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Australian Territory of New Guinea 1919-1949

Last modified: 2019-04-27 by ian macdonald
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[Australia] image by António Martins, 28 Nov 2005

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The TNG flag and TNGC customs flag belonged to the area of the former German New Guinea in the north east of the island, which became the Australian Territory of New Guinea under a League of Nations Mandate in 1919. In 1949, the two territories were combined administratively, although in some sense they were still distinct until independence.
Jonathan Dixon, 24 September 2015

These two flags were the only known ones unique to pre-war New Guinea, with the Australian Blue Ensign flown for most purposes from 1921 to 1942. However instead of the territory Administrators flying the Australian Blue Ensign as was done in the other territories (except Papua), they reportedly flew the semi official TNG flag as shown below.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

TNG flag of 1921

[Territory of New Guinea 1921-1949] image by Ben Cahoon, 1 May 2012

The possible 1921-49 Territory of New Guinea flag.
Ben Cahoon, 1 May 2012

Little is known for certain about this flag. No record has been found of any official authorisation for it, or when it first came into service. This flag was flown for the New Guinea Administrator when afloat, from the peak or main masthead and at the same time the Australian Blue Ensign was flown as the ship's ensign. It can be taken as suspended from noon on 14 February 1942 and cancelled outright from 30 October 1945. In recent years it has become used as the representative flag icon of pre-war New Guinea, despite its semi-official status and its probably only being the Administrator's personal flag. Suggestions that it was also flown as a de facto flag of the New Guinea administration, or that austere depression-era variants were produced without crowns and/or garlands, have not been confirmed to date. Australian government policy from about 1908 was for the undefaced Australian Blue Ensign to be flown as the flag of territory administrations and as the personal flag of the Administrators, thus making this 'TNG' flag a purely local arrangement.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

There is plenty of evidence that the Flag of the Territory of Papua was the badged British Blue Ensign. But a report from the post-war P&NG Administrator was misinterpreted by Dept External Territories staff, so that the above flag, which was being replaced in general use pre-war by the Cth Blue Ensign, was 'combined' with it to form a PAPUA-badged Cth Blue Ensign. I haven't found any hard evidence that this alleged badged ANF, or a matching ARE, existed.
Jeff Thomson, 24 October 2012

Firstly, as I remarked above, a 'PAPUA'-badged Commonwealth Flag was certainly approved by the Australian government in 1908, even if it was quickly forgotten or deliberately replaced. In the three NAA files, the earliest mention of flags in Papua is a Department of External Territories document dated 11 November 1949 which describes flag use before the war (during which Papua and New Guinea were jointly administered). (NAA barcode 102516, page 239)

This document describes the Flag of Papua as the "Commonwealth Blue Ensign with approved badge", and implies that this was the PAPUA+crown badge approved in 1906. It says the flag was used on administrative  buildings, by administration vessels, and on the mizzen mast accompanying the Administrator's defaced Union Jack on the main mast when the governor was aboard.

Also mentioned is the ensign required by the local customs regulations
- the "Flag of the Territory of Papua (Blue Ensign) with the addition in the fly of the letters "H.M.C." in black in bold character" (presented as a quote from the regulations), with the note that there is no indication that this flag was used before the war, and wasn't used afterwards.

The same document, when dealing with pre-1942 New Guinea, describes two flags: the flag flown by the Administrator when afloat as a 'Blue Ensign with Laurel Wreath enclosing the letters "T.N.G."'; and the customs flag as a "Commonwealth Blue Ensign with the addition in the fly of a white ball with the letters "T.N.G.C." in black in bold character". Whoever wrote the document seems careful to distinguish between badges on the British Blue Ensign and defacements to the Australian blue flag. This would add weight to the claim that Papua had a defaced Australian flag, although I note that the document is describing the situation of at least 7 years (and a war) earlier, and does not say what it was based on. Seeing as it is dated before the  P&NG administration responded to a request for comment (see below), I'd guess it was based on departmental records.

(Our sources for the territory flag, described on the overview page of PNG historical flags, include a crown in the badge, although Jilek (1989a) agrees with the DET document in not including a crown. I don't think we mention the customs flag, while Jilek does describe the badge without any mention of which flag it defaces. The document acknowledges that they do not know of any authority for the TNG flag, but the customs flag was defined in the customs regulations.)

The 1949 DET document also says that only the Commonwealth Blue Ensign had been used since the  resumption of (joint) civil administration of the territories, and I guess Jeff meant that it replaced the earlier flags post-war, rather than pre-war.

The Administration, replying to the department on 7 December (pp218-219), also uses "Commonwealth Blue Ensign" to describe the NG customs ensign, but describes the flags of both Papua and NG as simply Blue Ensigns with lettered badges without crowns, and the Papua customs ensign as an HMC-badged blue ensign, not HMC added to the territory flag. They were very keen to stress conformance with usual British practice, both in the past, and as a recommendation for the future, but detailed different flag usage (pre-war) on boats in the two territories, as well as suggesting that P&NG might deserve a bird of paradise badge rather than simply letters.

A memo from the department to the Prime Minister's Department on 20 February 1952 (p125) provides details of use at that time of the blue Commonwealth flag and the new "T.P. & N.G.C." badge defacing it for the customs ensign, and also another conflicting account of the pre-war Papua flag. It says the PAPUA+crown badge was used on a "British Blue Ensign", mentioning that approval for the badge was given in 1926. Given that that exact badge was approved for use on a normal British ensign in 1906, I guess that 1926 is a typo.
Jonathan Dixon, 26 October 2012

Indeed I believe it was a typo Jonathan, because I think I've found it in an on-line National Archives document, barcode 109104 page 46. At the bottom of a handwritten note is the date of British approval of the crown-over-PAPUA badge. However the 0 of 1906 looks much more like a 2, and it seems that someone in the Australian government had read it as such in the 1940s. All mentions in old government documents of a 1926 approval date for the PAPUA badge appear to be based upon this simple error. The true quoted date was 28 November 1906.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

Customs flag 1928-1951

File 109104 also contains a 1949 letter (p4) from Mr Halliagan (Dept External Territories) to a German (vexillologist?) Mr Karl Fachinger, informing him that the precise specifications of the NG customs flags, as they were lost during the war and no longer in use. "From information in various sources, it would appear that the Badge varies in size from a 9 inch disc on a flag of 36 inches to a 24 inch disc on a flag of 108 inches. The centre of the Badge is placed equidistant from the bottom corner of the Union Jack and the outside edge of the Ensign, as indicated on the sketch which accompanied your letter".
Jonathan Dixon, 20 November 2012

Details of the New Guinea Customs flag prescription 1928 to 1951: Reportedly such flags existed, but their use ceased permanently in February 1942; Customs Regulations No 84; 31/10/1928; Regulation 2. 'The Customs Flag shall be the flag of the Commonwealth of Australia (Blue Ensign), with the addition in the fly of a white ball with the letters "T.N.G.C." in black in bold character.'
Jeff Thomson, 29 October 2015

The badge sizes quoted above by Jonathan for the New Guinea customs flag suggest that they were placed within the Southern Cross, in the true fly centre. Sometimes badges on defaced pre-war Commonwealth ensigns were placed in the fly within a more spread-out Southern Cross, rather than in the flag's lower centre. Unlike other pre-war territory flags this one, and it's Papuan customs counterpart were not taken as cancelled with establishment of the Provisional Administration on 30 October 1945. They remained prescribed in their respective Customs Regulations (but reportedly unused) until the unified customs laws took effect in November 1951. The Australian Blue Ensign without any additions was reportedly flown instead.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019

Quarantine ensign 1924-1956

New Guinea also had a quarantine ensign prescribed in it's Quarantine Regulations which had exactly the same prescription as the Australian ones, but whereas the (Australian) Quarantine Regulations no longer prescribed a Q-ensign after 1935, New Guinea's ones still did until unified PNG Quarantine laws came into effect in 1956. This ensign is not known to have ever been used, in fact it appears to have been completely overlooked in all of the Commonwealth government enquiries into flags of the territories during the 1940s and 1950s. When the separate New Guinea quarantine laws were replaced by unified laws in 1956, these made no provision for a special quarantine ensign. Below are the two New Guinea (adopted) Quarantine Regulations that carried the Q-ensign prescription and the prescription wording which was the same for both;-

Quarantine Regulations (1922) No 18 of 1923; Section 71. Effective 05/06/1924.
Quarantine Regulations 1927 No 8; Section 74. (25/01/1927). Replaced 29 November 1956.

Quarantine Ensign for Launches.
Launches while on Quarantine Duty shall fly the Quarantine ensign. The Quarantine ensign shall be a blue ensign showing on a circular yellow disc or badge the crown over an anchor crossed by a serpent-coiled rod.
Jeff Thomson, 29 March 2019