This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

House flags of British shipping companies (10)

Last modified: 2004-06-19 by
Keywords: house flag | cunard | white star | lion | star: 5 points (white) | crest | globe |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | | mirrors

See also:

Cunard White Star Company (Cunard Line)

[Cunard White Star houseflag] by Roger Moyer and António Martins, 14 Aug 1999

At the turn of the century the two principal British steamship lines operating in the North Atlantic were the Cunard Steam Ship Company and the White Star Company. These two lines were amalgamated and became the Cunard White Star Company, and for many years the ships of the amalgamation flew the House Flags of both the Cunard and the White Star. The Cunard flag, which used to be flown above that of the White star, has a red field charged with a golden lion rampant guardant. The White Star flag is a “broad pennant” with two tails and charged with a white five-pointed star. In 1968 the flying of the White Star flag was discontinued and only the Cunard flag is flown by Cunard ships.
Jarig Bakker, 14 Feb 1999, quoting [bar71]

The lion holding a globe seems to be the crest of a coat of arms (it is standing on a torse), making some sort of pattern with the Bibby Line house flag: Red flag with a golden crest on it. The lion further shows surprisingly human features and a crown.
António Martins, 14 Aug 1999

According to the 1934 flag article in National Geographic magazine [gsh34], Cunard did have a red funnel with a broad black band at the top and three very thin black stripes midway down.
Edward Smith, 19 Oct 1999

Cunard White Star Co. The flag was changed to the version shown with the 1878 (some sources quote 1880) name change and any resemblance to human features probably lies in the viewers eyes. The lion may well have a benign (well fed) face but my guess is that the emblem is more a symbol of British pride and power originating in an uninhibited era. A study of video shots of the flag indicates that the lion emblem shown here is too large by around 25% [see gb~c50.gif attached]. Unfortunately it was not possible to make out the finer detail apart from the fact that the lion is standing on a wreath, but the version shown here appears otherwise accurate unlike various sources where the portrayal varies for design with several omitting the wreath on which the lion stands whilst a couple omit the crown but I have not seen any suggestions that the design was ever altered so it would appear to have been unchanged since its inception. A swallow-tailed version is used by the fleet commodore. Originated 1840 as the British & North American Steam Packet Co. principally founded by Samuel Cunard, becoming known as the Cunard Line and then in 1878 it was reformed as Cunard Steam-Ship Co. Ltd. The original flag was a double pennant of blue with a white saltire over plain red [see image below] and this flag is also associated with D & C McIver, David McIver being a partner with Samuel Cunard in the setting up of the new concern. Between around 1850-1880 another flag is reported to have been flown at times, being a blue swallowtail with a white star but its function is unclear. Such a flag is reputed to have been used by A. Cunard & Sons of Nova Scotia for whom Samuel Cunard, who was born Canadian, worked prior to going to England [no indication is given of their being related]. Suggestions are that this flag was either a personal flag of Samuel or was used by the senior captain of the time.
Neale Rosanoski, 16 February 2004

[Cunard White Star houseflag] by Rob Raeside

White Star Lines

[White Star Lines houseflag] by Jorge Candeias, 14 Feb 1999

It’s a red burgee with a white 5-pointed star.
Jorge Candeias, 14 February 1999

The White Star flag is a “broad pennant” with two tails and charged with a white five-pointed star. In 1968 the flying of the White Star flag was discontinued and only the Cunard flag is flown by Cunard ships, except on one day of the year, April 20th, when the two flags are flown together in commemoration that this is the birthday of the last surviving officer of the old White Star Line.
Jarig Bakker, 14 February 1999, quoting [bar71]

White Star Lines. The proper name was Orient Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. but the alias is normally used. In 1867/8 the founder Thomas Henry Ismay bought the goodwill and flag of another White Star Line which had just gone bankrupt and when he set up his company two years later the flag became theirs. Sources relate this as though the flag remained unchanged but according to Basil Lubbock in "The Colonial Clippers" the original flag has a star of 6 points. After the merger with Cunard the ex White Star ships flew their old flag superior to that of Cunard whilst Cunard and all new tonnage reversed the procedure so the sale of the last of these ships, "Britannic", for scrap in 1960 would have seen the end of the White Star flag on top. The fleet commodore used a white bordered version. With regard to the once a year display of the two flags at the end, another version gives it as April 20th being the anniversary of the merger. One other point about these two companies and their merger is that it was for the trans-Atlantic passenger trade only and The Cunard Steam-Ship Co. Ltd. continued in its own right to operate its cargo ships on the Mediterranean trade and it was the initial owner of 62% of Cunard White Star Line, buying the balance in 1947 and then in 1949 bringing everything back under its name.
Neale Rosanoski, 16 February 2004

Living near Liverpool, the original homeport of what was first the White Star Line and later Cunard White Star, I often have occasion to pass by the Cunard Building on the Liverpool waterfront. This is a massive structure exuding the height of Edwardian self-importance, although it is quite nicely done up inside. This was the original building from which the president of the line spoke to thousands of friends and relatives of passengers and crew on the occasion of the loss of RMS Titanic in 1912 and the sinking of RMS Lusitania in 1915. From time to time I have seen this flag flying from the roof of the Cunard Building, but it does not seem to be flown on any fixed basis or schedule; on some days one can see it flying and on other days the flagstaff is bare.
Ron Lahav, 18 Febraury 2004