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Department for Transport (Britain)

formerly Ministry of Transport

Last modified: 2019-08-06 by rob raeside
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[Department for Transport ensign] by Martin Grieve

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Description of the flag

The Ministry of Transport became what is known today as the Department for Transport, and the modern-day version of this flag is depicted on page 59 of Graham Bartram's excellent book "British Flags & Emblems". When I asked Graham about badge the height/hoist width ratio, Graham explained that there is no longer a fixed badge size on ensigns, this was abandoned in 1999 in favour of a case-by-case design, with the size now decided aesthetically. Taking measurements from his book, I drew the flag shown above. The Tudor Crown was replaced by the Edwardian version in 1953, and although it may be perceivable that the Ministry of
Transport did not replace their existing flags, Graham explained that they most certainly should have. It could just be the case here of course that new flags would replace the existing version as and when they were requested - perhaps to replenish tattered versions? - This is only my guess though.

Graham also informed me that as there was no paperwork associated with the change of crown there is no new adoption date. So - It may have been the case perhaps that some flags prior to 1999 were manufactured with the traditional 4/9 badge height with Edwardian crown. Further evidence for my presumption would be required, by way of photograph for us to say this with any degree of certainty however.

Detail of Badge

[Dept for Transport ensign badge] by Martin Grieve

Finally, it may be worth noting that whilst I have retained the same red wheel/white anchor detail as employed on the correction to the MoT badge which was posted recently by David, the white outline has now been dropped.
Martin Grieve, 26 August 2004

The anchor on the Department for Transport (was Ministry of Transport) is white and the crown is a standard St Edward's crown (rather than the more Victorian crown shown in the 1951 flag below).
Graham Bartram, 19 June 2004

You are right about the colour of the anchor on the second Ministry of Transport (MoT) badge, but wrong about the crown. Theoretically it should have been a St Edward's crown, but the Tudor/Imperial crown, that was used in the original design, was never changed.

After World War 2 the badge was revised, possibly to reflect the Ministry's involvement in maritime transport. The first design, details not known, was rejected by King George VI. He approved a revised design in September 1950, and in February 1951 the Admiralty were asked to revise the badge in the Flag Book. A press release announced that a Blue Ensign with the new badge was hoisted for the first time, by the Minister of Transport on the troopship 'Empire Fowey' at  Southampton, on 11 July 1951.

Ironically, just three years after the wings had been removed from the badge, a governmental re-organization resulted in Civil Aviation being included in the Ministry's responsibilities. The Tudor crown was not changed, when St Edward's Crown was introduced with the accession of Queen Elizabeth, as it was supposed  that a new badge would result from the amalgamation with the Civil Aviation Department. In the event no new badge was created and Civil Aviation was separated from Transport in 1959. However the crown was still not changed, as it was thought that responsibilities for shipping might be transferred to another department, in which case the anchor would not be appropriate, and the badge would need to be altered. It seems that the flag continued in use, still with the 'wrong' crown, until 1970 when what was left of the MoT was subsumed into the Department of the Environment.

The flag was used quite widely. In 1951 the 153 Coast Guard Stations operated by the MoT were authorized to fly the MoT Blue Ensign, as it was thought to be more distinctive than the Union Jack, which had previously been used. In May 1960 a survey found that the MoT Ensign was being flown by eight troopships, seventeen tank landing ships, two ferries, two tugs, Sea Transport launches in Singapore and Hong Kong, and a Newcastle Survey launch. Ashore, it was used not only on Coast Guard Stations, but also on the MoT in London, the Sea Transport Offices in Singapore and Aden, and occasionally on some colonial lighthouses. On 14 April 1961 the Admiralty wrote (NL 813/61) that the flag should not be flown on Sea Transport depots or offices, nor on the Ministry building. They had no objection to its use by Coast Guard Stations or on colonial lighthouses for special occasions.

[National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/8588/84, MT 9/5226, MT 45/580]

David Prothero, 19 June 2004

Although, as written above, permission was obtained from the Ministry of Works in 1951 for Coastguard Stations to fly the Ministry of Transport Blue Ensign, it was not done at that time because of the expense involved. In 1960 the idea was revived, and enquiries made to see if the permission still stood. This was confirmed with the proviso that on official Flag Flying Days, the Union Jack should be flown instead of the Blue Ensign. I have not been able to find out whether this was ever actually done.

David Prothero, 23 August 2004

1951-1953 Ensign

[Ministry of Transport ensign] by Martin Grieve

The flag is a blue ensign, with a badge consisting of a red wheel, an anchor and crown.
Source: Campbell & Evans
Miles Li
, 15 June 2004

Detail of Badge

[Ministry of Transport ensign badge]by Martin Grieve

1920-1951 Ensign

[1920 Ministry of Transport ensign] by Martin Grieve

Source: Campbell and Evans (1950)

Detail of Badge

[1920 Ministry of Transport ensign badge] by Martin Grieve

Source: Campbell and Evans (1950)

The first MoT Blue Ensign badge, a winged wheel all in gold, was suggested by the College of Arms and approved by the Admiralty on 29 June 1920. It was first used on 16 July 1920 when King George V visited Holyhead, where the harbour, previously operated by the Board of Trade, had been transferred to the MoT.

Naval Law Branch issued a letter (NL1553/21) authorizing the badge to be included in the Admiralty Flag Book. However it was withheld from Errata 5, issued in 1922, because of the possibility that the MoT might merge with the Board of Trade. The merger did not take place and the badge was promulgated by Admiralty Fleet Order in May 1922, and included in Errata 6, issued in 1923. The badge was printed in the 1930 edition of the Admiralty Flag Book.

David Prothero, 19 June 2004