Last modified: 2006-01-21 by dov gutterman
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image by Željko Heimer and Antonio Martins , 5 January 2000
Official Name: Cayman Islands
Capital: George Town
Government Type: British Overseas Territory
Flag adopted: 14 May 1958
Coat of Arms adopted: 14 May 1958
ISO Code: KY
I found that the white disc was removed from Cayman Islands
blue ensign on Flag Data Base (by Flag Institute) although before
it has white disc.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 3 June 2000
The blue ensign with the white disc seems to be used
everywhere (government site, American Express commericial, the
2000 chart from Shipmate, Znamierowski's books out now).
Steve Stringfellow, 17 June 2000
In 1999 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) department in charge of
flags, the DCTA, decided, in consultation with the College of
Arms, that the badges on many British flags were too small for
identification. They also did not match the newer flags granted
directly by the Queen, through the College of Arms, which have
much larger badges.
So the MoD decided to make the badges much larger - the size and placement of badges on British ensigns was a decision in the power of the Admiralty, and passed to the MoD when the Admiralty ceased to exists as a separate body. So the MoD was simply exercising its authority in the matter, for the better identification of flags.
This meant that the white discs had to get larger. In fact the discs had to be so large that they looked ridiculous and it was therefore decided to discard them as they were no longer necessary, the new badges being clear even without the discs. So the new illustration of the Falkland Islands, Cayman Islands and Montserrat in BR20 (the government flag book) all had much larger badges (but no change to the design of the badge) and no white discs.
Of course the MoD's authority on flags only covers flags at sea, so the Islands concerned are free to continue using flags with discs on land if they wish to, but flags for use at sea should no longer have discs (unless they are old flags still in use). The question of discs of red ensigns is more complex as the size and placement of badges is usually specified in the Statutory Instrument that creates them and it is not clear whether the long standing MoD/Admiralty power over the size and placement of badges can be used to alter a flag created by a Statutory Instrument.
Graham Bartram, 6 July 2000
At the opening ceremony of Sydney 2000 olympic games, the
Cayman Islands flag was still displayed with the white disk and
had particularly well noticable large badge.
Pascal Gross and Željko Heimer, 16 September 2000
I noticed that Cayman Flags have changed in 1999. I
refer you to page <www.flags.net/CYIS.htm>.
Tom Rothe, 21 March 2001
Yes, the white disc was removed and the arms enlarged. Tom is
referring to the change made when BR20 change 5 was published.
Incidentally the Cayman Islands will be using the new flag at
next year's Commonwealth Games
Graham Bartram, 21 March 2001
The flag of the Cayman Islands was adopted in 1959. Prior to that, the Islands had used the British flag for all official occasions. Set on a navy blue field, the flag features the red, white and blue British Union Jack in its upper left-hand corner, and the Cayman coat of arms encircled in a pure white ground in the right-hand centre of the field. The maritime flag features a red field.
J.T. Liston, 6 Febuary 2002
The Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory ( the FCO has
decreed what we used to call "colonies" will no longer
to be called dependant territories) has issued A postage stamp in
rememberance of 11th September 2001, showing the Statue of
Liberty, the US flag, and the Cayman Islands Blue Ensign with the
arms in a white disc! The government of the Cayman Islands
website shows the flag as is shown on the stamp.
James T. Liston, 14 March 2002 and Dave Cox, 1 April 2002
As you may know, currectly the XIX edition of the Central
American Games are being held in El Salvador. On the flagpoles
there are hoisted the flag of the 31 participating teams. The
flag of the Cayman Islands is the Blue Ensign with the arms
within a white circle.
Even in the offcial web page of the Cayman Islands <www.gov.ky> the flag bears an white circle...
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 8 December 2002
The page for the Cayman Islands seems to attribute a new
Cayman Islands flag to an event that occurred on 25 January 1999.
From the postings, I gather that the event may be the appearance
of the amendments to BR 20 (the Ministry of Defence flag book).
The incorrect depiction of the Queen's Harbour Master (QHM) flag shown in the 1999 amendments to BR 20 reflects that the amendment does not necessarily reflect a policy decision regarding flags, even those of the defence establishment. BR 20 is a reference work issued by one agency of HM Government; it illustrates the flags of all nations. But if the Navy or MoD ever wished to alter the Queen's Harbour Master flag, they would necessarily speak through channels similar to those used by the Admiralty when they created the flag some 88 years ago. The work's effect on flags used outside the defence ministry cannot be greater.
James T. Liston, 15 June 2003
Here is a response for my letter to Cayman Islands' government
"I am writing to you in reference to your enquiry sent to the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs regarding the Cayman Islands flag. I have examined the National Archive's collection of government records for the relevant time period and I was able to ascertain the following:
- On 3rd April 1957 Cayman's legislative body passed a resolution to seek a grant from Her Majesty for a Coat-of-Arms.
- In a government notice, dated 11th April 1957, Commissioner Donald requested submissions for the Coat-of-Arms based on a template agreed to by the Advisory Executive Council. Deadline for submissions was 1st May 1957.
- According to Government file (ref: CERE/SYMB dated 1958-1974), on 13 January 1957 Her Majesty approved that the design of the Coat-of-Arms should be used on a white circular ground in the fly of the Blue Ensign as the Flag Badge of the territory.
- Government Notice no. 67 of 1958, dated 14 July 1958, published a copy of the Royal Warrant (signed on 14 May 1958) and a sketch of the Arms and Crest.
- The Coat-of-Arms and flag were not recognized in legislation until 1993. It was then revised in 1998 and amended in 2002. The original law specified that the use of the Coat of Arms and Flag is restricted for trade and business and that unauthorized use is subject to penalties. It also provides for the C. I. Government to issue guidelines setting out how the Coats-of-Arms may be used ,and how the flag is to be flown. There is no description of the Flag in the law. The subsequent legislation only pertains to the penalties and fees for use of the Ensign.
- In 1999 the British Ministry of Defence's publication Flags of All Nations (BR 20) removed the white background discs from the illustrations of both the Blue and Red Ensigns. However, the pure white disc remains on the official flag of the Cayman Islands.
In my examination of the records, I was unable to find any archival evidence to suggest a connection between the adoption of the flag and the 1959 Constitution. It should be noted however, that the Constitution does make mention of a "Public Seal".
I hope that you will find his response to your enquiry
helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact us again, if you have
Tamara Selzer, Archivist"
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 9 September 2003
image by Graham Bartram
image by Željko Heimer and Antonio Martins, 19 June 2000
image by Graham Bartram
Last summer I saw a boat, flying the Cayman Islands Red
Ensign while docked at a pier on Long Island.
Ned Smith, 10 September 2000
The shade of red used on official Union Jacks and derived
flags is "dark red" (aka "Post Office red").
The RGB equivalent would be RGB:204-0-0. The Pantone reference is
Antonio Martins and Graham Bartram, 13 September 2000
My entirely personal interpretation of the Merchant Shipping
(Registration,etc.) Act 1993, is that the undefaced British Red
Ensign is the primary ensign of a vessel registered in the Cayman
Islands, and the Cayman Islands Red Ensign is an authorised
In schedule 3, para. 1, a British ship is defined as, a ship registered in the United Kingdom under the Act, or a ship registered under the law of a relevant British possession.
In schedule 3, para. 2 (1), the Act states that the flag which every British ship is entitled to fly is the Red Ensign (without any defacement or modification) except for;
3, para.2 (3), a. - colours allowed to be worn in pursuance of a warrant from Her Majesty or from the Secretary of State.
b. - defaced or modified Red Ensigns authorised or confirmed by Her majesty by Order in Council for wear by British ships registered in a relevant British possession.
David Prothero, 21 May 2002
I have found that my answer of 21st May was partly
wrong. The British Red Ensign is again an alternative
ensign for Cayman registered ships, but between 1988 and sometime
in the late 1990s it technically was not.
Until 1993 merchant shipping of British possessions was regulated by the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act, as amended. By the 1980s it was becoming difficult to correlate amendments and territories. This was a particular problem in the Cayman Islands which had a more extensive register of shipping than other dependent territories. In 1988 an Order in Council, relevant only to the Cayman Islands, codified the 1894 Act together with relevant modifications and amendments, and stated that the Order in Council itself, and not the 1894 Act, was the law of the Islands in relation to merchant shipping. This included a statement that the Red Ensign defaced with the Cayman Islands crest was the proper national colours for Cayman vessels.
Due to a drafting error, or through an oversight, no provision was made for the plain Red Ensign. This was corrected by a clause, inserted into an Order in Council of the late 1990s, which modified the flag provision to include the plain Red Ensign as well as the defaced Red Ensign.
David Prothero, 21 June 2002
Previous Civil Ensign (Still in Use)
image by Željko Heimer and Antonio Martins, 5 January 2000
I have just seen a visiting ship in Bristol City Docks - the
'Intuition II' - with its port of registration in 'Georgetown
C.I.'. She is flying a defaced red ensign with the arms on a
white disc - and the flag doesn't look particularly old and
tattered, so I guess in practice the old design continues to be
made and used.
André Coutanche, 4 June 2003
The changing of the size of the badge and/or arms, with the
deletion of the white disk and addition of a fimbriation is
official only in so far such flags are illustrated like this in
the latest change in BR20 - Flags of All Nations - published by
the Ministry of Defence, and is (as far as I can tell) an
entirely arbitrary decision by them.
There are, as far as I remember, three (there could well be four or more) defaced red ensigns defined by Schedule, of these one shows a white disk, that of the Falkland Islands whilst two do not, those of Gibraltar and of Guernsey. The remainder may include the traditional white disk or not as the fancy takes them.
Christopher Southworth, 4 June 2003
While visiting Stockholm for ICV 20, we noticed a huge yacht
and a sailing boat, both hoisting the Cayman Islands red ensign
with white disc. Here is a photo.
Marcus Schmöger, 6 August 2003
The use of the red ensign defaced by the national crest,
accompanying an article about ship registration in the 2002
Professional Yachtsmen's Association PYA News has triggerede a
response in this year's edition from Peter Gibbs, the Director of
the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry. He points the finger
at an amendment to the Royal Navy's one time bible of flag
descriptions, which was apparently riddled with errors. To
extract from his article: "All these changes were done
without any consultation with the Cayman Islands. The
reasoning for removing the white disc was that no such disc had
been prescribed in the original warrant. The relative size
of the coat of arms was changed so as to achieve uniformity
between the flags. Although these arguments may at first
appear to be plausible, on closer examination they prove to be
If we look to the description of our coat of arms, set out in the Royal Warrant issued by the College of Arms in 1958, we find that it neither mandates nor precludes the white disc. However, customary practice is something very important in the development of flag tradition. The use of a white disc in the background has been customary practice in British territories at least since 1869 and has been common to virtually all Union Flag defacements. The Cayman Islands chose to represent their national coat of arms similarly, and this has been the customary practice since the flag's inception.
The Royal Warrant makes no reference to the relative size of the coat of arms on the flag and no reference to uniformity between the flags of different British territories. Taking the proponent's two arguments together, it seems that the absence of any specific reference to a white disc was used as a reason for removing it, yet, at the same time, the absence of any specific reference to relative size of the coat of arms underpinned the argument for imposing a change!"
Simon Jackson, 20 October 2003
While I sympathise with the view that changes to the Cayman
Islands' flags, as shown in an official book, should not have
been made without consultation, it is incorrect to say that,
"The use of a white disc in the background has been
customary practice in British territories at least since 1869
Most of the early colonial flag badges were circular, and the question of a white disc did not arise. When the badge was not circular, a white (or sometimes coloured) disc was necessary on the Governor's Union Jack, to fill the space between the edges of the badge and the laurel leaf garland. On ensigns, there was no space to fill and non-circular badges should have been placed on the fly with no disc. However in some cases the badge was given a white background disc, either because there was one on the governor's flag and it was thought that the ensign should be the same, or because drawings of badges in the Admiralty and Colonial Office Flag Books were framed within a black ring, and it was thought that the white circle within the ring was part of the badge.
In 1916 a note at the beginning of the Admiralty Flag Books reads; "White circles are generally to appear on the Union Flag except where otherwise noted beneath the design. 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."
In a Colonial Office minute of 1918 it was noted that, "..there are occasions for a diversity of opinion, where the border of a badge is not uniform.", and in 1919 the Colonial Office circulated a questionnaire to all colonial governors and administrators asking whether the flag badge of the colony or territory appeared on a white disc. By 1924, after consultation with the governors concerned, white discs had been removed from the ensigns of nine colonies. Details in National Archives (PRO) ADM 116/1847B.
During this period Red Ensigns were introduced for thirteen Indian States with the note; "Unless there is some special reason for obtaining a particular colour around the badge, the badge should appear on the Red Ensign without a surrounding circular disc except that if the colouring of the badge is indistinguishable from the red field the badge shall appear in a white circle."
David Prothero, 20 October 2003
At Athen Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, the Cayman flag had a
pretty large white disc around a badge. The atheletes were
waiving similar flags as well.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 15 August 2004
Is the flag with a white disk acceptable?
The definitive answer to this would depend upon whether the Order in Council (of 1988) that established it included a schedule with illustration, and whether this schedule (if present) showed the white disk?
I am (in addition) not entirely sure whether the 1985 Merchant Shipping Act contained the same provisions as that of 1995 regarding such ensigns, but it is certain that no defaced Red Ensign established by Royal Order in Council after 1995 (and all the ones in my possession contain a schedule as described) can be amended by an arbitrary decision of civil servants to add or delete anything. The short answer is that the ensign with a white disk is probably (but not certainly) the correct flag, and is (in anycase) acceptable. Ships registered in the Cayman Island have the option (the priviledge if you prefer) of flying an ensign defaced with the Cayman Islands Arms, but it is not mandatory that they should do so. The plain Red Ensign remains a perfectly legal option for all British Dependent Territories.
Christopher Southworth, 14 October 2004
image by Graham Bartram
Three stars (representing the islands) on a wavy field
(representing the sea), with a lion (representing links with
Britain) in chief. The crest is a turtle and a pineapple plant.
Arms adopted on 14 May 1958.
James Dignan, 22 November1995
The turtle represents the abundance of turtles around the
islands. There is also a rope underneath the turtle which
represents the islands first major export: rope making for ships.
The motto He hath founded it upon the seas is referring to
the fact that Christopher Columbus was the first European to
discover the Cayman Islands which were then named "Las
Tortugas" by Columbus himself.
Jennifer Bodden-Evans, 27 May 1997
This is the description of the Cayman Islands arms that appear
on the flag. The turtle is the crest and the "rope"
beneath it is the heraldic wreath. No connection to the rope
industry here, but there are two other Carribean arms that do
have this connection: Turks & Caicos
Islands and Antigua & Barbuda.
Nahum Shereshevsky, 31 May 1997
The meaning of the Turtle is that the Caymans (Grand Cayman,
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) were known as "Tortuga"
(Turtle in Spanish) during the period when pirates used to hang
around the Caribean Sea. The reason is very simple: the Island
was crowded with them. Even today they have lots of them, even
have a farm to raise turtles for gastronomic reasons (urgh!).
There you can find also Stingrays, but they didn't get any space
in the flag. What a shame...
Antonio Trops, 22 December 1998
Turks/Caicos and the Cayman Islands were
dependencies of Jamaica. Turks had its own
badge based on the Seal of the colony from 1875 until 1958 when
it was replaced by the current shield, Caymans didn't have a
badge at all until 1958.
David Prothero, 22 November 1999
The American Express commercial playing on tv these days shows
the flag of the Caymen Islands flying from a pole, with the badge
in a white disc in the usual place in a blue field UK Blue
Ensign. Our website has the same flag shown as an illustration.
The World Flag Database has a different illustration showing flag not a white disc, but placed directly on the field.
Steve Stringfellow, 7 Febuary 2000
"The Cayman Islands coat of arms consists of a shield, a crested helm and the motto. Three green stars representing the Islands are set in the lower two-thirds of the shield. The stars rest on blue and white wavy bands representing the sea. In the top third of the shield, against a red background, is a gold lion "passant guardant" (walking with the further forepaw raised and the body seen from the side), representing Great Britain. Above the shield is a green turtle on a coil of rope. Behind the turtle is a gold pineapple. The turtle represents Cayman's seafaring history; the rope, its traditional thatch-rope industry; and the pineapple, its ties with Jamaica.
The Islands' motto, He hath founded it upon the seas, is printed at the bottom of the shield. This verse from Psalms 24 acknowledges Cayman's Christian heritage.
The proposal for a coat of arms was approved by the Legislative Assembly in 1957, and public input was sought on its design. The Royal Warrant assigning "Armorial Ensigns for the Cayman Islands" was approved by Her Majesty's command on 14 May 1958.
J.T. Liston, 6 Febuary 2002
Foreign civilian ships visiting any British Overseas Territory
should fly, as a courtesy flag, the Territory's own Red Ensign,
if the territory has one and the ship happens to carry one. The
undefaced British Red Ensign is always an acceptable alternative.
If the ship is a Foreign government vessel they should fly the
Territory's Blue Ensign.
Basically the British rule is that you may use either the appropriate Red, Blue or White ensign (depending upon your own status) or the land flag, except that you cannot use the Union Flag at all.
Graham Bartram, 1 April 1999
Cayman Islands is divided to 8 districts. There are no known
flags of those districts. The districts are:
- South Town
- Spot Bay
- Stake Bay
- West End
List based on Administrative divisions of the World.
Dov Gutterman, 29 October 2004