This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Virgin Islands - British


Last modified: 2020-12-05 by rob raeside
Keywords: british virgin islands | united kingdom | virgin | lamp | caribbean | virgin islands | union jack | red ensign | bvi | visar | search and rescue |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[Flag of the British Virgin Islands] image by Martin Grieve, 7 February 2004

Official Name: Virgin Islands, British (BVI)
Capital: Road Town
Location: Caribbean
Government Type: Overseas Territory of the UK with Internal Self-Governing
Flag adopted: 15 November 1960
Coat of arms adopted: 15 November 1960
ISO Code: VG

See also:


I am a British Virgin Islander and as far as I know the shield represents St. Ursula and the lamps of her 11,000 virgin followers during the holy crusades in Europe. That is why Columbus called the islands the Virgin Islands - because the many islands reminded him of St. Ursula and her followers.
Shaina Smith,
7 March 1998

The figure on the badge is St Ursula, a legendary British princess. She is holding one lamp and the other eleven lamps represent the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her. It is said, probably apocryphally, and certainly scurrilously, that the flag should not be hung vertically.
David Prothero, 23 June 1998

Looking at World Flag Databse by Graham Bartram and if I understood it right, now after the decisions made to make badegs larger and disbaning the white disk entirely, there is a thin white fimbriation to be made around the coat of arms on BVI flag. Is that so? The badge is now somewhat larger, also.
Was there ever used flag with white disk? Possibly, since this flag is so young there was none. But, maybe unofficially, before 1960?
We also have adoption date of 15 November 1960, but on United Kingdom - Colonial Flags it is said that it was adopted (red and blue) in 1956 by Government handout. Can someone elaborate?
Željko Heimer, 10 September 2000

I don't know for sure. But the large-sized coat of arms on the fly of a British ensign are a fairly new phenomenon and hence there should be two ensigns: The new one, with a large badge; and the old one, with the badge inscribed on a circle with a diameter of 4/9ths of the flag's height.
Antonio Martins, 13 September 2000

As the designer of the new versions I can confirm that the white fimbration is deliberate. There is no specified width - it is just there to strengthen the outline of darker arms on the dark blue background. It basically replaces the old white discs. In practice this would either be a small white margin left around a printed badge when it is appliqued onto the flag or, if the arms themselves are appliquéd or embroidered, it could be an extra white embroidered line around the whole arms.
Graham Bartram, 14 September 2000

"History of the Flag
The National Flag is the Union Flag being a composite design of St. George’s Cross (England), St. Andrew’s Cross (Scotland) and St. Patrick’s Cross (Ireland). The colours are red, white and blue. The National Flag of the BVI is the Blue Ensign defaced with the Badge of the Territory on its fly, however, the Governor is allowed discretion to authorize its use in the following circumstances:
i. for decorative purposes
ii. for distinguishing purposes inside or outside the Territory on occasions when the use of the Union Flag would be inappropriate or likely to cause confusion.
Authority to fly this flag is limited to the time and locality of the event for which approval is sought.  
The Badge of the British Virgin Islands comprises a green shield charged with twelve golden oil lamps with red flames and a female figure, St. Ursula, patron saint of the British Virgin Islands attired in white and wearing sandals, carrying one of those lamps.
It is said that when Columbus discovered the British Virgin Islands in 1493, he named them “Las Virgenes” in honour of St. Ursula and her companions. The eleven lamps which surround the figure of St. Ursula each represent 1,000 of the 11,000 Virgins who, according to the legend, were martyred along with St. Ursula. The figure of St. Ursula and the lamps are surrounded by a garland of two green branches.
The present flag was adopted in 1956 and the devices incorporated in the badge were those which had previously been used in the Public Seal. The badge is set against the background of the Union Jack, which is the flag of the United Kingdom.
The personal distinguishing flag of the Governor of the British Virgin Islands is the Union Jack with the Badge of the Territory on a white circular background in the center. Normally it is for use only at Government House when His Excellency is in residence in the British Virgin Islands or when staying elsewhere in the Territory and on the bonnet of the motor car in which His Excellency is traveling on official business. The Blue Ensign defaced with the Badge of the territory shall only be worn at the stern of vessels which belong to or are in the service of the Government."
Gvido Pētersons, 7 May 2003

A motto was added to the shield, which came from the Leeward Island arms of 10 April 1909, and granted as arms 15 November 1960. Between 1956 and 1960 some flags may have been produced with the shield but no motto.
David Prothero, 7 February 2004

The British Virgin Islands are a small group of islands located where the eastern Caribbean merges into the western Atlantic. Part of this group, which was originally colonized by Spain and which then eventually became a Danish possession, was sold to the US in 1917; the US Government was terrified that Denmark would be invaded by Germany (as actually did happen in 1940), thus giving that country a naval base within striking distance of the US. The other half of the Virgin Islands, which Britain acquired after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, are today the British Virgin Islands. They are unique in that they are possibly the only political entity in the world in which the currency of another country is legal tender; the US dollar is the basic currency circulating in the country.
Ron Lahav, 28 July 2005

Name of the country

The official name of the Territory is simply "Virgin Islands" and that has been its official name for centuries. Clearly, it is appropriate for "(UK)" to appear after the Territory’s name because it is indeed a British Overseas Territory. In regard to the foregoing I would draw to your attention to:
ISO 3166-1 lists the Territory in question as "Virgin Islands, British" - which is consistent with the Territory’s official name. The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007 attributes the name "Virgin Islands" to the Territory, confirming that this is indeed its lawful name. You can view a copy of the Constitution at The government of the Territory officially styles itself as the "Government of the Virgin Islands" - In this regard, you can view, for example, the website of the Premier (and Finance Minister) of the Virgin Islands at It's up to you to decide whether or not to pay any attention to this information. It is not even just official. The name "British" Virgin Islands is not as popular as you would think. See for example, the BVI Beacon or Virgin Islands News Online....where you will find the local media generally refer to the territory as the "Virgin Islands".
The name of the former "Danish West Indies" (as it was officially named until 1917 when the Americans bought it) is the "Virgin Islands of the United States". The British territory is the "Virgin Islands."
Victor Charles
, 26 November 2012

Vertical Flag

image by Željko Heimer and Phil Nelson, 22 July 2000

Graham Bartram (1996) notes that the badge is rotated so it remains upright, but no mention of rotating the canton (should it be?).
Phil Nelson, 22 July 2000

British Virgin Islands simply turns their flag 90 degrees to the right. Union flag is on the right with St Andrews Cross in the uppermost position - this follows the GB Union flag.
Joe Bollen, 24 July 2000

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For British Virgin Islands: PMS 281 blue, 032 red, 363 green, 109 yellow, 468 brown and black. The vertical version has the Union Jack top left, with the narrow red stripe on the upper left. The shield is the right way up towards the bottom of the flag in the horizontal centre.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR)

"Virgin Islands Search and Rescue (VISAR) is a voluntary organisation dedicated to saving life at sea. It is the officially recognised search and rescue service in the British Virgin Islands, where it provides 24-hour cover every day of the year in close co-operation with the Royal British Virgin Islands police, fire and ambulance services."
In the site is shown the flag of VISAR, red with emblem on it. However, one of the boats on the top banner has a white version of the flag. It might be possible that VISAR uses two versions of the flag, or maybe one is obsolete.
Valentin Poposki, 24 March 2007