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

Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (Australia)

Last modified: 2016-02-27 by ian macdonald
Keywords: commonwealth lighthouse service | lighthouse | australian national flag | australian red ensign |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

Blue ensign
[Commonwealth Lighthouse Service blue ensign] image by António Martins and Miles Li, 21 Nov 2007

Red ensign
[Commonwealth Lighthouse Service red ensign] image by António Martins and Miles Li, 21 Nov 2007

See also:


The flag of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service was the Australian national flag with a lighthouse badge in the middle of the southern cross.

This flag was in existence since before World War II, but is no longer in use.
Miles Li, 8 May 2005

On the Lighthouses of Australia website there are photos of two historical ensigns of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (Australia). The images at the top of this page is made to match the photos. It is not clear which flag of the two was the older ensign, but both are apparently no longer used.
Miles Li, 21 November 2007

The CLS was enacted in 1911, and I believe that there were at least four distinct types of CLS flag. The first may have been the pre-1934 Cth Blue Ensign, with its slightly different Crux (ref Znamierowski 2010 edition, 'Union Jack' chapter P 108). The oval lighthouse badge would have fitted within this earlier Crux without alterations, unlike the current (post-1934) version. This is purely speculative, though, and the other three versions are at least known to have been used.

Note that the current ANF needs three stars (Beta, Delta, Epsilon) to be spread sideways to accommodate the badge. This is the blue flag shown above. The CLS Museum have a 1:12 scale artwork of it, dated 1954, which may be significant in terms of the Flags Act 1953.

The next type is a previously-unreported ARE version, photographed aboard a brand-new MV Cape Don in 1963. This has the same oval badge trimmed-down and placed within a standard laid-out Crux, but off-centre of course and looking rather awkward. It may have been an improvised flag rather than a new-build.

The last type, and the one that has survived, is the centrally-badged ARE. One of these was "souvenired" by a crewman from MV Cape Pillar around 1972, when these flags were being taken out of use. This person's recollections can be found at It is interesting that these flags are now being donated to museums. Recent newsletters are archived at

So far I have not found any evidence of flag-related Sections in the Lighthouses Act 1911, nor any evidence of warrants being issued for their use.

With the introduction of the Shipping Registration Act 1981, defacing an ANF or ARE for use by Australian-registered shipping seriously devalues it, as it can then only be used in Australian waters. Incidentally, in a rare example of defederation, the lighthouse servicing function has since been returned to the states.
Jeff Thomson, 1 May 2012

Digitised files in the Australian National Archives show that:

1. A flag for ships of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service was authorised in 1915.
Governor-General Despatch No.322 of 14 December 1914, and Colonial Office reply of 2 March 1915.
[barcode 420414 (pages 6 &7)]

2. In 1954 the department of Shipping & Transport’s tender ‘Wallach’ in Papua/New Guinea flew the Australian Red Ensign defaced with a Departmental Badge. Papua & New Guinea Administrator to Department of Territories, Canberra [102516, page 44]

3. In the same year the department was shown to have two flags; a National Flag defaced by a lighthouse for Lightstations, and a Red Ensign defaced by a lighthouse for Steamers in the lighthouse service.
Table of flags in a Memorandum of 22 December 1954 [7853923 (pages 44-46)]

4. The Departmental Blue Ensign was flown at lightstations until about 1955 when it was replaced by the Australian National Flag following the 1953 Flags Act and the decision that the Australian National Flag should not be defaced. 28 April 1956, South Australia Minute that “Blue Ensign, not defaced, to be supplied to Althorpe.” [1054691, page 2]

5. A constructional drawing of the defaced Australian Red Ensign <au~clsre.gif> and detailed drawing of its badge are dated 2 October 1962. [1716297; 1716298]

It seems likely that the flag authorised in 1915 was an Australian Red Ensign with probably the same badge as the Australian Blue Ensign (flag at top of this page) that was later authorised (or merely taken into use) for lightstations, and that it was replaced by (second flag on this page) in 1962/3.

Details of the digitised files referring to these flags were provided by Jeff Thomson.
David Prothero, 16 October 2012

[Commonwealth Lighthouse Service red ensign]

Jos Poels has pointed out a photograph of a Lighthouse Service Red Ensign in Australian National Archives file 11449759. The caption is ‘A crewmember of the lighthouse supply vessel Cape Don repairs ensign 1963’.
David Prothero, 21 October 2012

The centres of the CLS flag's Southern Cross stars varied by the following measurements from the specified positions of the stars on a 72-inch wide Australian Blue Ensign;

Alpha Star was two inches lower,
Beta Star was four & a half inches further towards the hoist,
Gamma Star was two inches higher,
Delta Star was seven & a half inches further towards the fly outer edge,
Epsilon Star was eight & four-fifths inches further towards the fly outer edge.

Epsilon on the CLS flag sat the same distance from the fly centre line as Delta on the standard Australian Blue Ensign. Vertical heights of Beta, Delta and Epsilon were the same as the Australian Blue Ensign. On a 72-inch wide CLS flag, the oval lighthouse badge was 20 inches wide by 25.75 inches high.

The 1963 photos of an oval-badged Australian Red Ensign under repair by Mr J Dick aboard MV Cape Don appear to show a normal ARE with a reduced-size oval lighthouse badge placed within the standard Southern Cross and offset slightly towards the hoist.

The disc-badge version of the CLS Red Ensign appeared from circa 1962, and placed the new badge in the flag's lower centre. This badge was one-third the width of the flag and the colours were; yellow outer ring, medium-grey rock, white lighthouse, window and light beams, scarlet above the white lighthouse collar, and imperial blue sky. No blue version of this flag is known to have existed.

These flags were removed from service circa 1973 and replaced by the Australian National Flag as the ensign of the lighthouse tenders. The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service ceased operations in the 1990s.
Jeff Thomson, 18 October 2015