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Link - article by Simon Rose

We had such a great response to the first article about flags here on Dark Roasted Blend, that we thought we’d unearth a few more examples of fascinating banners from the distant and not so distant past. Here’s a look at some more flags of forgotten countries.

Epic lands, empires, wars, revolutions - with flags to match them

The flags of Napoleon and his nephew Napoleon III featured in our first article, but France went though a number of political changes in the nineteenth century. After Napoleon’s fall, the Bourbon’s returned to the throne, using this royal coat of arms, with the restoration period under Louis XVIII and Charles X lasting from 1814 until the monarchy was overthrown by the July Revolution in 1830.

(image via)

A cadet branch of their own family replaced the Bourbons as rulers of France. However, their successor, Louis Philippe, was himself overthrown in the revolution of 1848:

(images via)

France of course experienced further upheaval in World War Two, after defeat to Germany in 1940. This flag was the personal standard of Philippe Petain, chief of state of Vichy France, which remained unoccupied by the Germans until November 1942:

(larger map and more info here)

Also in World War Two, following the fall of Mussolini in 1943 and the subsequent defection of Italy from the Axis cause, Germany took control of northern and central Italy. The puppet state established by Mussolini on Lake Garda, halfway between Milan and Venice, was informally known as the Salo Republic, which came to an end in April 1945:

(image via)

In Asia during the same period, the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo was located in Manchuria and parts of Inner Mongolia. Established in 1932, the government was headed by Puyi, the last emperor of China, until the end of the Manchukuo state following the defeat of Japan in 1945:

(right: Puyi during his time as the Emperor of Manchukuo, image via)

Propaganda posters showing harmony between the people of Japan, China, and the state of Manchukuo:

(images via)

Another result of World War Two was the division of Germany, and here’s the flag of the now defunct East Germany, or as it was formerly known, the German Democratic Republic, which lasted from 1949 to 1990:

(right: Warsaw Pact poster "Together We Are Invincible!")

Many sultans used different personal "avatars"...er, banners

The Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire, was founded in the early fourteenth century and came to an end after the First World War. At the height of its power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the empire controlled North Africa, Western Asia and most of South Eastern Europe. Various flags were used within the Empire throughout its existence and the sultans also used different personal banners. There was no national flag until 1844 and the design was very similar to the current flag of the Republic of Turkey, founded in 1923. However, here is a flag used by the Ottoman army for some three hundred years from the mid fifteenth century:

(image via)

Every sultan tended to have his own banner, but a coat of arms, similar to those prevalent in Europe, was created for Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1882, although it was never an official coat of arms for the Empire itself:

(image via)

Greece was ruled by the Ottomans for centuries, until independence was secured in the 1820’s. However, during the Turkish period, the Greeks used a number of unofficial flags. This one was employed in certain parts of the empire from 1431 to 1619 by the spachides, a cavalry unit:

(images via)

After Otto, a prince of Bavaria in Germany, was made King of Greece in 1832, the country used this flag for several decades:

(image via)

Forgotten British colonial variations

(map of the British Empire, click to enlarge - via Norman B Leventhal Map Centre)

There are lots of British colonial flags due to the extent and the life span of the Empire, but here are a few examples of forgotten flags, such as this one belonging to the British East India Company from 1707. Note the absence of the diagonal red cross of St. Patrick on the Union Jack, which was not added to the main British flag until after the Act of Union with Ireland in 1801:

India was often described as the jewel in the Crown of the British Empire. Here’s the flag of the Governor General, with a separate image depicting the star pattern:

(image via)

Azad Hind was an Indian government in exile based in Singapore after 1943, which was heavily dependent on support from Imperial Japan. Its aim was to free India from British rule by allying itself with the Axis powers:

(right image: Azad Hind card, via Ann Mette Heindorff)

Here are a couple of flags from colonial Hong Kong. The one on the left dates from 1871, the one shown on the right was used from 1959 until Hong Kong’s transfer back to China in 1997:

Viceroyalties and Forgotten Federations

On the opposite side of the world, the West Indies Federation was created from a number of British colonies in the Caribbean in 1958, but only lasted until 1962:

Another short-lived federation existed in the same part of the word over a century earlier. The Federal Republic of Central America, originally known as known as the United Provinces of Central America, was created in 1823 from the former territory of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, an administrative division of the Spanish Empire covering much of the region. The republic included the modern countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, but the union dissolved in a civil war between 1838 and 1840:

From 1535 to 1821, this was the flag of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, which governed California, the South West US, Mexico and much of Central America, plus the Spanish controlled Caribbean islands (see image below, top right). Further south, the Viceroyalty of New Granada came into being in 1717 in northern South America, ruling over modern day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela. The symbol (shown below on the left) was used on flags at some of the forts on the coast in the eighteenth century:

Flags inside flags... inside flags...

In Africa, this was the flag of South Africa from 1928 to 1994. The design is based on the Prince’s flag from the Netherlands, the banner of the Prince of Orange in the Dutch War of Independence (1568-1648), with the smaller flags of the Orange Free State and Transvaal, the former Boer republics, plus the British Union Jack, in the centre:

(right image: South African art deco postcard 1928, via)

Elsewhere in Africa, the colonial era left a lasting legacy, since almost the entire continent was once carved up by the European powers. This flag belongs to German East Africa, or Tanganyika, which is now known as Tanzania. Most other German colonial flags were similar, in red, black and white, with a central crest or shield:

(right image: hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam, via)

The huge country in central Africa now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly called the Belgian Congo. Established as the Congo Free State in 1885, the entire vast territory was originally privately owned by the Belgian King Leopold II, until reports of major human rights abuses against the native population forced the king to hand the state over to Belgium in 1908. It became the Belgian Congo until the independence movement began in 1960:

(images via)

Great Expectations

Finally, from down under, the Australian flag’s original design dates from 1901, but the oldest known Australian flag appeared almost a century earlier. The Bowman Flag was created by John and Honor Bowman in 1806 and raised at their home in New South Wales NSW to commemorate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in October 1805. The flag features the English rose, Scottish thistle and Irish shamrock, along with Nelson’s famous motto from the battle ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’, flanked by the emu and kangaroo, symbols of Australia:

(image via)


Simon Rose is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels for children, including The Alchemist's Portrait, The Sorcerer's Letterbox, The Clone Conspiracy, The Emerald Curse, The Heretic's Tomb and The Doomsday Mask.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice collection, but one mistake: the GDR lasted from 1949 to 1990

Blogger The Vicar of VHS said...

The flag of Vichy France is totally badass. They should have kept it. :)

Anonymous Seano said...

The GDR flag is my favourite of the former communist flags. I wonder what the present day replacement for a hammer and compass would be to represent blue and white collar workers.

Blogger Robert said...

You know, Vichy France was not really free...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is the flag of the Araucania and Patagonia Kingdom.

Blogger Pere-Ferran Andúgar i López said...

I find it awersome ,and really useful.It´s part of the History of the World.Thankyou for all that work!

Blogger Pere-Ferran Andúgar i López said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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