- Walter Burroughs
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The earliest example we have been able to locate of an Australian Naval Board Flag is shown in an Admiralty publication ‘Flags of All Nations’ dated 1930. This flag is similar to the Admiralty flag other than it is horizontally divided into two colours with the upper portion crimson and the lower portion blue with the anchor in yellow. This should end the discussion but for an article discovered on this topic by G A King contained in the 1953 edition (Vol 39 Pt 11 pgs 94-95) of the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS). This notes the recent adoption of an Australian Naval Board flag based upon that of the British Lords of the Admiralty. The flag is described but unfortunately there is no pictorial representation. Instructions particular to the new flag is it is to be worn continuously at a mast on ‘N’ Block Victoria Barracks in Melbourne – where the Board normally resides. The new flag is worn by HMA Ships in which the Naval Board is embarked, in flagships at the main, and in other ships at the fore; the masthead pendant is hauled down whilst the Naval Board flag is flying. In flagships with only one mast it is worn on convenient halyards side by side with the Admiral’s flag. The Naval Board flag may also be flown in the bow of a boat and worn in Service cars conveying the Minister for the Navy, or the Naval Board, on official business. Again keen observers will have noted there was no Minister for the Navy in 1930.
The above leads to a conclusion that the Australian Naval Board flag was adopted sometime after 1904, and most likely with a design change in 1929 to reflect that of the Admiralty. Assuming the accuracy of the RAHS article it is interesting to speculate what occurred in 1953 requiring a new flag. Two significant events are noteworthy firstly Her Majesty’s coronation and secondly the launching of HMS Britannia. The Royal yacht was specifically fitted with three masts which allowed the Lord High Admiral’s flag to be worn at the foremast. Perhaps new instructions were issued at this time which also extended to the wearing of the Australian Naval Board flag.
In similar circumstances to the parent British organisation the Australian Department of Defence was reorganised in 1972 resulting in the end of the separate Department of Navy and the demise of the Naval Board. The Board’s flag however seems to have been assumed by the new office of Chief of Naval Staff and later Chief of Navy. Information contained in Defence Instruction General 12-1 dated 24 August 2001 relevant to Defence Force ensigns and flags confirm the continuation of this design. For those deeply interested in vexillology the present flag is a locally made product fully sewn of woven Australian Defence Force quality bunting. An Australian Naval Board flag circa 1970 is held by RAN Heritage Collection at Spectacle Island which is possibly the last official flag used by the Board.
We are also informed by our Defence colleagues that the current Chief of Navy badge was approved for use on 16 January 1990. The design based on the official pennant of the head of Navy which was also the same pennant used by the prior Australian Naval Board. This appears to be a well founded attempt to retain a tradition that was in danger of being lost.
In summary the Chief of Navy has an interesting flag symbolising the historic origins of the Australian Naval Board. Within heraldic terms the current associated badge has perhaps an uneasy symmetry in attempting to link an historic emblem with contemporary surroundings.