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Belize - Colonial Flags of British Honduras

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: belize | british honduras | colony | colonial | honduras | sledghammer | saw | axe | oar | ship |
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British Honduras Blue ensign 1919-1981
image by Martin Grieve, 6 August 2005

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This flag is a standard British Blue Ensign, with the badge of British Honduras. The badge is divided in three portions. In the first field, there is a Union Jack on a white background. This makes two UJ's on the flag. The second field displays four tools, also found on the Coat of Arms. The four tools are: a sledgehammer, a saw, an axe and an oar. The bottom field shows a ship sailing toward the hoist. The ship is flying a red flag, probably a British Red Ensign. This flag was used as the Colonial flag of British Honduras, and was then used as a state and war ensign until the 80's.
Željko Heimer
, 22 July 1996

According to Crampton's The World of Flags 1990, the Coat of Arms was granted in 1907 (see above). However, Crampton does not say which of the Coat of Arms or the badge came first. A possible theory would be that the badge was designed before the arms. In effect, the ship at sail is a clear sign of late 19th century Caribbean colony designs. Thus, the 1907 coat of arms must have been an attempt to make the badge more 'heraldically correct', and so, the badge must have come before the arms. This is an educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. Which preceded which is still unclear.
Roy Stilling, 22 July 1996

Belize was known as British Honduras until 1973.  Badge approved 1870 and apparently displayed on a white disc until about 1920.  A letter dated 12-dec-1919 was sent to the Crown Agents (who supplied flags to British Honduras), telling them that there should be no white circle on the British Honduras Blue Ensign. This flag continued to be used until probably 1981.
David Prothero, 6 March 1999

The old Coat of Arms was granted by Royal warrant on 28 Jan. 1907 . Note: this is the date for the CoA, and not the colonial badge. As Roy says ,the badge probably came earlier (perhaps 1860s).
The current Coat of Arms was adopted at independence and differs only in minor details (e.g. the UJ was eliminated from the canton of the shield). Differences in the shape of the scroll etc. are probably heraldic license and not new Coat of Arms . The supporters used to be both Black. The dexter one (viewer's left) is now White/Hispanic -- I suppose that was a change at independence.
T. F. Mills
, 27 March 1999

Illustration of this flag appears in p. 108 (bottom) at [zna99], with two rows of three Blue Ensigns each. In the first row there is "British Honduras (XIXth century - 1981)".
Ivan Sache, 25 Febuary 2001

Smith [smi80] show it only as ---/-SW ensign (that is probably on state ensign, as I doubt that Belize had a navy). The matching civil ensign is simple undefaced British red ensign.
Željko Heimer, 4 March 2001

British Honduras used a circular seal in ornamental frame on 1870 flag.
David Prothero, 8 April 2005

The badge that defaced the blue ensign of British Honduras Colony was one of the more attractive designs of it's time. It is partitioned into three sectors, the first containing the Union flag, the second, a set of logging tools, and the third displays what was very common on British Colonial flags in the Caribbean at that time. This is a sailing ship which represents the transportation of mahogany wood which British Honduras was famous for.
Gordon and Gordon's 1920's classic flag book, "Flags of the world" tell us: "British Honduras is the mahogany colony and it announces the fact in it's badge, a third of which is occupied by the mahogany feller's tools including the cross-cut saw; while at the base is a barque with a red ensign and in the other third is the Union Jack which in the seal is replaced by the more appropriate mahogany tree"
It is most unusual for a very pro-British empire flag book to utter the words that the Union Jack was replaced by anything more appropriate! An extract from the "Flag Bulletin" pertaining to the new flag of Belize on page 143 of vol. XX:5 dated September-October 1981 reads: "The different elements combining to form the national flag may be dated back as far as the early nineteenth century. At that time the local population was self-governing, since the territory was claimed by Spain and the British did no more than to insist on the right to cut timber. A public meeting in 1819 saw the creation of the coat of arms for use on the seal, the die for which arrived from London two years later.
In 1907 the design was confirmed by the College of Arms as the official Armorial bearings of what was then called British Honduras." On the graphics side, we decided to look into a great many flag books which depicted the badge detail, and settled on three sources. These were:
1.) Flags of Maritime Nations, 1912
2.) Das Grossen Flaggenbuch, 1939 (1992 facsimile)
3.) BR20, Flags of all Nations 1958.
There are some noticable differences between these three publications, although it could be said that these are very minor. The greatest cause for concern is the proportions of the Union flag in the first sector, which has the ratio of  2:3, 3:5 and 1:2 in the respective sequence from the publications listed above. What is the best? That depends on what you prefer of course, but Das Grossen Flaggenbuch will form the base image of our badge detail with the logging implements from Maritime Nations. There should be a sunset between the clouds and the sea, coloured pink but strangely omitted from Flaggenbuch, and so we shall add this detail as both BR20 and Marime Nations depict this.
David Prothero informs me that the badge was used from 1870 to 1981, one of the longest, if not the longest use of the same colonial badge. The white disc was supposed to have been removed in 1919. That is a time span of 111 years, and I cannot find anything here to beat that.
Martin Grieve and David Prothero, 6 August 2005

1870 Flag

British Honduras (1870-1919/1920)
image by Martin Grieve, 6 August 2005

1919 Flags

British Honduras Blue ensign 1919-1981

British Honduras became Belize on 1 June 1973, and so this flag became the state ensign of Belize from 1973-1981.
Martin Grieve and David Prothero, 6 August 2005

Lieutenant Governor/Governor Flag

Flag of Lieutenant Governor/Governor - Presumably from 1870-1981?
image by Martin Grieve, 6 August 2005

General Governor of British Honduras. The badge in the middle is used since at least end of 19th century (approved 1870 according to David Protero) when this flag might have been inftroduced, too, and the flag was used until presumably 1981.
Željko Heimer, 4 March 2001

No Governor-General until independence. The defaced UJ was for the Lieutenant-Governor from 1870 until 1884 when British Honduras ceased to be a dependency of Jamaica, and the Lt-Governor became a Governor. The badge is recorded in the Colonial Office Record Book, [Public Record Office document CO 325/54] with an 1870 reference number and a note, "Shield on circle with garland of mahogany leaves filling the space between edges of shield and circle." At some point it would have been changed to a standard laurel leaf garland.  Doubtful whether any flag was actually made with a mahogany leaf garland.
David Prothero, 5 March 2001

British Honduras was governed by Superintendents (subordinated to the governor of Jamaica) from 1749-1862, Lieutenant Governors from 1862-1884, and by Governors fom 1884-1981. The flag was a Union defaced with the badge within a laurel garland.
Martin Grieve and David Prothero, 6 August 2005

Red Ensign

Unofficial Red Ensign of British Honduras
image by Martin Grieve, 6 August 2005

Here is a photo of a badge on red ensign taken by me at a flag display in ICV 19 (York, July 2001). The origilal flag is from Bruce Berry collection. According to the display catalouge: "The tools show the forestry trade, the mainstay of the colony's economy."
This version may have been unofficial or its origin is not clear.
Dov Gutterman, 31 July 2001

Merchant vessels flew a red duster, undefaced although it appears that red ensigns defaced with the badge of the colony were manufactered, as Bruce Berry has on in his collection.
Martin Grieve and David Prothero, 6 August 2005

Red Ensign for Ceremonial Use (?)

image by Martin Grieve, 4 September 2005

There was never any official warrant granted to that former Colony to fly this flag, but I had decided to go ahead simply for the reason that Bruce Berry had one in his collection. The first thing that struck me was that this flag had a gold fringe around it!
David Prothero reckons that this may just have been a ceremonial flag. and I am tempted to go along with his conclusion.
Martin Grieve, 4 September 2005

I was the one who gave Bruce said ensign. In 1993, I bought several British Honduras' red ensigns in various (American) sizes and one blue ensign from a flag company in Chicago who was looking to get rid of all their old flag stock. I reckon that Bruce's flag was already in stock as a 4x6 ensign and someone special ordered the fringe only to back out of the deal after the fringe was sewn on. I venture this guess because the ensign has what we in the US would call an outdoor heading, being a canvas heading with brass grommets. Most likely, the original order was made in order to compliment a 4x6 American flag already in someone's possession. Out of the 4 or 5 I ordered, Bruce's was the only one with fringe. To comment on Martin's remark concerning British Honduras red ensigns, they were in fact made in 1 to 2 proportions and were utilized as per so many other unwarranted British ensigns. A 3x6 British Honduras red ensign with the badge on a disk sold on E-bay recently.
Clay Moss, 4 September 2005

The Badge

British Honduras Badge (1870-1981)
image by Martin Grieve, 6 August 2005

Variant ?

by Clay Moss, 9 April 2005

The blue ensign is a possible British Honduras alternative. I have never seen an actual copy of this flag. However, several years ago, I saw it painted on a mural/school wall in Punta Gorda(?). Can anyone give any insight?
Clay Moss, 9 April 2005

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