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British Straits Settlements 1826-1946 (Malaysia)

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by ian macdonald
Keywords: straits settlements | malaya | strait of malacca | lozenge |
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[British Straits Settlements] 1:2 image by Clay Moss 25 June 2005
Flag adopted 1874, discontinued 1942

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The Straits Settlement, "a British colony which comprises Singapore, Penang, and Malacca, on the Strait of Malacca, has for a badge a red diamond with three crowns on a three-armed field of white."
Josh Fruhlinger
, 20 February 1996

The imperial crowns, which replaced the earlier squarish Victorian crowns in about 1904, were in full colour, mainly gold and red, but also green, blue and shades of grey if you have all the detailing. Early versions of the ensign tended to have the badge in the lower fly, but the correct position is in the centre of the fly, the length of the horizontal axis of the lozenge being five sixteenths of the length of the whole flag.
David Prothero, 6 June 1998

What was the flag of the British colony Straits Settlements between 1867 and 1911? Was the badge with three crowns granted in 1911?
Jaume Ollé, 27 March 2001

To be precise, the flag of Straits Settlements, established 1826, was the Union Flag. The "three crowns on a lozenge" badge that was used on the Union Flag of the Governor when afloat, and the Blue Ensign of government vessels appeared on a printed sheet of colonial badges, produced by the Admiralty, that was being circulated in 1874 (Source: Public Record Office, Kew, CO 323/318). However a drawing in the Colonial Office Record Book shows a Blue Ensign with one gold crown in the lower fly. It is dated 1877 and has the note, "Governor informed that above badge should not have been changed without authorisation and must still be considered the badge of the colony." (Source: Public Record Office, Kew, CO 325/54).

I am not sure but it is likely that each of the three original settlements had its own seal and that there was therefore no obvious badge to represent the whole colony. The Colonial Office seem to have assumed that a crown would be used as the badge until a suitable one had been selected and approved, but that the governor went ahead and devised a badge without approval. The same problem arose in West African Settlements, but in that case the seal of one settlement, was adopted as the badge for the combined settlements.

The badge appeared in an official document in 1874, was modified in 1904 when the Tudor crowns replaced the Victorian style crowns, and discontinued in 1942.
David Prothero
, 28 March 2001

I have found a clear photo of some kind of defaced British ensign flying in Penang Harbour. The photo was taken in 1906. An unidentified ship is tied to the then brand new Sweattenham pier. Flying from the stern in a nice stiff breeze is a Straits Settlements blue ensign with the badge on a disk. I would guess the ensign to be perhaps 4 1/2 x 9 feet. I am very impressed with the clarity of the photo, particularly for its age (used to draw the image above).
Clay Moss, 25 June 2005

Red Ensign

[British Straits Settlements red ensign] 2:3 image by Clay Moss

The Straits Settlements red ensign is made roughly 4x6 feet and is in the possession of a merchant here in Penang.
Clay Moss, 9 April 2005

Union Flag

[British Straits Settlements union flag] image by Clay Moss, 3 June 2005


The Straits Settlements, the British Crown Colony that existed 1826-1946, included Penang (inc. Province Wellesley), the Dinding Islands (on the Malayan west coast, later returned to Perak), Malacca, Singapore, Labuan Island (off Sabah, now a Malaysian federal territory), Christmas Island, and Cocos/Keeling Islands. Singapore was the capital city of the Straits Settlements.

The Strait of Malacca is actually a waterway which separates Peninsular Malaya from the Island of Sumatra. Also, Malacca was never a colony of Britain in its own rights. When the Straits Settlements were dismantled after the period of BMA (British Military Administration) which was immediately after the Japanese surrendered and returned Malaya and Singapore to the British colonial masters, Singapore became a Colony in its own right and Malacca and Penang were federated together with the remaining 9 Malay states to become the Federation of Malaya (the forerunner of Malaysia).
Thomas Koh
, 29 October 1996

The British colonial ensigns section of Flaggenbuch 1939 says, "The Governor of the Straits Settlements is also High Commissioner of the Malay States and Brunei".
Ivan Sache, 15 January 2000

This arrangement came to an end with the Japanese occupation and was not resumed after the Second World War. Straits Settlements was dissolved, Malacca and Penang joined the Malayan Union, Singapore, the Cocos Islands and Christmas Island united to form the colony of Singapore and Labuan joined the colony of North Borneo.
David Prothero, 15 January 2000

Unidentified 'Malay Straits' flag on a cigarette card

[Unidentified 'Malay Straits' flag on a cigarette card]
from this website

There is a Cigarette Silk Iron-on Transfer in this website, under the subject Nation Animals & Flags #2, showing a blue flag with circular badge for the 'Malay Straits'.
Olivier Touzeau
, 16 October 2002

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