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Cyprus: British rule (1878-1960)

Last modified: 2009-04-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: lions: 2 (red) | blue ensign | red ensign | union jack | high commissioner | letters: chc (black) |
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Chronology

  • 1878. In exchange for assistance against Russian encroachment in eastern Turkey, Cyprus was put under British administration, but remained part of the Ottoman Empire.
  • 1914. Cyprus annexed to British Crown when Turkey entered the war on the German side.
  • 1925. Annexation recognised by Greece and Turkey under Treaty of Lausanne and Cyprus became a Crown Colony.
  • 1960. Independence recognized.

David Prothero, 21 March 2003


Colonial flag, 1881-1905

[Blue Ensign, 1881]         [Colonial badge, 1881]         [High Commissioner's flag, 1881]

Cyprus colonial Blue Ensign (left), colonial badge (middle), and High Commissioner's flag (right), 1881-1905 - Images by Martin Grieve, 21 March 2003

In 1881, C H C (Cyprus High Commissioner) on white disc was approved as badge on Blue Ensign and on High Commissioner's Union Jack, for use afloat. Similar in style to the badge of the Western Pacific High Commissioner (1880), but without a crown.
There is a drawing of the CHC badge in the Colonial Office Book in which flag badges were recorded. Alongside is noted:

There is no distinctive Badge for the Public Seal and it was not considered advisable to make any change in the present Seal or to incur the expense of providing a more elaborate one. See draft to Admy on 18474 [over] 81.

[National Archives (PRO) CO 325/54]

The depiction of the CHC badge shown above looks as though it was taken from the Royal Edwardian Edition (1902) of Brown's, Standards and Flags of All Nations.
Mr Edgington's Empire Calendar shows a slightly different style of badge. It shows the dots either side of the letter 'H' in the badge, but without the words 'HIGH COMMISSIONER' which are contained in Brown's image in (different) capital letters below the letters 'CHC'. The font is in the same style. The words 'HIGH COMMISSIONER' were not part of the badge, but appear to have been added by Mr Brown.
I cannot remember whether Brown's drawing or Edgington's drawing is more like the drawing in the Colonial Office book, (or the print of the badge in the 1889 edition of the Admiralty Flag Book), but I don't think it matters. For governors' flags it was normal to print Union Jacks with a blank white circle surrounded by a garland in the centre. The appropriate badge was then hand-painted onto the white circle. No two flags would have been exactly the same.

David Prothero & Colin Dobson, 30 September 2004


Colonial flag, 1905-1922

[Blue Ensign, 1881]         [Colonial badge, 1905]         [Governor's Union Jack]

Cyprus colonial Blue Ensign (left), colonial badge (middle), and High Commissioner's flag (right), 1905 - Images by Martin Grieve, 21 March 2003

In 1905, the two lion badge was approved by King Edward VII. It was derived from the design of the shield of Richard I (Cœur de Lion) who conquered Cyprus in 1191, after being shipwrecked on the island, while on his way to join the Third Crusade. It replaced the C H C badge on the Union Jack, but was not used on the Blue Ensign until 1922.

David Prothero, 21 March 2003


Colonial flags, 1922-1960

[Colonial badge, 1905]         [Governor's Union Jack]

Cyprus colonial badge (left) and High Commissioner's flag (right) , 1922 - Images by Martin Grieve, 21 March 2003

[Cyprus Red Ensign]         [Cyprus Blue Ensignj

Cyprus Red Ensign (left) and Blue Ensign (right), 1922 - Images by Martin Grieve, 21 March 2003

In 1922, Cypriots were British subjects for most purposes, but not for the purpose of Sec. 1 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. Consequently a Cypriot ship flying the plain Red Ensign was subject to forfeiture under Sec. 69. The Colonial Office proposed amendment of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, so that British subjects, who became such by annexation, should be British subjects for all purposes. It was pointed out that it could not be done until the next Imperial Conference. Instead, the High Commissioner, with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council, passed Cyprus Registration of Ships Law, 1922. This provided for the registration of ships in Cyprus; and authorised ships when registered, to fly a Red Ensign defaced by a Cyprus badge. Unregistered boats, that were the equipment of registered ships, could also fly the defaced Red Ensign. Such ships were not British ships, but the ensign showed that they were British protected.
Consideration had been given to replacing the two lion badge with the Lion Arms of the French dynasty of Lusignan. Soon after he acquired the island Richard sold it to the Knights Templar, who transferred it, with his consent, to Guy de Lusignan, the dispossessed King of Jerusalem. He and his successors ruled in Cyprus until 1489. The Lusignan arms were in use on the Public Seal and coinage, but Winston Churchill, who was Colonial Secretary at the time, wrote that although the Lusignan Lion might be more appropriate, the Lion Shield of Richard the First had been chosen by the late King Edward VII, and it would not be proper to alter the design selected by him.
The opportunity was also taken to change the badge on the Blue Ensign which for some unknown reason had not been changed in 1905 and was still ' C H C '.

Admiralty Warrant

Whereas we deem it expedient that vessels registered under the Cyprus Registration of Ships Law 1922, and belonging to British Subjects or to Bodies Corporate established under or subject to the law of the Island of Cyprus, and having in the Island of Cyprus the primary Place of Business, and also boats forming part of the equipment of such Vessels shall be permitted to wear the Red Ensign of His Majesty's Fleet with the badge of the Island of Cyprus on the fly thereof.
We do therefore by virtue of the Power and Authority vested in us hereby, Warrant and Authorise the Red Ensign of His Majesty's Fleet and the badge of the Island of Cyprus in the fly to be used on board the Vessels hereinbefore specified.

[Public Record Office ADM 1/8601/38 and ADM 116/1847B]

In 1925, Cyprus became a Crown Colony. As far as I know the Red Ensign warrant was not cancelled and Cyprus was thus the only Colony, as opposed to Dominion or Protectorate, that had its own Red Ensign.

David Prothero, 21 March 2003


Ms. Chapman's flag reports (1937)

Olive Murray Chapman (Across Cyprus, London: John Lane, 1945, originally 1937) refers to the use of the Cyprus Blue Ensign upon her arrival at the port of Famagusta:
"Before reaching the quay a pinnace, flying the Cyprian flag, the Blue Ensign with the two scarlet lions of St. Mark on the background, drew alongside, and up the gangway came the passport officials [...]" (p.40)

She also refers to the Union Jack being flown over police stations:
[Page 86: At the village of Lythrangomi, near Panaya Kanakaria on the Karpass Peninsula] "It gave one quite a homelike feeling to find, at all these little Greek "or Moslem villages of Cyprus, the familiar sight of the Union Jack flying over the police station."
[Page 187: At the village of Pano Panayia, on the western slopes of the Troodos Mountain Range] "[...] I was invited by the policeman to visit his police station [...] It was a cheerful little wooden bungalow [...] proudly flying the Union Jack.

Gerald Noeske, 16 September 2004


The end of the British rule, 1960

Quoting David Carter's website:

On 20 June 2006, the media in Greek Cyprus reported former Royal Signals' soldier John Miller, 67, had given the Eoka Museum in Nicosia, the flag that was lowered at 19.18 for the final time from the flagpole outside the Governor's Mansion on 15 August 1960, the evening before Britain gave up being the Island's colonial ruler.
Miller claimed: 'At the flag changeover ceremony, I asked Governor Sir Hugh Foot for permission to keep it and he agreed. It remained in my wardrobe in Lowestoft in Suffolk until I returned to Cyprus in 1999. I love Cyprus and have made Finikaria village in Limassol my home. Even though the flag is valuable, I was never been tempted to sell it and always wanted to bring it back. I believe the flag belongs here as part of the Island's history. I feel very proud and happy today in returning it.'

In 2006, more than 45 years after the end of the Eoka conflicted, Miller's action still angered former British service personnel.
Some servicemen believe Miller could not have been present at the formal standard-lowering ceremony to receive the flag from Sir Hugh Foot. They insist, too, the flag would have been passed to British officers for safekeeping and returned to the United Kingdom.

On the black and white photo of the flag lowering event, the lions are rendered differently from the image shown above.

Jan Mertens, 2 November 2008