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West Indies

Last modified: 2022-03-12 by rob raeside
Keywords: west indies |
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British colonies in the Caribbean

The groupings of the British colonies in the Caribbean at different times were as follows:

  • Tobago had its own badge from 1876 until 1889 before it was joined with Trinidad.
  • The Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands were dependencies of Jamaica. The Turks and Caicos Islands had their own badge based on the seal of the colony from 1875 until 1958 when it was replaced by the current shield; the Caymans didn't have a badge at all until 1958.
  • The Leeward Islands (1875-1956) were Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and, until 1940 when it was transferred to the Windward Islands, Dominica. Because it was a federal colony, the badge of the Leeward Islands was used on the Union Jack and on the Blue Ensign; the individual islands had no badge.
  • The Windward Islands (1886-1960) were Tobago (until 1889), Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, and after 1940, Dominica. They were separate crown colonies under a governor-in-chief, so each island had its own badge which was used on the Blue Ensign only, not on the Union Jack; the Windward Island badge was used on the Union Jack only and not on the Blue Ensign.
  • The Bahamas remained separate from all of the above groupings, but the governor was also governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from 1965 to 1973.

David Prothero, 20 November 1999

West Indies Federation in 1968

In the vol 3, page 617 of the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games Official Report, there is a photo showing the West Indies Federation flag in the Olympic stadium just left from the board. Comparing the flag shown in the image to other photos from the said report and other sources, the flags are, from left to right: Greece, Afghanistan, West Germany, East Germany (it was the first time both Germanies competed separately) and Antilles (West Indies). Curiously, Barbados, Jamaica, and Barbados which once made up the federation participated separately in 1968, with their relevant flags hoisted in the stadium. It is remarkable as well, that even the Antilles flag was hoisted, there were no athlete representation, and they did not parade.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 21 February 2022

The history of the West Indies NOC:

The NOC of Jamaica is listed from 1936, and Jamaica participates for the first time in 1948 at London.
Trinidad (sic) is recognized in 1947, and competes at London in 1948.
An NOC for Barbados is recognized in 1955, but Barbados does not compete in Melbourne 1956.

The Federation of the West Indies is created in 1958 and in the same year the NOC's of Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados decide to merge. The NOC for the WIF is also recognized in 1958, and athletes from the three islands compete in a single team at Roma in 1960.

The Federation is disbanded in 1962.

The IOC recognizes the NOCs of Trinidad & Tobago and of Jamaica in 1962.

The NOC for the West Indies continues to be recognized; at first for Barbados as well - but Barbados asks and receives separate recognition in 1963 - but they don't participate in Tokyo in 1964.

After 1963, the West Indies NOC continues to be recognized.

The West Indies are invited to the Mexico Olympics, but (despite the shorter distance) no athletes are present in 1968.

In 1975, this NOC is no longer listed, and the first part of the former federation to receive a separate NOC is Antigua & Barbuda, recognized in 1976 and present at the Montréal Olympics.

So while the West Indies NOC did still exist, it is unusual for its flag to be hoisted in the stadium when not a single athlete is present at the games.
16 other countries with an NOC are not present either. South Africa and Rhodesia are not invited and Albania, Cambodia, Congo, Dahomey,
Gabon, Haiti, Jordan, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, North Korea, Saudi Arabia,Togo and the West Indies do not attend.

The picture shows the flags of Afghanistan, Germanies (2) and indeed Antilles, Which corresponds to what is expected (noting that Algeria is spelled Argelia in Spanish). But Albania should be visible if the flags are those of all countries with an NOC.

So this is most likely indeed a mistake by the organizers. They probably did not expect the West Indies not to attend.

See also my page on the subject:
Herman De Wael, 22 February 2022

Governor General

[West Indies Governor General] image by Hemendra Bhola, 25 August 2021

Proportion: 16:21

The flag of the Governor-General of the Federation of the West Indies is similar to those of Australia, Canada, etc. However it should be noted that the proportions of the field of the flag is twenty-one to sixteen, compared with the usual two to one; also that the charges thereon occupy approximately three-quarters the depth of the hoist. (Carr 1961)
Jarig Bakker
, 1 January 2003

[West Indies Governor General] image by Hemendra Bhola, 25 August 2021   

Proportion: 1:2

West Indies Federation, 1958-62

[West Indies Federation, 1958-62] image by Hemendra Bhola, 26 August 2021

The West Indies Federation was formed out of the then British colonies in the West Indies in 1958 and it collapsed in 1962. Its flag was a blue field bearing four horizontal wavy lines with a gold disk over the middle two lines in the centre of the flag. It represented the Caribbean Sea and the sunshine of the region. The flag was originally designed by Eda Manley.
Roy Stilling
, 27 October 1995

The West Indies Federation consisted of Jamaica, the Caymans and Turks and Caicos Islands (both now crown colonies and separated from Jamaica), Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica. It did not include the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands.
David Prothero, 20 November 1999

I spotted a flag of the old West Indies Federation, blue with four white horizontal wavy lines and a gold disc in the centre, at the cricket test match between Australia and the West Indies held in Barbados over the weekend. Despite the dissolution of the West Indies Federation in the 1960s, the Caribbean nations compete together as one West Indian team. The West Indies flag is shown as 1:2 above, but the one I saw looked 2:3 or 3:5. The blue was lighter than I remember too, although I wouldn't imagine these dimensions have any official status anymore.
Dylan Crawfoot, 31 March 1999

The image above uses the colours of BR20.
 Hemendra Bhola, 26 August 2021

Variants of the flag

The official description given in the West Indies Gazette is "Flag approved has blue ground with four white horizontal wavy bars (the top pair of bars being parallel and the lower pair also parallel) and an orange sun in the centre." Not the most enlightening description. "Blue", unless qualified, usually means the same blue as in a Blue Ensign.

I have found three illustrations/descriptions. "Its flag bears four narrow white stripes undulating horizontally across a blue field; at its centre is a large orange-gold disc. This design represents the sun shining upon the waves." The illustration has a pale blue field. The upper bars are not parallel with the lower ones.
Observer's Book of Flags 1959, I.O.Evans.

There is a similar illustration in The Book of Flags 1960. Not surprising, as it is also by I.O.Evans.

"Its flag comprises an Imperial blue field, proportions two to one, having four narrow horizontal wavy white stripes and overall a large golden disc." The illustration matches the description; dark blue field; the upper stripes are not parallel with the lower stripes. Flags of the World 1961. G. Carr.

Additional information:
Flag Flying Days were (a) Commemorative and (b) Federal. Commemorative Days were the usual British Flag Flying Days, Federal Days were 3rd January, Inception of the Federation, 23rd February, Federation Day, 22nd April, Inauguration of the Federal Parliament.

Buildings with two flag-staffs were to fly the Union Jack and the Federation Flag on Commemorative Days and on Federal Days; the Union Jack at the staff on the left when facing the building. Buildings with only one staff were to fly the Union Jack on Commemorative Days and the Federation Flag on Federal Days.
West Indies Gazette Vol 1 No 9, 21 Feb 1958.
David Prothero
, 6 November 2000

I saw a desk-size copy of the flag on exhibit in Barbados, in the home of the first Prime Minister. I do recall it as a darker shade of blue and an orange disk. My guess is that whatever the establishing resolution called for, many copies were made that were at variance with it. There's no guarantee that the one I saw was "official", despite its location (it looked kind of home-made to me.)
Al Kirsch, 6 November 2000

Video clips of the British West Indies flag at 1960 Summer Olympics appear to show different colours, especially the red. It's certainly not the yellow shown on the image above, though it could conceivably be a bronze colour (ironic, under the circumstances). The blue is clearly lighter than on the NZ flag, but is still fairly dark. Going through the videoclip slowly and repeatedly, it also looks like the flag is symmetrical about both axes - i.e., that the upper two white stripes reflect the other two rather than being the same as them.
James Dignan, 3 December 2005

Wikipedia and both show the mirrored wavy lines.
André Coutanche, 3 December 2005

[West Indies Federation, 1958-62] image by Hemendra Bhola, 26 August 2021

Colours according to the West Indies Federal Archives Centre.
 Hemendra Bhola, 26 August 2021

West Indies associated states, 1967

The College of Arms seem to have been trying to create a family of flags for islands of the former West Indian Federation.
David Prothero, 4 August 1999

The relevant flags seem to be: