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Royal East African Navy

Last modified: 2015-08-29 by bruce berry
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[Royal East African Navy jack] image by Martin Grieve, 24 May 2003 See also:

Royal East African Navy Jack

Our latest contribution to the flags of East Africa are the badge of the Royal East African Navy and the Blue Ensign which was used as a jack:
Martin Grieve, 24 May 2003

A badge for the Royal East African Navy was submitted for approval in 1952, but not finally authorised until 1957, and discontinued 1962.

The first reference, that I have found, to locally raised British naval forces in East Africa was in 1935, when the Kenya Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) applied to fly the White Ensign at the gaff of the flagstaff in front of its headquarters at Kilindini (Mombassa).  This was refused.  British and Dominion based RNVR headquarters and drill ships had been allowed to fly the White Ensign since 1924, but in a 1934 decision concerning the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong RNVRs, it had been ruled that this privilege did not apply to colonial RNVRs, since their ships flew a defaced Blue Ensign.

Naval Volunteer Reserves were raised in Zanzibar (1938) and Tanganyika (1939).  After 1942 all three local Reserves were treated as one organisation, and became known as the East African Naval Force (EANF). In 1940 the Board of Admiralty had approved, for the duration of the war only, that Kenya (also Burma, Straits Settlements, and Hong Kong) might fly the White Ensign in ships manned by RNVR for local defence, provided there was an Ordinance in force, made under section 2 of the Colonial Defence Act 1931, allowing the ships and crews to serve outside the colony.  The privilege was not confined to those ships placed at the disposal of the Admiralty, (and therefore effectively part of the Royal Navy), but included those that remained in the colony.  The White Ensign for Tanganyika was allowed as a special case since constitutional reasons (probably that it was a mandated territory) had prevented the Ordinance being enacted there.

In January 1952 the EANF requested permission to fly the White Ensign during the visit of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.  It was suggested that the EANF might be granted special permission to wear the Union Jack at the jack staff during the visit, so that the provisions of article 39 of King's Regulations & Admiralty Instructions (KR&AI) could be observed, even if the defaced Blue Ensign was retained.  Presumably this was the article that authorised ships, flying a royal standard, or escorting ships flying a royal standard, to fly the Union Jack from the jack staff when under way.  It was noted that the Malayan Naval Force wore the Union Jack, and that the Mauritius Naval Volunteer Force had, since 1948, been permitted to fly the White Ensign.  The privilege of flying the White Ensign was extended to the EANF.

At about the same time the East African High Commission requested a badge for the Blue Ensign of the EANF.  It was not possible to follow normal procedure and use a colonial badge in accordance with KR&AI 1943 article 123(2), as the EANF involved four different territories.  It was decided to follow the example of the East African Railways and Harbour Board, and have a composite badge.

It appears that the title of the EANF was changed at about this time. Admiralty Message 281706/May 1952 announced that Royal East African Navy (REAN) vessels were to wear the White Ensign at the stern, Blue Pennant at the masthead, and a square defaced Blue Ensign as Jack.

A problem arose over the flag to be flown at shore establishments.  REAN wanted to fly a Blue Ensign defaced with their badge, but it was pointed out that they had been granted the privilege of using the White Ensign, and therefore that was the appropriate flag to fly at their shore base.

It is not clear what badge was used on the jack at this time, as although a letter of 27 April 1954 appeared to give approval to the design, a later letter indicated that it was not until 3 July 1957 that the design was finally sanctioned.  It was the same badge, lion, crane, giraffe and dhow, quartered within a cable knotted at the bottom and surmounted by a crown, that had been submitted in 1952.

Funding the REAN soon became a problem, and the failure to create an East African Federation led to the Royal East African Navy being disbanded in 1962.
[National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/8794, ADM 1/12974, ADM 1/23988, ADM 1/23995, ADM 1/26821 and ADM 1/28084]
David Prothero, 24 May 2003


Royal East African Navy badge (1957-1962)

[Royal East African Navy badge] image by Martin Grieve, 24 May 2003