fourteen members killed in a tragic accident on the final stage of the journey home through the old Yugoslavia. Their story is told in Crying Drums with a foreword by Prince Philip.

  8. Comex 2 was followed by the largest expedition - Comex 3 of 500 from 20 universities - and returned to the United Kingdom with the first Indian contingent on board. Entertainments attracted audiences of up to 10,000. The final entertainment took place in the Royal Albert Hall in London.

  9. Comex 4 extended the Comex 3 programme to Malaysia and Singapore crossing the Bay of Bengal in the LSLs Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad by courtesy of the Ministry of Defence. Singapore responded with its own Comex to the United Kingdom, and a series of regional expeditions organised by the People's Association.

  10. To mark the origins of Comex, Comex 5 was launched from Denbury camping on the same site used by Ten Tors 1 - and included representatives from Canada, India and Singapore. Details were reported in With a Song and Not a Sword.

  11. Comex 5 was followed by a reconnaissance across Canada and attracted over 1,000 volunteers for Comex 6. In the event, 150 were selected balancing a similar number from the United Kingdom.

  12. Comex 7 was made up of national contingents from Canada, India, Singapore and the United Kingdom - each including members from other Commonwealth countries.

  13. Comex 8 was a celebration of the Queen's Jubilee in twelve silver vehicles with 300 members from all nationalities and professions hitherto represented. It was aimed at the Blue Mountains (Nilgiris) of South India and received a warm welcome from the residents of Ooty, and the Military Staff College in Wellington. Details were reported in Together Unafraid with a foreword by the first Secretary General of the Commonwealth, the late Professor Arnold Smith of Canada.

  14. Comex 9 mounted the first Commonwealth Express to run across India from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal, from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas - by courtesy of Indian Railways. British Rail named locomotive 47555 The Commonwealth Spirit in honour of its success.

  15. Comex 10 welcomed the first national contingent from Zambia joining equal contingents from Canada, India and the United Kingdom. Co-ordinated by India, the programme included the inauguration of the Green Pennant Awards by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, hosted by Times Newspapers at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

  16. In the course of his speech, Prince Philip said: "In a world being torn apart by men of narrow ideological and nationalist horizons, men who seem to believe that they can reform the world by violence and terrorism, and by the destruction of communications; in this sad and depressing situation, the Commonwealth ideal of the brotherhood of man, of peace and cooperation, stands out like the beam from a lighthouse on a stormy night, and I hope that the spirit of Comex, represented by these little green flags (the Green Pennant), will help to keep that light shining brightly, giving hope and encouragement to all who share the Commonwealth ideal."

  17. This event encouraged Devon County Council to commission the master model (in silver by Garrard of London) for what was to become the Green Pennant Awards, and to provide the administrative base (Green Pennant Council) for further operations to India, Canada and Zambia. Devon's involvement marked the success of Ten Tors and Comex (both conceived in the County of Drake) and brought local government into the life of the Commonwealth.

  18. Comex 11 was organised by India and featured a special train named The Mountbatten from Amritsar to the Nilgirls. The Green Pennant Awards took place in Delhi modelled on the London tradition.

  19. Comex 12 was organised by Canada following part of Stanford Fleming's Expedition, 'Ocean to Ocean' - about 100 years earlier. The West Indies were represented for the first time.

  20. Comex 13/14 was a combined British/Zambian venture: a reconnaissance mounted from Britain with representatives from India, the United Kingdom and Zambia; followed six months later by a concentration of contingents from Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe and Zambia, sponsored by their governments and deployed from Lusaka to Kitwe, and through the Copperbelt to Livingstone. This remarkable initiative by Zambia was reinforced by the singing voices of endless thousands of children along the entire route. The Green Pennant Awards took place at State House, Lusaka.

  21. Comex had by now driven home the relevance of identifying the spirit of adventure with crossing the barriers that divide people and is best summed up in the words of Kenneth Kaunda, then President of Zambia: 'You have demonstrated that the brotherhood of man is not an impossible dream.'

  22. When Frederick Chiluba became President of Zambia, he promised to do whatever was considered necessary to support the ideals of Comex and the Green Pennant Awards.

  23. The original design was a small silver plated flagpole with the green pennant. It was displayed on the 75 vehicles built by Vauxhalls, the aircraft (Air India Kanchenjunga), the ships (Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad) and the trains (the Indian Railways Commonwealth Express, the British Rail Commonwealth Spirit, and the Zambian Railways Comex-Zambia Express) that took part in these Comex operations.

  24. A similar flagpole, made of silver and mounted on a wooden plinth, was the Mark I model, introduced at the inauguration of the Awards by Prince Philip at the Commonwealth Institute in London on 18 December 1980. Two years later, Devon County Council commissioned a more elegant version designed by Alex Styles of Garrard in silver. That was Mark 11.

  25. After the hugely successful Comex in Zambia, the first on African soil, the Mark 11 model was redesigned by John Hunt of Hamilton and Inches of Edinburgh in copper, incorporating the Zambian eagle - and thus the African continent - with the existing symbolism of the largest and oldest democracies in the world, to be copied by coppersmiths in Kitwe. The pennants themselves were made by embroiderers in Malerkotla, India, with gold thread imported from Peshawar, Pakistan. That was Mark III and the Zambian Government were asked to act as the custodians of the master model.

  26. The Mark III was received on behalf of his government by His Excellency, Love Mtesa, the Zambian High Commissioner, in Edinburgh on 1 1 September 1992.

  27. It was then proposed that the Green Pennant Awards should be adopted by the Commonwealth and hosted by the countries hosting CHOGM. The matter was accordingly raised by the Zambian delegation at the meeting of Senior Commonwealth Officials in Islamabad in 1994 and received without dissent.

  28. In 1995, the Zambian Government proposed that the Green Pennant Awards be included in the New Zealand CHOGM of that year, and made arrangements for the master model, and the Zambian version, to be on view.

  29. In November 1995, the Green Pennant Awards were brought to the attention of Heads of Government for endorsement as The Commonwealth Green Pennant Awards.

  30. These Awards are meant to recognise the adventurous contribution of individuals (each in his or her own sphere of influence, however great, however humble), places and organisations in crossing the barriers of colour, class, creed and anything else that diminishes the finest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.

  31. Following the first Commonwealth Green Pennant Awards in Edinburgh, in October 1997, member countries will undoubtedly come up with ideas on how these Awards might be carried forward and and administered in future. Hopefully, they will include regional expeditions modelled on the Comex experience starting with a Pan Asian Comex mounted from India followed by a Pan African venture mounted from South Africa.

  32. Something of the spirit of The Commonwealth Green Pennant Awards 'the little green flags' - the people and places that inspired the whole concept is captured in Journey of a Lifetime by Lionel Gregory, published by Northcote House Publishers Ltd, Plymbridge House, Estover Road, Plymouth PL6 7PY, Fax: 0171-202330.

  33. Twenty-five songs have also been written about the Comex experience which in time could be recorded as The Story of Comex in Song. One of these, a tune written for bagpipes, has already been arranged as a Raga for the Commonwealth by the sarod player Promod Sanker and his tabla accompanist, Kamal Kant Sharma, to mark the 50th anniversary of Indian independence and the dawn of the new Commonwealth. It is called Nannhey Harey Dhwaj which means little green flags.

Green Pennant Award Recipients
in chronological order (1965-1992)

  1. His Excellencv the Governor of Karnataka, India *
  2. His Excellency the President of Kenya *
  3. St Edward's School, Simla, India *
  4. Anne Murray, Comex 1-10, Edinburgh, UK *
  5. Robert and Cally Gregory, Comex 3, 4, 5 and 6, Derbyshire, UK *
  6. Christopher and Mary Nichols, Comex 3 and 5, Surrey, UK *
  7. Judith Parkinson, Comex 5, 6, 7 and 13, London, UK *
  8. Peter Wheatcroft, Comex 4, Yorkshire, UK *
  9. Alan Severn, Comex 5, New South Wales, Australia *
  10. Kevin and Shirley Lacy, Comex 5 and 6, Hertfordshire, UK *
  11. Graham and Jane Collins, Comex 7 and 9, Suffolk, UK *
  12. Desmond and Lina Waite, Comex 4 and 8, Buckinghamshire, UK *
  13. Colonel Peter Davis, Comex 7, Nottinghamshire, UK *
  14. The Royal Marines, Comex 8, Deal, Kent, UK *
  15. The Chase High School, Comex 10, Hereford and Worcester, UK *
  16. His Excellencv the Governor-General of Canada *
  17. His Excellency the President of Zambia *
  18. 2nd King Edward VII's Own Goorkha Rifles, Hong Kong *
  19. The Commonwealth Institute, London, UK *
  20. Mahendra Kaul, BBC Asian Service, Birmingham, UK *
  21. Kamaljit Singh Garewal, Comex 10, Punjab, India *
  22. Bunty Bidie, Comex 5 and 12, Ontario, Canada *
  23. Mary Abendroth, Comex 3, 7 and 8, Minneapolis, USA *
  24. The Bolton School, Girls' Division, Lancashire, UK *
  25. His Excellencv the Prime Minister of Singapore *
  26. British Rail, Comex 9, London, UK *
  27. Prithi Singh, Himachal, India **
  28. Pritam Singh Sandhu, Delhi, India **
  29. Ramaswamy Iyer, Delhi, India **
  30. Air India, Comex 1, Delhi, India **
  31. Kamal Kant Sharma, Comex 7, 8, 10 and 13, Delhi, India **
  32. Rowena Dlque, Tamil Nadu, India **
  33. Bansi Mehta, Maharastra, India **
  34. Colonel Vasant Deshpande, Kolhapur, Maharastra, India **
  35. Post Graduate Institute of Medicine, Chandigarh, Punjab, India **
  36. Sarjit Singh and Davinder Garewal, Himachal, India **
  37. The Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Punjab, India **
  38. Dr Pramjit Singh Grewal, Amritsar, Punjab, India **
  39. The Town of Simla, Himachal, India **
  40. The Greater Manchester Police, UK **
  41. Norman Leigh, Comex 2, 3 and 11, Lancashire, UK **
  42. Dr Charles Holme, Comex 4, Somerset, UK **
  43. Sydney Williams, Comex 5, 11, 12 and 13, Devon, UK **
  44. Ron Hall, Comex 6 and 11, London, UK **
  45. George Brew, Comex 7 and 11, Cheshire ** UK
  46. Habinder Kaur, Comex 10, Punjab, India **
  47. Chander Prakash, Tamil Nadu, India **
  48. LSL Sir Galahad, Comex 4, RNFA, UK **
  49. Fr Joshua Sterk, Karachi, Pakistan **
  50. Mohammed Saleem, Comex 7 and 8, Lahore, Pakistan **
  51. Jane Boston, Comex 7 and 13, Sussex, UK **
  52. Marjory Lyon, Comex 9 and 13, London, UK **
  53. John Mwesa, Comex 10 and 13, Lusaka, Zambia **
  54. The Heritage Singers, Comex 10 and 13, Lusaka , Zambia **
  55. Zambia Broadcasting Services, Comex 13, Lusaka, Zambia **
  56. Tom Booth, Greater Manchester, UK **
  57. David Burchfield, Devon, UK **
  58. Dr Edward Nickerson, London, UK **
  59. Promod Shanker, Comex 11 and 13, Delhi, India **
  60. Professor Arnold Smith, first Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Canada **
  61. His Excellency, the President of The Republic of South Africa (Nelson Mandela) ***
  62. The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Comex 1 - Edinburgh ***
  63. Elisabeth Rowell, Comex 6 - Northumberland ***
  64. Gillian Corson, Comex 3 and 4 - Nottingham ***
  65. Tim Sage, Comex 3 - Southsea ***
  66. Michael Wilson Comex 3 and 5 - Powys ***
  67. Michael King, Comex 4 - London ***
  68. Brenda Stevens, Comex 5 and 6 - London ***
  69. Michael Parish, Comex 5 and 6 - North Wales ***
  70. Alan Waters, Comex 9 and 13 - Essex ***

The Ministries of Youth, Culture and Sport

  1. Zambia, Comex 13/14 ***
  2. Botswana, Comex 13/14 ***
  3. Cyprus, Comex 13/14 ***
  4. Kenya, Comex 13/14 ***
  5. Malaysia, Comex 13/14 ***
  6. Nigeria, Comex 13/14 ***
  7. Tanzania, Comex 13/14 ***
  8. Zimbabwe, Comex 13/14 ***
  1. Nedjelko Ivancevic, Lawyer, Croatia ***
  2. Nikola Vrbos, Postman, Croatia ***
  3. A replica for the Office of The Lord Provost of Edinburgh,
    host to Heads of Government at the 1997 Awards ***

* The original model presented by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Copies of this model were sent to HRH and the Prime Minister of India prior to the event.

** The London model by Garrards commissioned by Devon County Council.

*** The Edinburgh model by Hamilton and Inches (incorporating the African continent) copied by coppersmiths in Kitwe, Zambia and embroiderers in Malerkotla, India.

[These Awards were, and are, intended to acknowledge participation in a Commonwealth Expedition, Comex, with notable distinction; for organising nationwide programmes; and for hosting Comex beyond the call of conventional hospitality. It is to be hoped that the tradition of having the stands manufactured in Kitwe, Zambia, and the little green flags (pennants) embroidered in Malerkotla, India, will be preserved.]

From Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore

There is room and enough to spare within the Commonwealth for all the energies and idealism of young men and women who wish to make a contribution towards better understanding between nations; between rich and poor; developed and developing; young and old. Comex expeditions have proved to be one of the most realistic and worthwhile programmes devised to foster such goodwill. It is with pleasure that I accept the Green Pennant Award which you have chosen to extend to me and my country. The Singapore High Commission in New Delhi will accept the Award on my behalf. My I take this opportunity to wish Comex 11 every success in its endeavours. It is my hope that the excellent traditions of Comex will be maintained in the years to come.

Lee Kuan Yew.

From Vasant Deshpande. Parashuram Niwas, Kolhapur.

I feel as proud as the proverbial cat with two tails in receiving the Green Pennant Award which singular honour you have awarded to a thoroughly unworthy person. My association with Comex has been since its inception (1962); and before that I was an admirer of the Ten Tors expeditions which struck me even then as a wonderful effort to keep up the Englishman's (in which genre include Scots - they were the Empire Builders) spirit of adventure and discovery. My nostalgia for the British Raj revolves around the Britishers who climbed Everest because it was there, crossed the Empty Quarter simply to find out what is fear. If Comex has fired some of our youth with the same spirit, it has served its purpose. I am sure the occasional Indian who goes to the Antarctic, or sails in a dingy, does draw inspiration from it. I think this is absolutely magnificent that the pennant reached me via Bangalore. I am sorry that I could not in person meet the gentleman who brought it, along with a case of wine with the compliments of Shaw Wallace; but I have invited General Thorat and a few other friends here for a get together on Sunday, 3rd December when we will drink to you and our other friends of Comex.

Vasant Deshpande.

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