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Original Canadian WWII Red Naval & Civil Ensign Flag - 46” x 67”

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. The Canadian Red Ensign served as a nautical flag and civil ensign for Canada from 1892 to 1965 and later as an unofficial flag of Canada before 1965. The flag is a British red ensign, with the Royal Union Flag in the canton, adorned with the shield of the coat of arms of Canada.

The Canadian Red Ensign emerged as an informal flag to represent Canada as early as the 1870s and was used at sea and on land "on all public buildings throughout the provinces," prior to becoming the country's civil ensign in 1892. The flag was adorned with the arms of the Canadian provinces until 1921, when the arms of Canada replaced the amalgamation of provincial arms on the ensign. During the Second World War, the ensign saw use as a symbol that represented Canada's armed forces. In 1945, an order in council named the Canadian Red Ensign a "distinctive Canadian flag" to fly on government buildings. However, the ensign was never formally adopted as a national flag of Canada, with the Union Jack used in that role until the Maple Leaf flag was adopted in 1965. The Maple Leaf flag also replaced the Canadian Red Ensign as the civil ensign of the country after it was adopted.

This Red Ensign measures approximately 46 inches by 67 inches and is in great condition. There is no significant damage noticeable but there is some minor staining which is expected on a flag as old as this one. The burlap hoist rope is still present and in good condition. This is a wonderful and genuine example of a WWII era Canadian Ensign and comes ready to display in your Empire collections!

The ensign is the Red Ensign of the United Kingdom, embellished with the Arms of Canada as a shield in the bottom right quarter. The shield is divided into four quarters, consisting of the coats of arms of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Kingdom of France, the four founding nations of Canada. The first three quarters are the same as the Arms of the United Kingdom. At the base is a sprig of three maple leaves representing Canada. The leaves are described as proper, that is, the correct color; it uses red and gold, the color of the leaves in autumn, whereas earlier versions used green, like this example.

The Red Ensign bearing some sort of a Canadian emblem was used by Canadians both on land and at sea beginning as early as 1868 (soon after Confederation) on an informal or extra-legal basis. As Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald "constantly made use of it", promoting it throughout Canada "by precept and example." An 1891 memo from the Governor General, Lord Stanley, stated: "the Dominion Government has encouraged by precept and example the use on all public buildings throughout the provinces of the Red Ensign with the Canadian badge on the 'Fly.'" In 1892, it was authorized by Admiralty Warrant for use on ships registered in Canada and this was enshrined in the Canada Shipping Act of 1934, yet the flag had no legal status on land (the Royal Union Flag remained the formal national flag of Canada until 1965). Despite its lack of any official status on land, the Red Ensign with Canadian arms was widely used on land, and flew over the Parliament Buildings until 1904 when it was replaced by the Union Flag. Various versions of the Red Ensign continued to be flown on land and the flag featured prominently in patriotic displays and recruiting efforts during the First World War. It can be seen in numerous photographs of Canadian troops, on the prime minister's car, and in victory parades.

The original Canadian Red Ensign had the arms of the four founding provinces on its shield. However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, flag manufacturers would often supplement this design with wreaths of laurel and oak leaves and crowns. The design was frequently placed on a white background square, circle or roughly following the outline of the arms in the flag's fly (right hand side assuming the flagpole to be on the left). There was no standard design for the Red Ensign until the early 1920s. In 1921, the Government of Canada asked King George V to order a new coat of arms for Canada. The College of Arms thus designed a suitable coat of arms of Canada. The new shield was displayed on the Red Ensign, thus producing a new version of the Canadian Red Ensign in 1922. In 1924, the Red Ensign was approved for use on Canadian government buildings outside Canada. The Canadian Red Ensign, through history, tradition and custom was finally formalized on 5 September 1945, when the Governor General of Canada signed an Order-in-Council (P.C. 5888) which stated that "The Red Ensign with the Shield of the Coat of arms in the fly (to be referred to as "The Canadian Red Ensign") may be flown from buildings owned or occupied by the Canadian federal Government within or without Canada shall be appropriate to fly as a distinctive Canadian flag." The flag was thus approved for use by government buildings inside Canada as well, and once again flew over Parliament.

The Red Ensign served as the country's civil ensign from 1892 to 1965 when it was replaced by today's Maple Leaf flag. The flag bore various forms of the shield from the Canadian coat of arms in its fly during the period of its use. From 1921 until 1957, the Canadian Red Ensign was virtually the same, except that the leaves in the coat of arms were green, and there was a slight alteration to the Irish harp (the earlier version having a woman's bust as part of the harp). A blue ensign, also bearing the shield of the Canadian coat of arms, was the jack flown by the Royal Canadian Navy and the ensign of other ships owned by the Canadian government until 1965. From 1865 until Canadian Confederation in 1867, the United Province of Canada could also have used a blue ensign, but there is little evidence such a flag was ever used. In Otto Reinhold Jacobi's painting of the new Parliament Buildings in 1866, a Red Ensign flies from the tower of the East Block.

In 2007, the Canadian Red Ensign was formally recognized as a "national symbol of Canada," by the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada.

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