Do you recognise this flag?

If you’re a South African you should know exactly what flag this is – but we’re guessing most South Africans won’t have a clue.

What if we told you it is the South African national flag as it was during World War 1.  Read a previous Observation Post which outlines the inconvenient and hidden history of South African National Flags – just click on this link:

The inconvenient and unknown history of South Africa’s national flags

Posted by Peter Dickens. The image is – TO VICTORY! “UNION IS STRENGTH!”, “EENDRACHT MAAKT MACHT!”. Part of a set of 6 Postcards promoting the Commonwealth countries commitment to partaking in World War 1. The series focussed primarily on the dominions, including South Africa – this one carries the then National Flag of South Africa.

2 thoughts on “Do you recognise this flag?

  1. Very interesting. Didn’t know about the 1910 red, and later blue, ensign flag or its use in WWI.

    The writer omits an important fact about the 1928 flag (the “old” OBB flag). The seniority issue is a little more complicated. He says:

    “The use of the British Union flag inserted in the OBB, placed closest to the flag mast/pole (the most honoured and senior position for any “inserted” national flag on any flag format) ahead of the two Boer Republic flags, which take a lessor position”

    That’s true but doesn’t give the full story. It is true that the British Union flag is in the most senior position, closest to the flag staff, but it’s the wrong way ’round, i.e. it doesn’t “fly” off the flag staff, but rather off the flag of the Orange Free State. Note the white bars of the saltire of the St. Andrews cross as it shows under the red saltire of the St. Patricks cross. In the correctly flying British Union flag the top left, for example, shows the wider white band of the St. Andrews cross at the top. The same position of the British Union flag as it is depicted on the old South African flag shows the narrower band. The same is true for all quadrants. Both the British Union flag and the flag of the Transvaal Republic fly away from the flag of the Orange Free State, just to the left and to the right respectively.

    This is a very elegant solution to the seniority issue. The British Union flag is in the most senior position, but flying the wrong way; the Orange Free State is in the second senior position, but flying downwards; and the Transvaal Republic, the only one flying correctly, is in the most junior position. Everyone happy!

    The writer goes to lengths to describe the symbolism in the new flag. I stand to be corrected, but I seem to recall that when it was promulgated, it was expressly indicated by Parliament that there was no symbolism in it, so as not to give favour to one “history” over another.

    Anyway, a good article and someone should tell the OC of the Castle in Cape Town. There is a row of flagpoles with the different flags that flew over the Castle since 1652, and the red and blue ensign versions are not amongst them (see attached pic).

    Thanks for the constant stream of interesting articles

    Craig Harrison


    • Hi Craig, thank you for that, and to add to that the use of the jack on the fly the way it was placed would symbolise the ‘In distress’ position (as it is now up-side down) – so not everyone was happy with this solution. Also, regardless of what platitudes were given the new SA flag as meaningless for political expediency – that’s not how the designer of the flag felt about it and it was not how the flag was positioned to the SA government when it was designed. Here is the story behind the design told by the designer himself
      Glad you enjoying the site, much more to come so do keep following it.


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