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British Empire and Overseas Territories

Dominions, Colonies, Protectorates, Protected and Associated States, Mandated and Trust Territories

Last modified: 2020-03-30 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | british colonies | british empire |
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When colonial flags were introduced in 1869 few colonies had arms. Most flag badges were based upon the Public Seal which every colony had to have. In 1905 the Colonial Office issued a Circular Despatch (No14 of 1905) encouraging colonies to apply for arms. However since the cost was not a Colonial Office expense, but a charge on the budget of the colony, the decision to apply was the choice of the Colonial Government. Many thought that arms were unnecessary, or not worth the cost. The heralds at the College of Arms were not paid a salary, and the only income they had as heralds were the fees they charged for designing and registering arms. I don't know what was being charged in 1905 but in 1936 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands were charged 25 pounds for their badge. This was considered very reasonable. Aden and Northern Rhodesia had each paid 50 pounds for their badges and St Lucia had also paid 50 pounds for a badge and new seal design.

Gold Coast and Gambia were granted arms in 1957 and 1964 respectively, in preparation for independence, and Sierra Leone's arms were replaced by a new design in 1960 just before independence.
David Prothero, 26 September 2000

Do any colonies still have red ensigns with their badge in a white disc?

This not actually a simple question to answer since British flag law is, generally speaking, most noticeable by its absence, and (dependent upon by whom the flag was authorized) the existence or not of a white disc very much a matter of individual choice, however, it is possible to be reasonably definitive in a very few cases.

If a defaced Red Ensign was established by Admiralty or MoD Warrant then, providing the defacement is in line with that Warrant, the illustration of this flag in Flags of All Nations (BR20) remains a recommendation (albeit a fairly strong one) only and may or may not be followed at the discretion of the user. Also, if the flag was established by Royal Warrant before 1995 then BR20 has no authority whatever and can be ignored. For defaced Red Ensigns authorized by a Royal Order in Council since the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995 however, the situation is much (at least to me) clearer.

Since 1995 Royal Orders in Council which authorize a defaced Red Ensign are accompanied by an illustration, they are subsequently placed before Parliament for ratification and thus this illustration then becomes part of Statute Law. Meaning of course, that any subsequent flags, if they wish to be legally valid, should (but often don't) match that same illustration. Guernsey and Jersey are not part of the United Kingdom and I am not entirely sure of the position with regard to their respective ensigns, as far as the others are concerned this means that, strictly speaking, the Red Ensign of Gibraltar does not carry a white disc, whilst that of the Falklands Islands does. I have just sent for a copy of 'British Virgin Islands The Merchant Shipping of 2001' but until I have that copy I cannot comment upon their flag.
Christopher Southworth, 21 July 2010

List of Former British Dominions, Colonies, Protectorates, Protected and Associated States, Mandated and Trust Territories

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