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Bahamas - Colonial Flags and Badges

Last modified: 2021-08-25 by rob raeside
Keywords: bahamas | colonial badge | crown | lighthouse | sombrero | crooked island |
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The Bahamas badge was introduced in 1869 and changed little before being discontinued in 1973. The crown in the Variants is not the pattern usually seen on flag badges.  Before 1904 it would probably have been an angular flat topped crown; from 1904 to 1953 a more domed Tudor crown, and after 1953 a St. Edward’s crown. Until 1964 the shape of the badge, excluding crown and scroll, was horizontally oval, but was then made more circular and larger, relative to the ensign.  On the Blue Ensign it was on a white disc until 1923.
Officially there was no Red Ensign, but many were in use unofficially by the 1930s, and in 1962 the Port Director of Nassau estimated that there were probably over 1,000 defaced Red Ensigns being flown by yachts at the time, and that more than 5,000 yachts had the ensign, and would have flown it at some time in the past.  The Colonial Office wrote to the Bahamian government: "We realise that the unauthorised wearing of the defaced Red Ensign in both the Bahamas and Bermuda has become so widespread that there seems no possibility of bringing about its discontinuance without the creation of much ill-feeling, and do not therefore intend taking action against those concerned.  On the other hand, the Board of Admiralty has again ruled that the present misuse of the defaced Red Ensign cannot be regularised."  [Bahamian Symbols by Whitney Smith in Flag Bulletin March-June 1976]
David Prothero, 2 August 2001

1869 - 1904

Blue Ensign

image by Martin Grieve, 8 May 2008

Flag of Governor when afloat

image by Martin Grieve, 8 May 2008

Badge approved in 1869

image by Martin Grieve, 8 May 2008

This flag has the Victorian Crown, which was used until about 1902, even though this crown was phased out since 1880. The crown image is based on a drawing presented by Jarig Bakker and following the colors of the other crowns at Jaume Ollé's website.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

Bahamas used circular seal in garter in 1869 flag.
David Prothero, 8 April 2005

1904 - 1923

Blue Ensign 1904-1923

image by Martin Grieve, 9 May 2008

Flag of Governor 1904-1953

image by Martin Grieve, 9 May 2008

Badge 1904-1953

image by Martin Grieve, 9 May 2008

For image from the National Geographic click here.

A large and two small ships within a garter surmounted by a crown constitute the principal device of the badge of the Bahamas. On the garter are words which tell us that the pirates have been expelled and that business has been resumed.
This badge is the basis of the coat of arms the country adopted on independence. They replaced the old Latin motto with a much more anodyne one in English.
Roy Stilling, 19 February 1996

This is the colonial badge that was used on Bahamas Blue ensign in 1904-1953. It replaced old crown (1869-1904) and was replaced with the new crown (1953-1964) and newer rendition (1964-1973)
Jaume Ollé, 5 September 2001

The Victorian Crown was replaced by the Imperial or Tudor Crown, introduced by King Edward VII around 1904.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

Following the standardisation of representations of the crown instituted by King Edward VII in 1901, the Tudor crown replaced the original crown in 1904.
David Prothero, 9 May 2008

Flags used in 1919

A 1919 Colonial Office survey of flags flown in the colonies revealed that the Bahamas Blue Ensign was used only by the Circuit Magistrates and was known as the Magistrates Flag, while the British Customs Blue Ensign was used by Out-Island Commissioners, and known as the Revenue Flag. A coloured sketch of this flag by the Civil Engineer, W. Miller, showed that the flag had a 3/5ths breadth angular St Edward's crown probably dating from the 19th century. All flagstaffs flew the Union Jack. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 116/1847B]
David Prothero, 9 May 2008


Blue Ensign 1923-1953

image by Martin Grieve, 9 May 2008

The same badge but without the white circle.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

In a letter dated 1 June 1921 it was proposed that the badge on the Blue Ensign should be displayed directly on the fly without a white disc. This was agreed 7 July 1921, and finally confirmed by the Governor on 22 September 1923.  [ADM 116/1847B]
1933 - In reply to a Colonial Office circular about the use of the Blue Ensign on land, it was stated that there was no distinctive land flag for government buildings except for the Union Jack, or in the case of the police, a blue flag with the police badge or words. The Bahamas Blue Ensign was flown at Session House when the Assembly were sitting. [CO 323/1222/2]
- 1938. Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston, Garter King of Arms, pointed out that the use of the garter on the badge was incorrect. He advised that the garter emblem should be used only as relating to the Order of the Garter, and with no inscription upon it other than the motto of the Order. The Colonial Office was of the opinion that flag badges were not the responsibility of the College of Arms. It was agreed that existing flag badges with the garter need not be changed, but that the garter would not appear on any new badge designs. [CO 323/1575/17 and CO 323/1641/16]
- 1941. The decision that the flag of the Governor might be flown on land as well as at sea was welcomed by the Governor, HRH The Duke of Windsor. Previously the Union Jack had been flown on Government House when the Governor was in residence. [CO 323/1830/22]


Blue Ensign 1953-1964

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Red Ensign 1953-1964

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Flag of Governor 1953-1964

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Badge 1953-1964

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Tudor crown, introduced by King Edward VII, was replaced by St Edward's crown at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001 and David Prothero, 10 May 2008

Constitution Flag (1964)

"Constitution Flag" of 1964

image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

Arms of 1959

[Colonial badge 1959]image by Jaume Ollé'

In 1959 a new shield was granted to Bahamas and the old badge became obsolete. The new shield was included in the Blue Ensign (I don't know if in a white circle or directly in the blue field).
Jaume Ollé, 4 May 1997

This was the "Constitution Flag" of 1964. The new 1964 flag badge was not approved until December 1963 and flags with the new badge were not ready in time for the celebration of internal self-government at the beginning of 1964. What became known as Constitution Flags were produced purely for the celebrations.  The Red Ensign version did not have the scroll 'Bahamas' above the shield. [Bahamian Symbols by Whitney Smith in Flag Bulletin March-June 1976].
Arms, consisting of just a shield and a motto, were granted to the Bahamas, 5 June 1959.  The image is the shield of the Arms. It did not replace the badge on the ensigns.
David Prothero, 11 May 2008


Blue Ensign 1964-1973

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Red Ensign 1964-1973

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Flag of Governor 1964-1973

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

Badge of Governor 1964-1973

image by Martin Grieve, 10 May 2008

The badge was revised by the College of Arms in 1963 following a grant of Arms in 1959.
David Prothero, 11 May 2008

There is a set of stamps of Bahamas, issued in 1969, one of which shows a parade which is taking place at Rawson Square, at Nassau. On the background, two flags can be seen: one of them is the Union Jack, and the other is a defaced red ensign, whose seal is not clearly visible, but I believe that at a parade at Nassau no other than a Bahamas red ensign would be flown.
Ricardo Tescione, 7 September 2016

Here is the signpost pictured: (archived as bs_spost.jpg)
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 19 April 2019

Unofficial Variants

Blue ensign

image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001

Red ensign

image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001


image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001

Those images are based on photos of a red ensign taken by Dov Gutterman at a flag display in ICV 19 (York, July 2001). The original flag is from Bruce Berry collection. According to the display catalogue: "The motto reads: "With the expulsion of the Pirates, Commerce was restored". In the 17th and 18th centuries pirates ravaged the Caribbean Sea."
These two versions may have been unofficial or their origins are not clear.
Blas Delgado Ortiz and Dov Gutterman, 2 August 2001

Flag with White Disc

Here is a part of a photo taken on the family yacht at Bimini in the summer of 1963.  It shows a Bahamian "courtesy" colonial flag which isn't exactly like anything above. This may be one of those "unofficial variants".
Don C. Warrington, 7 April 2007

The photo is a little blurred, but it seems to me that this is an unofficial red ensign dating from somewhere between 1953 and 1964. There is something similar image by Roberto Breschi in Bandiere. Please note that the dates given for flags in Bandiere are often at variance with the dates given above.
Peter Johnson, 19 June 2007

Peter is correct except for the dates. Bahamian red ensigns were very common and in my experience, the badge always appeared on a disk on ensigns seen in Bahamian and Floridian waters right up through independence. I have a sample of each in my collection.
I believe that the photo is of a Bahamian red ensign, badge on disk, probably American manufactured.
Clay Moss, 19 June 2007

Lighthouse Service

image by Martin Grieve, 30 March 2008

The badge

image by Martin Grieve, 30 March 2008

Overseas lighthouses were the responsibility of the Imperial Lighthouse Service of the Board of Trade.
The Bahamas office looked after not only the lighthouses on the Bahamas but also that on Sombrero, a small island that was part of the St Christopher-Nevis group of the Leeward Islands.  The tender based at Nassau flew a Blue Ensign with a badge that consisted of a lighthouse within an oval belt on which BOARD OF TRADE was written in white on red. The belt was surmounted by a crown, with a red scroll above, bearing the word BAHAMA in white.  This was an official flag warranted 20 July 1898.  It was more usual for colonial lighthouse tenders to fly the Board of Trade Blue Ensign with the sailing ship badge.
The Bahamas/Sombrero badge was flown by the tender Ana Patricia until about 1971 when it was replaced by the Board of Trade Blue Ensign [Bahamian Symbols by Whitney Smith in The Flag Bulletin XIV:2-3], but the lighthouse at Sombrero, on special occasions, flew the Wheel and Anchor Blue Ensign of the Ministry of Transport, which had taken over the Board of Trade's transport responsibilities in, I think, the early 1950's [Public Record Office document MT 45/580].
David Prothero, 18 November 2000

My images are based on the Flaggenbuch (1992 re-print).
Martin Grieve, 30 March 2008

Crooked Island Mail Boat

An article by Gail Saunders in "The Nassau Guardian" (no date given) introduces Crooked Island, one of the southern Bahamas islands. Crooked Island was visited by Columbus on 21 October 1492 and settled by Loyalists in the late 1780s. Cotton plantations were set up but abandoned in 1803 because of a bug. In the late XVIIIth century, the "considerable settlement" of Pitts Town was laid out on the western shore of the island. In the early XIXth century, it was a monthly mail station for boats sailing between Europe and Jamaica. In the "Bahamas Handbook", Mary Moseley writes that   "the post office mail boat flew a red flag with a white horse in it."
Ivan Sache, 22 November 2006