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Bahamas - Ensigns

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: bahamas | civil ensign | naval ensign | the bahamas |
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According to Smith (1975) [smi75], the Bahamas has three "cross" flags, each with the national flag in the canton:

  • Red field, white cross - civil ensign ("merchant flag")
  • White Field, red cross - naval ensign and war flag
  • White Field, blue cross - state ensign (like the UK's "blue ensigns")

Nick Artimovich, 29 April 1996

Concerning all three ensigns in Album 2000 [pay00] - Difference regarding the images below is in width of the cross. However, I believe that Album might here more exact, but it seems that other sources I have consulted in brief does not give definitive answer. In some [smi80, smi75, zna99)]the width of cross is apparently equal to the width of the three stripes of the flag in canton (so it 1/7 of height), while Shipmate Chart and Album 2000 (and 1990 corr. 26) have the cross thinner (say 1/8 of height). WFD, have surprisingly something else - the cross horizontal bar seem even wider the 1/7 (but it is not easy to judge that), but also the vertical bar is notably much wider.
Another question that is connected to the one above is the shape of the triangle in canton flag - is it stretched as the national flag is (to fill up the canton), or are only the stripes stretched and the triangles is still equilateral? I suspect that the last might be true, but...
In case I am right in this last one, the images in Album are wrong
Željko Heimer, 7 February 2001

I agree. It is a mistake.
Armand du Payrat, 16 February 2001

About 4 or 5 months ago, a Bahamian yacht weighed anchor here in Penang. She was displaying a nice 3x6 foot Bahamas red ensign. I was able to measure it out.
The arms of its cross were exactly 4.5 inches wide. It also had a label on it that said "Crafted in the Bahamas". There was no brand name though. The heading was roped with Inglefield clips on both ends. The ensign was sewn and not printed except for the Bahamian flag upper fly canton. It was printed.
What was interesting to me was that the canton was printed almost exactly 15.75 inches by 33.75 inches meaning it had to have been intentionally printed up to be a canton and not a regular Bahamian flag.
That made me begin to wonder if the same manufacturer might be making Defence force ensigns as well with the 1/8 cross.
Additionally, a friend of mine had extended  business in the Bahamas earlier this year. I asked him to photograph as many flags and ensigns as he could see when he was messing around on his free time. All I ended up with was national flags, red ensigns and several Defence Force ensign pictures. The red ensigns were all over the place as far as over all proportions were concerned, but several 1:2 types did show up and several of them had skinnier crosses. With that said, a bunch of them had wider crosses as well.
At the same time, the Defence force ensign pictures were pretty consistent and depicted red crosses that I believe would measure out more closely to 1/8 than 1/7.
Clay Moss, 29 April 2009

The Civil Ensign

Civil Ensign of Bahamas (1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009


Civil Ensign of Bahamas (1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009

I saw a flag on a ship that I am not able to identify using your Flag Detective site. The flag was like the flag of Denmark but the upper left quadrant of the red cross design was blue with a yellow pennant coming into the blue quadrant from the left edge of the flag. The name of the ship was the Tecam Sea. Any ideas?
Bob Wilson, 6 August 1999

Sounds like the civil ensign of the Bahamas - many ships out there are of Bahamian registry because of tax laws, so you would see its flag on the seas quite a bit. It looks like the Danish flag (a red flag with a narrow white St. George's cross, and 1:2 proportions), with the Bahamas flag in the canton (upper-left corner).
David Kendall, 6 August 1999

Merchant Vessel registered in Bahamas hoist the Bahamas civil ensign. A foreign Flag merchant vessel calling at a Bahamian port for commercial operations will hoist it too. There is no minimum size to the ensign, it just depends on the ships size.
Jose C. Alegria, 6 October 2000

In September I could make a photo of a Bahamas civil ensign. It was on a vessel of Celebrity Cruises in the lagoon of Venice. Unlike the usual 1:2 ratio this flag had the 2:3 proportion. Perhaps this has flag-dynamic and aesthetic reasons. A cloth with 2:3 or 3:5 ratio flutters easier in the wind than a more longish one. The 2:3 and the 3:5 ratios are nearer to the "golden rectangle" which is made with the golden ratio of 1.618.
Martin Karner, 12 January 2006

Proportions of 2:3 or 3:5 are seen globally far more than the 1:2 types. It has been a while since I was in the Bahamas, but when I was there, I rarely saw any kind of flag or ensign proportioned 1:2. Almost everything with the exception of a very few government flags were 2:3 or 3:5. Come to think of it, I don't recall ever seeing a 1:2 Bahamian red ensign in Bahamian waters.
Clay Moss, 13 January 2006

The reasons are, I would suggest, more likely to be commercial than aesthetic, and the fact remains that 1:2 is the correct ratio for defaced UK and related defaced ensigns (however many may be made differently).
Christopher Southworth, 13 January 2006

Square-shaped variant

Civil Ensign of Bahamas - square shaped variant (1:1) image by Clay Moss, 04 June 2013

I just won a very interesting ensign on eBay and it arrived here Saturday from India. It is a 2x2 foot Bahamas merchant ensign. It was manufactured by Turtle and Pearce in the UK. I wrote them and asked if they recalled making the ensign, and if so, who requested it, and for what purpose. They are in the process of trying to figure out why it was made. I will send an actual picture tomorrow. Meanwhile, enjoy the gif image.
Clay Moss, 04 June 2013

Željko pointed us to, but I have a hard time reading that. Mostly, I have no idea what the "First Schedule" is, which is referred to for the specific designs of flags.
So, struggling on without that knowledge: Do the Bahamas follow the British flag system? And does that mean their jack might be a square version of the ensign? And would four square feet be an acceptable size for a jack? Would that make it a general merchant jack, or should we be looking at positional flags?
Or do they follow the system where square flags are rank flags of some kind?
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 30 August 2013

The "First Schedule" is kind of an "appendix" to the legislation and is found further down the PDF, page CH.32-9 covering the jack, which is prescribed to be swallow tailed version of the merchant ensign (we call it civil jack).
(BTW, I believe that the second paragraph of Part VI of the First Schedule (page CH.32-8) is an error in copy-pasting in the text and should properly read "Argent a Cross Azure ...")
Regarding the following the British flag system, they do seem to have some "exceptions" not usually found around the other such flags-ensigns-pennants set.
The merchant jack is swallow-tailed version of the ensign. Naval jack is square version of the national flag.
If I read the legislation right, the merchant jack may be used by warranted merchant vessels that may use government ensign, but are not "Unarmed Government-owned Vessels", while it seems that there is no jack prescribed for these "Unarmed Government-owned Vessels" (or there is the same one, if the are indeed in the "Bahamian Registry"...).
Clearly, the mentioned legislation does not prescribe square version of the merchant ensign for anything. I am inclined to believe that this was made as ornament for some festivity or such rather then for use on ship (but hoisting equipment on the example may prove me wrong...)
Željko Heimer, 26 September 2013

I live in West Palm, FL and visit the Bahamas quite often. What I have noticed is that the Bahamian population does not seem to use the red Bahamian ensign on their boats at all, (in all the islands). It is used on cruise ships registered in Nassau, yes, of course, but the boats, large and small in Bahamian waters all use the regular flag used on land (blue, yellow and black).
Even the ferries picking up passengers off the cruise ships stopping at Little San Salvador (Half Moon Cay) use the regular flag regularly and without exception.
I have no idea what Bahamian laws have to say about this, if there are any? Any comment ? Thank you,
Ray Zanarotti, 03 April 2016

The Naval Ensign and Aircraft Marking

Naval Ensign of bahamas (1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009


Naval Ensign of bahamas (1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009

Aircraft Marking

"The Bahamas Defence Force planes [they got two....] carries the BDF flag on their fin."
The illustration shows a flag same as The Naval Ensign , but with narrower hands of the cross and also outlined in red.
Military Aircraft Insignia of the World [c2e98]
Dov Gutterman
, 7 February 2000

In the past years they had only one (and even this one is out of service after ditching). In the past they had other 4 planes, all out of service today.
Photo of the sole RBDF Cessna 421C Golden Eagle (now on the sea bottom) with a view of the RBDF flag on the tail (we at <>.
The Air Wing was formed in 1982.
Dov Gutterman, 11 June 2004


Senior Officers Pennant

[Flag of Senior Officer]
image by Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

Commissioning Pennant

[Commission Pennant]
image by Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

Commodores Pennant

[Commodore] image by Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

Senior Officer, Commission Pennant and Commodores Pennant are probably based on the British model, replacing red for green, but I attach them anyway  Overall proportions of each of them are speculative.
Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

The State Ensign

(1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009


(1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009

I found in Smith (1975) [smi75] the state ensign of Bahamas: white British ensign with a blue cross. The blue of the cross is obviously darker then the one of the Bahamas flag in the canton - one of the rare examples of two shades of blue touching each other!
In his 1980 book [smi80] Smith doesn't give any state ensign for Bahamas. Is this still in use and forgotten by Whitney, or is it rather other way around - forgotten by the Bahamians and remembered by Whitney?
Željko Heimer, 7 October 1996

According to Album des Pavillons [pay], this ensign is now used by the Reserve Navy.
Ivan Sache, 30 March 1999

Concerning L'Album 2000 [pay00], shouldn't the naval reserve ensign be rather classified as variant civil ensign? The naval reserve ensign is hoisted by private vessels, right?
Željko Heimer, 5 January 2001

Yes. I agree.
Armand Noel du Payrat (author of [pay00]), 8 January 2001

In National flags and distinctive markings - Change Nr 1 [pay01] - Page BA 1.1 - Naval Reserve ensign - Change in the FIAV grid. Dot moved from "State ensign" to "civil ensign".
Ivan Sache, 8 October 2001

The flag with the Blue St George's cross is the "State Ensign" which I suppose is the same as "Government Ensign". There is also a Blue Ensign, but it is defaced and we don't illustrate it.
According to Barraclough: "Consular Officers have a flag of navy blue with the National Flag in the canton and the whole arms in the fly"
Martin Grieve, 29 April 2009

I have consulted Captain Allens, Ministry of National Security Bahamas Government,  Retired Port Director, as to the names and uses of these flags. He has assured me that this flag is really The Bahamas State Ensign.  It is flown on vessels that are owned and operated by the Bahamas Government, Ministry of National Security, Port Department.
These are vessels that patrol the harbours, inlets and canals around the islands of The Bahamas.
The Bahamas does not have a Naval Reserve.
Cheryl Strachan, 21 March 2010

In Whitney Smith's book "flags and Arms through the ages and across the World" , published in 1975, the reader is informed via the FIAV grid system that this flag is indeed the "State Ensign".
Martin Grieve, 22 March 2010

Civil Jack

(1:2) image by Clay Moss, 29 April 2009

In Album 2000 [pay00] - Civil Jack. 1:2 - This is the same flag as The Civil Ensign, but swallow-tailed. How "deep" is the indentation, I don't know, about 1/3 of length, maybe good approximation. (It's certainly less than the triangle from the national flag would be set here.
Željko Heimer, 7 February 2001

Navy Jack

[Naval jack] image by Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

Finally, what about the naval jack? One could conceive that from the description a square flag is hinted, but is it really so in accordance with the British traditions, or is the jack simply the same as the national flag, smaller in size?
Željko Heimer, 11 January 2012

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