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Colonial Flags 1914 (Germany)

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In Schurdel 1995 there is a short chapter, illustrated with some flags used in the former German colonies. It is said that in the year 1914 there was a decision to grant the colonies some flags. This idea was based on the fact that the British possessions flew the blue ensign with the badge of the colonies. Germany had to show its flags also. The flags proposed but never seen since in 1919 Germany lost all its colonies were all black-white-red horizontally defaced with the coat-of-arms of the colony in the center. Only six coats-of-arms are known. They have all a chief (top of the shield) with the black Prussian eagle on white:

Pascal Vagnat, 21 February 1996

In contrast to territories which made up the British Empire, virtually all of which were granted a distinctive heraldic and vexillological identity, German colonies and protectorates did not have their own heraldic devices or flags. Following in the Portuguese and Dutch colonial practice, the Germans treated their overseas possessions an an integral part of one empire and consequently the Imperial German arms and flags were used throughout the Empire.

During a visit by the then German Secretary of State, Dr. Solf, to German possessions in Africa during 1912-1913, he noted that each of the British colonial territorities had their own distinctive colonial emblem. The fact that these 'colonial flags' all followed a single pattern made a great impression on Dr. Solf who submitted a memorandum to Kaiser Wilhelm II stressing the desirability of adopting distinctive emblems for Germany's overseas possessions. He went to far as to suggest that the matter receive urgent attention. The Kaiser agreed and suggested that Dr. Solf take the necessary steps to prepare the appropriate designs. In close co-operation with Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg and the Herald's Office a series of designs were prepared and submitted to the Kaiser.

The flags were to be based on the German horizontal tricolour of black, white and red charged in the centre with a distinctive shield of the colony.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 diverted attention to more pressing matters and the flags designed for Germany's colonial possessions were never taken into use.

Bruce Berry, 13 February 1998

Cameroon / Kamerun

[Cameroon proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen

Togo / Togoland

[Togoland proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen

German East Africa / Deutsch Ostafrika

[German East Africa proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen

With the outbreak of war in 1914, the British moved to occupy the territory. Unfortunately for the tens of thousands of British, Indian, South African and other Empire troops eventually bogged down in East Africa, the German forces commander, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, was a brilliant guerrilla leader. By the end of the European war in 1918, von Lettow and his troops (most of whom were black, by the way) were still in the field, having led no less a figure than the South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts a merry dance through the bush, including excursions into Kenya and the Portuguese territory of Mozambique (Portugal being an ally of Britain during World War I).

Stuart Notholt, 29 June 1996

German Southwest Africa / Deutsch Südwestafrika

[German South West Africa proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen

In Namibia the Imperial Kriegsflagge is the symbol most usually associated with German rule. The German Imperial flag is still very much in use by the German population. You can also get car stickers with 'DSWA' for Deutsch Südwestafrika and other paraphernalia and there is a thriving industry in Swakopmund where German tourists can buy historical flags and emblems which they cannot buy back in Germany.

Stuart Notholt, 15 February 1996

The German administration of South West Africa lasted little more than three decades from 1884 to 1915. (...) [The 1914 colonial flag proposals] were to be based on the German horizontal tricolour of black, white and red charged in the centre with a distinctive shield of the colony. In the case of South West Africa, this was to be a blue shield bearing a silver ox's head and diamond.

Bruce Berry, 13 February 1998

German New Guinea / Deutsch Neu-Guinea

[German New Guinea proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen

Editor's note: see also German New Guinea Company 1885-1899 (Deutsch Neuguinea-Kompagnie)


[Samoa proposal 1914 (Germany)]
by Mark Sensen