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Belize - Colonial Flags of British Honduras

Last modified: 2003-07-12 by dov gutterman
Keywords: belize | british honduras | colony | colonial | honduras | sledghammer | saw | axe | oar | ship |
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by Zeljko Heimer and Jaume Ollé, 4 March 2001

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Explanation of the flag

This flag is a standard British Blue Ensign, with the badge of British Honduras. The badge is divided in three portions. In the first field, there is a Union Jack on a white background. This makes two UJ's on the flag. The second field displays four tools, also found on the Coat of Arms. The four tools are: a sledgehammer, a saw, an axe and an oar. The bottom field shows a ship sailing toward the hoist. The ship is flying a red flag, probably a British Red Ensign.
Zeljko Heimer
, 22 July 1996

Smith [smi80] show it only as ---/-SW ensign (that is probably on state ensign, as I doubt that Belize had a navy). The matching civil ensign is simple undefaced British red ensign.
Zeljko Heimer, 4 March 2001

History of the flag

This flag was used as the Colonial flag of British Honduras, and was then used as a state and war ensign until the 80's.
Zeljko Heimer, 22 July 1996

Belize was known as British Honduras until 1973.  Badge approved 1870 and apparently displayed on a white disc until about 1920.  A letter dated 12-dec-1919 was sent to the Crown Agents (who supplied flags to British Honduras), telling them that there should be no white circle on the British Honduras Blue Ensign. This flag continued to be used until probably 1981.
David Prothero, 6 March 1999

Illustration of this flag appears in p. 108 (bottom) at [zna99], with two rows of three Blue Ensigns each. In the first row there is "British Honduras (XIXth century - 1981)".
Ivan Sache, 25 Febuary 2001

Red Ensign

by Zeljko Heimer and Jaume Ollé, 4 March 2001

Here is a photo of a badge on red ensign taken by me at a flag display in ICV 19 (York, July 2001). The origilal flag is from Bruce Berry collection. According to the display catalouge: "The tools show the forestry trade, the mainstay of the colony's economy."
This version may have been unofficial or its origin is not clear.
Dov Gutterman, 31 July 2001

Governor Flag

by Zeljko Heimer and Jaume Ollé, 4 March 2001

General Governor of British Honduras. The badge in the middle is used since at least end of 19th century (approved 1870 according to David Protero) when this flag might have been inftroduced, too, and the flag was used until presumably 1981.
Zeljko Heimer, 4 March 2001

No Governor-General until independence. The defaced UJ was for the Lieutenant-Governor from 1870 until 1884 when British Honduras ceased to be a dependency of Jamaica, and the Lt-Governor became a Governor. The badge is recorded in the Colonial Office Record Book, [Public Record Office document CO 325/54] with an 1870 reference number and a note, "Shield on circle with garland of mahogany leaves filling the space between edges of shield and circle." At some point it would have been changed to a standard laurel leaf garland.  Doubtful whether any flag was actually made with a mahogany leaf garland.
David Prothero, 5 March 2001

British Honduras Badge and Coat of Arms

According to Crampton's The World of Flags 1990, the Coat of Arms was granted in 1907 (see above). However, Crampton does not say which of the Coat of Arms or the badge came first. A possible theory would be that the badge was designed before the arms. In effect, the ship at sail is a clear sign of late 19th century Caribbean colony designs. Thus, the 1907 coat of arms must have been an attempt to make the badge more 'heraldically correct', and so, the badge must have come before the arms. This is an educated guess, but a guess nonetheless. Which preceded which is still unclear.
Roy Stilling, 22 July 1996

The old CoA was granted by Royal warrant on 28 Jan. 1907 . Note: this is the date for the CoA, and not the colonial badge. As Roy says ,the badge probably came earlier (perhaps 1860s).
The current CoA was adopted at independence and differs only in minor details (e.g. the UJ was eliminated from the canton of the shield). Differences in the shape of the scroll etc. are probably heraldic license and not new CoAs. The supporters used to be both Black. The dexter one (viewer's left) is now White/Hispanic -- I suppose that was a change at independence.
T. F. Mills
, 27 March 1999