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West Indies

Last modified: 2005-12-31 by rob raeside
Keywords: west indies | west indies federation | caribbean |
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British colonies in the Caribbean

The groupings of the British colonies in the Caribbean at different times were as follows:

  • Tobago had its own badge from 1876 until 1889 before it was joined with Trinidad.
  • The Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands were dependencies of Jamaica. The Turks and Caicos Islands had their own badge based on the seal of the colony from 1875 until 1958 when it was replaced by the current shield; the Caymans didn't have a badge at all until 1958.
  • The Leeward Islands (1875-1956) were Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and, until 1940 when it was transferred to the Windward Islands, Dominica. Because it was a federal colony, the badge of the Leeward Islands was used on the Union Jack and on the Blue Ensign; the individual islands had no badge.
  • The Windward Islands (1886-1960) were Tobago (until 1889), Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, and after 1940, Dominica. They were separate crown colonies under a governor-in-chief, so each island had its own badge which was used on the Blue Ensign only, not on the Union Jack; the Windward Island badge was used on the Union Jack only and not on the Blue Ensign.
  • The Bahamas remained separate from all of the above groupings, but the governor was also governor of the Turks and Caicos Islands from 1965 to 1973.

David Prothero, 20 November 1999

Governor General

[West Indies Governor General] image by Željko Heimer, 2 January 2003

The flag of the Governor-General of the Federation of the West Indies is similar to those of Australia, Canada, etc. However it should be noted that the proportions of the field of the flag is twenty-one to sixteen, compared with the usual two to one; also that the charges thereon occupy approximately three-quarters the depth of the hoist. (Carr 1961)

Jarig Bakker, 1 January 2003

West Indies Federation, 1958-62

[West Indies Federation, 1958-62] image by Mark Sensen

The West Indies Federation was formed out of the then British colonies in the West Indies in 1958 and it collapsed in 1962. Its flag was a blue field bearing four equally-spaced horizontal wavy lines with a gold disk over the middle two lines in the centre of the flag. It represented the Caribbean Sea and the sunshine of the region. The flag was originally designed by Eda Manley.
Roy Stilling
, 27 October 1995

The West Indies Federation consisted of Jamaica, the Caymans and Turks and Caicos Islands (both now crown colonies and separated from Jamaica), Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica. It did not include the Bahamas or the British Virgin Islands.
David Prothero, 20 November 1999

I spotted a flag of the old West Indies Federation, blue with four white horizontal wavy lines and a gold disc in the centre, at the cricket test match between Australia and the West Indies held in Barbados over the weekend. Despite the dissolution of the West Indies Federation in the 1960's, the Caribbean nations compete together as one West Indian team. The West Indies flag is shown as 1:2 above, but the one I saw looked 2:3 or 3:5. The blue was lighter than I remember too, although I wouldn't imagine these dimensions have any official status anymore.
Dylan Crawfoot, 31 March 1999

Variants of the flag

The official description given in the West Indies Gazette is "Flag approved has blue ground with four white horizontal wavy bars (the top pair of bars being parallel and the lower pair also parallel) and an orange sun in the centre." Not the most enlightening description. "Blue", unless qualified, usually means the same blue as in a Blue Ensign.

I have found three illustrations/descriptions. "Its flag bears four narrow white stripes undulating horizontally across a blue field; at its centre is a large orange-gold disc. This design represents the sun shining upon the waves." The illustration has a pale blue field. The upper bars are not parallel with the lower ones.
Observer's Book of Flags 1959, I.O.Evans.

There is a similar illustration in The Book of Flags 1960. Not surprising, as it is also by I.O.Evans.

"Its flag comprises an Imperial blue field, proportions two to one, having four narrow horizontal wavy white stripes and overall a large golden disc." The illustration matches the description; dark blue field; the upper stripes are not parallel with the lower stripes. Flags of the World 1961. G. Carr.

Additional information:
Flag Flying Days were (a) Commemorative and (b) Federal. Commemorative Days were the usual British Flag Flying Days, Federal Days were 3rd January, Inception of the Federation, 23rd February, Federation Day, 22nd April, Inauguration of the Federal Parliament.

Buildings with two flag-staffs were to fly the Union Jack and the Federation Flag on Commemorative Days and on Federal Days; the Union Jack at the staff on the left when facing the building. Buildings with only one staff were to fly the Union Jack on Commemorative Days and the Federation Flag on Federal Days.
West Indies Gazette Vol 1 No 9, 21 Feb 1958.
David Prothero
, 6 November 2000

I saw a desk-size copy of the flag on exhibit in Barbados, in the home of the first Prime Minister. I do recall it as a darker shade of blue and an orange disk. My guess is that whatever the establishing resolution called for, many copies were made that were at variance with it. There's no guarantee that the one I saw was "official", despite its location (it looked kind of home-made to me.)
Al Kirsch, 6 November 2000

Video clips of the British West Indies flag at 1960 Summer Olympics appear to show different colours, especially the red. It's certainly not the yellow shown on the image above, though it could conceivably be a bronze colour (ironic, under the circumstances). The blue is clearly lighter than on the NZ flag, but is still fairly dark. Going through the videoclip slowly and repeatedly, it also looks like the flag is symmetrical about both axes - i.e., that the upper two white stripes reflect the other two rather than being the same as them.
James Dignan, 3 December 2005

Wikipedia and both show the mirrored wavy lines.
André Coutanche, 3 December 2005

West Indies associated states, 1967

[Grenada, 1967-74] image by Vincent Morley
Grenada, 1967-74

[St Kitts-Nevis, 1967-83] image by Mark Sensen
St Kitts-Nevis, 1967-83

The associated states, set up in 1967 after the failure of the West Indies Federation were, Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St Lucia. St Vincent became one in 1969.

The St Kitts flag was green-yellow-blue vertical and that of Grenada was blue-yellow-green horizontal. The flag planned for St Vincent was green-yellow-blue horizontal. It would be interesting to find out what was proposed for the other three associated states.

David Prothero, 20 November 1999