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Crown Colony of Sarawak 1946-1963 (Malaysia)

Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: sarawak | cross (black and red) | crown |
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[Sarawak Crown Colony 1946-1963 (Malaysia)] image by Clay Moss, 12 June 2005

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From 1 July 1946 until 10 March 1947 the colony used the British ensigns, having no distinctive badge. On 1 July 1946 [sic] the colony was granted its own badge, reproducing the old State flag, and it was placed on the Blue Ensign and in the middle of the Union for the Governor's flag. On 9 March 1963 the independent Sarawak adopted the old State flag.
Mario Fabretto
, 18 September 1997

When Sarawak became a Crown Colony in 1946 the standard colonial flags were introduced:

  • Union Flag, badge on a white disc surrounded by a laurel leaf garland. This was the flag of the Governor. The badge was a yellow shield with the same bi-coloured cross and the same style crown in the centre of the cross.
  • Blue Ensign. Badge in the fly, in some cases shown as being on a white disc, though I wouldn't have thought that the disc was necessary. For government vessels.
  • Merchant ships presumably flew the plain undefaced Red Ensign.

Mario Fabretto, 2 October 1997
quoted by David Prothero, 22 July 1998

In spite of Mario Fabretto's sources, according to Gresham Carr 1961, page 116, a [white] disc was certainly used. As for Merchant ships, as Mario Fabretto's sources said, unless there was a specific Admiralty Warrant authorising a defaced Red Ensign for the colony, the undefaced ensign would be used.
David Prothero
, 29 October 1998

In the case of the Sarawak Blue Ensign, maybe the flag was made with the white circle. However unless it is known for certain that this was so, it seems to me that a white circle is not necessary, and that it should be drawn without one. The correct size would be achieved by putting a circle, four ninths of the breadth of the ensign in the middle of the fly, making the shield as large as will go into the circle, and then removing the circle.
David Prothero
, 30 October 1998

The shape of the shield is similar to that on the British Antarctic Territories flag drawn by Mark Sensen. If the illustration in Gresham Carr 1961 is accurate, just a little narrower with the upper part of the sides of the shield parallel.
David Prothero
, 31 October 1998

I found three different books with exactly the same badge:

  1. Evans 1959, p. 59, 60: That of Sarawak, based on the flag of the former Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke, is a shield bearing on gold a cross of St. George type divided vertically black and red, with an antique crown at its center.
  2. Kannik c.1959, #564 (from which I took the scan) — granted in 1947.
  3. Znamierowski 1999.
Jarig Bakker, 2 December 1999

Although the Sarawak badge is shown on a disk in most publications, it's apparent that it stood out better without the white background. According to the old timers around here, Sarawak ensigns were the most widely "seen", at least in their collective memories.
Clay Moss, 12 June 2005

White Circle around the Badge?

[Sarawak Crown Colony 1946-1963 (Malaysia)] image by Clay Moss, 12 June 2005

Unfortunately the presence of a white circle around a British colonial flag badge, in even the most reputable flag book, is not a reliable indication that the circle appeared on the flag.

The circle was introduced as a convenience to printers, and is not necessarily part of the badge. When the first official Admiralty Flag Book was introduced in 1873 a special layout was adopted in order to avoid repeating numerous illustrations of defaced Union Flags and Blue Ensigns, and to enable badges to be reproduced at a larger scale. Instead of printing illustrations of flags for each colony, only one plain undefaced version of the Union Flag, the Blue Ensign, for a while the White Ensign and later the Red Ensign was printed in the introduction to the British Empire section. A circle of black dots was superimposed on the flags to show the approximate size of the badge and where it should be positioned. Subsequent pages were composed of rows and columns of circles outlined in black with the name of the colony or department beneath. In the first book most of the badge plates were not ready in time, and that is all there is; rows of circles, most of them blank.

On the defaced Union Flags the white circle is effectively part of the badge; in most cases. Out of a total of about 144 current and obsolete defaced Union Flags there are/were only 8 that are/were not circular, and ten that are/were circular, but not white. The garland of green laurel leaves is also effectively part of the badge though there are 22 cases where there is/was no garland, or where there is a garland but it is/was not of laurel.

Ensigns were different. It is not clear whether any thought had been given to the fact that if any significant part of the edge of the badge was blue (or later, in some cases, red) it could merge into the field of the ensign. Later editions of the official Admiralty Flag Book had the note;

The white circles are not to appear on the Red and Blue Ensigns except where they are necessary to display the design, e.g. where the badge itself has a border of the same colour as the ensign. White circles are generally to appear on the Union Flag except where otherwise noted beneath the design.
However confusion had already been created. Commercial flag books show the badges in circles, but none that I have seen, have ever explained that the white circle is not necessarily part of the badge.

Even the Colonial Office was confused and in 1919 had to send a Dispatch to all colonial governors asking them for information on the flags in use in the colonies. Subsequently the ensigns of ten colonies that had the badge displayed on a white circle were changed and the white circle was removed.
David Prothero
, 30 October 1998

Whether or not the shield was set in a white circle is unclear. In my opinion it probably was not in a white circle, in spite of the fact that Gresham Carr 1953 wrote that it was, and Petersen drew it in one (Kannik 1956). The white circle was only to make a badge show up if it was otherwise likely to merge into the background. Although the black part of the cross blends into the blue field this is balanced by the fact that the more extensive yellow areas show better against blue than against white.
David Prothero
, 3 December 1999

The Sarawak badge appeared in the 1947 amendment to the 1930 Admiralty Flag Book with the note; "On Union Flag with garland, On Blue Ensign as shown." It was shown within a circle.
David Prothero, 1 March 2005

Governor's Flag

[Governor's Flag 1946-1963 (Sarawak, Malaysia)] image by Clay Moss, 7 June 2005

In the case of the Governor of Sarawak the shield-shaped badge is applied to the centre of the flag with the space between the shield and the laurel garland, white. The garland hides the edge of the white circle, so that there is no white outside the garland that is not part of the Union Flag design. The circumference of the garland is such that it extends only slightly beyond the four corners of the arms of the St. George's cross. It doesn't obscure any part of St. Patrick's or St. Andrew's saltires.
David Prothero
, 30 October 1998

Red Ensign

[Red ensign 1946-1963 (Sarawak, Malaysia)]     [Red ensign 1946-1963 (Sarawak, Malaysia)] images by Clay Moss, 7 June 2005

Here are two different Sarawak red ensigns. I have seen one period piece without the disk, and two period pieces with the shield on the circle.
Clay Moss, 7 June 2005

I have it that "the previous (1870-1947) merchant flag remained in widespread use" after Sarawak became a British colony, but I cannot track down the source of this quote and it's possibly totally incorrect? If not incorrect (and failing legislation/regulation to the contrary) then - as we know - the practice would have been illegal since the Red Ensign was (and remains) the correct flag for vessels registered in a British possession, however, I have no idea whether a defaced Ensign was ever assigned or used by such vessels?
Christopher Southworth, 15 June 2005