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Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club

Last modified: 2006-08-19 by phil nelson
Keywords: royal lake of the woods yacht club | blue ensign |
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[Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 15 April 2006

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[Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club] image by Clay Moss, 15 April 2006

Prince Michael of Kent was present as Patron, when the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club in Kenora, Ontario, one hundred miles east of Winnipeg, celebrated its centenary in 2003. In July 1914 the club, on the northern shore of The Lake of the Woods, had been visited by the Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught, who said that he would approve an application for the club to use the title Royal. This was delayed due to the outbreak of World War One, and the formal procedure was not completed until 1924.

The club then applied for a Warrant for a Blue Ensign with the badge of the club in the fly. This was refused by the British Admiralty because The Lake of the Woods was an inland lake, not connected to the sea, and the yachts of the club members were unregistered. The Colonial Office suggested that the Canadian Government could issue a warrant for a special ensign. Ottawa pointed out that there was no procedure for the Dominion Government to give yachts permission to fly the Blue Ensign, and suggested that this power should be given to the Canadian Minister of National Defence. When this was opposed by the Admiralty, the Colonial Office suggested that a warrant might be issued by the King. This prompted a Memo from the Head of Naval Law in which he wrote:

It may be inconvenient if, as a result of this application, machinery is set-up and a procedure established by which, on recommendation of the Colonial Office, a Royal warrant may be issued for the use of special ensigns by Dominion and Colonial vessels. Though the Admiralty cannot legally prevent the irregular use of special ensigns on inland waters, they have a strong interest in seeing that any misuse of the ensign is discouraged. It is common for the Admiralty to ask that the irregular use of special ensigns on inland waters and buildings may be discontinued, and their request is usually successful. It is not unreasonable to claim that, if on inland waters vessels are to be authorised to fly a special ensign, their authorisation shall proceed from the Admiralty.

In October 1924 the Colonial Office wrote to the Governor-General saying that it was important that the Blue Ensign was not used even on inland waters without authority, and that therefore the Admiralty would issue a warrant. Details of the club were forwarded to the Admiralty and a warrant dated 17 March 1925 was issued. The warrant was unique in that it permitted use of the special ensign by yachts that were not registered as British vessels, and without any further warrant from the Admiralty. If any vessel wanted to fly the club Blue Ensign in other waters, a separate warrant would have been necessary.

In 1937 the Canadian Government took over administration of the special ensigns of Canadian yacht clubs and by Order in Council replaced all existing special ensigns with the Canadian Blue Ensign. Special ensigns for Canadian yacht clubs came to an end in 1965 when the present Canadian flag was introduced, but Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club continues to fly its original special ensign on the port halyard of the club flagpole with the Flag of Canada on the gaff.
David Prothero, 16 April 2006