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Royal Air Force flag proposal

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by rob raeside
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[RAF proposal] by Martin Grieve

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Description of the flag

Flag suggested for Royal Air Force in 1918.
National Archives (PRO) AIR 5/333 Pt. II
Not apparently ever seriously considered, but it might perhaps have been the inspiration for the RAF rank flags?

David Prothero, 4 October 2004

I think that the plain five-striped design was used as some sort of camp flag by RFC during WW1. This page at has a few relevant images. At the top of the page there is a RFC pennant, which was probably an unofficial novelty flag. A third down the page there is the RFC armband with the five stripes; just below it at the right there is a poster with a tiny flag bearing those five stripes!
Miles Li, 5 October 2004

This was a proposal devised to accompany a submission to the War Cabinet over the design of the RAF flag. Since the RAF and the Admiralty could not agree on a design, someone proposed that the War Cabinet should break the 'logjam'. But the flag was rejected. (My notes say that the decision was made to refer the matter to the War Cabinet in December 1918, but that the proposal was not made until January 1920 - see amplification below.)

The original design was used as a headquarters flag for the Royal Flying Corps in the Field in France, set out in a British Expeditionary Force General Routine Order of June 1917 (I have not traced the original of this order yet). The difference was that there was no union jack canton, and the letters RFC were placed on the central red stripe. The colours were also used as brassards by RFC staff officers. This was modified to provide rank flags from the formation of the service (and possibly before, when it was just the RFC). In AIR 2/337, there is a sheet that must have come from an official order, but is now separate. Dated April 1918, it shows rank flags:
- with two red stripes as 'Major General' in ink with RFC HQ deleted
- with one red stripe, swallowtailed 'Brigadier' with Brigade crossed out
- one one red stripe, pennant 'Wing Commander' with Wing crossed out
- with one red stripe and pilot's wings above and a number below, with Squadron, Army Aircraft Park, Aircraft Depot crossed out.

It looks as if there was a move from flags that indicated units, to flags that indicated rank.

Air Ministry Weekly Order 782 of May 1918 amended Wing Commander to Colonel, and instituted two new flags:
- with two narrow red stripes, a pennant, for lieutenant-colonel
- the old squadron flag, for major.

Army ranks were abolished on 15th September 1919, and replaced by the the RAF ranks that are still in use today.

Ian Sumner, 5 October 2004

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