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United Kingdom: Ministry of Defence and army

Last modified: 2006-01-07 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | ministry of defence | army | lion | swords | ordnance | budge flag |
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Joint services flag

[Joint services flag] by Tom Gregg

Recently I came across a picture of the badge of the British Ministry of Defence: it's a crowned 'combined services' emblem (crossed swords, eagle and anchor). Can anybody tell me if this badge is used on flags? I'm guessing that the Minister of Defence would have a Union Flag defaced with this badge, while defence establishments not service-specific would use a blue ensign with this badge in the fly.

Tom Gregg, 18 December 1996

Strictly speaking, the badge is termed the 'joint services' badge. A slightly similar badge for 'combined operations' was used in World War II, with a tommy gun representing the Army. I don't have a reference for the date the current badge was first designed, but I presume it was sometime after the war when things had settled down and the College of Arms could 'correct' the crude design adopted by the military.

A flag for the Chief of the Defence Staff was first approved in 1956 (H. Gresham Carr, Flags of the World, 1961, p. 133) - this was a horizontal tricolour of dark blue (Royal Navy) over red (Army) over air force (light) blue (Royal Air Force) - the order of seniority of the services - with the joint services badge overall. Originally the white circular background of the badge was surrounded by a gold cordon. The garter that is currently used was added when Lord Mountbatten was appointed Chief of the Defence Staff in 1965.

However, in 1964 when the unified Ministry of Defence was formed the 1956 flag was adopted as the joint services flag. It flies from the Ministry of Defence building along with the three services' flags, but I don't think it is the Ministry of Defence flag per se - it is meant to be flown wherever the three services have headquarters together. The Chief of the Defence Staff, having lost his flag, was given a new one - still the same tricolour and badge, but with a Union Flag in the canton and the badge shifted to the centre of the fly (William Crampton, Observer's Book of Flags, 1991, p. 33). As to the Secretary of State for Defence, I think he is entitled to fly the joint services flag from his car, but I don't have a reference to support this.

Roy Stilling, 19 December 1996

Ministry of Defence flag

In a question directed to the UK government it was determined that no Cabinet offices except the Ministry of Defence has its own specific flags.  However, I believe the Ministry of Defence flag is made only in miniature as a car flag, but even that is exceptional. In Britain it has never been considered necessary for ministerial cars to have flags. At Imperial Conferences in the 1930's, flags were supplied to the delegates of other participating governments, but not for the cars of British ministers. [National Archives (PRO) DO 35/132/3]

The provision of a car flag for the Minister of Defence was the result of a problem that arose when visiting military establishments with an accompanying officer who was entitled to a car flag. On these occasions the officer displayed his flag on the car, and it was argued that salutes given, on the arrival or passing of the car, were to the flag displayed, and not to the minister. After one Minister had improperly used the Combined Operations Flag on his car, a special flag was devised and approved by the Queen on 10 May 1957. [National Archives (PRO) DEFE 7/569]

Apart from the Admiralty, War Office, and Air Ministry, British Government Departments have not had land flags. A Public Office was entitled to a Blue Ensign, with its badge in the fly, for any boats or ships it operated, and did not need to obtain approval for it, although the Admiralty were often consulted in those cases where the design of the badge, or the right of a department to be classified as a Public Office, was in doubt. These Blue Ensigns were not flown on land, except by Customs and Excise who by tradition flew their Blue Ensign on Customs Houses.

In 1960 the Ministry of Transport asked if it could fly its ensign from its offices in London. It was told that the approval of the Lord Chamberlain would be required if they wanted to do it on other than appointed "flag flying days". On those days the Union Jack should be flown in addition to the Transport Ensign. Since this would have involved putting up additional flag poles the idea was abandoned. The Ministry was also told to stop flying its flag on the Sea Transport Offices in Aden and Singapore, but allowed it on Coastguard Stations, and colonial lighthouses. [National Archives (PRO) MT 45/580]
David Prothero, 16 April 2003

Since 1964 when the Ministry of Defence was created and the Board of Admiralty abolished, the old 17th century Navy Board flag (three vertical plain yellow anchors on maroon) has been used by both the Navy Board and the Admiralty Board (Navy Board plus Government Ministers), and often known as the Admiralty Board Flag. It was decided that the old Navy Board Flag should be used by only the new Navy Board, and that the Admiralty Board should have its own flag, a yellow vertical foul anchor on a maroon field. It was designed earlier this year by the College of Arms.
David Prothero, 1 October 2003

Army flag and ensigns (British Army Non-Ceremonial Flag)

1938 badge and flag

[Army flag] by Graham Bartram

In January 1926 designs for an Army badge or crest were considered by the Army Council. It was to be the equivalent of the anchor of the Royal Navy, and eagle of the Royal Air Force. The first choice was the shield of the arms that had been granted to the Board of His Majesty's Ordnance, 16th May 1823; "Azure, three field pieces in pale, or, on a chief argent three cannon balls proper". The Army Council had used this shield as a defacement on the Union Jack since 1904. However the shield was also used by the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, who had adopted it as a button badge in 1896, when the Army Ordnance Department was established. Another design considered was the crest of the same arms of the Board of Ordnance; "Out of a mural crown, argent, a dexter cubit arm the hand grasping a thunderbolt, winged and in flames, proper". It was used as the badge of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, but adopting it as an Army badge would have created fewer problems than would the RAOC badge. The Royal Crest, (royal crown ensigned with a crowned lion) was also considered. It was used by the Army Sports Central Board, some cavalry regiments, and was associated with the General Staff.

In April, Sir Henry Burke, Garter King of Arms, was consulted. He suggested, "two swords, one in its scabbard, in saltire, ensigned with the Imperial crown", the sheathed sword symbolising the army's role in peace time. He thought that the royal crest was inappropriate as it represented nothing but the royal family. If it were chosen however, he would not formally object .

The Army Council preferred the Royal Crest, and thought that Garter's proposal looked more like a 'Skill at Arms' badge. The Marksman's Badge, for example, was crossed rifles beneath a royal crown. In October 1926 the Army Council wrote to Garter, thanking him for his assistance, and informing him that it had been decided that "things had better be left as they are."

An Army Crest was finally agreed twelve years later. "Design originated in 1935 as a device indicative of the British Army for a stained glass window in Ypres Cathedral in memory of King Albert. Approved by HM King George V. A simplified design secured Royal Assent in 1938 as the Army Crest, and was adopted in lieu of the Royal Arms on the Army List. The Army Crest on a red background was approved later for a flag that was flown over the Army Pavilion in the Glasgow Exhibition of 1938." "Two swords in saltire proper pommels and hilts, surmounted by the royal crest, on a red background." The India Office asked for a drawing of the flag in November 1938, and probably introduced a similar flag for the Indian Army [see Army flag of India].

In 1939 the Army Council gave approval for the flag to be flown at Command Head Quarters and at Recruiting Centres. Opinions of General Officers Commanders in Chief and General Officers Commanding were obtained on the use of this flag, and in March 1939 the Honours and Distinctions Committee concurred in Commands' unanimous opinion that the Army Flag should be flown on special occasions, of a purely army character, as decided by General Officers Commanding. It was not to be flown at Flag Stations, nor at Military Funerals. The Cenotaph in Whitehall (the national war memorial) originally had two Union Jacks, two White Ensigns, a Blue Ensign and a Red Ensign attached to the sides. In 1943 when it was decided that a Royal Air Force Ensign should replace one of the two White Ensigns, it was suggested that the Army Flag should replace one of the two Union Jacks. Sir Edwin Lutyens, who had designed the memorial, pointed out that if this were done no flag would be duplicated. Winston Churchill, who was against any alterations to the flags, finally agreed to the introduction of the Royal Air Force Ensign, but not to the Army Flag replacing one of the Union Jacks.

National Archives (PRO) PREM 4/3/12, WO 32/3218, WO 32/4632, WO 32/15019.

David Prothero, 4 August 2004

The Royal Website notes: "As an emblem of 'Her Majesty's Service', the Union Flag is the flag of the Army, which unlike the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force,
does not have its own ensign." This refutes the idea propagated by Smith (1975) and other sources that the British Army flag (red with crest and swords) is a "war flag." The British war flag is the Union Flag (Union Jack).
Joe McMillan, 4 December 2003

1999 badge and flag

[1999 Army badge] by Graham Bartram

Whilst preparing Change 5 of BR20 "Flags of all Nations" in 1999 I had done a new drawing of the Army flag, using the official drawing of the Royal Crest and St Edward's Crown. Before we went to press, however, the Army's PR department announced a new Army flag. This used the Army's logo version of the Royal Crest, complete with several heraldic mistakes (gold pearls on the crown, gold blades on the swords, the area under the arches filled in white rather than being transparent), and a really cuddly lion. Just to add insult to injury they included the word "ARMY" in gold underneath the logo.

The MoD decided to go with this version (I argued against it and suggested including both or a note to the effect that the logotype version existed). So BR20 was published with the logo flag and that was the image I had on my website (shown above).

Since then I have kept my eye out for a single example of this new (and heavily criticized both within and outside the MoD) flag but I have never seen it in the flesh. Throughout all this time the old flag continued to fly over the MoD in Whitehall and the final straw was when I attended the Royal Military Tattoo along with HM The Queen. There above the Royal Box were the flags of the Navy, Army and Air Force and the Army flag was the old design (but obviously a brand new flag)! Since the event was organized by an experienced and well-respected Army officer (Major Sir Mike Parker) I decided that the Army just didn't use the logo version. Graham Bartram, 31 August 2000

The flag referred to by Graham has been flying outside Falklands House, Oxpens Road, Oxford for at least six months. Falklands House is a purpose built building in the centre of Oxford and is the headquarters of several detachments of Oxford University cadet forces. There are four flag poles at the front of the building, adjacent to the wall which borders the Oxpens Road and, usually they will fly (from left to right, as you face the building) the RAF Ensign, the Army flag as referred to above and the White Ensign. The fourth flag pole is nearly always empty but does fly the Union flag on occasion. It has also on occasion flown a flag on a dark blue background combining the joint serviced badge and the logo of the university; I have never seen this last flag anywhere else other than on this building.
Colin Dobson, 16 January 2003

The Red British Army flag is officially called the "British Army Non-Ceremonial Flag" and is mainly used in recruiting and military events and exhibitions. Actually the Army have been offered an ensign to replace the Non-Ceremonial flag so that they are on equal footings with the other two services. The flag is royal crimson (the dark red used in the Royal Standard) with the Union flag in the canton and the Army badge of the Royal Crest on Crossed Swords filling the fly. The proposal is currently stalled, mainly because I've been working on too many other things to concentrate on it properly.
Graham Bartram, 5 December 2003

The usage of the Union Flag against the Army flag seems to be at the discretion of the Camp Commander or the highest ranking Officer - some camps will even fly an Army flag at the entrance, and a Union Flag elsewhere. It is not uncommon for the old Army flag to be used. Last week I visited Warcop camp in Cumbria and came across an interesting sight - both the old and new flags used in the same area. At the Guardhouse the 1938 flag flew, while at the Headquarters it was the modern version that flew alongside the camp flag. Apparently I was the only person that cared.

It strikes me that the MOD, although they have changed the flag, aren't too bothered to tell people they have - I talked to one of the guards (Part of the MOD Police Force I believe) who told me he was unaware of any change. It's my suspicion that the MOD simply don't want to stump up money to replace every flag around the country, and hope that over time the newer flag will replace the worn older flags. In saying that however, it does seem that the older flags are still being produced. Given that it's already been five years since the flag was introduced, it strikes me that it might be some time before the old flags are phased out.
Jim McBrearty, 2 July 2004

Field Marshal flag

A Union Flag is the rank flag of a Field Marshal in the British Army. It is the only rank flag in the British Army, the others being post or appointment flags, which also include the Union Flag as the flag of the Commander-in-Chief Forces in the Field. Incidentally if you want the source for this information, it was one of the corrections Field Marshal HRH The Duke of Edinburgh made to the draft of my book [British Flags and Emblems]! (See page 46).
Graham Bartram, 29 August 2005

During WWI era, it was common for general officers of the British Army to participate in parades (on horseback) with a tiny Union Jack (carried by an officer also on horseback) behind him. This of course was not a rank flag as such, but a distinguishing flag for the commander-in-chief in the field.
Miles Li, 30 August 2005

What does actually constitute a 'commander-in-in chief the field' in these circumstances? The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in 1918 was (without looking it up) composed of five Armies (perhaps six), each composed of two or more Corps and each commanded by a full General, but these were not independent commands as I understand the term. If an order for an attack was passed by the C in C (Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig) to one of these officers, did that particular general then become the commander-in-chief in the field for the period of the resulting battle? As a matter of interest, I know of two instances (and there were almost certainly more) when the C in C had an escort of lancers whilst conducting a ceremonial inspection, and a fine sight it must have been.
Christopher Southworth, 30 August 2005

Haig was the C-in-C in the field. He commanded the British Expeditionary Force, and the various army commanders were his subordinates. Similarly, Montgomery was C-in-C in the field in 1944-45, with two armies under him. I'm not sure about the status of Alexander, as Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean at the same time. I assume he would also be entitled to the UJ. Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia, had a UJ with a formation sign and inscription in the centre (but then he was always showy!). I guess you could describe the post as the one directly responsible to the chiefs of staff / government for the conduct of the campaign.
Ian Sumner, 30 August 2005

Army Ensigns

[Army ensign] by Graham Bartram from

Graham notes on his website: "Army Ensign (worn by vessels commanded by commissioned officer) [1:2] The ensign with the Army Badge is not currently in use, following the decommissioning of HMAVs Arakan and Ardennes."

[Army ensign] by Graham Bartram from

Graham notes on his website: "Army Ensign (worn by all other Army vessels) [1:2] The blades of the crossed swords are sometimes shown in yellow."

Naval shore establishments and Royal Air Force bases fly their services' ensigns, but of course these contain the Union Flag in them, which the army flag doesn't. Crampton, p. 36, mentions an army ensign - a blue ensign with the army badge in the fly, but this is only worn by ships in the army's service.

Roy Stilling, 19 December 1996

See also:

Flag Stations

In 1963 the Australian Army Head Quarters, Canberra, asked the War Office for information about the origin, tradition and names of Flag Stations in London. It
was understood by them that Flag Stations were the only locations at which the National Flag was flown officially, and that they were normally Forts, Barracks
etc., implying that these official sites were protecting the nation's flag.

The War Office replied that the Flag Stations List was first published in Queen's Regulations in 1873. "The following is a list of Stations at which the National Flag (Union Jack) is authorised to be hoisted. (a) On anniversaries only, or when specially required for saluting purposes. (b) On Sundays and Anniversaries. (c) Daily."

It was thought that it was issued in 1873 to give formal authorisation to an existing practice. The only variation since 1873 was that almost all stations listed flew
the flag daily. There was no firm criterion as to what Residencies, Stations or Head Quarters were put on the List. It depended upon their military status and
importance. As Army Stations disappeared, they were deleted from the list, and fresh ones added as they arose.

There was nothing historical or traditional in having a List of Flag Stations. It was purely utilitarian. The Army's flag was the Union Jack, and those places listed
in the appendix were issued with it. Those places who wished to fly it, and were not listed, had to purchase it.

In the 1996 Queen's Regulations sixty-three Flag Stations are listed, ten of them outside the United Kingdom. Two sizes are specified 12ft x 7.5ft and 6ft x 4 ft,
(3.66m x 2.29m and 1.83m x 1.22m) the larger size being for Sundays and anniversaries.

The quotation from the 1873 Regulations is perhaps the earliest official reference to the Union Jack as the National Flag?

David Prothero, 30 July 2004

The British Army Flag Stations in 1873

The 1873 Queen's Regulations, Section 3. Honours and Salutes, combines the three types of Flag Station in one list. Here they have been made into three separate lists, Daily, Sundays and Anniversaries.

Daily Flag Stations

"The following is a list of stations at which the national flag (Union Jack) is authorised to be hoisted daily. The Royal Standard is only to be used on Royal anniversaries and State occasions at the stations marked with an asterisk."

Home Stations.

Eastern District.
Landguard Fort

S.Eastern District.
Dover, Castle Keep*
Dover, Drop Redoubt*

Chatham District.

Western District.
Plymouth Citadel*
Devonport Lines*
Pendennis Castle
Pembroke Defensive Barracks

Gun Park*
Royal Arsenal*

North Britain.
Leith Fort*

Fort Albert*
Fort Tourgie

Fort Regent*
Elizabeth Castle*
Government House


Foreign Stations

Flags are in the charge of the colony.

St Anne's Fort*

Fort Victoria*

Cape of Good Hope.
Cape Town Castle
Fort Napier, Natal

Cape Coast.


Rock Gun*
Montagu Cavalier*
Europa Flagstaff *

Hong Kong.
Head-Quarter House*

Citadel Fort George*
Head-Quarter House

Port Royal*

Fort St Elmo*
Fort St Angelo*

Fort George

St Helena.
Ladder Hill*

Sierra Leone.
Tower Hill

David Prothero, 10 February 2005

Sunday Flag Stations

Queen's Regulations 1873. Section 3. Honours and Salutes.
The following is a list of stations at which the national flag (Union Jack) is authorised to be hoisted on Sundays and anniversaries. The Royal Standard is only to be used on Royal anniversaries and State occasions at the stations marked with an asterisk.

Home Stations.

Northern District.
Liverpool North Fort
Perch Rock Battery
Paull Point Battery
Tynemouth Castle

Eastern District.
Harwich Redoubt
Yarmouth, N.Battery
Yarmouth, S.Battery
Office of G.O.C. Camp, Colchester

S.Eastern District.

Chatham District
Tilbury Fort*
New Tavern Fort
Fort Amherst*

Southern District.
Portsmouth Lines*
Southsea Castle
Lump's Fort
Eastney Fort
Fort Cumberland
Fort Monkton
Fort Block House
Fort Brockhurst
Fort Gomer
Fort Grange
Fort Elson
Fort Rowner
Fort Victoria
Cliff End Fort
Warden Point
Hurst Castle
Flags in Portsmouth Lines and Gosport Forts specially hoisted
during the stay of the Queen in the Isle of Wight.
Royal Military Academy
Royal Dockyard

Divisional Head-Quarters

Royal Military College

The Tower of London.

North Britain.
Edinbro' Castle*
Stirling Castle*
Fort George*
Torry Point, Aberdeen
Broughty Castle
Dumbarton Castle
Fort Matilda

Camden Fort
Carlisle Fort
Carrig Fort
Charles Fort, Kinsale
Duncannon Fort
Enniskillen Castle
Greencastle Fort
Magazine Fort*
Magilligan Tower
Ned's Point Fort
Pigeon House Fort*
Scattery Fort
Spike Island*
Tarbert Island
Foreign Stations

Queen's House, H.Q.
Charles Fort
Office of G.O.C.

Fort Catharine
Fort Cunningham
Ordnance Island
Boaz Barracks

Cape of Good Hope.
King William's Town
Simon's Town

Cape Coast.
Fort William



The Arsenal
Palace Tower
Fort Ricasoli
Fort Tigne
Saluting Battery


David Prothero, 10 February 2005

Anniversary Flag Stations

Queen's Regulations 1873. Section 3. Honours and Salutes.

"The following is a list of stations at which the national flag (Union Jack) is authorised to be hoisted on anniversaries only, or when specially required for saluting purposes. The Royal Standard is only to be used on Royal anniversaries and State occasions at the stations marked with an asterisk."

Home Stations.

S.Eastern District
Dover, Archcliff Fort
Sandgate Castle*
Deal Castle
Walmer Castle
Langley Fort

Western District
Bull Point

Practice Range, Plumstead

Fort Clonque
Fort Chateau l'Etoc
Castle Cornet*
Brehon Tower
Fort George

Dunree Fort
Enniskillen Redoubt
Knockalla Fort

Foreign Stations.

Hong Kong.
Saluting Battery
Hospital Ship
Fort Cambridge
Fort Charlotte
Fort Clarence
Fort Ive's Point
Fort Ogilvie
Tambro Island
York Redoubt

Head-Quarter House
Ordnance Store


Fort William

David Prothero, 10 February 2005

Sizes of army flags

From T. J. Edwards, 1953, pp. 35-37, here's the history of the sizes of the army's going back to the mid-18th century:

1768 Clothing Warrant       27 x 29 inches
1873 Queen's Regiments 27 x 30 inches
1898 Queen's Regiments 26 x 29 1/2 inches
1936 Clothing Regiments 26 x 29 1/3 inches

1768 Clothing Warrant       27 x 41 inches
1936 Clothing Regiments 27 x 41 inches

1747 Regiments at Windsor 74 x 78 inches
1768 Clothing Warrant 72 x 78 inches
1855 Submission 61 x 72 inches
1858 Submission 42 x 48 inches
1868 Queen's Regiments 36 x 45 inches
1936 Clothing Regiments 36 x 45 inches

Lances for cavalry standards and guidons were nine feet long until 1873, when they were shortened to 8 ft 6 inches. Pikes for infantry colours were 9 ft 10 inches until 1873, when they were shortened to 8 ft 7 in, then increased by 1/2 inch in 1898. The royal crest finial replaced the spearhead on both lances and pikes in 1858. Standards and guidons always had fringes, but colours have had them only since 1858, to offset the "poor effect on Parade" caused by the reduction in their size.
Joe McMillan, 19 May 2000

Budge flag

[Budge flag]

The Budge Flag and the 18th century British army flag had a similar design though the army version was not called a Budge Flag. This design of the army flag was said to have been used by Cornwallis when he surrendered to Washington. It shows up in several American histories, including on the Web. My drawing is based on some photographs and drawings of this type of flag.

When used by privateers (until 1856 when privateering was abolished), it was called the Budgee (or Budge or Bugee) Flag. There was apparently quite some variation of the flag with some examples in which the canton takes up three quarters of the flag, the red thus becoming a mere border along the lower and fly edges. The privateers were required to use the Red Ensign, but the Budgee was used as a jack. (David Prothero says that the word "budgee" comes from Bugia, -- Bougie in French, modern Bejaïa -- Algeria.)

Bill Hitchins, 20 September 2000

Since sending the Budge Flag (also spelt Budgee and Bugee), I have learnt that it was a privateers jack. The flag appears to be confused by some sources with the Meteor Flag (I only have AMERICAN sources for that name). The design of the two flags appears to be identical. Some Internet sources (found by entering "meteor flag" in a search engine) state that the Meteor Flag was an ARMY flag others state that it was the British Red Ensign and used on ships. This may possibly be the confusion with the Budgee Flag.
Bill Hitchins, 25 September 2000

Army flag at the Cenotaph

Looking at pictures, I see a Union Flag at the center on each side. On one side it's flanked by an Air Force Ensign and a Red Ensign; on the other it's flanked by a White Ensign and a Blue Ensign. Wikipedia states "It is flanked on each side by the flags of the United Kingdom, the Royal Navy, the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy."
Nathan Lamm, 8 September 2005

The Blue Ensign is for the Royal Naval Reserve. The Union Jack is for the Army (when the Cenotaph was first built the Army as a whole did not have a specific flag).
Miles Li, 8 September 2005

The UK Ministry of Defence's page about the Cenotaph's flags ( ) states:

"Six flags fly from flagstaffs on the sides of the Cenotaph. The flagstaffs are 15' in height and the flags 12' x 6'. They are placed in the following order:

Home Office Side (West)
    North End RAF Ensign
    Centre Union Flag
    South End Red Ensign
Richmond Terrace Side (East)
    North End Blue Ensign
    Centre Union Flag
    South End White Ensign"

Jan Mertens, 8 September 2005

The original cenotaph was a temporary wood and plaster structure erected in connection with a saluting base for the Victory Day parade of 19 June 1919. The flags were chosen as being a suitable selection, without any thought as to what individual flags represented; two Union Jacks, two White Ensigns, a Blue Ensign and a Red Ensign. When, in 1920, a permanent version of the Cenotaph became a public memorial to those killed in the war, the same flags were used, but there was no account of what the flags represented, and no instructions about their relative positions on the Cenotaph.

In 1929 it was pointed out that the flags on the Cenotaph in Hong Kong, which was a copy of the Cenotaph in London, had Union Jacks in the centre of each side, flanked by Ensigns, while on the Cenotaph in London, White Ensigns were in the centre, flanked by a Union Jack, and a Red or Blue Ensign. The Office of Works found that the arrangement on the model of the Cenotaph in the Imperial War Museum, which was the model submitted to, and approved, by the War Cabinet in 1919, was similar to that in Hong Kong.  Major Charles Foulkes, Curator at the Imperial War Museum was asked how the flags should be arranged. He replied that, "the original arrangement does not seem to convey any particular idea of precedence. The flags, from their position sloping outwards, suggest that they are borne by standard bearers with their backs to the Cenotaph. In the centre should be the Union Jack, the Flag of the Empire. The place of honour to the right would
be the White Ensign and to the left the Red Ensign or Blue Ensign." On 3 August 1929 the flags were changed back to their original arrangement with Union Jacks flanked by Ensigns.

After the introduction of the Royal Air Force Ensign in 1921, sporadic attempts were made to have it added to the Cenotaph. Considerable resistance came from some quarters on the grounds that the Ensign had never been used in the 1914-1918 War, that the RAF had been formed only a few months before the end of the war, and had its own memorial on The Embankment. After the Battle of Britain in 1940 pressure for RAF representation on the Cenotaph increased, and it was agreed by the Admiralty and War Office that an RAF Ensign should be added to the Cenotaph. At the same time the question of whether the new Army Flag, approved by King in 1938 should also be added or substituted. Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of the Cenotaph suggested that RAF Ensign should replace one White Ensign, and pointed out that if the Army Flag replaced one Union Jack, no flag would be duplicated. There were artistic objections to increasing the number of flags. The Prime Minister was not in favour of any changes. He reluctantly agreed to the RAF Ensign replacing one White Ensign, but not to the Army Flag replacing one Union Jack. At the Admiralty's request the substitution was made unobtrusively, without ceremony, just before dawn on 1 April 1943, the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force.

National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/12550, AIR 2/512, AIR 2/6698, HO 45/20446, PREM 4/3/12,
WORK 20/139, WORK 20/226, WORK 20/305.

David Prothero, 9 September 2005