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Last modified: 2008-07-12 by dov gutterman
Keywords: bermuda | caribbean | red ensign | lion | wreck | sea venture | bonaventura | somers islands |
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image by Clay Moss, 24 November 2005

Official Name: Bermuda
Previous name: Somers Islands
Capital: Hamilton
Location: Group of Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean
Government Type: British Overseas Territory with Internal Self-Government
Flag adopted: 4 October 1910
Coat of arms adopted: 4 October 1910
ISO Code: BM

See also:

The Flag

The shade of red on British Union flags and derived ensigns is a dark red. The Pantone reference is 186. It is slightly different from "Old Glory" red which is Pantone 185.
Graham Bartram, 13 September 2000

From <>:
"The national flag of Bermuda is composed of a red background with the Union Flag (or Jack) in the upper left corner and the Bermuda coat of arms in the lower fly. From 1910, when Bermuda received its own Coat of Arms, unofficial versions of the Union Flag incorporating the Arms appeared in Bermuda. The present national flag was officially approved in October of 1967."
There is also a picture showing the reverse side of the flag.
Gvido Petersons, 16 November 2000

What I believe is still the effective Merchant Shipping Act relating to Bermuda (1988 (Bermuda) Order 1991) confirmed undefaced Red Ensign as the proper colours for ships.
David Prothero, 12 August 2002

The Bermuda Red Ensign was "established" as a sea flag in 1915 but have no record of by whom, and  this seems to be in contradiction of the Merchant Shipping (Bermuda) Order of (from memory) 1991 or thereabouts, which stated (or perhaps confirmed?) that the undefaced Red Ensign was the proper colours for ships registered in Bermuda? 
 I also have it that the defaced Red Ensign was "authorized" for use on land in 1967 (no date), but again, no record of who authorized it?
Christopher Southworth, 14 June 2005

19 August 1955 - Colonial Office to Admiralty. Governor of Bermuda reports; "Despite the fact that no official recognition appears to have been given to it, Red Ensign with the arms of the colony in the fly is widely used here, not only on privately owned vessels but also on private buildings ashore."
"Records of Colonial Office show no authorisation has been given for the use of the Red Ensign in this manner, but its practice is evidently well established and it would probably be difficult to attempt to discontinue the practice."
Head of Naval Law noted that the only flags authorised for Bermuda were the defaced Union Flag and Blue Ensign, and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.  Red Ensign with arms was without sanction or authority from Admiralty. Admiralty would be unable to give any authority to regularise this misuse of the flag. It was therefore for consideration, whether on political grounds the practice should be allowed to continue without interference, and if so whether such an attitude was likely to impair in any way, the Admiralty's control over British flags.  It was not unlikely that similar irregularities were occurring elsewhere.
The Admiralty Archivist was unable to trace any reference to the origin of the use of the defaced Red Ensign in Bermuda.   14 September 1955 - Head of Military Branch wrote that prohibition of a long-standing custom could be resented.  The position should be explained and further action left to the discretion of the Governor. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/26283].
David Prothero, 16 June 2005

 In the current issue of BR20 (and based on a flag of 60 units x 120 units) the shield is centred on the fly half, is 34 units high x 27 units across with the square being 25 units deep.
Christopher Southworth, 20 November 2005

Previous (pre-1999) Flag

image by Clay Moss, 23 November 2005

Unconfirmed Variant with the Motto

image by Antonio Martins, 1 April 2000

In Graham Bartram's BR 20 change 5 page, the Bermuda's ensigns, flag and Coat of Arms do not display the motto.
Armand du Payrat , 4 April 2000

The official version does not bear the motto, but this is an area that you do get variations. I've seen British Virgin Island flags without the motto, so I suppose its equally likely that Bermudan flags exist with the motto, but the official design is sans motto.
Graham Bartram , 4 April 2000

There seems to be some controversy over whether the motto is used on any Bermuda flag. I can say that I have never seen it, whether directly on an ensign or in a white disc.
Aidan Stones , 19 May 2000

Use of Ensigns by Foreign Ships

Foreign civilian ships visiting any British Overseas Territory should fly, as a courtesy flag, the Territory's own Red Ensign, if the territory has one and the ship happens to carry one. The undefaced British Red Ensign is always an acceptable alternative. If the ship is a Foreign government vessel it should fly the Territory's Blue Ensign. Foreign warships should fly a British White Ensign.
Basically the British rule is that you may use either the appropriate Red, Blue or White ensign (depending upon your own status) or the land flag, except that you cannot use the Union Flag at all.
Graham Bartram, 1 April 1999

The Union Flag

image by Clay Moss, 25 November 2005

previous (pre-1999) flag
image by Clay Moss, 25 November 2005

In the 1961 edition of H. Gresham Carr's Flags of the World [car61] is the following entry on pages 102 and 103:

BERMUDA uses her Arms. On the Union Flag the shield is placed upon the white circular background, which is surrounded by the garland. On the Blue Ensign there is no wreath or background. The shield is with a green-grassy "mound in base, upon which is seated a red lion "affront?." The lion supports a scrolled shield upon which is a representation of the wreck of the Sea Venture, [...] In passing, it is interesting to note that Bermuda has retained the 1606 pattern Union Flag, i.e. without the St. Patrick's Cross, as a reminder of its great age as a colony.

Which is maddingly non-specific! Does this mean the Union Flag in all contexts? Or only when used as a Union Flag (presumably including in the Governor's Flag) It could, of course, be a piece of spurious information Carr accepted as a fact. It's also interesting to note that Carr does not mention the Bermudian Red Ensign, which is of course now the colony's flag, even though that was instituted in 1915 (according to Crampton's Observer's Book of Flags, 1991, p. 45)

Also whilst on the subject of colonial Red Ensigns, Carr states (p. 52) that according to the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act the Red Ensign must be worn undefaced by all British merchant vessels, including colonial vessels, unless an Admiralty Warrant has been granted authorising a local Red Ensign.
Roy Stilling, 6 March 1996

Bermuda uses her coat of arms as per all British colonies for the Governor's standard ie: the badge placed on a white disc surrounded by a garland in the centre of the Union Flag.
The flag used locally by civilians for both boats and on land is the defaced red ensign. However, larger vessels registered on the Bermuda registry of shipping fly the undefaced red ensign as required by the Admiralty. This flag is also used by the government on land in conjunction with the Union Flag.
The defaced Blue ensign is used solely by the government marine services (tugs, ferries, harbour patrol vessels etc.)
During the 1960/70's the official Bermuda flag used the coat of arms on a white disc on the red ensign, but I have never seen it like this on the blue ensign.
One or two of these still exist and I am still trying to find one before they are destroyed through use. I too have heard of the usage of the 1606 Union Flag, however I have never come across any evidence of this, although I am still looking and will let you know if I find out. There are several good books in our local library, but they have been out of reach due to recent renovations. Unfortunately, due to our "overextensive" use of the Union Flag, most old photographs of Bermuda show this flag only.
Aidan Stones , 4 April 2000

I have recently come across some old Bermuda photographs from the 1930's and 40's which show the Bermuda flag. I still do not see any evidence of the pre-1801 union flag being used.
Aidan Stones , 19 May 2000

As I understand it, the gold ring was originally requested by the Governor of Gibraltar as being part of the arms of that territory, and it was included into all the others by a sort of accident.
Christopher Southworth, 29 May 2005

The correct proportions of the Union Flag for use in the field by the British Army are 3:5, but the correct ratio for all defaced Red or Blue Ensigns is 1:2 whether for use on land or sea, and as far as I can discover the occasional use of either a misunderstanding of the recommendations for other flags or a commercial/economic decision by flag manufacturers.
Christopher Southworth, 24 November 2005

Bermuda College

The flag of Bermuda College, which is organized on the model of an American liberal arts college even though Bermuda is actually governed by the UK, can be seen on a web site belonging to Hamptoin University in Virginia, a traditionally Afro-American institution. The Bermuda College flag is at <>.
More information on Bermuda College at <>.
Ron Lahav, 10 August 2006