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Canada - history of the flag (1921-1957) (Canada)

Last modified: 2012-08-09 by rob raeside
Keywords: canada | red ensign: canada | history: red ensign: canada |
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Canadian Red Ensign, 1922-1957 (official)
[Red Ensign of Canada 1922-1957] image by Martin Grieve

Canadian Blue Ensign, 1922-1957 (official)
[Blue Ensign of Canada 1922-1957] image by Martin Grieve


See also:


The Red Ensign

Chronology of the Canadian Blue and Red Ensigns

original text by Dean Tiegs - 21 December 1997, additions inserted at appropriate places.

Some information from "The Flags of Canada - chapter IV - the Canadian Ensigns" by Alistair B. Fraser.


21 November 1921

A royal proclamation grants royal arms to Canada in their present form. Officially, the shield on the ensigns remained the 1868 shield for a few months, but I suspect flag makers started to make the switch right away.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

Coat of Arms, 1922
[Canada - coat of Arms 1924]


26 April 1922

A Canadian order in council officially replaces 1868 shield on the Blue and Red Ensigns with the 1921 shield.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997


I know that the date 1924 is always bandied about as the date of this flag's formal adoption, (including by the authors of the excellent "Symbols of Canada" kit put out by the Canadian Government's Secretary of State's Office), but I think this is incorrect. While it is true that on 26 January 1924, by Order in Council, the employment of the Canadian Red Ensign was formally extended to be used by Canadian government buildings, outside of Canada, (ie., at our missions in Washington, London, etc.), my notes indicate that it was through an Order in Council of 26 April 1922, (ie., 2 years earlier), that the government formally adopted the shield of the new (1921) coat of arms to be used as the badge in the fly of Canadian Red and Blue Ensigns.

If this correct, (and I will have to do further digging in my files in order to confirm it), the dates indicated for this version of the Canadian Red Ensign, (and Blue Ensign, for that matter) should be 1922-57, (vice 1924); of course, from 1957 to 1965, the Red Ensign with red maples leaves and the changed Irish Harp should be indicated. (Incidentally, at the same time -- i.e.., 1957 -- although it was never formally sanctioned, the rendition of the Scottish arms in the shield was -- at least in practice -- also changed from a "double tressure flory-counter-flory gules" to a single one.
Glen Robert-Grant Hodgins, 18 May 1998


26 January 1924

A Canadian order in council allows the Canadian Red Ensign to be displayed abroad on Canadian government buildings--the first official use of the Red Ensign on land.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

It was authorised for the High Commission in London in 1924, but not until 1927 for the Embassy in Washington.
[Both the above from National Archives DO 35/217/2]
David Prothero, 29 November 2009


10 November 1943

The Royal Canadian Air Force orders that "The Canadian Red Ensign with a shield of the Coat-of-Arms of Canada in the fly is to be flown in addition to the RCAF Ensign, at all units of the RCAF. serving with forces of other nations."
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997


A query - what was the "RCAF Ensign" you refer to? Was it the same as the British RAF Ensign or was it a local variation? I thought that the RCAF didn't start using a modified roundel with a red maple leaf until after the war.

It was similar to the RAF Ensign, but with the Canadian roundel instead of the U.K. one, i.e., a red maple leaf replaced the red dot. I don't know exactly when it was adopted, but it was in use for at least part of the Second World War. I was watching a documentary on TV last night, and there was some footage of an RCAF ace giving a speech. Several RCAF Ensigns could be seen around the auditorium. I think the footage was from 1943.

I'm also not sure when the RCAF Ensign went out of use. Was the present Air Command Flag used by the RCAF between the time the new National Flag was proclaimed (1965) and the time when the RCAF was unified into the Canadian Armed Forces (1968)? The Air Command Flag is like the RCAF Ensign, but with the Maple Leaf flag replacing the Union Jack.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997


22 January 1944

The Canadian Army orders that "The Canadian Red Ensign with the Shield of the Coat of Arms of Canada in the fly is to be flown at all units of the Canadian Army serving with forces of other nations."
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997

05 September 1945

A Canadian order in council allows the Canadian Red Ensign to be used on federal buildings inside and outside Canada until a national flag for Canada is designed. The Canadian Red Ensign returns to the Parliament buildings.
Dean Tiegs, 21 December 1997


history continues