Last modified: 2003-04-26 by jarig bakker
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by Mark Sensen
Santiago is quite correct. A picture of the flags at the Castle
in Cape Town was used on the XVII International Congress of Vexillology
programme in 1997 and is also on the cover of the Congress Proceedings
(which are currently available). The Transvaal "vierkleur" is also found
flying at the Paul Kruger Museum in Pretoria and at the home of the late
founder of the Boerestaat Party in Randburg. A replica of the South
African red ensign is also hanging outside (not actually flying) at the
Military History Museum in Johannesburg.
Bruce Berry, 8 Oct 1999
What are the colour specifications of the former (1928-1994) South African
flag in (BS) RGB values?
NB: Blue was BCC 150 Lapis Lazuli in the British Colour Council's "Dictionary of Color Standards".
Mark Sensen, 15 Jun 2002
The only colour specifications I could find for the old SA flag in the old British Standard Colour Classifications are:
In the 1850's the British suffered a bout of anti-colonialism and abandoned
the countries to the north of the Orange River to their fate. In
1854, the Boere in the Trans-Oranje, established the Republic of the Orange
Free State. On the day of independence they hoisted the Driekleur for lack
of their own flag. This flag they called the Bataafsche Vlag in memory
Batavian Republic, they having of course no experience with the Dutch Kingdom established in 1816. The first president, Josias Hoffman, then wrote to a friend of the Voortrekkers in Holland, asking him to approach King Willem III for the grant of a flag and a coat of arms for the new republic. This must be a unique event in the history of both vexillology and heraldry - a republic asking a monarch to grant a flag and arms? The upshot of all this was the old Orange Free State flag with the Driekleur in the canton and the three orange and four white bars.
The Transvalers took a while longer to find unity and establish an organised
state, but in 1856 they finally adopted a constitution and a flag. The
committee who decided on the design of the Transvaal Vierkleur was advised
by the Reverend Dirk van der Hoff, his brother Marthinus and Jacobus Stuart,
all born Hollanders. The result was the Driekleur with a vertical green
bar added along the hoist. The continued attachment of the Boere to the
old Driekleur and their Dutch heritage comes out clearly in
the flag designs which they adopted for these three republics.
After the Anglo-Boer War and Union in 1910, the British Union Jack became the national flag of the united South Africa. The Red and Blue ensigns with the Union coat of arms in the fly, were granted by British Admiralty warrants in 1910 (amended in 1912) for use at SEA as was the case all over the British Empire. They were not intended as national flags for the Union although some people used them as such (especially the Red Ensign). It was only in 1925, after the first post-Union Afrikaner government took office, that they introduced a Bill to make provision for a national flag for the Union. This action immediately led to some three years of civil strife and near civil war. The British thought that the Boere wanted to do away with their cherished Imperial symbols. The province of Natal even threatened to secede from the Union. A compromise was reached which resulted in the adoption of the Union national flag late in 1927, which was first hoisted on 31 May 1928. This was the socalled Van Riebeeck flag, which was in reality the old Princevlag, orange, white and blue horisontally with the three smaller flags on the white; the British Union Jack towards the hoist, the Orange Free State Vierkleur hanging vertically and the Transvaal Vierkleur towards the fly. The choice of the Princevlag had more to do with finding an acceptable compromise (the Prinzenvlag supposedly being the first flag hoisted on South African soil - although this is not at all certain - and being a neutral design as it was not a current national flag anymore), than having anything to do with Afrikaner political desires. A further part of the compromise was that the British Union Jack would continue to fly alongside the Union national flag everywhere over official buildings. South Africa was thus the only country in the world as far as I am aware, that flew two national flags simultaneously! This situation continued until 1957 when the Union Jack was finally dispensed with by an Act of Parlaiment.
Sources: "The South African Flag Controversy" by Henry Saker, Oxford
University Press, Cape Town, 1980;
"Die Vlae van Suid-Afrika" by Dr C. Pama, Tafelberg Publishers, Cape Town, 1984;
"SAVA Journal SJ: 4/95: The History of Flags of South Africa before 1900".
Andre Burgers, 18 Jan 2001
Although it was taken into use in ’28, the parliamentary debate on the
orange-white-blue flag took place in ’27, so it is frequently referred
to as the flag of 1927. Looking at your page on flag
proposals, I notice that one particularly insulting nickname of the
House of Assembly’s proposal – the one which stuck – is not mentioned.
The National Party, which had a slender majority and was in government, was not able to prevent this flag design from being approved, but maintained that the shield was no more than a scab which would in due course fall away. The shield flag was for many years known as the “scab flag” – possibly because the only people who referred to it in public were the radical Nationalists (especially Dr D F Malan’s Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party which abandoned the coalition government of 1934).
Dr Malan’s preference was for the Princenvlag, so for him the “scab” (the quartered shield) was totally unacceptable. Yet his party (the Herenigde Nasionale Party which won the 1948 general election) quite happily accepted the 1928 flag (despite the presence of the Union Jack), and eventually abandoned its intention of returning to the Princenvlag.
Mike Oettle, 24 May 2002
I remember reading somewhere that somewhere around the years 1969-'71
a proposal was made for replacing the "1928" flag with the Princenvlag.
Does anyone know more details about this? E.g. was it an official proposal
and/or was it taken in consideration seriously?
Mark Sensen, 24 May 2002
On 28 September 1968 the then ruling National Party announced a commission
under the chairmanship of Mr Justice JF Marais to look into the matter
of a new flag for South Africa and that any new design should be hoisted
on Republic Day (31 May) in 1971 - the 10th anniversary of the declaration
of the the republic. However, Mr John Vorster, the Prime Minister, decided
later that new flags and symbols were not necessary and that it would be
"petty politics" to interfere in the matter and accordingly, no further
attempt was made to change the then national symbols of the country until
the advent of democracy in 1994.
As most vexillologists are aware, the previous South African flag was born following a fierce debate and was in essence a compromise symbol between the English and Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans following the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. There were numerous attempts to change the flag, particularly from Afrikaners who detested the "Union Jack" being part of the flag.
The former Prime Minister (and architect of apartheid) Dr Verwoerd had a dream to hoist a "clean" flag over South Africa in the 1960s. The proposed design comprised three vertical stripes of blue, white and orange (Princenvlag colours) with a leaping springbok over a wreath of six proteas in the centre. This flag was designed by Mr HC Blatt, then assistant secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had already approved this design but his assassination in 1966 left the matter in abeyance until the National Party meeting in 1968, as referred to above. The successor to Dr Verwoerd, Mr John Vorster, raised the flag issue at a news conference on 30 March 1971 and said in the light of the impending elections and 10th anniversary Republic Day celebrations, he preferred "to keep the affair in the background". This he said was done because he did not want the flag question to degenerate into a political football (perhaps reflecting on the 1920s experience) and that the matter would be considered again when circumstances would be "more normal".
"I only want to warn, and express the hope, that no person should drag politics in any form into this matter because the flag must, at all times, be raised above party politics in South Africa" he said.
Verwoerd's dream for a new South African flag, with black and white illustration, is published in SAVA Newsletter 3/92 (July 1992) and is based on an article published in the Afrikaans newspaper Rapport on 15 December 1991.
Bruce Berry, 31 May 2002
This is my understanding and feel free to correct me:
It isn't upside down; it is being seen from the back! This was an elaborate trick to keep any one of the three flags from having "precedence;" the British flag as portrayed on the old RSA flag as at the honor point (left); but since you are seeing the reverse, from the "proper" perspective the UJ is really on the left.
Joshua Fruhlinger, 9 March 1998
South African forces in East Africa flew their national flag. In a July
1941 letter to the Colonial Office about the use of British flags in the
territory the governor of Tanganyika referred to the Union Jack, adding
that "I do not use the expression out of ignorance but since the wartime
eruption of Union troops in East Africa the term Union Flag is usually
associated with the Vierkleur."
The formation badges were yellow and green. That of the 1st South African Division (raised in Kenya in 1940, then Somaliland, Abyssinia and North Africa) was a diamond divided in half horizontally, yellow over green, later a rectangle yellow over green on which was superimposed a black wildebeest. 2nd South African Division in North Africa was a circle divided yellow over green. 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy was a yellow triangle with a green border.
David Prothero, 15 Jun 2001
It is quite correctly stated that the Union Flag of 1927 was used by
SA forces. My father, who served in the Second World War, assured me that
the Union Jack was hardly to be seen at SA military installations. Ironically,
since my Dad served (in 1944-45, in the 6th SA Armoured Division in Italy)
in a Natal infantry regiment (previously he had been in the SA Corps of
Engineers and the SA Tank Corps, and was not himself from Natal) there
was one exception to this:
Natal Command (army regional headquarters) in Durban, from 1927 to 1961, always flew the Union Jack and the Union Flag side by side. The Natal Provincial Administration also flew the two flags together, as did most Natal local governments (the corporations of Durban and Pietermaritzburg and the boroughs of the other towns).
The reason for this was that Natal was far more closely attached to the British Crown than the other provinces of the Union, and was fiercely loyal to the British connection. The deviation at Natal Command was tolerated for this reason.
The only military bases elsewhere in the Union where the Union Jack was flown were the Royal Navy installations on the Cape coast and the Joint Flying Schools, which were run by both the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. At these, naturally, the White Ensign and the Air Force Ensign respectively were also in evidence.
Mike Oettle, 8 Dec 2001