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Civil Defence flags (Britain)

Last modified: 2020-04-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: civil defence (britain) |
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[Civil Defence flag] image by Martin Grieve

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Description of the flag

Sir Gerald W. Wollaston, Garter King of Arms, thought that the Union Jack was a royal flag and should be flown only on royal and government buildings. He proposed that there should be a land flag equivalent of the Red Ensign, and suggested that it might be quarterly blue and white with the Union in first quarter, and for civil authorities, a badge in the fourth quarter. He received no support for this idea, but adapted it when asked to design flags for the National Fire Service and Civil Defence Service.

The Civil Defence flag was quarterly blue and yellow with a Union first quarter and a Tudor crown in colour above yellow letters C D in the fourth quarter. Garter wrote that quarterly flags should be square but that, as when flying, part of the flag was concealed, it was desirable to have the length greater than the depth. He proposed 5 : 3 as a good compromise. The flag was approved by King George VI on 11 August 1943, and first used on Battle of Britain Day, 26 September 1943.

The flag was printed in one piece, which included the Union canton, but not the Civil Defence badge. The latter was stencilled on two pieces, and sewn on separately. The Scottish Office thought that there might be a problem in Scotland, since Garter had no jurisdiction there, but Lyon King of Arms raised no objection to its use. One flag was issued to each scheme-making local authority in England, Wales and Scotland. Any additional flags were to be made locally with no reimbursement.

[Civil Defence flag] by Martin Grieve

In 'The Book of Flags' by Campbell and Evans, the flag is illustrated with proportions of 2 : 1, and no badge in the fourth quarter. The text notes that the "fourth quarter may bear the Crown and the letters 'C D' in gold". It is possible that for ease of construction the locally-made flags omitted the badge, and changed the proportions; stock Union Jacks for the canton being more readily available in 2 : 1 than in 5 : 3.

The first image above is based upon a photograph, published in the Civil Defence Magazine Vol.13 No.7 July 1961, captioned "Wimbledon Unit (Sub.Area 53D (1)) C.D. Corps rehearsing the ceremony of Trooping the Colour, 8 April 1961."

[Photograph from R.C'Ailceta's Scrap Book in Flag Institute Library, details of design from National Archives (PRO) HO 144/22003 and HO 186/2636]
David Prothero, 2 April 2004

[Civil Defence flag] image located by Bill Garrison, 25 August 2014

I have just found out that Civil Defence was officially 'stood down' in 1968, which was a euphemism for disbandment. There is still a British Civil Defence, which is now a non-government volunteer organization that supports the emergency services, but doesn't get a penny from the government! In any case, this Civil Defence doesn't use the old CD Ensign.
Miles Li, 12 November 2003