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The Flags South Africa

The Flags South Africa 

Right Wing Afrikaner flags (South Africa)

[A.W.B. flag]




Afrikaner Resistance Movement / Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB)

The three black 7s ,arranged in a fashion similar to the Three Legs of Man but rotated so that the top seven is upright is the emblem of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) Afrikaner Resistance Movement in English, which is a right-wing, neo-Nazi organisation, which appears on its flag ,on a white disc at the centre of a red field. 

Notice the white disk is closer to the hoist ,like the national flag of Nazi Germany and unlike most modern neonazi flags, which have centered discs. I would have expected this flag to be orange, not red. 

This flag and its symbol are now also being used by European Nazis as they have volunteered to fight in a race war in South Africa.




Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) alternative flag ,for use in the Transvaal.


The Transvaal vierkleur with 3 black sevens on the white stripe seems to be a once-off flag used on some or other occasion by followers of the AWB

The "777" might be like this or in one of the AWB's usual arrangements: swastika or 1+2.

The three "7" are arranged horizontally in your image while in the image that I have the 7s are arranged in form of "Trinacria" (i.e. emblem of Isle of Man or Sicily).
I found the following note:
"In 1970, Eugene Terre'Blanche with 6 other kindred souls founded the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB). From this committee of seven, the AWB emblem, "Three Sevens", was created in contrast with the number 666 of the satanic forces".

This symbol is clearly a variation of the Nazi swastika, just one leg less -- regardless of any other "symbolism" provided for it. 

[BWB’s first flag]

Boer Resistance Movement / Boere Weerstandsbeweging (BWB)




Boere Weerstandsbeweging (BWB) first flag

This was the flag of Boere Weersdandsbeweging (BWB) (Boer Resistance Movement in English) which was black with white cross fimbrated red; in the center of the cross is a white circle fimbrated red with three black "7"s. The BWB was initially led by Eddie von Maltitz and subsequently by Andrew Ford.

The flag described above black field with a white cross fimbriated red ,George, not Scandinavian; three black upright sevens, one above and two below, on a white disc fimbriated red at the centre, was the original flag of the BWB.  A colour photograph of a crowd waving this flag appeared in the Sunday Times, Johannesburg during 1990 unfortunately I don’t have the exact date.

[BWB’s second flag]


Boere Weerstandsbeweging (BWB) second flag

When Andrew Ford took over the leadership the flag was replaced by a similar one instead of having the three 7s, bears the letters BWB  in white arranged in a triangular fashion pointing downwards, on a similarly directed black triangle. 

Illustrations of the two BWB flags can be found in my article "Flags of Political Organisations in South Africa".

[African Student Federation flag]


Afrikaner Student Federation / Afrikaner Studentebond


The odal rune is used the by the Afrikaner Student Federation.

Details about the odal rune can be found at

An odal rune is a "runic letter, (usu. traslit. "ö"), cognate to Greek omega a.k.a. _ethel_ and _othalan_.  .  
The rune for odal, i.e. real estate, non-movable property. The odal rune was the last letter of the runic alphabet, and (here runic letter "ᚠ", usu. traslit. "f") for fä (cattle), i.e. movable or personal property, was is the first.

This seems too focused in Viking book keeping; runes were letters, as such with a lot of usages apart from plain writing down of sound utterances.

This rune, turned upside down, is the symbol of the Scottish Independence Party and was used at the elections in Great Britain in 1992.

I wonder weather this is more than a coincidence. The saltire-like part of this letter, BTW, is subjected to such a variation that it appears much less evident in some instances.

It is also a Swedish twentieth-century graffiti sign conveying a nationalistic message.

Not only Swedish, and not even primarily so: the Nazi usage of runes as symbols is known - our site covers it well at
naz symb.html#odal.  From there to neo-Nazi symbolism it's a quick jump. The referred Swedish usage was reported to the list and appears in se}naz.html.

 Afrikaans Student Federation differed from the one shown in a book about flags that I had borrowed from the public library. I've just borrowed the book again so can give you more information. The Afrikaans Student Federation flag is shown in colour .

The flag differs from that shown on your website in that the Odal Rune lacks the 'feet-like' bits sticking out at the bottom.  The type of Odal Rune shown in the book was also widely used by right-wing nationalist youth groups like the Wiking Jugend in Germany and other counties but was banned in Germany in 1994.  The flag used by the Wiking Jugend was black with a red Odal-Rune in its centre.


Boer movement flags South Africa

Vryheidsvlag - Afrikaner Peoples Front / Afrikaner Volksfront

In South Africa there is a political movement or party called the "Afrikaner Volksfront" (Popular Front), which aims to set up an independent Boer state. They use a flag very similar to the Transvaal "Vierkleur", but the red stripe is replaced with an orange one. This flag is called "Vryheidsvlag" (freedom flag).

The "Volksrepubliek Werkgroep" (People's Republic working group) made a proposal for a constitution of this imagined state. In article 19.16.3 it is written:
Today's freedom flag (green and orange, white, blue) must be used by the Afrikaner.
I was have also been asked who used the flag with "a yellow, maybe orange, stripe"? 
So it seems that there are two flags: an older one with a yellow and a newer one with an orange stripe. Or maybe the orange is because of the former South African national flag?

As far as I am aware this is new, although the design has been popular amongst independent-minded Afrikaners for a good while now. The "Vryheidsvlag" mentioned has been registered with the SA Bureau of Heraldry by the Afrikaner Volksfront as indicated in SAVA Newsletter 14/95 of December 1995.

Transvaal flag (or Vierkleur) is used by the Afrikaner Volksfront (Afrikaner People's Movement, AVF) as their Vryheidsflag (Freedom's flag), with an orange stripe replacing the red one.

The "vierkleur" (four colour) design has also been adopted by the Boerestaatparty - another Afrikaner organisation seeking an independent "volkstaat" - with the vertical stripe in green and the horizontal stripes, black, white and blue. 

The vierkleur in different coloured variations seems to be indeed a very popular symbol of Boer movements. There are not many national flags of this type in the world - I can think only that of the United Arab Emirates.

Last night on ABCTV news there was a report on a new attempt by South African Boers to set up their own homeland (they're seeking $20m from the UK - as compensation for the Boer War - to fund the project). A flag was briefly shown - I only caught a glimpse - a red, white and blue horizontal tricolour; with a vertical green stripe occupying the hoist.

I'm not a 100% sure, but I believe you might have the proportions of the Vierkleur and the Vryheidsvlag wrong. Although many people like to give the vertical bar the same width as that of the horizontal bars, I believe - in the case of the Vryheidsvlag anyway because I bought one from Orania) the correct proportions of the vertical bar is one third the (horizontal) length of the flag, i.e. the same proportion as the width of a bar in a vertical tricolour flag. 
A flag of the Afrikaner Popular Front / Afrikaner Volksfront was registered with the South African Bureau of Heraldry on 31 October 1995 and is described as being:
"A rectangular flag, proportion 2:3, consisting of three horizontal stripes of equal width, from  top to bottom, orange, white and blue, and at the hoist a vertical green stripe one and one quarter the width of each of the other three stripes".
Source: Data of the Bureau of Heraldry on registered heraldic representations.

A flag for the Vrye Republikeinse Beweging (Free Republican Movement, formerly Afrikaner Volksfront) was has also been registered with the South African Bureau of Heraldry on 16 May 1997 and is described as:
"A rectangular flag, proportion 2:3, consisting of three horizontal stripes of equal width, from top to bottom, orange, white and blue, and at the hoist a vertical green stripe one and one quarter the width of each of the other three stripes".
Source: Data of the Bureau of Heraldry on registered heraldic representations.

I have just visited your web site and would like to correct some of the false statements regarding the "Vryheidsvlag".  I am a founder member of both the Afrikaner Volksfront and the Vryheidsfront and so can speak with some degree of authority.

1) As far as I am aware, the flag you describe was never the flag of the Afrikaner Volksfront. The AVF used the Transvaal or Free State Vierkleur flags, depending upon in which province they were flown.
2) The translation of Afrikaner Volksfront as "Afrikaner Popular Front" is incorrect. The correct translation is "Afrikaner People's Front".
3) The origin of the flag you show is from the period of the Anglo-Boer War (or Tweede Vryheidsoorlog - Second Freedom War to many Afrikaners). When the forces of the two sovereign republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State) fought together, they used this flag.  The orange stripe on top represents the Orange Free State and replaces the red stripe of the Transvaa and is called the Strydvlag (Struggle Flag). This flag was known as the Strydvlag until some time after the foundation of the Vryheidsfront/Freedom Front.  The party changed the flag's name to tie in with that of the party. 
4) The Afrikaner Volksfront dissolved soon after the 1994 general election in South Africa.

[Flag of Orania]




I think the name Orania is derived from the river Oranje/Orange. The home page of Orania shows a map. On this map of the Northern Cape Orania is only one village southwest of where the Orange and Vaal rivers come together. The homeland they plan for the Afrikaners is between the river Orange River and the Atlantic Ocean, so part of the Cape, not the Free State or Transvaal.  Their flag is not totally based on that of the old Transvaal as the red is changed to orange for the Orange Free State. According to Boere Data the "Vryheidsvlag" or new "Vierkleur" was first hoisted in the night of 26/27 April 1994 (when the apartheid was officially abolished!). It's not only a combination of the design of the flag of the South African Republic (Transvaal) with the orange from the flag of Orange Free State but also incorporates the orange-white-blue of the "Prinzenvlag" of the "Dietse" ancestors of the Boers and the former flag of South Africa, but with a green stripe at the hoist. 

On the Flags of Aspirant Peoples, published in 1994 by the Flag Society of Australia and the Flag Research Center, is the flag of  "Orandia (White homeland) - South Africa."   It  has vertical orange-white-blue stripes with an emblem in the white stripe which is green ground plan of the Castle of Good Hope, outlined in grey, and including a monument (?) on a light blue background enclosed in a white-black hatched circle. The chart effectively shows a small black stripe at the hoist. 

The flag originated in the early 1990s when the "Orandia Development Corporation" was established with the express purpose of establishing a "white homeland" to be called Orandia in the western part of South Africa. The town of Orania was purchased and was to be the centre of this activity.  The flag is based on the former flag of South Africa, having vertical instead of horizontal stripes. The orange stripe represents the freedom struggle of the people of Orandia with the white stripe standing for cleanliness of thought, conduct and purpose. The castle outline in the centre indicates the origin of the "white" nation in South Africa with the landing of Dutch settlers in the Cape in 1652, with the surrounding protecting wall symbolising the protection of the nation's seed. The castle' inner 'face' is green to suggest life from the soil, on which the nation will multiply. 

Inside the castle a closed wagon laager encircles a stylised Voortrekker Monument (in Pretoria) symbolising the protection given to Orandia as the Nation of the Vow. The monument serves as a reminder of the slaughter that took place at the Battle of Blood River and of the sacrifices and perseverance of the predecessor of Orandia. The blue stripe shows the European origins of the forefathers of the people of Orandia and symbolises humanity and faith. The black sleeve nearest the hoist shows that Orandians are prepared to live peaceably the people of other races and that good neighbourliness and trade should prevail.




Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR)

Republic in the Transvaal, formed between 1857 and 1864. Horizontally red-white-blue with a vertical green stripe at the hoist (known as the "Vierkleur" or four colour) 1857-1902, except for 1874-75 when the Voortrekker flag, but with the saltire fimbriated white, was restored [car61, p.83].

When the ZAR as officially recognised by Britain in January 1852, it had neither arms or a flag of its own.  The flag which had been flown by the Voortrekkers  was the so-called "Voortreeker Flag" which was a red saltire on a blue field.  By resolution of the Volksraad approved on 18 February 1858, the flag of the ZAR was described as:
"It is resolved that a flag for the South African Republic shall be adopted, consisting of the following colours: Red, White and Blue, horizontal, each of equal width and placed one above another, and Green perpendicular next to the staff". 
This resolution contains the only formal description of the vierkleur  which was to be the national flag of the ZAR, apart from two short interruptions, until the end of the republic until 1902.

In October 1874 the Volksraad adopted a new flag based on the "Voortrekker flag" for the ZAR, with the the red saltire being fimbriated in white.  However, the Volksraad later reversed its decision in May 1875 when President Burgers, who was not satisfied with the vierkleur flag, was away overseas! The new saltire flag was retained as the Presidential flag, but soon fell into abeyance as some felt it was too similar to the Union Jack.

The Vierkleur gave way to the Union Jack during the British annexation of the Transvaal between 12 April 1877 and 03 August 1881, following which the independence of the Transvaal was again formally recognised and the Vierkleur restored.  The ZAR came to an end following the Peace of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902 which signaled the end of the Anglo-Boer War and the ZAR once again came under British control as the Transvaal Colony. 

The flag of the ZAR was incorporated into the new South African flag in 1928 while its arms were retained as the provincial arms of the Transvaal in 1951.
Bruce Berry, 11 Nov 1997

This flag was registered with the South African Bureau of Heraldry as the flag of the South African Republic for the Office of the Prime Minister together with the flag of the Republic of Orange Free State on 30 April 1983 (application 08 January 1982, amendment 05 March 1982). Certificates were issued for both in Afrikaans on 14 October 1983.

The text in English for the flag of the South African Republic reads as follows:
A rectangular flag proportions three by two, consisting of three horizontal stripes of equal width, from top to bottom red, white and blue and at the hoist a vertical green stripe one and one quarter the width of each of the other three stripes.
Source: "Some South African flags, 1940-1990" compiled by F.G. Brownell, South African State Herald [brl92].

The Vierkleur of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was designed by Reverend Dirk van der Hoff and was hoisted for the first time in Potchefstroom on 06 January 1857.  It was officially accepted by the Volksraad (House of Assembly) as the flag of the ZAR on 18 February 1858.  Following the occupation by the British, the flag was removed but was  raised again on the Day of the Vow (Geloftedag) (16 December) in 1880 in Heidelberg. 

The Transvalers fought under this flag between 1899 and 1902 during the Anglo-Boer War.

Orange or Red?

Why did the Transvaal adopt the "new" Dutch colours (red-white-blue) whereas South Africa uses the "old" Dutch colours (orange-white-blue) for its flag?
Josh Fruhlinger, 15 Oct 1996

It might be because the independent Boer republics were trying to capitalise on their Dutch connections in the hope of getting support from there and elsewhere in Europe against the British. However, by the 1920s it was clear that for the time being they had to be resigned to the British connection. Instead more emphasis was put on the idea of the Afrikaners (a term and language which was then becoming preferred over the Dutch used in the 19th century) as a people belonging to and shaped by Africa, as much as by Europe, and the "Van Riebeek" orange-white-blue flag was said to be the first flag raised in South Africa itself.

Even the earliest republics (Graaff-Reinet and Swellendam, which were set up in 1795) adopted the new Dutch flag. The reason was that they saw themselves as being Dutch, but no longer belonging to the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which still flew the old orange-white-blue flag.
The Afrikaners (Boers) of the Great Trek who wished to escape the British colonial rule, adopted Dutch-inspired flag for their new republics for the same reason.
When the new (now old) South African flag was created, it was to unite the whites of South Africa - those Afrikaners whose forefathers left the Colony and set up independent republics (the small Orange Free State and ZAR flag), the Afrikaners whose forefathers stayed at the Cape (the orange-white-blue "Van Riebeeck flag") and the British settlers (the small Union Jack). I agree with Roy that the Van Riebeeck flag was used as dominating part because of its importance in South African history.
And don't forget that the flag was adopted under the rule of the Afrikaner JBM Hertzog.

[War flag of South African Republic during the Boer War]



Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek re-established

In December 1880 rebellious Boers again declared a South African Republic, which re-established the "Vierkleur". This is the war flag of the former South African Republic (Transvaal), used during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). 
Transvaal flag (or Vierkleur) is used by the Afrikaner Volksfront (Afrikaner People's Movement, AVF) as their Vryheidsflag (Freedom's flag), with an orange stripe replacing the red one.  

The Vierkleur
The "vierkleur" (4 colour) design was first used by the Boer Republic of Land Goshen (Republiek van Land Goshen) between 1881-84 where the vertical stripe was green and the horizontal stripes were black, white and red.

This was followed by the New Republic (Nieuwe Republiek) between 1884-88 whose flag had a blue vertical stripe and red, white and green horizontal stripes. The Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR/Transvaal) flew the now traditional "vierkleur" of a green vertical stripe and red, white and blue horizontal stripes between 1858-1902. 

The green in the flag stands for hope and youthfulness.

Thank you very much for the reaction. But actually I want to know something about the meaning of the flags and its colours? e.g. why three orange stripes at the OFS flag etc.? 

The use of red, white and blue, and indeed of the unadulterated Dutch tricolour Boer flags needs no explanation, surely?
On specifics, Carr says the green stripe in the Transvaal vierkleur is supposed to represent "Young Holland" [p.83] (whether there was an actual movement by this name in 19th century South African and/or the Netherlands, or whether it was simply a reference to the nationalist ideal of groups like "Young Italy", I don't know). 

I received a message from an Afrikaner who states that the green band on the flag represents how fruitful the Transvaal is. It was designed that way by a certain Dominee (Reverend) Dirk van der Hoff. The flag was hoisted for the first time at Potchefstroom.

The Vierkleur of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was designed by Reverend Dirk van der Hoff and was hoisted for the first time in Potchefstroom on 06 January 1857.  It was officially accepted by the Volksraad (House of Assembly) as the flag of the ZAR on 18 February 1858.  Following the occupation by the British, the flag was removed but was  raised again on the Day of the Vow (Geloftedag) (16 December) in 1880 in Heidelberg. 

The Transvalers fought under this flag between 1899 and 1902 during the Anglo-Boer War.


South Africa (1928-1994)

Suid-Afrika / Unie van Suid-Afrika (until 1961) / Republic of South Africa / Republiek van Suid-Africa 


Flag of 1928-1994

Following the Union of South Africa , that is the joining of the former colonies of Natal, Cape, Transvaal and Orange River on 31 May 1910, South Africa used  defaced red and blue ensigns.  Having suffered defeat in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), many South Africans particularly of Boer extraction found these flags unacceptable.   Discussions about a new flag had taken place from time to time but were interrupted by such pressing issues as World War I and achieving Dominion Status within the British Empire etc. and it was only in 1925 that the matter began to receive renewed attention.  The Balfour Declaration adopted at the Imperial Conference of 1926 defined in general terms the mutual constitutional relationship of the self-governing members of the British Empire (later Commonwealth) whereby Great Britain and the dominions were "equal in status, in no way subordinate to one another" and as such South Africa, as an independent state was entitled to a flag of its own. The flag issue in South Africa was also considered along with the question of nationality.

The issue of inclusion of the Union Jack proved to be a very emotional subject, with the English-speakers on the one side demanding its inclusion and the Afrikaners (Boers) seeing its a symbol of British imperialism demanding it be excluded! A number of proposals were put forward but it was not until the Prinzenvlag design based on the House of Orange that consensus began to emerge.  This design was based on the commonly held view that Jan van Riebeeck has raised an orange, white and blue horizontal tricolour when he arrived at the Cape in April 1652.  The original design had a quartered shield in the centre, each quarter having a symbol to represent the territories making up the Union.  Various other designs were submitted to a Parliamentary Committee which had been established to resolve the issue but none found favour. 

The compromise design eventually adopted saw the flag of the Republic of the Orange Free State hanging vertically in the centre of the white stripe of the Prinzenvlag with the Union Jack spread horizontally towards the hoist from the centre and the flag of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) spread towards the fly.  In terms of the Union Nationality and Flags Act of 1927 South Africa had two flags, namely the Union Jack to denote association with the British Commonwealth of Nations and a national flag described as being:
 "Three horizontal stripes of equal width from top to bottom, orange, white, blue; in the centre of the white stripe the old Orange Free State Flag hanging vertically, spread in full, with the Union Jack adjoining horizontally, spread in full, towards the pole, and the old Transvaal Vierkleur adjoining horizontally spread in full away from the pole, equidistant from the margins of the white stripe.  The flags shall be of the same size and their shape shall be proportionally the same as the National Flag and the width of each equal to one-third of the width of the white stripe".  This Act came into force on 31 May 1928 when both the new national flag and the Union Jack were hoisted together for the first time at simultaneous ceremonies at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town and at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.  The flags first hoisted at Parliament are now on display in the Old Assembly chamber.


The dual flag arrangement continued until 06 April 1957 when the Government brought it to an end with the Flags Amendment Act.  This Act also provided for the sole national anthem of South Africa to be Die Stem van Suid-Afrika/The Call of South Africa without "God Save the Queen" despite Queen Elizabeth II still being head of state.  South Africa withdrew from the British Commonwealth of Nations and became a republic on 31 May 1961.  No changes were made to the national flag or anthem.

The flag, commonly known as the oranje-blanje-blou (orange, white and blue) continued to fly until it was replaced on 27 April 1994 by the flag representing a democratic South Africa.

What are the colour specifications of the former (1928-1994) South African flag in (BS) RGB values?
NB: Blue was BCC 150 Lapis Lazuli in the British Colour Council's "Dictionary of Color Standards".

The only colour specifications I could find for the old SA flag in the old British Standard Colour Classifications are:

  • Orange: BBC 57
  • Blue:  BBC 218
  • Green: BBC 24
  • Red:  BBC 210 

Regarding the shade of blue on the former South African flag, the blue stripe was originally described as being "solway" blue but over the years, as can be expected given that South African flags originally came from the UK, the blue stripe changed to the darker "Union Jack blue" until the blue stripe became almost black. This prompted a return to the lighter "solway blue" shade following a Government investigation into the matter in 1982.

Speaking to flag manufacturers on this matter yesterday, all agreed that they used the same shade of blue for the blue stripe and in the Union Jack and Vierkleur flags in the centre of the flag as well.

The other shades in the flag were described as "Spectrum orange", "Green Beetle" and "Union Jack red" with the BCC classifications as indicated above.

Research into the controversy surrounding what flag was used by Jan van Riebeeck when he started his replenishment station in Table Bay on 6 April 1652 reveals the following as outlined in my forthcoming book on SA flags:

"Van Riebeeck makes no mention in his Journal that he hoisted a flag, but it is assumed that he did. There is considerable controversy as to which flag Van Riebeeck might have hoisted. The flag generally used by Dutch vessels at, or before that time was in the colours of the House of Orange in honour of the Prince of Orange, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands. It was the orange, white and blue horizontal tricolour or Prinzenvlag. It was originally used by the so-called Watergeuse or Waterbeggars at sea during their struggle against the Spanish during the Eighty-Year's War and by the end of the war it was firmly established as the national flag of the Netherlands Republic. It is considered that the flag had its origins with the flag of the Province of Zealand which was red, white and blue horizontally. The red was then replaced by orange in honour of William the Silent, Prince of Orange and its first appearance as this Prinzenvlag occurred circa 1572

Later, towards the middle of the next century, the orange was again replaced by red. The reason for the change of the orange colour to red is not known with certainty, but some authorities ascribe it to the fact that the orange coloured dye was not easy to make and did not remain colour-fast.

Van der Laars, an authority on the flags of the Netherlands, states that from about 1648 and certainly by 1663, the orange had changed to red, and the orange, white and blue tricolour was replaced by the red, white and blue tricolour of today. The point in dispute is whether it was already red at the time of Van Riebeeck's arrival, or still orange. According to Van der Laars, it is likely that it was still the orange version.

Gerard in Flags over South Africa (1952) [ger52], however, makes out a good case that it was already red. He quotes sources, which indicates that most of the bunting used by the Dutch at that period came from India. Proof of this exists in the archives of Zealand (7.11.1630), which records the delivery of six rolls of bunting, red, white and blue. An advertisement in the Navorsher of 1634 mentions ten rolls of bunting, red, white and blue and in 1653 there is mention of many bales of sater - Indian cotton, dyed red, white and blue. The Indian dyers used kurkuma (turmeric) to which they added kav - a reddish rocky material - in order to obtain the orange colour used to dye the khadi-material (loosely hand-woven cotton cloth which we call bunting) to orange. This kav-stone was ground into a fine dust and then mixed with oil, water and turmeric
wherein the khadi-cloth was then soaked. In order to obtain a rich orange colour, more kav and less turmeric was used by the Indian dyers and in time
the orange changed to a flame red colour. *

Gerard also states that in many of the paintings of the Thirty Year's War (1618 - 1648), the ensigns of the Netherlands are clearly already indicated as red, white and blue. He further states that it is therefore clear that when Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape he did so with flags which were already using flame red instead of orange. Dr Pama in his book Lions and Virgins (1965) produces evidence that on 14 August 1654 Jan van Reinbeck ordered rolls of red, white and blue bunting from Batavia in order to make flags for the fort and ships at the Cape. This seems to confirm Gerard's view. However, Pama also found an instruction by Van Riebeeck dated 22 August 1653 to the garrison and visiting ships that on the sighting of approaching vessels, the Princevlag (his spelling) must be hoisted over the Fort and the same must be done by the approaching vessels. This was obviously meant as a recognition signal during the time of the First Anglo-Dutch War. Pama explains this contradiction with the view that there was at that time not a great deal of importance attached to whether the upper bar was orange or red, with red probably only regarded as a discolouring of orange. The red took on political importance only during the decades of struggle for power between the States-General of the Netherlands and the Princes of Orange which ended with the confirmation in power of William III in 1672 as Stadtholder and Captain-General of the Dutch forces. The instruction for the signal was arrived at in consultation with Captain Douwe Aukes, captain of the Phenix who was strongly in favour of the orange bar in the flag. The year before he had been in command of another East Indiaman Struisvogel and participated with her in the encounter between the hostile English and Dutch fleets off Plymouth in 1652. It was during this naval battle that the colour of the flag had become a political question and the Dutch sailors refused to fight under any other flag than the orange-white-and blue. The reason for the politicising of the flag was the refusal of the States-General to appoint a member of the House of Orange as head of the government and expressed its enmity by changing the orange to red in the national flag. This decision was strongly resented by the people, especially the sailors. He also quotes the Dutch historian J.C. de Jonge who in his authoritative work on the maritime history of the Netherlands writes as follows: "At least until October 1653 the old Princevlag was still in use by the Netherlands navy" and he shows that between 1653 and 1660 the States-General's red-white-blue flag was generally introduced because of the enmity between the States and the House of Orange. Pama's opinion is that when Van Riebeeck ordered the red bunting he was simply conforming to his superiors instructions and following their declared policy for changing the orange to red".

I am of the opinion that no matter whether it was red or orange, Jan van Riebeeck probably used the VOC flag over the fort. He was after all a servant of the Dutch East Indies Company and not of the States-General. What is certain is that the Dutch tricolour was most definitely already red, white and blue fully a century before the First British Occupation of the Cape.

* Gerard claims that he obtained this information from Professor P.K. Gode, curator of the Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute in Poona, India. He unfortunately does not provide his other sources or dates.

This was interesting to read. One conclusion could be, that it is not possible to set a date for the change of orange into red of the Dutch flag, because it was made during a span of time. Is that right?

If the change would have been made by some decision, who would have decided on this? The States General, the Stadholder or someone else?

Pending evidence to the contrary, this is (given the so far available data) the only conclusion possible. None the less, we now have a definitive date from which we may say that the change was "documented", and visual proof (upon which we can place reasonable reliance) that the change had become officially recognized by 1665.


The South African Flag Controversy (1927)

The Afrikaners - Boere; Voortrekkers; or South African Dutch (according to the English) -  in spite of being a mixture of Dutch, French, German and quite a few other nationalities, including Khoi, cherished their Dutch connections for most of the nineteenth century during their increasingly bitter struggles against British imperialism. There is still in Afrikaans today a saying: "Die Kaap is weer Hollands" ("The Cape is Dutch again") meaning everything is all right again. This came about when the Cape was returned to the Batavian Republic at the Peace of Amiens in 1803. Three years later the British were back again for the next 160 years. After the turmoil of the Great Trek when the Voortrekkers left the Cape Colony for the interior, they  established the Republic of Natalia and not surprisingly chose the red, white and blue of the old Dutch "Driekleur" (three colour), but with the white an inverted pile, as their flag. This republic did not last long as in 1843 it was annexed by the British who could not stand the thought of British subjects simply trekking away from their allegiance, however unwilling, to the crown.

In the 1850's the British suffered a bout of anti-colonialism and abandoned the countries to the north of the Orange River to their fate.  In 1854, the Boere in the Trans-Oranje, established the Republic of the Orange Free State (Oranje Vrijstaat). On the day of independence they hoisted the Driekleur for lack of their own flag.  This flag they called the Bataafsche Vlag in memory of the Batavian Republic, they having of course no experience with the Dutch Kingdom established in 1816.  The first president, Josias Hoffman, then wrote to a friend of the Voortrekkers in Holland asking him to approach King Willem III for the grant of a flag and a coat of arms for the new republic.  This must be a unique event in the history of both vexillology and heraldry - a republic asking a monarch to grant a flag and arms?  The upshot of all this was the old Orange Free State flag with the Driekleur in the canton and the three orange and four white bars.

The Transvalers took a while longer to find unity and establish an organised state, but in 1856 they finally adopted a constitution and a flag. The committee who decided on the design of the Transvaal Vierkleur (four colour) was advised by the Reverend Dirk van der Hoff, his brother Marthinus and Jacobus Stuart, all born Hollanders. The result was the Driekleur (three colour) with a vertical green bar added along the hoist. The continued attachment of the Boere to the old Driekleur and their Dutch heritage comes out clearly in the flag designs which they adopted for these three republics.

After the Anglo Boer South African War (1899-1902) and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the British Union Jack became the national flag of the united South Africa. The Red and Blue ensigns with the Union coat of arms in the fly, were granted by British Admiralty warrants in 1910 (amended in 1912) for use at sea as was the case all over the British Empire. They were not intended as national flags for the Union although some people used them as such (especially the Red Ensign).  It was only in 1925, after the first post-Union Afrikaner government took office, that a Bill was introduced in parliament to make provision for a national flag for the Union of South Africa. This action immediately led to some three years of civil strife and near civil war. The British thought that the Boere wanted to do away with their cherished Imperial symbols. The province of Natal even threatened to secede from the Union. A compromise was finally reached which resulted in the adoption of a flag for the Union late in 1927 and which was first hoisted on 31 May 1928. This was based on the so-called Van Riebeeck flag, which was in reality the old Princevlag, of orange, white and blue horizontal stripes with three smaller flags centred in the white stripe.  These 'flaglets' were the British Union Jack towards the hoist, the Orange Free State Vierkleur hanging vertically and the Transvaal Vierkleur towards the fly. The choice of the Prinzenvlag as the basis of the new flag had more to do with finding an acceptable compromise (the Prinzenvlag supposedly being the first flag hoisted on South African soil - although this is not at all certain - and being a neutral design as it was no longer a current national flag) than having anything to do with Afrikaner political desires. A further part of the compromise was that the British Union Jack would continue to fly alongside the Union national flag everywhere over official buildings. South Africa was thus one of a few countries in the world, as far as I am aware, that flew two national flags simultaneously!  This situation continued until 1957 when the Union Jack was finally dispensed with by an Act of Parliament.

Although it was taken into use in 1928, the parliamentary debate on the orange-white-blue flag took place in 1927, so it is frequently referred to as the flag of 1927.  Looking at your page on flag proposals, I notice that one particularly insulting nickname of the House of Assembly’s proposal – the one which stuck – is not mentioned.

The National Party, which had a slender majority and was in government, was not able to prevent this flag design from being approved, but maintained that the shield was no more than a scab which would in due course fall away. The shield flag was for many years known as the “scab flag” – possibly because the only people who referred to it in public were the radical Nationalists (especially Dr D F Malan’s Gesuiwerde Nasionale Party which abandoned the coalition government of 1934).

Dr Malan’s preference was for the Princevlag, so for him the “scab” (the quartered shield) was totally unacceptable. Yet his party (the Herenigde Nasionale Party which won the 1948 general election) quite happily accepted the 1928 flag (despite the presence of the Union Jack), and eventually abandoned its intention of returning to the Prinzenvlag.

I remember reading somewhere that somewhere around the years 1969-1971 a proposal was made for replacing the "1928" flag with the Prinzenvlag. Does anyone know more details about this? Was it an official proposal and/or was it taken in consideration seriously? 

On 28 September 1968 the then ruling National Party announced a commission under the chairmanship of Mr Justice JF Marais to look into the matter of a new flag for South Africa and that any new design should be hoisted on Republic Day (31 May) in 1971 - the 10th anniversary of the declaration of the the republic. However, Mr John Vorster, the then Prime Minister of South Africa, decided later that new flags and symbols were not necessary and that it would be "petty politics" to interfere in the matter and accordingly, no further attempt was made to change the then national symbols of the country until the advent of democracy in 1994.

As most vexillologists are aware, the previous South African flag was born following a fierce debate and was in essence a compromise symbol between the English and Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans following the Anglo-Boer South African War of 1899-1902. There were numerous attempts to change the flag, particularly from Afrikaners who detested the "Union Jack" being part of the flag.

The former Prime Minister (and architect of apartheid) Dr Verwoerd had a dream to hoist a "clean" flag over South Africa in the 1960s. The proposed design comprised three vertical stripes of blue, white and orange (Princevlag colours) with a leaping springbok over a wreath of six proteas in the centre. This flag was designed by Mr HC Blatt, then assistant secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had already approved this design but his assassination in 1966 left the matter in abeyance until the National Party meeting in 1968, as referred to above. The successor to Dr Verwoerd, Mr John Vorster, raised the flag issue at a news conference on 30 March 1971 and said in the light of the impending elections and 10th anniversary Republic Day celebrations, he preferred "to keep the affair in the background". This he said was done because he did not want the flag question to degenerate into a political football (perhaps reflecting on the 1920s experience) and that the matter would be considered again when circumstances would be "more normal".

"I only want to warn, and express the hope, that no person should drag politics in any form into this matter because the flag must, at all times, be raised above party politics in South Africa" he said.

Verwoerd's dream for a new South African flag, with black and white illustration, is published in SAVA Newsletter 3/92 (July 1992) and is based on an article published in the Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport, on 15 December 1991.

Upside-down Union Flag ?

The UK flag within the Old South African one is upside down. Is that the way it is supposed to be?

This is my understanding and feel free to correct me:
It isn't upside down; it is being seen from the back! This was an elaborate trick to keep any one of the three flags from having "precedence" - the British flag as portrayed on the old South African flag as at the honour point (left); but since you are seeing the reverse, from the "proper" perspective the UJ is really on the left. 

The Union Jack is not upside but is spread horizontally from the Free State flag towards the hoist, thus is in the superior position (by being closest to the hoist) but also reversed.  As Josh says, an "elaborate trick"!

I was wondering what flag South African army forces would have been flying during World War II alongside the British? Can you help me out? 

South African forces in East Africa flew their own national flag. In a July 1941 letter to the Colonial Office about the use of British flags in the territory, the Governor of Tanganyika referred to the Union Jack, adding that "I do not use the expression out of ignorance but since the wartime eruption of Union troops in East Africa the term Union Flag is usually associated with the Vierkleur (Four Colour of the former Transvaal)."

The formation badges were yellow and green.  That of the 1st South African Division (raised in Kenya in 1940, then  Somaliland, Abyssinia and North Africa) was a diamond divided in half horizontally, yellow over green, later a rectangle yellow over green on which was superimposed a black wildebeest. The 2nd South African Division in North Africa was a circle divided yellow over green while the 6th South African Armoured Division in Italy was a yellow triangle with a green border.

It is quite correctly stated that the Union Flag of 1927 was used by SA forces. My father, who served in the Second World War, assured me that the Union Jack was hardly to be seen at SA military installations. Ironically, since my Dad served (in 1944-45, in the 6th SA Armoured Division in Italy) in a Natal infantry regiment (previously he had been in the SA Corps of Engineers and the SA Tank Corps, and was not himself from Natal) there was one exception to this:
Natal Command (army regional headquarters) in Durban, from 1927 to 1961, always flew the Union Jack and the Union Flag side by side. The Natal Provincial Administration also flew the two flags together, as did most Natal local governments (the corporations of Durban and Pietermaritzburg and the boroughs of the other towns).

The reason for this was that Natal was far more closely attached to the British Crown than the other provinces of the Union, and was fiercely loyal to the British connection. The deviation at Natal Command was tolerated for this reason.

The only military bases elsewhere in the Union where the Union Jack was flown were the Royal Navy installations on the Cape coast and the Joint Flying Schools, which were run by both the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. At these, naturally, the White Ensign and the Air Force Ensign respectively were also in evidence. 

Retention of the 1912 Red EnsignThe 1912 Red Ensign was retained as South Africa's merchant flag until 1951.



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