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West Africa Settlements

Last modified: 2012-01-21 by rob raeside
Keywords: west africa settlements | elephant (proper) |
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West African Settlements blue ensign

[Flag of West Africa Settlements] by Martin Grieve

See also:

West African Settlements Governor's flag

[Flag of West Africa Settlements] by Martin Grieve

Detail of the Badge

[Badge of West Africa Settlements] by Martin Grieve, 25 May 2004

About the West African Settlements Flags

One of the more attractive flag badges which was emblazoned in the fly of the British Blue Ensign and centrally positioned within the laurel garland upon the Union Flag would surely be that of the various former British Colonies situated along the coast of West Africa. I refer here to The Gambia, Gold Coast, Lagos, Sierra Leone and of course, The West Africa Settlements. All these badges have/had one thing in common: they depict an Elephant (proper) standing before a Palm tree with natural vegetation and a sunrise/sunset in the background. as well as two pieces of vegetation upon sand in the foreground. It may perhaps be easier to distinguish each one of them by the initial(s) of the colonies inserted immediately below this scene which they bore and flew so gracefully above. These are:
    G. The Gambia
    G.C. The Gold Coast
    L. Lagos Colony
    S.L. Sierra Leone
The exception to the rule is The West Africa Settlements, which spell the entire name below the "Elephant and Palm" picture.

In the British publications, the Elephant is shown in a brown shading with some natural shadowing effect in order that the animal is three-dimensionally depicted. "De Grossen Flaggenbuch" [Flaggenbuch (1992)] which is a re-print of the original 1939 edition, shows this Elephant with two distinct differences:
    i     The Elephant is grey in colour as opposed to brown
    ii    The trunk of the Elephant is more "sineous" or "twisted" as opposed to a rather slenderly-curved form which appear in the various British publications from and before this time.
The basic elements which constitute the "template badge" are of course what matters the most here, and given the fact that it is probable that more than one person painted this emblem on to the flags, we could expect to see many "variations on the same theme".

I have used a "hybrid" or "compromise" version in drawing these images - the Elephant from Flaggenbuch, but the shading in brown (confused yet?):-)

Martin Grieve, 4 September 2004

Chronology of Elephant and Palm flags

One more 'elephant and palm tree' flag badge that appeared on Blue Ensign and, surrounded by a garland, on Governor's Union Jack at sea. This one inscribed WEST AFRICA SETTLEMENTS.

The badges of Gambia, Gold Coast, Lagos, and Sierra Leone were the same with [ G ], [ G C ], [ L ] and [ S L ] respectively, replacing the words.

1821. Gambia and Gold Coast administered from Freetown in Sierra Leone. All three known collectively as "West Africa Settlements". This reorganization occurred after the dissolution of the Royal African Company.

1866. Lagos, which in 1861 had been ceded to Britain for use as a base for operations against the slave trade, became part of West Africa Settlements.

1868. Governor-in-Chief of W.A.S. appointed.

1870. W.A.S. flag badge approved. Based upon the Public Seal of the Gold Coast Settlements although Government House was in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

1874. Gold Coast Settlements and Lagos Settlements together became the Gold Coast Colony.

1877. Gold Coast flag badge with initials [ G C ].

1886. Lagos became a separate colony

1888. West Africa Settlements badge discontinued when badges approved for Lagos [ L ] in 1888; and for Gambia [ G ] and Sierra Leone [ S L ] in 1889.

[ L ] ended 1906 when Lagos merged with Niger Coast Protectorate to form Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria.

[ S L ] ended 1916 when the arms granted to Sierra Leone 30 July 1914 became the flag badge.

[ G C ] ended 1957 when Gold Coast became independent as Ghana.

[ G ] ended 1965 when Gambia became independent.

David Prothero, 24 January 2004

When colonial flags were introduced in 1869 few colonies had arms. Most flag badges were based upon the Public Seal which every colony had to have. In 1905 the Colonial Office issued a Circular Dispatch (No14 of 1905) encouraging colonies to apply for arms. However since the cost was not a Colonial Office expense, but a charge on the budget of the colony, the decision to apply was the choice of the Colonial Government. Many thought that arms were unnecessary, or not worth the cost. The heralds at the College of Arms were not paid a salary, and the only income they had as heralds were the fees they charged for designing and registering arms. I don't know what was being charged in 1905 but in 1936 the Gilbert and Ellice Islands were charged 25 Pounds for their badge. This was considered very reasonable. Aden and Northern Rhodesia had each paid 50 Pounds for their badges and St Lucia had also paid 50Pounds for a badge and new seal design.  Gold Coast and Gambia were granted arms in 1957 and 1964 respectively, in preparation for independence, and Sierra Leone's arms were replaced by a new design in 1960 just before independence.

David Prothero