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Crown Colony of Sarawak 1946-1963 (Malaysia)

Last modified: 2001-09-08 by santiago dotor
Keywords: sarawak | malaysia | colonial | union flag | blue ensign | governor | cross (black and red) | crown | coat of arms | disc (white) |
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[Sarawak Crown Colony 1946-1963 (Malaysia)]
by Blas Delgado, Jorge Candeias and Santiago Dotor

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From 1 July 1946 until 10 March 1947 the colony used the British ensigns, having no distinctive badge. On 1 July 1946 [sic] the colony was granted its own badge, reproducing the old State flag, and it was placed on the Blue Ensign and in the middle of the Union for the Governor's flag. On 9 March 1963 the independent Sarawak adopted the old State flag.

Mario Fabretto, 18 September 1997

When Sarawak became a Crown Colony in 1946 the standard colonial flags were introduced:

  • Union Flag, badge on a white disc surrounded by a laurel leaf garland. This was the flag of the Governor. The badge was a yellow shield with the same bi-coloured cross and the same style crown in the centre of the cross.
  • Blue Ensign. Badge in the fly, usually shown as being on a white disc, though I wouldn't have thought that the disc was necessary. For government vessels.
  • Merchant ships presumably flew the plain undefaced Red Ensign.

Mario Fabretto, 2 October 1997
quoted by David Prothero, 22 July 1998

I hope I am not repeating Mario Fabretto's work, but I couldn't find in my files any GIFs from him, so I GIFfed the merchant flag, the personal flag of the Rajah as (using Uros Zizmund's crown), the [Governor's] Union Flag (based on a GIF by Bruce Berry) and the Blue Ensign (based on a GIF by Dave Martucci).

Jorge Candeias, 29 October 1998

In spite of Mario Fabretto's sources, according to Gresham Carr 1961, page 116, a [white] disc was certainly used. As for Merchant ships, as Mario Fabretto's sources said, unless there was a specific Admiralty Warrant authorising a defaced Red Ensign for the colony, the undefaced ensign would be used.

David Prothero, 29 October 1998

In the case of the Sarawak Blue Ensign, maybe the flag was made with the white circle. However unless it is known for certain that this was so, it seems to me that a white circle is not necessary, and that it should be drawn without one. The correct size would be achieved by putting a circle, four ninths of the breadth of the ensign in the middle of the fly, making the shield as large as will go into the circle, and then removing the circle.

David Prothero, 30 October 1998

The shape of the shield is similar to that on the British Antarctic Territories flag drawn by Mark Sensen. If the illustration in Gresham Carr 1961 is accurate, just a little narrower with the upper part of the sides of the shield parallel.

David Prothero, 31 October 1998

I found three different books with exactly the same badge:

  1. Evans 1959, p. 59, 60: That of Sarawak, based on the flag of the former Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke, is a shield bearing on gold a cross of St. George type divided vertically black and red, with an antique crown at its center.
  2. Kannik c.1959, #564 (from which I took the scan) — granted in 1947.
  3. Znamierowski 1999.
So I am pretty sure that the depiction of the badge on FOTW is wrong.

Jarig Bakker, 2 December 1999

The circular badge on the Blue Ensign [above] is wrong. The badge was definitely the shape of a shield. The badge on the Blue Ensign is too large. The white [or imaginary] circle is 4/9ths of the width of the flag.

David Prothero, 3 December 1999

White Circle around the Badge?

Unfortunately the presence of a white circle around a British colonial flag badge, in even the most reputable flag book, is not a reliable indication that the circle appeared on the flag.

The circle was introduced as a convenience to printers, and is not necessarily part of the badge. When the first official Admiralty Flag Book was introduced in 1873 a special layout was adopted in order to avoid repeating numerous illustrations of defaced Union Flags and Blue Ensigns, and to enable badges to be reproduced at a larger scale. Instead of printing illustrations of flags for each colony, only one plain undefaced version of the Union Flag, the Blue Ensign, for a while the White Ensign and later the Red Ensign was printed in the introduction to the British Empire section. A circle of black dots was superimposed on the flags to show the approximate size of the badge and where it should be positioned. Subsequent pages were composed of rows and columns of circles outlined in black with the name of the colony or department beneath. In the first book most of the badge plates were not ready in time, and that is all there is; rows of circles, most of them blank.

On the defaced Union Flags the white circle is effectively part of the badge; in most cases. Out of a total of about 144 current and obsolete defaced Union Flags there are/were only 8 that are/were not circular, and ten that are/were circular, but not white. The garland of green laurel leaves is also effectively part of the badge though there are 22 cases where there is/was no garland, or where there is a garland but it is/was not of laurel.

Ensigns were different. It is not clear whether any thought had been given to the fact that if any significant part of the edge of the badge was blue (or later, in some cases, red) it could merge into the field of the ensign. Later editions of the official Admiralty Flag Book had the note;

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. White circles are generally to appear on the Union Flag except where otherwise noted beneath the design.
However confusion had already been created. Commercial flag books show the badges in circles, but none that I have seen, have ever explained that the white circle is not necessarily part of the badge.

Even the Colonial Office was confused and in 1919 had to send a Despatch to all colonial governors asking them for information on the flags in use in the colonies. Subsequently the ensigns of ten colonies that had the badge displayed on a white circle were changed and the white circle was removed.

David Prothero, 30 October 1998

Whether or not the shield was set in a white circle is unclear. In my opinion it probably was not in a white circle, in spite of the fact that Gresham Carr 1953 wrote that it was, and Petersen drew it in one (Kannik 1956). The white circle was only to make a badge show up if it was otherwise likely to merge into the background. Although the black part of the cross blends into the blue field this is balanced by the fact that the more extensive yellow areas show better against blue than against white.

David Prothero, 3 December 1999

Governor's Flag

[Governor's Flag 1946-1963 (Sarawak, Malaysia)]
N.B.: the badge within the garland should be shield-shaped not a circle
by Bruce Berry and Jorge Candeias

Note Mario Fabretto's sources said "shield" — according to Gresham Carr 1961, page 116, this is correct. Jorge Candeias GIFfed it as a disc. The badge on the Union Jack (...) is a bit too big as well [in Jorge Candeias' GIF], the standard usually quoted is that the disc should be 4/9 of the hoist.

David Prothero, 29 October 1998

In the case of the Governor of Sarawak the shield shaped badge is applied to the centre of the flag with the space between the shield and the laurel garland, white. I imagine that it is more difficult to draw, but the garland should hide the edge of the white circle, so that there is no white outside the garland that is not part of the Union Flag design. The circumference of the garland is such that it extends only slightly beyond the four corners of the arms of the St. George's cross. It shouldn't obscure any part of St. Patrick's or St. Andrew's saltires.

David Prothero, 30 October 1998

The badge on the Union Jack is too large. The white circle without the garland is 4/9ths of the width of the flag. The garland covers the join between the edge of the circle and the Union Jack proper.

David Prothero, 3 December 1999

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