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Northern Rhodesia (Zambia pre-independence)

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
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The pre-colonial history of what was to become Northern Rhodesia at the end of the 19th century is fragmentary and based largely on tribal oral tradition.  Later early European explorers, such as Dr Lacarda who led an expedition to Lake Miveru in 1789, and later Dr David Livingstone who traveled from Bechuanaland through Barotseland to Luanda in 1853 and returned to Mozambique in 1855, also gave account of what they had seen and found.  In 1899 the British South Africa Company received a Royal Charter which empowered it to exercise complete administrative control over what became known as Southern Rhodesia and Northern Bechuanaland.  From this date onwards the Company extended its activities across the Zambezi River into what became known as Northern Rhodesia.  The Company exercised complete  administrative and legislative control over the territory until 1923 when it surrendered its buildings, assets and all its land and other monopolistic rights, other than mineral rights, in return for a cash payment from the British Government.  In 1924 the Office of Governor of Northern Rhodesia was created and executive and legislative councils were established in the territory which became a British Protectorate.  There were progressive constitutional developments in the composition of these two bodies before and during the period of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, of which Northern Rhodesia became a constituent member on 3 September 1953.  Following the dissolution of the Federation on 31 December 1963, a new constitution came into effect in January 1964 giving the territory internal self-government.  On 24 October 1964 Northern Rhodesia became the independent state of Zambia.
Bruce Berry, 18 Jan 2004

Northern Rhodesia (1910 - 1924)

Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) had its own coat of arms. It was separated in 1910 from the rest of Rhodesia. I don't know when the arms were adopted. Anyway, the scant visual evidence I have suggests that Northern Rhodesia, like Southern Rhodesia, just used its shield on the blue ensign, despite being a 'pure' colony without the self governing status of Southern Rhodesia.
Stuart Notholt, 11 February 1996

Stuart asks when the coat of arms of Northern Rhodesia was adopted. I don't know if it is definitive, but the Oct. 1917 National Geographic depicts the badge of RHODESIA as a blue field, with a golden lion grasping an elephant's tusk in it's right paw and the letters B.S.A.C (for Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company)
William Grimes-Wyatt, 11 February 1996

Before 1924 the arms of the British South Africa Company (BSAC) were also used as the arms of Northern Rhodesia.
Bruce Berry, 1998-02-09

The flag badge described for Northern Rhodesia under the year 1910 is simply the crest of the British South Africa Company.  Northern Rhodesia was separated administratively from Southern Rhodesia in 1910, but both territories remained under control of the BSA Company. Only in 1924, when the BSA Company ceased to be the political power, did Northern Rhodesia formally become a British protectorate (and Southern Rhodesia a Crown Colony). The BSAC continued to function in land development, and was only wound up some years later. The BSAC not only controlled the countries now called Zimbabwe and Zambia, but also had substantial power over Bechuanaland Protectorate, controlling it through the police there. The British Government was at one stage quite anxious to hand Bechuanaland over to the BSAC, but later had second thoughts following the Jameson Raid. However, the BSA Police undertook the capture of the Caprivi Strip from Germany in 1915 and occupied the strip until 1918, if not later. Despite this empire-building, the BSAC abdicated part of its responsibility in the late 19th century, handing over the administration of North-Eastern Rhodesia (the northern part of present-day Zambia) to the British Central Africa Protectorate. The result was some interesting confusion in postage stamp issues! Getting back to the BSA Police: this force retained its name right through to Zimbabwean independence, when major changes were forced through. Despite being a police force, it had the status of being the premier regiment and the senior service in Rhodesia, always taking pride of place in any parade.
Mike Oettle, 21 Dec 2001

Northern Rhodesia (1924 - 1939)

The image of North Rhodesia is the one with the badge adopted 1939. But I believe that previously, between 1924 and 1939 was used another badge or shield. Is this correct?
Jaume Ollé, 26 June 1998

It appears then that there were no formal arms between 1924 and 1939 although the new arms were in use from 1927.
Bruce Berry, 29 June 1998

The Colonial Office wrote to the Government of Northern Rhodesia in 1938 about the flag of the colony and were told that the badge, granted in 1928, had never been used on any flag as the government operated no launches and there was no opportunity for the Governor to embark in a vessel.  The sole use of the badge was as part of the design of the Public Seal. Presumably the badge was used on a flag after 1943 when Governors were directed to use their defaced Union Jack on land instead of the Union Jack. Public Record Office CO 323/1575/16.
David Prothero, 26 Jan 2001

Northern Rhodesia (1939 - 1953)

 image by Clay Moss, 08 Aug 2004

A locally-formed committee consulted the deputy leader of the Mint, the Governor Sir Herbert Stanley, an heraldic artist at the Royal Navy base in Simonstown (near Cape Town) and the result was a design which was adopted in 1927.
The design signifies a fish eagle of the Zambezi and most other rivers of Northern Rhodesia and water rushing over the rock of the Victoria Falls. The heraldic description is: Sable six palets wavy Argent on a Chief Azure an eagle reguardant wings expanded Or holding in the talons a Fish of the second. The Government of the Colony accepted that this design be used as a shield on the Public Seal of the Territory in 1927.
It received the approval of the King in 1930 and was formally granted to Northern Rhodesia by Royal Warrant on 16 August 1939.

As far as I my memory serves me the Northern Rhodesia flag was a Fish Eagle (Nkwazi) with a fish in its claws depicted flying over the Victoria Falls. When independence came I believe it was decided to take away the fish as it was felt that it portrayed the grasp of colonialism on the masses.
Steve Stephenson , 23 November 1999

The comment on the fish held in the claws of the fish eagle in the arms of Northern Rhodesia seems to me to be an inspired example of radical political hogwash. That's a reflection on the African nationalist politicians who produced the garbage, not on the vexillologist who quoted it! I recall hearing at the time that people were complaining about the "dead fish". What both comments betray is an abysmal ignorance regarding the symbolism involved. The African fish eagle is very similar to the American bald eagle - not only do they belong to the same genus, but they are almost identically colored. The only significant difference between them, and one which is easily portrayed in heraldic art, is the fish eagle's habit of catching fish. The allegedly dead fish is in fact freshly caught - so freshly caught that carefully observation of any video portraying this act of predation will reveal that the fish is wriggling as it is carried away. The net result of Zambia's removal of the fish when it converted the eagle in the chief (of the protectorate's arms) to a crest (in the arms of the republic) is that there is no longer any distinguishing mark to identify this bird as an African fish eagle, and it might as well be a symbol of the USA. So much for African independence!
Mike Oettle, 21 Dec 2001

  image by Clay Moss, 10 June 2005

 image by Clay Moss, 10 June 2005

Red ensign versions, although "unofficial", saw notable usage. It appears that two such versions existed, one with the shield on a disc and one without.  I have seen two such period pieces. One is obviously American-made while the other is a mystery.
Clay Moss, 10 June 2005.

Northern Rhodesia (1953 - 1963) - constituent territory of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

image by Clay Moss, 10 Sept 2005

Northern Rhodesia joined with neighbouring Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland to form the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in September 1953.  The Federation flew a blue ensign with the shield from the Federal Arms in the fly.  Elements from the shield of the arms of each of the constituent territories formed the Federal shield, with the palets wavy being from the Northern Rhodesia arms.  The Federation was dissolved on 31 December 1963, with each of the constituent territories becoming separate political entities.  Northern Rhodesia subsequently attained independence as the Republic of Zambia in October 1964.
Bruce Berry, 9 February 1998 

Colonial Governor - Northern Rhodesia

  image by Clay Moss, 02 June 2005

Northern Rhodesia was administered by the British South Africa Company before becoming a British Protectorate in 1924. The flag of the Governor of Northern Rhodesia was a British Union Flag charged in the centre, on a white roundel, with the Arms granted to the Protectorate on 16 August 1939, namely
"Sable, six palets wavy Argent, on a Chief Azure an Eagle reguardant wings expanded Or holding in its talons a Fish of the Second".
In common with other flags used by British Colonial Governors, the Arms were within a green garland of laurel. This flag continued to be used by the Governor of Northern Rhodesia when the Protectorate became one of the constituent territories of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland between 1953 and 1963, and ceased to be used once Northern Rhodesia gained independence on 24 October 1964 as the Republic of Zambia.
Bruce Berry, 20 Jan 2003