Original Australia WWII Australian Naval Red Civil Ensign - 18" x 33 ½”

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Australian Red Ensign is the civil ensign of Australia, the flag of nationality flown by Australian registered ships. It is a red version of the national flag, which is mainly blue. Both flags resulted from the Commonwealth Government's 1901 Federal Flag Design Competition which required two entries: an ensign for Commonwealth Government use and another for the merchant navy. The winning design for the merchant ensign was based on the traditional British Red Ensign and featured the Southern Cross and Commonwealth Star.

This smaller flag measures 18" x 33 ½” and is offered in wonderful condition. The heavy canvas construction is dyed with a separate 1 ½” white canvas heading with a slot for attachment via polearm or rope. There is minor wear and a few scattered holes present, evident signs of actually being flown for service.

A wonderful example more than ready for display.

The Commonwealth Government ran the Federal Flag Design Competition in 1901 to find two designs for Australian flags: one for official Commonwealth Government use and another for the merchant navy. After being submitted to King Edward VII for approval the competition-winning design which featured a southern cross with nine, eight, seven, six and five points respectively was standardized by the British Admiralty with the number of points on the four biggest stars of the southern cross set to seven, ostensibly to improve ease of manufacture. The original variety of points was an indication of the relative brightness of each star as it appeared in the night sky. In 1908, the current Commonwealth star of seven points replaced the earlier six-pointed star.

In the decades following federation the Red Ensign was the pre-eminent flag in use by private citizens on land. This was largely due to the Commonwealth government, assisted by flag suppliers, discouraging use of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign, now known as the Australian National Flag, by the general public. By traditional British understanding, the Blue Ensign was reserved for official government use although the Red Ensign was nevertheless still in military circulation until after the 1953 legislation, meaning the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Forces served under both the blue and red versions. State and local governments, private organizations and individuals were expected to use the Red Ensign.

In the 1920s there was debate over whether the Blue Ensign was reserved for Commonwealth buildings only, culminating in a 1924 agreement that the Union Flag should take precedence as the National Flag and that state and local governments were henceforth able to use the Blue Ensign. A memo from the Prime Minister's Department dated 6 March 1939 states that: "the Red Ensign is the flag to be flown by the public generally" and the federal government policy was "The flying of the Commonwealth Blue Ensign is reserved for Commonwealth Government use but there is no reservation in the case of the Commonwealth Merchant Flag, or Red Ensign".

In 1940 the Victorian government passed legislation allowing schools to purchase blue ensigns. The following year prime minister Robert Menzies issued a media release recommending that the Blue Ensign be flown at schools, government buildings and by private citizens and continued use of the Red Ensign by merchant ships, providing it was done so respectfully. Prime Minister Ben Chifley issued a similar statement in 1947.

Despite executive branch proclamations as to the respective roles of the two red, white and blue ensigns there remained some confusion until the Flags Act 1953 declared the Blue Ensign to be the Australian National Flag, leaving the Australian Red Ensign to its status as the civil ensign.

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