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Bahamas - Colonial Flags and Badges

Last modified: 2003-07-12 by dov gutterman
Keywords: bahamas | colonial badge | crown | lighthouse | sombrero |
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The Bahamas badge was introduced in 1869 and changed little before being discontinued in 1973. The crown in the Variants is not the pattern usually seen on flag badges.  Before 1904 it would probably have been an angular flat topped crown; from 1904 to 1953 a more domed Tudor crown, and after 1953 a St.Edward’s crown. Until 1964 the shape of the badge, excluding crown and scroll, was horizontally oval, but was then made more circular and larger, relative to the ensign.  On the Blue Ensign it was on a white disc until 1923.
Officially there was no Red Ensign, but many were in use unofficially by the 1930s, and in 1962 the Port Director of Nassau estimated that there were probably over 1,000 defaced Red Ensigns being flown by yachts at the time, and that more than 5,000 yachts had the ensign, and would have flown it at some time in the past.  The Colonial Office wrote to the Bahamian government: "We realise that the unauthorised wearing of the defaced Red Ensign in both the Bahamas and Bermuda has become so widespread that there seems no possibility of bringing about its discontinuance without the creation of much ill-feeling, and do not therefore intend taking action against those concerned.  On the other hand, the Board of Admiralty has again ruled that the present misuse of the defaced Red Ensign cannot be regularised."  [Bahamian Symbols by Whitney Smith in Flag Bulletin March-June 1976]
David Prothero, 2 August 2001

1869 - 1904

The flag

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

This flag has the Victorian Crown, which was used until about 1902, even though this crown was phased out since 1880. The crown image is based on a drawing presented by Jarig Bakker and following the colors of the other crowns at Jaume Olle's website.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The Badge

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

A close up of the badge of this flag.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

1904 - 1923

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The Victorian Crown was replaced by the Imperial or Tudor Crown, introduced by King Edward VII around 1902.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

Flags used in 1919

In some correspondence of 1919, when the Colonial Office had to send out a questionnaire to ask colonial governors what their flags looked like, were paintings of the flags of the Bahamas. One, which was known as the Revenue Flag because it was used only by Out-Island Commissioners who were Revenue Officers, was a Blue Ensign defaced with an over-size (3/5ths breadth) crown, with depressed arches. Behind the times I guess, rather than ahead of them.
The reply to the Colonial Office was written by a W.Miller who was Civil Engineer in the Bahamas, and deserves a mention as an early vexi-maniac. Out of all the replies, must have been 30 odd, he was the only one who sent back water-colour paintings of all the flags in use in the colony, instead of a brief description.
David Prothero, 15 July 1997


by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The same badge but without the white circle.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001


by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The Tudor Crown was replaced by the St. Edward Crown, introduced by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001


by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

This flag is based on the badge presented by Jaume Olle' in May 1997 (The Colonial Badge from 1959 to Independence), but with the colors recently corrected (the badge below is incorrect). He was not sure by then if it was encircled or not. According to Nahum Shereshevsky, this badge appeared probably in 1973, which makes more logic
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The new badge inside a white circle. Note that this badge is more elaborated than the simpler one above because it presents two scrolls: the one at the top with Bahamas inscribed in it, and the one under with the motto.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

The same badge without the circle. Just an artistic exercise. It may or may not have existed, owing to the fact of the existence of the simpler version shown above (1959?).
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 9 September 2001

Based on Jaume's badge at his website. This flag appears at Znamierowski's "The World Encyclopedia of Flags" [zna99] as 1964-1973 flag.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 11 September 2000 and 9 September 2001

Unofficial Variants

blue ensign
by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001

red ensign
by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001

by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 2 August 2001

Those images are based on photos of a red ensign taken by Dov Gutterman at a flag display in ICV 19 (York, July 2001). The origilal flag is from Bruce Berry collection. According to the display catalouge: "The moto redas: "With the expultion of the Pirates, Commerece was restored". In the 17th and 18th centuries pirates ravaged the Caribbean Sea."
These two versions may have been unofficial or their origins are not clear.
Blas Delgado Ortiz and Dov Gutterman, 2 August 2001

The Colonial Badge before 1959

by Jaume Olle', 5 September 2001

For image from the National Geographic click here.

A large and two small ships within a garter surmounted by a crown constitute the principal device of the badge of the Bahamas. On the garter are words which tell us that the pirates have been expelled and that business has been resumed.
This badge is the basis of the coat of arms the country adopted on independence. They replaced the old Latin motto with a much more anodyne one in English.
Roy Stilling, 19 February 1996

This is the colonial badge that was used on Bahama Blue ensign in 1904-1955. It replaced old crown (1869-1904) and was replaced with the new crown (1955-1964) and newer redention (1964-1973)
Jaume Olle', 5 September 2001

The Colonial Badge from 1959 to Independence

[Colonial badge 1959]by Jaume Olle'

In 1959 a new shield was granted to Bahamas and the old badge became obsolete. The new shield was included in the Blue Ensign (I don't know if in a white circle or directly in the blue field). Perhaps the same new shield was used in the Governor's flag (Union Jack with circle with wreath in the centre?). Can you confirm?
Jaume Olle', 4 May 1997

My stamp album suggests another year! The above shield appears on a 1973 stamp issued for Bahama's independence so I assume that it was granted then. Another stamp in the set shows the flag, but as I didn't keep it I don't know what flag it is. The definitive series of 1964 shows the older shield: it is divided horizontaly red-white-green, the green is water on which there is a ship with masts only (no sails). On the red stripe there is a royal crown. The motto was changed from the Latin Commercia Expulsis Piratis Restituta (Commerce restored on the defeat of the pirates) to the English "Forward, upward, onward, together". I use these two stamps in my exhibit to show how the transition from colony to independent state is reflected in the arms (especially the removal of the royal crown).
Nahum Shereshevsky, 7 May 1997

Lighthouse Service

Overseas lighthouses were the responsibility of the Imperial Lighthouse Service of the Board of Trade.
The Bahamas office looked after not only the lighthouses on the Bahamas but also that on Sombrero, a small island that was part of the St Christopher-Nevis group of the Leeward Islands.  The tender based at Nassau flew a Blue Ensign with a badge that consisted of a lighthouse within an oval belt on which BOARD OF TRADE was written in white on red. The belt was surmounted by a crown, with a red scroll above, bearing the word BAHAMA in white.  This was an official flag warranted 20 July 1898.  It was more usual for colonial lighthouse tenders to fly the Board of Trade Blue Ensign with the sailing ship badge.
The Bahama/Sombrero badge was flown by the tender Ana Patricia until about 1971 when it was replaced by the Board of Trade Blue Ensign [Bahamian Symbols by Whitney Smith in The Flag Bulletin XIV:2-3], but the lighthouse at Sombrero, on special occasions, flew the Wheel and Anchor Blue Ensign of the Ministry of Transport, which had taken over the Board of Trade's transport responsibilities in, I think, the early 1950's [Public Record Office document MT 45/580].
David Prothero, 18 November 2000