Sunday, 26 July 2009

Cameroon - Current

The national flag of Cameroon consists of a vertical tricolor of green, red and yellow, defaced with a gold five-pointed star in its centre.[1] The ratio of the flag is 2:3.[2] It was adopted in its present form on 20 May 1975 after Cameroon became a unitary state. [3]

There is much discussion regarding the star on the Cameroon flag. There appears to be no specified size for the star within the constitution. [4] The star does however, always seems to be contained within the central stripe.[5] The size of the star has been reported to vary in size from “…very small…hardly visible from a distance”[6] to “…7/8th of the width of the central stripe, or maybe more.”[7]

The colours of the flag of Cameroon are the pan-African colours of green, red and yellow. They are based on the colours of a historic Ethiopian flag from 1897.[8] These colours were adopted by the African Democratic Rally, the leading local political force in French West Africa.[20] Cameroon was the second country to adopt these colours after Ghana.[9] The vertical tricolor of the Cameroon flag reflects the links with France which was the colonial power controlling most of its territory before independence.

The symbolism of the colours of the Cameroon flag are given as follows. Green is said to represent hope for a happy future and the rich vegetation of the Southern forests. Yellow stands for the Sun, the source of peoples happiness and for the savannas in the northern part of the country. Red stands for national sovereignty and is the symbol of independence and unity. The star is referred to as "the star of unity".[10][11][12][13]

The history of the current flag dates back to 1957 when the newly independent Cameroon adopted a unadorned tricolor of green, red and yellow as there flag. When in 1961 the former British territory of Southern Cameroon voted to join the former French Cameroon, two stars of gold were added to the top of the green band to represent the federated states. In 1972 the federal system was replaced by a unitary government, and in 1975 the two stars were removed from the green and a single star was placed on the red portion of the flag.[15][16][17][18][19]

The flag of Cameroon may have been completely different if one of the other 1957 proposals had been adopted. One popular symbol suggested for the flag was the prawn that had given the country its name. (The Portuguese place-name Rio dos Camarões “River of the Prawns” or “River of Shrimps” was corrupted into Cameroons or Cameroon.)[20]

[fig1] Flag of Cameroon, Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[fig2] Flag of Cameroon (1961-75), Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[fig3] Flag of Cameroon (1957-61), Vincent Morley, Flags of the World,
[1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[2] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World, citing
Whitney Smith, Zastave i grbovi svijeta, Globus, Zagreb, Croatia, 1992 (in Croatian)
[3] The Cameroon Flag, Wikipedia,
[4] Christopher Southworth , Flags of the World, citing
Pascal Vagnat; Jos Poels, Constitutions — what they tell us about national flags and coats of arms, South African Vexillological Association (SAVA) (South Africa), 2000
[5] The Cameroon Flag, Wikipedia,
[6] Ivan Sache, Flags of the World, citing National flag hanging on stadiums during The football Nations' Africa Cup (CAN),Ghana 20th January to 10th February 2008
[7] James Dignan, Flags of the World, citing picture from Reuters of flags outside the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting in Malta.
[8] Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr, Flags of the World,
[9] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[10] Siobhán Ryan, Ultimate pocket Flags of the World, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, UK, 1997
[11] Whitney Smith, Flags Through the Ages and Across the World, McGraw-Hill Book Company (UK) Ltd, Maidenhead, UK, 1975
[12] Christian Fogd Pedersen, The International Flag Book in Color, R.N.William Morrow & Company Inc, New York, USA, 1971
[13] Arnold Rabbow, DTV-Lexikon politischer Symbole, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG: München, Germany, 1970 (in German)
[14] The Cameroon Flag, Wikipedia,
[15] Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr, Flags of the World,
[16] Stuart Notholt, Flags of the World,
[17] Michael Smuda, Flags of the World,
[18] Jarig Bakker, Flags of the World,
[19] Jaume Olle, Flags of the World,
[20] Whitney Smith, Flag of Cameroon, Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Cambodia - Current

The flag of Cambodia consists of three horizontal bands, in 1:2:1 proportions of blue, red, blue with a depiction of a three-towered temple representing Angkor Wat outlined in black in the centre of the red band.[1][2] The present flag with these colours arranged in horizontal bands, was officially adopted on 29th October 1948 until October 1970, then, once again, at the beginning of 24th September 1993, date of the reestablishment of the Monarchy.[3] The ratio of the flag is 2:3.[4]

The colours of the Cambodian flag have been given many different meanings. The symbolism ranges from blue, symbolizing the royalty, the red, the nation, the white, the religion.[5] Red for the blood, given in the struggle for freedom and independence, Blue for the wealth of the country . Red being the national colour of the Khmer people, expressing willingness for sacrifices, blue the colour of the Khmer royalty representing the power and the wishes of the sovereign. The white temple symbolizes the glorious past of the land. White also stands for the confidence of the people in its sovereign.[6] Right through to red standing for hardiness, bravery, strength and valour, and blue for vigilance, truth and loyalty, perseverance and justice.[7]

The current Cambodian flag holds the distinction of being the only flag in the world to feature a building in its design. [8]

The flag used today is the same as that established in 1948, although since then 5 other designs have been used. These have almost all made use of the image of the temple of Angkor Wat in one form or another. This famous temple site, which dates from the 12th century, was built by the Mahidharapura monarchs. It has 5 towers, but these were not always all depicted in the stylized version used on flags. [8] Whitney Smith stated, “The temple is considered a symbol of the great civilization of the Khmer people.”[9]

[1] Flag of Cambodia, Wikipedia,
[2] The Meaning & History of the Cambodia Flag,
[3] Flags of the World,
[4] The Meaning & History of the Cambodia Flag,
[5] Flags of the World,
[8] Wikipedia,
[9] Whitney Smith, Flag lore of all nations, Millbrook Press, 2002.
[fig1] P. Mattew and Eugene Ipavec, Flags of the World,
[fig2] Angkor Wat, Andrew Lih,

Friday, 24 July 2009

Burundi - Current

The flag of Burundi was adopted in 1967.[1] It consists of a white saltire of a width of 1/8th the hoist over a field of green and red. The red forming the upper and lower quarters and green the hoist and fly quarters. The centre of the flag is defaced with a white disc of a diameter of 3/5th the hoist. The white disc is charged with three, six pointed stars in red with a narrow green fimbriation. The stars form a fictive equilateral triangle inscribed in a fictive circle. The circle has the same centre as the disc. The triangle basis is parallel to the length of the flag.[2][3] The ratio of the flag is 3:5.[5] The colours of the flag are Pantone Red 186c and green 361c.[6]

The symbolism of the Burundi flag is given as follows The red is said to stand for the struggle for independence, the white for peace[7] or purity[8] and the green for the peoples belief in future development[7] or hope.[8] The three stars in the centre of the flag officially refer to the three words in the national motto “Unité, Travail, Progrès” (“Unity, Work, Progress”). The three stars are also said to represent the three ethnic groups who live in Burundi: the Hutu, Tutsi and the Twa.[9][10]

There is controversy surrounding the symbolism of the stars on the Burundi flag. Due to their symbolism of the ethnic groups and the tensions that persist between them in this area of Africa, there has been a move to remove the stars from the flag of Burundi.[11] The stars are used by Tutsi extremists to back up their claim that the Tutsis are descendants of ancient Jews and linked to the ancient Kushit state ruled by the Queen of Saba.[12] Whitney Smith also says that there is a possibility of the current flag being linked to the old Sabena flag, however he states that there is no proof of this fact.[13]

[1] Stuart Notholt, Flags of the World,
[2] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[3] Flag in Constitution from Burundi Government Site in French from English translation with notes
by Ivan Sache, Flags of the World,
[4] Presidential Decree, Article One, Christopher Southworth, Flags of the World,
[5] Jaume Ollé, Flags of the World,
[6] Colour approximations, Album des pavillons nationaux et des marques distinctive, S.H.O.M. (Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine), Brest, France, 2000.
[7] Whitney Smith, Flag lore of all nations, Millbrook Press, 2002.
[8] Flag of Burundi, Wikipedia,
[9] Stuart Notholt, Flags of the World,
[11] Grands-Lacs Confidentiel,
[12] An "explanation" of the Jewish origin of the Tutsis, by Mathias Niyonzima,
[13] Whitney Smith, Flags and Arms across the World, McGraw-Hill Book Company (UK) Ltd, Maidenhead , UK, 1980.
[fig1] - Flag of Burundi, Mark Sensen and António Martins, Flags of the World,
[fig2] - Current Construction Sheet, Željko Heimer,

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Burma - Current

The current flag of Burma is red with a blue canton containing a white emblem of a cog wheel and ears of rice encircled with fourteen white stars of equal size. The centre of the cog wheel coincides with the centre of the blue canton. The cog wheel has fourteen cogs of equal size and within it are two ears of rice consisting of 34 grains. At the top of each cog is a star with five vertices. The ratio of the flag seems to be unprescribed as various sources give 5:9, 2:3 and 6:11.[1]

The Symbolism of the flag is given as follows, the 14 stars represent the unity and equality between the 14 member states of the Union.[2] Together, the socialist symbols of the cogwheel and ears of rice represent the country's industry and agriculture, as well as the union of the workers and the peasant class.[3] The red of the flag stands for courage and decisiveness[4] or courage and gallantry.[5] The blue stands for peace and integrity[4] or peace and endurance.[5] The white signifies purity and virtue[4] or purity and honor.[5]

The flag of Burma was adopted on 3rd January 1974 upon the declaration of a socialist republic. The flag originated in the Burmese Resistance, which adopted a red flag with a white star when fighting the occupying Japanese forces during World War II. Upon independence, the star was modified to a blue canton with 5 small stars surrounding one large one. The emblem was changed in 1974 to represent the new socialist ideology in the country. The 5 stars were changed to 14, encircling the cog wheel and a rice plant.[6]

In recent years due to constitutional changes brought about by the National Convention, set up by the ruling junta, there have been proposals put forward for a new flag. The first proposal to come forward was that of a flag “…marked with green, yellow and red stripes in a proportionate ratio. On the left end of the green stripe at the top of the flag is a large white star directing upwards.”[7] The proposed flag lends back to that of the 1940s State of Burma flag, a puppet state set up under Japanese occupation which was a horizontal tricolour of yellow, green and red defaced with a peacock in the centre.

[Fig 4] - Proposal A

[Fig 5] - Flag of Burma 1943

The symbolism of the new flag was said to be “the colour green…for peace and tranquillity and lush and verdant environment, yellow depicts solidarity…red means valour and decisiveness.”[7] The National Convention felt that the flag was “endowed with essence and meaning.” However they felt something was missing and decided to add a “…white star, which reflects perpetual existence of the consolidated Union…” this was placed on the left end of the green stripe. The flag including the white star bares a remarkable similarity to the flag of the Karen division of Burma. However when the proposal for changing the flag was put forward by the commission working under the National Convention, it was rejected a few days later, by delegates of the National Convention.[8]

[Fig 6] - Flag of Karen Division

The commission went back to the drawing board and in September 2007 came up with a second proposal for a new flag. This time the flag had a large white star overlapping all three stripes and the colour of the stripes in a different order; yellow, green then red, the same order as used in the flag of the State of Burma.[9] This version was included in the new constitution, and was adopted with the 2008 referendum. The new flag will come into use in 2010.[8] The new proposal also resembles the flag of the Shan division of Burma.

[Fig 2] - Proposal B

[Fig 3] - Proposal B Construction Sheet

[Fig 7] - Flag of Shan Division

Many people in Burma are not happy with the design of the new flag, Cin Sian Thang, a Rangoon-based ethnic leader and chairman of the Zomi National Congress said “I felt very sad…only one star in the new flag shows clearly that the military leaders want to drive the country as a unilateral state.”

One Burmese blogger wrote “I don’t like the newly proposed flag either. When I first saw the flag, it first reminded me of African flags, because of its colours.” Others used the new flag to emphasise their views on the current regime: “According to the constitutional convention attendees, the color green represents peace, tranquility, and the verdant landscape of Burma, yellow represents solidarity, and red represents valor and decisiveness.” “…the new flag symbolizes something that may never be achievable in an undemocratic regime controlled by military personnel…. perhaps only the red remains true, as the military government is indeed decisive.”[11]

Another wrote, “Now, Burma is going to get her third flag since independence…the regime is making up a new ugly militant-looking flag to signify the military’s perpetual dominance in Burma. When Burma’s army was first founded, it used a three-colour flag with a peacock in it. And so, the regime is now giving Burma a new flag with the same three-colour stripes to show off their dominance. Moreover, it contains only one big star instead of the usual group of stars. It clearly shows that they see Burma as a solidly unified country. It demonstrates that they have no intention to give federalism to the ethnic groups in Burma. The new flag obviously illustrate SPDC regime’s real intentions and the true nature of their constitution. The ugly flag in fact is a warning sign that a horrible future lies ahead for Burma under perpetual military domination.” [12]

[1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[2] Wikipedia,
[3] World Flags,
[4] Dov Gutterman, Flags of the World,
[5] World Flags,
[6] Wikipedia,
[7] Translation of proposals to be included in drafting the State Constitution presented by the Delegate Group of Intellectuals and Intelligentsia at the Plenary Session of the National Convention held at Pyidaungsu Hall of Nyaunghnapin Camp in Hmawby Township, Yangon Division, on 28th December 2006, Jonathan Dixon, Flags of the World,
[8] Wikipedia,
[9] The New Light of Myanmar newspaper for 3rd September 2007, Jan Oskar Engene, Flags of the World,
[10] Proposed New Flag in Burma Stirs Controversy, Aye Lae, The Irrawaddy Newspaper,
[11] Fifty Viss Blog, a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma,
[12] Ugly Flag & Nasty Constitution, Dr Tayza,
[fig1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[fig2] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World,
[fig3] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World,
[fig4] António Martins-Tuválkin, Flags of the World,
[fig5] Flag of Burma 1943, Hellerick, VexiWiki,
[fig6] Flag of Karen division of Burma, Oleg B. Kozlov, Encyclopaedia Heraldica,
[fig7] Flag of Shan division of Burma, Oleg B. Kozlov, Encyclopaedia Heraldica,

Antarctica - Norwegian Proposal

Officially the flag of the Norwegian Antarctic territorial claim is the flag of Norway. There has however been a proposal for a distinct flag based on the swallow-tail Norwegian War Flag. On the proposal, the red of the flag has been replaced by a light blue background.[1] Assuming the flag is of the same construction as the Norwegian War Flag the overall proportions of the flag should be 16:17 and the construction 6:1:2:1:6:11 horizontally and 6:1:2:1:6 vertically.

The colours of the flag are unspecified, however, assuming that the dark blue cross is the same as on the Norwegian flag, it would be Pantone Blue 287.[3] The light blue taken from the image is approximately Pantone Blue 284.

[1] VexiWiki,
[2] Proportions of Norwegian War Flag, Mark Sensen, Flags of the World,
[3] Semi-official PMS matches recommended by the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Norway, Flags of the World,
[fig1] Oleg B. Kozlov, Encyclopaedia Heraldica,

Monday, 13 July 2009

Burkina Faso - Current

The flag of Burkina Faso consists of two equal horizontal bands of red and green, red on the top. A five pointed yellow star is placed in the centre.[1] The flag was adopted on 4th August 1984 following the coup of 1983 which brought Thomas Sankara to power.[2] The flag is in the pan-African colours, reflecting both a break with the country’s colonial past and its unity with other African ex-colonies.[3]

The symbolism of the colours are given as follows. The red is said to represent, the revolutionary struggle[2] or “…the blood shed yesterday, today and tomorrow by the martyrs of the Revolution to ensure the victory. Moreover, red represents all the sacrifices of the Burkinabe people.”[4] The green, hope and abundance[2] or “…agricultural wealth of the country. Moreover, green symbolizes plenty, which shall ensure the happiness of the people.” [4] The yellow star mineral wealth[2] or the “…ideological guide of the People’s and Democratic Revolution in its shining progress.”[4]

[1] Translated from French, Constitution Du Burkina Faso, The Government of Burkina Faso,
[2] Whitney Smith, Flag lore of all nations, Millbrook Press, 2002.
[3] Ivan Sache, Flags of the World,
[4] Rouamba Adama, Sidwaya newspaper, 12th December 2004.
[fig1] António Martins, Flags of the World,

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Bulgaria - Current

The flag of Bulgaria (Bulgarian: знаме на България, zname na Balgariya) is a horizontal tricolour of three equal bands of colour, from the top white, green and red. The bands will be of a ratio of 3:5, width to height.[1] The colours of the flag are specified as, white, whiteness no less than 80%, green, 17-5936 on the Pantone textile scale and red 18-1664.[2]

The flag was originally adopted following the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878). Flags of green, white and red were used by Bulgarian Legia (a revolutionary organisation founded in Serbia by Bulgarian emigrants) in 1861-1862. The first white-green-red striped flag was made by S. Paraskevov and presented to Russian-Bulgarian troops (during the war against Turkey) in the Romanian town of Braila in 1877. It was a swallow-tailed banner. There was a lion and inscription "BULGARIA" in the centre (in Cyrillic characters).[3] Therefore the origins of the Bulgarian flag come from that of Russia, being the only independent Slavic state, with the green replacing the blue stripe in the tricolour.[4] Other sources give the flag of Fillip Totyu’s detachment, dating prior to the Liberation (1867) and the flag flown by Rakovski (red-white-green) in Andrea Saco’s famous painting as the fist use of these colours.[5] The symbolism of the colours is vague however the red and white could come from the traditional colours of the Martenitsi and the legend behind it,[6] with the green symbolising freedom.

[2] Flag of Bulgaria, Wikpedia,
[3] Victor Lomantsov, Flags of the World,
[4] Stefan Härtel, Flags of the World,
[5] National and State Flag, Heraldika Bulgaria,
[6] Local Customs Bulgaria,,
[fig1] Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Brunei - Current

The flag of Brunei consists of four components, two parallelograms and two trapeziums. The two parallelograms dissect the flag from a point just below the top left corner to a point the same distance from the bottom left. This produces two similar trapeziums the bottom being the inverted form of the top. The parallelograms are of unequal depths the upper being wider than the lower. The centre of the flag is superimposed by the national crest. The colours of the flag are yellow for the two trapeziums white for the upper parallelogram and black for the lower. The national crest is coloured red.[1] There is debate regarding the proportions of the two parallelograms, the upper white is stated to be larger than the black in many sources,[2] Album des Pavillions 2000 gives the ratio as 17:15, white to black.[3]

The national crest consists of the flag, the royal umbrella, the wing, the hands, and the crescent. On the crescent is writing in Arabic script that contain the national motto of: "Always in service with God's guidance". Below this is a banner with the name of the nation in Arabic script as "Brunei Darussalam" or Brunei, land of peace.

The symbolism of the national crest is as follows, the Bendera (flag) and the Payung Ubor-Ubor (royal umbrella) are historical royal emblems. The Sayap (wing of four feathers) symbolizes the protection of justice, tranquillity, prosperity and peace. The Tangan or Kimhap (hand ) signifies the Government's pledge to promote welfare, peace and prosperity and the Bulan (crescent ) is the symbol of Islam, the national religion of Brunei.[4] The mast and pedestal of the crest represent the three levels of government.[5]

The colours of the flag have a symbolic meaning as well, in Southeast Asia, yellow is traditionally the colour of royalty, and the royal standards of Malaysia and Thailand, along with the presidential flag of Indonesia, also use a yellow field. Therefore the yellow represents the Sultan of Brunei. The black and white stripes represent Brunei's chief ministers.[6] The white is the colour of the Chief Minister of State, the Duli Pengiran Bendahara, and black represents the Second Minister, the Duli Pengiran Pemancha. These three were the signatories of the Treaty with Britain in 1906.[7]

Before 1906, Brunei had no single state emblem. Instead, Brunei royal family members and state officials held personal flags and standards. The most important belonged to the Sultan and Wazir. In 1906 the basic bold yellow, white and black flag was adopted as state emblem. The national crest was added when the national flag of Brunei was adopted on September 29, 1959 when the country was a British protectorate, and was retained when the country gained full independence on January 1, 1984, as Brunei Darussalam.[8]

Today there are five Wazirs in Brunei and their personal flags can be also seen flying on special occasions. These include that of the principal Wazir, the Duli Pengiran Perdana Wazir (white with the state crest in yellow) and the four further Wazirs; Pengiran Bendahara (white), Pengiran Digadong (green), Pengiran Pemancha (black) and Pengiran Temenggong (red),[9](given as purple by some sources).[10][11]

[1] The National Flag of Brunei Darussalam, The Government of Brunei Official Website,
[2] (a) Gilbert Grosvenor; William J. Showalter, Flags of the World, National Geographic Magazine, National Geographic Society: Washington, USA. 1934
(b) E. H. Baxter, National Flags, Frederick Warne and Co.: London and New York, UK. 1934
(c) Vice-Admiral Gordon Campbell; I. O. Evans, FRGS, The Book of Flags, Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. 1950
(d) I. O. Evans, FRGS, The Book of Flags, Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. 1965
(e) E. M. C. Barraclough, Flags of the World, Frederick Warne and Co.: London and New York, UK. 1965
(f) Christian Fogd Pedersen, The International Flag Book in Colour, R.N.William Morrow & Company: Inc.: New York, USA. 1971
(g) E. M. C. Barraclough; William Crampton, Flags of the World, Frederick Warne and Co.: London and New York, UK. 1978
(h) Eric Inglefield, Flags, Ward Lock / Kingfisher Books: London, UK. 1979
All sources taken from Flags of the World,
[3] Armand du Payrat, CV(R), Album des pavillons nationaux et des marques distinctive, S.H.O.M. (Service Hydrographique et Océanographique de la Marine): Brest, France. 2000
[4] The National Crest of Brunei Darussalam, The Government of Brunei Official Website,
[5] 100 years of the Brunei national flag, The Daily Brunei Resources,
[6] The Flag of Brunei, Wikipedia,
[7] Christopher Southworth, Flags of the World,
[8] The Flag of Brunei, Wikipedia,
[9] Wikipedia,
[10] Wiki-answers,[11] The Daily Brunei Resources,
[fig1] Flag of Brunei, Gvido Petersons, Flags of the World,
[fig2] Construction Sheet, Gvido Petersons and Željko Heimer, Flags of the World,
[fig3] The National Crest of Brunei, Brunei Government Official Website,

Thursday, 9 July 2009

British Virgin Islands - Current

The flag of the British Virgin Islands is a defaced Blue Ensign with the Union Flag in the canton, and defaced with the Coat of Arms of the British Virgin Islands in the fly. The Coat of Arms of the islands is “…a green shield charged with twelve golden oil lamps with red flames and a female figure, St. Ursula, patron saint of the British Virgin Islands attired in white and wearing sandals, carrying one of those lamps.”[1] There is a small white fimbration around the arms to strengthen the outline of darker arms on the dark blue background.[2] The flag was adopted on 15th November 1960.[3]

The colours of the flag are those of the Union Flag and all UK derivatives of Pantone Red 186 and Blue 280.[4] For the other colours on the flag I am unable to find reference. However another source gives the Blue as Pantone Blue 281.[5]

The symbolism of the Coat of Arms on the flag stems from the original name for the islands as given by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Columbus gave them the fanciful name Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes (Saint Ursula and her 11,000 Virgins), shortened to Las Vírgenes (The Virgins), after the legend of Saint Ursula.[6] Saint Ursula is depicted holding one lamp and the other eleven lamps represent the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.[7]

[1] History of the Flag, Government of British Virgin Islands,
[2] Graham Bartram, Flags of the World,
[3] Wikipedia,
[4] Graham Bartram, Flags of the World, quoting source Graham Bartram, British Flags & Emblems, The Flag Institute, Tuckwell Press, UK, 2004.
[5] Caribbean, Pantone Colours[6] Wikipedia,
[7] David Prothero, Flags of the World,
[fig1] Martin Grieve, Flags of the World,

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

British Indian Ocean Territory - Current

The flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory is a British Ensign with the Union Jack in the canton. It is a variant of a Blue Ensign but instead of the blue background it is one of wavy horizontal blue and white lines (six blue). The fly of the ensign is defaced with a palm tree overlaid with St Edwards Crown.[1] I can find no construction references for this flag however the standard for British Ensigns is 1:2[2](One reference lists as 2:3).[3]

The colours of the flag are those of the Union Flag and all UK derivatives of Pantone Red 186 and Blue 280.[4] For the other colours on the flag again I am unable to find reference.

The origin of the wavy lines is unknown, and their existence is a break from the traditional practice of flags of British colonies or former colonies.[5] However they look to be taken from the coat of arms of the territory which depict a shield bearing the Union Flag in the top quarter, a palm tree and St. Edward's Crown in the middle half, with three white wavy lines representing the ocean in the bottom quarter.[6] This is from where the palm tree and crown are also taken. In fact the crest of the arms consists of a crown and a castle bearing the territory's flag. It is possible that the flag is a unofficial local creation that was later adopted, especially as it is for use on land only.[8]

The status of the flag is also debated. It is one view that the flag, which was granted by Queen Elizabeth II on the 25th anniversary of the territory in 1990[7],is that of the Commissioner and has only semi-official status.[8] However, in a research paper for The Flag Institute called “Involvement of the College of Arms in the Adoption of Defacement of the Union Flag and of British Ensigns” the Ensign is listed just as British Indian Ocean Territory not as that of the Commissioner as in other listings.[9]

There is also debate as to whether the flag is actually used in the territory itself given that it is impossible for civilians to visit the territory. Lt. Col. Paul James who served on the island of Diego Garcia, the largest and only inhabited island states:
“Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Although British territory, it's used as a base for both British and American forces, and both British and American flags are flown as the "national" flag(s).”[10]
However, a video was released by the Naval Support Facility on Diego Garcia. It shows a scene where the flag is being flown.[11]

[1] Wikipedia,[2] Graham Bartram, Flags of All Nations, H.M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, UK, 2000.
[3] Pascal Vagnat, Flags of the World, quoting source William Crampton, The World of Flags, Studio Editions Ltd, London, UK, 1990.
[4] Graham Bartram, Flags of the World, quoting source Graham Bartram, British Flags & Emblems, The Flag Institute, Tuckwell Press, UK, 2004.
[5] Wikipedia,
[6] Wikipedia,[7] Official BIOT Emblems. Cable and Wireless Diego Garcia, (no longer available) form Wikipedia,
[8] Roy Stilling, Flags of the World,
[9] Nick Weekes, Involvement of the College of Arms in the Adoption of Defacement of the Union Flag and of British Ensigns, The Flag Institute,
[10] Lt Col Paul James, PRMC Forum
[11] Command Video. Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, (no longer available) from Wikipedia,
[fig1] Flag of British Indian Ocean Territory, Martin Grieve, Flags of the World -
[fig2] Coat of Arms of British Indian Ocean Territory - Demidow, Using source,

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Brazil - Current

The current Brazilian flag is a green field on which a large yellow rhombus is centred. A blue circle is placed within the rhombus, on which is represented, a view of the sky over Rio de Janeiro, with the constellation "Cruzeiro do Sul" (Southern Cross) at the meridian.[1] A curved white band runs through the blue circle, inscribed in green capital letters with the motto “Ordem e Progresso” (Order and Progress).[2]

The Law on the National Flag: details of construction give the following technical description (translated from Portuguese):
“ART. 5 - The construction of the national flag will conform to the following rules. To calculate the dimensions, take as a basis the desired width [of the hoist] and divide it into 14 (fourteen) equal parts. Each of these parts will be considered a measure or module, M. The length [of the fly] will be 20 modules (20 M). The distance from the vertices of the yellow lozenge to the edge of the field will be one and seven tenths modules (1.7 M). The blue circle in the middle of the lozenge will have a radius of three and a half modules (3.5 M). The centre of the arcs of the white band will be two modules (2 M) to the left of the point where the extension of the vertical diameter of the circle meets the lower edge of the field (point C indicated in Annex number 2). The radius of the lower arc of the white band will be eight modules (8 M); the radius of the upper arc of the white band will be eight and a half modules (8.5 M). The width of the white band will be one-half module (0.5 M). The letters of the motto "Ordem e Progresso" will be in green. They will be located in the middle of the white stripe, with equal white spaces above and below. The letter P will be placed on the vertical diameter of the circle. The distribution of the other letters will be as indicated in Annex number 2. The letters of the word "Ordem" and of the word "Progresso" will be one-third of a module (0.333 M) in height. The width of these letters will be three-tenths of a module (0.3 M). The height of the letter of the conjunction "E" will be three-tenths of a module (0.3 M). The width of this letter will be one quarter of a module (0.25 M).
The stars will be in 5 (five) dimensions: of the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth sizes. They are to be traced within circles whose dimensions will be: three-tenths of a module (0.3 M) for the first size; one-quarter of a module (0.25 M) for the second size; one-fifth of a module (0.2 M) for the third size; one-seventh of a module (0.143 M) for the fourth size; and one-tenth of a module (0.1 M) for the fifth size.
The two sides [of the flag] will be exactly equal, with the white stripe inclined from left to right (from the point of view of an observer facing the flag), it being forbidden to make one side as a mirror-image of the other.”[3]

The main colours of the Brazilian flag are green and yellow, in fact the flag is sometimes called Auriverde which means "(of) gold and green". The next-to-last stanza of Castro Alves's Navio Negreiro, for example, uses that term.[4] The colours green and yellow refer to the Royal Houses of Bragança (Emperor Pedro I) and Habsburg (Empress Leopoldina). [5][6] The blue and the white represent the Portuguese cultural heritage (the original national colours of the Kingdom of Portugal).[7]
It is also stated that he colours of yellow and green were devised by Prince Regent Pedro. According to the Piraquê Club website (, no longer on line:
“On 7 September 1822, after demanding “Independence or Death,” Prince Regent Pedro (later Emperor Dom Pedro I) removed the Portuguese blue-and-white cockade from his hat and exclaimed, “From now on we will have another laço (ribbon-knot), green and yellow. These will be the national colours.”
It also states:
“On 18 September, Pedro signed three decrees that were the first acts of independent Brazil. The second decree created a new national cockade: “The Brazilian national laço… will be composed of the emblematic colours: green for spring and yellow for gold.…””[8]
On the republican flag, the green background is said to represent the forests, the yellow rhombus stand for the mineral wealth but this is disputed by some as an invention of the Republicans in 1889 as an attempt to deny the monarchist character of the Brazilian flag.[17]The colour green stands today for the agriculture and floral abundance, yellow for the minerals and the gold prospecting. White and blue picture "pioneers and their virtues", and remember the Portuguese descent.[25]

There are some discrepancies regarding the Pantone colours for the flag. They are either given as Green 356 CV, Yellow 3945CV, and Blue 286CV[9] or more reliably as Green 355, Yellow, Blue 280.[10]

There is a great deal of symbolism within the design of the Brazilian flag, none more so than the stars pictured on the celestial globe. The stars, whose position in the flag reflect the sky above Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889, represent the union's member-states - each star representing a specific state (which is not the case of the stars in the flag of the United States). The number of stars changes with the creation of new states and, since the early days of the republic, has risen from an original 21 stars to the current 27, standing for the 26 states and the Federal District.[11][12]
The stars and the states they relate to are as follows:

Amazonas - Alpha Canis Minoris (Procyon) Canis Minor
Mato Grosso - Alpha Canis Majoris (Sirius) Canis Major
Amapá - Beta Canis Majoris (Mirzam) Canis Major
Rondônia - Gamma Canis Majoris (Muliphen) Canis Major
Roraima - Delta Canis Majoris (Wezen) Canis Major
Tocantins - Epsilon Canis Majoris (Adhara) Canis Major
Pará - Alpha Virginis (Spica) Virgo
Piauí - Alpha Scorpii (Antares) Scorpius
Maranhão - Beta Scorpii (Graffias) Scorpius
Ceará - Epsilon Scorpii Scorpius
Alagoas - Theta Scorpii (Sargas) Scorpius
Sergipe - Iota Scorpii Scorpius
Paraiba - Kappa Scorpii Scorpius
Rio Grande do Norte - Lambda Scorpii (Shaula) Scorpius
Pernambuco - Mu Scorpii Scorpius
Mato Grosso do Sul - Alpha Hydrae (Alphard) Hydra
Acre - Gamma Hydrae Hydra
São Paulo - Alpha Crucis (Acrux) Crux
Rio de Janeiro - Beta Crucis (Mimosa) Crux
Bahia - Gamma Crucis (Gacrux) Crux
Minas Gerais - Delta Crucis Crux
Espírito Santo - Epsilon Crucis Crux
Rio Grande do Sul - Alpha Trianguli Australis Triangulum Australe
Santa Catarina - Beta Trianguli Australis Triangulum Australe
Paraná - Gamma Trianguli Australis Triangulum Australe
Goiás - Alpha Carinae (Canopus) Carina
Distrito Federal - Sigma Octantis (Polaris Australis) Octans[13]

The star that represents the Federal District is Sigma Octantis, a star whose position near the south celestial pole makes it visible across almost the whole country, all year round. In addition, given its polar position, all the other stars depicted on the flag trace appear to rotate around Sigma Octantis. Choosing this star to represent Brazil's capital is therefore particularly apt (although it is a much fainter star than any of the others).[14]

The celestial sphere itself is symbolic of Brazils historical links with Portugal. Pedersen states in The International Flag Book:
“The symbol of the scroll and the celestial globe were inspired by the armillary sphere in the Arms of Portugal.”[15]
The white band around the sphere has much speculation surrounding it. Meanings varying from it representing the celestial equator, the ecliptic to the belt of the zodiac have been put forward. However it is likely that is nothing more than a place for a motto to be inscribed.[16]

The motto Ordem e Progresso ("Order and Progress") is inspired by Auguste Comte's motto of positivism: L’amour pour principe et l’ordre pour base; le progrès pour but ("Love as a principle and order as the basis; progress as the goal"). It was inserted because several of the people involved in the military coup d'état that deposed the monarchy and proclaimed Brazil a republic were followers of the ideas of Comte's thought including Professor Teixeira Mendes, who conceived the basic design of the flag.[18][19]

Many people are stated to of had an influence in the design of the Brazilian flag. French painter and designer, Jean-Baptiste Debret is attributed the original lozenge design, adopted for the Kingdom of Brazil in 1822. It is thought that the design was inspired by the lozenges on pre-1812 Napoleonic military colors.[21] Ruy Barbosa, lawyer and Minister of Finances and Taxation’s short lived first attempt for a national flag reiterated the colours for the flag. However his flag was vetoed for looking too similar to that of the United States.[20] "Father of the Republic" and an acting president, field marshal Deodoro da Fonseca suggested that the new Republican Flag should resemble the Imperial Flag. The decision was then made to replace only the royal crest with a new design.[22] This new flag was prepared by Professor Raimundo Texeira Mendes who collaborated with Dr. Miguel Lemos and Professor Manuel Pereira Reis, chairman of astronomy at the Polytechnic School, and the design was executed by the painter Décio Vilares.[23] The ball of blue sky and positivist motto "Order and Progress" in place of the royal crown is thought to be the suggestion of Benjamin Constant.[24]

The current national flag and ensign maintains the same design with some minor changes. This 27-star version was adopted on May 12, 1992 (Law 8.421, May 11, 1992).

[1] Os Símbolos Nacionais, Presidência da República, Brasília, 1986 quoted by Pier Paolo Lugli - Flags of the World
[2] Wikipedia - Flag of Brazil
[3] Law on the National Flag - translated by Joseph McMillan - Flags of the World
[4] Navio Negreiro - - Wikipedia - Flag of Brazil
[5] Felipe Flores Pinto - Flags of the World
[6] World Flags 101 - Brazilian Flag Meaning
[7] Translated from Italian
[8] Joseph McMillan - Flags of the World
[9] Bandeiras do Brasil - citing Ministry of Culture specifications from Flags of the World - However Flags of the World has no such information.
[10] The Ministry of Development, Industry, and External Commerce - Flags of the World
[11] Herman De Wael, Flags of the World -
[12] Wikipedia - Flag of Brazil
[14] Wikipedia - Flag of Brazil
[15] Pedersen, The International Flag Book, (1979), pp 217-8, Christopher Southworth - Flags of the World -
[16] (page no longer available) - Joseph McMillan, Flags of the World -
[17] Translated from Italian
[18] Wikipedia - Flag of Brazil
[19] Joseph McMillan - Flags of the World
[20] Wikipedia -
[21] Joseph McMillan, Flags of the World -
[22] Wikipedia -
[23] Joseph McMillan, Flags of the World -
[24] Translated from Portuguese
[25] Flaggenlexikon - Translated from German
[fig1] Flag of Brazil - Governo Federal
[fig2] The Celestial Sphere -

Botswana - Current

The flag of Botswana is azure blue with a black horizontal band across the centre, with white fimbriation. The colours on the flag correspond to those on the national coat of arms. The blue represents water specifically rain, and comes from the motto on the Botswana coat-of-arms, which states Pula, the Setswana word for "Let there be rain".[8] The white-black-white bands depict the racial harmony of the people as well as the pluralist nature of the society. They are inspired by the coat of the zebra, the national animal.[1]

The design of the flag is as follows. “Five horizontal stripes having colour and width as follows, that is to say taken from the top: 1st Stripe - azure blue having a width equal to 9/24ths of the total depth of the flag. 2nd Stripe - white having a width equal to 1/24th of such depth. 3rd Stripe - black having a width equal to 4/24ths of such depth. 4th Stripe - white having a width equal to 1/24th of such depth.
5th Stripe - azure blue having a width equal to 9/24ths of such depth.”[4]

The colour shade for the blue used on the national flag is being discussed by the Botswanan Cabinet. There has been a problem with standardisation and so flags with various shades of blue (from different manufacturers) are seen and the government wants to change this.[2][5] The Legislation on Botswana emblems Act of 1966 states azure blue[4] which The British Navy's "Flags of all nations" gives to be Pantone Azure blue 549C[3].

The origins of the flag are recounted by George Winstanley[6]. Winstanley arrived in the Bechuanaland Protectorate in 1954. After being a District Administrator at several stations, he was transferred to Headquarters in 1962. He was a Clerk to the Legislative and Executive Councils and later Clerk to the Cabinet where he worked closely with Sir Seretse Khama where he helped to organise the first general election in 1965 and the second in 1969.

Regarding the Botswana flag, he states:
"...But I became much involved in selecting a national anthem and in the design of the coat of arms and the flag... It was decided to hold competitions for all three to try and involve the population at large. I issued the necessary notices and received several entries for each category...” (p.235). "The entries received in the flag competition were hopeless so I designed the flag myself. I wanted to make it easy to draw hence the all the straight horizontal lines. The blue background of the flag represents water – vital to the country's agriculture - and the black central strip bordered with two white strips represents racial harmony" (p.236).[6][7]

Whitney Smith’s interpretation of the flags symbolism is as follows:
“Bechuanaland had no distinctive national symbols of its own prior to independence. The national flag, adopted in 1966, symbolically contrasted with the flag of neighbouring South Africa, where the policies of apartheid (racial segregation and the subjugation of nonwhites) were in effect. Botswana proclaimed in the flag’s central black stripe and its white bordering stripes a belief in racial cooperation and equality. The light blue background of the flag is associated with the sky and with water, a scarce and precious commodity in the vast Kalahari desert…”[9]

Construction Sheet

[1] Nick Artimovich, Flags of the World -
[2] Bruce Berry, Flags of the World -
[3] Sebastia Herreros, Flags of the World -
[4] Santiago Tazon, sourcing Legislation on Botswana emblems Act 25,1966, Flags of the World -
[5] Permanent Secretary to the President of Botswana. Molosiwa Selepeng, BOPA Daily News Archive -
[6] George Winstanley -Under Two Flags in Africa: Recollections of a British Administrator in the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Botswana 1954 to 1972 - Colchester: Blackwater Books, 2000
[7] Gerald Noeske, Flags of the World -
[8] Wikipedia
[9] Whitney Smith - Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
[Fig 1] S Kopp - Wikipedia
[Fig 2] Željko Heimer - Wikipedia