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Guyana - Historical Flags - Part 1

Last modified: 2005-04-16 by dov gutterman
Keywords: guyana | demerara | essequibo | berbice | ship | british guyana |
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Early History

Originally "Dutch Guiana" consisted of four colonies (from west to east): Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice, and Suriname. The three first became British in 1814 and some years later they were united into one colony: British Guiana. They were occupied already earlier by the British (to keep it from the French, approved by the Prince of Orange in exile), like the Suriname, the Antilles and East Indies, who became Dutch again, and Ceylon and the Cape, who remained British.
Mark Sensen, 6 May 1998


A coastal scene with one or more ships was often part of the seal of a British colony in the latter part of the 19th century, and this was used as the badge of the colony if there was no obvious local emblem. Although the British Guiana badge is unique in having just one ship and no coastline, it is unlikely that the drawing was meant to represent any particular ship.
The ship in the original circular badge of 1875 is different from the ship in the oval badge enclosed in a yellow garter of 1906, which is different again from the badge that was taken from the arms granted in 1954. The 1906 badge had been criticised for having a number of nautical anomalies, and in 1953 the Colonial Office asked the Admiralty for help in ensuring that the arms were correct from a seaman's point of view. If the badge had been meant to represent a particular ship I'm sure it would have been mentioned at that time.
David Prothero, 17 Febuary 2003

British Guiana used a circular seal in 1875 flag. It was changed to circular seal in oval garter in 1906. It was changed to the arms in 1954.
David Prothero, 8 April 2005

1875 - 1906 Flags

Blue ensign
by Martin Grieve, 24 June 2003

British Guyana governors
by Martin Grieve, 24 June 2003

The red ensign was unofficial. Old designs (before 1919) showed white disk in the blue and red ensign .
Jaume Olle', 6 Febuary 2000

1875-1906.  Circular badge having a starboard bow view of three-masted square-rigged sailing ship filling the whole of a standard 4/9th circular badge. On UJ and Blue Ensign. Presumably derived from local scene panel of the seal of the colony. Not very distinctive of the locality, but one of the better circular badges.
David Prothero, 5 Febuary 2000

It has been noted that there was no official defaced red Ensign, and that seems to bear up with some literature here on my bookshelf.
"Commercial vessels flew the British merchant flag, i.e. the Red Ensign without any badge"
Source: The Flag Bulletin XXI:4/95 "Flags of Guyana" by Father David Drake-Brockman
So there we have it - 2 flags were most definitely in existence and these were:
1. A Blue Ensign: for armed and unarmed government vessels.
2. A Governor's flag: badge enclosed in garland on Union flag.
Martin Grieve, 23 June 2003

The Badge

by Martin Grieve, 23 June 2003

David Prothero supplied me with a scan of the "official" badge of the British Colony which defaced the British Blue Ensign between the years 1875-1906. In this badge there is no ensign at the stern, but rather just a masthead pennant in British Navy red flying from the main mast.
Martin Grieve, 23 June 2003

The Red Ensign (?)

Red ensign (dubious and anyway unofficial)
by Martin Grieve, 27 June 2003

Unless there is convincing proof that there was such an unofficial ensign I think it should be consudered very dubious. In my humble oppinion, it had never existed.
David Prothero, 27 June 2003

I have to support David on this one. Even an 'unofficial' defaced Red Ensign does seem extremely unlikely for late-19th Century British Guiana.
Christopher Southworth, 27 June 2003

1906 - 1955 Flags

British Guyana blue ensign 1919-1954 (1905-1919 was the same with white disk)
by Jaume Olle', 6 Febuary 2000

British Guyana red ensign 1919-1954 (1905-1919 was same with white disk)
by Jaume Olle', 6 Febuary 2000

British Guyana governors
by Jaume Olle', 6 Febuary 2000

Colonial Badge

Flaggenbuch [neu92] shows the badge as an oval 'garter' with the motto 'Damus Petimusque Vicissim' on it (within a white circle on the red ensign, but not on the blue one), exactly as depicted in the Colonial Badge
Santiago Dotor , 1 Febuary 2000

1906-1955:  The badge in the garter was in use from 1906 to 1954 - Similar view of the ship as in 1875 , but now much smaller and enclosed in the garter that was described by Santiago. I'm not sure if garter is the correct term. I have seen it described as a "belt and buckle". On UJ and BE.  On the BE it was placed on a white disc until 1919. Replacement flags after that had no white disc.None of the badges was an official defacement of the Red Ensign
David Prothero, 5 Febuary 2000

The 1939 Flaggenbuch edition [neu92] includes this flag. It is mentioned that the badge is (was) used only on the Blue Ensign
Ivan Sache, 4 October 2000

Here is a photo of a badge on white disc taken by me at a flag display in ICV 19 (York, July 2001). The origilal flag is from Clay Moss collection. According to the display catalouge: "The motto translates as: "We give and seek in return."
This version may have been unofficial or its origin is not clear.
Dov Gutterman, 31 July 2001