Last modified: 2010-11-12 by bruce berry
Keywords: federation of rhodesia and nyasaland | southern africa |
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image by Clay Moss, 10 Sept 2005
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, also called Central African Federation, was created in 1953 and embraced the colony of Southern Rhodesia (later Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe) and the territories of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland now Malawi).
The Federation was dissolved on 31 December 1963, and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland
gained independence in 1964 as Zambia
Mark Sensen, 12 Apr 1997
The idea of a federation (or amalgamation as it was then called) between the British territories in central Africa was first mooted after World War I, but it was only after World War II that the idea was pursued more vigorously. Arguments in favour of federation were led by the Europeans in Southern Rhodesia on the premise of forming a large and powerful economic unit in central Africa. At a time when African nationalism was beginning to emerge on the continent, many Africans, especially in the two protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were opposed to the idea as they felt that they would become subservient to the more economically powerful European-dominated colony of Southern Rhodesia. Nevertheless after a number of prolonged negotiations and intensive consultations between the governments of the respective territories and that in the United Kingdom, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland came into existence on 07 September 1953. Its full constitution came into full operation on 23 October 1953. The Federation was one of the most complicated systems of government ever established. Five different governments had overlapping and interlocking responsibilities for its affairs. There was the British government in London, theoretically united but divided for practical purposes into two by no means friendly departments - the Commonwealth Office which dealt with the Federal and Southern Rhodesian Governments through separate sets of High Commissioners in Salisbury and London, and the Colonial Office which dealt with the two protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland through their respective Governors who possessed very wide powers. There was also the Governor-General of the Federation and Governor of Southern Rhodesia, both of whom, unlike their northern counterparts, were constitutional monarchs acting on the advice of their prime ministers.
The flag of the Federation was a British blue ensign with the shield from
the Federation coat of arms (granted by Royal Warrant on 22 July 1954) in the
"Per fess Azure and Sable in Chief a Sun rising Or and in base six palets wavy Argent overall a fesse dovetailed counter-dovetailed of the last thereon a Lion passant Gules". The shield was an amalgam of those of the participating territories. The rising sun in gold came from the shield of Nyasaland, the red lion from that of Southern Rhodesia and the six vertical black and white wavy 'pallets' representing the Victoria Falls came from that of Northern Rhodesia.
According to H. Cresham Carr, Flags of the World (1961), this ensign differed from most others on the colonial pattern in being in proportion of 3:5. However, in practice actual flags were manufactured in the usual tradition of 1:2.
Despite its economic advantages and potential, the Federation was plagued
with political differences amongst its participating member territories.
Following a Royal Commission in 1960, the Federation was dissolved on 31
December 1963. Subsequently in 1964 Nyasaland became independent as Malawi and Northern Rhodesia became independent as Zambia. The political situation in Southern Rhodesia reached an impasse between the
governments of Southern Rhodesia and the United Kingdom, leading the white
minority regime to declare its Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on
11 November 1965.
Bruce Berry, 13 Apr 1997
sent by Dean Thomas, 17 Sep 2002
The Arms of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland were designed by MJ
Morris (later Information Attaché to the Federal High Commission in
Pretoria) and were
granted by Royal Warrant on 22 July 1954. The blazon is as follows:
Arms: Per fesse Azure and Sable in Chief a Sun rising Or and in base six Palets wavy Argent over all a fesse dovetailed counter-dovetailed of the last thereon a Lion passant Gules.
Crest: On a wreath of the colours, an Eagle reguardant wings extended Or perched upon and grasping in the talons a Fish Argent.
Supporters: Dexter a Sable Antelope and sinister a Leopard.
Motto: Magni Esse Mereamur (Let us deserve Greatness)
The rising sun on a blue field in the upper part was taken from the arms of
Nyasaland; the white palets on a black field in base
are from the arms of Northern Rhodesia and represent the Victoria Falls, while
the dovetailed fesse (which links the component
parts), bearing the red lion passant, is from the arms of Southern Rhodesia.
(Source: The Union Jack over Southern and Central Africa 1795-1994, by FG Brownell, SAVA Journal 3/94 [brl94]).
Bruce Berry, 13 Apr 1997
image by Željko Heimer, 03 Jan 2003
Carr's Flags of the World (1961) has:
"The flag of the Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is similar to those of Australia, Canada, etc. The precise inscription is as follows: FEDERATION OF RHODESIA AND NYASALAND.
Jarig Bakker, 2 Jan 2003
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland came into being on 3 September 1953 comprising the colony of Southern Rhodesia and the protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. A Governor-General was appointed in addition to the Governor of the three constituent territories. The Governor-General had the same powers as the local Governors, but represented the Crown with regard to the activities of the Federal Government and was Commander-in-Chief of the Federal armed forces.
There appear to have been two different flags used by the Governor-General:
an official flag in proportions 1:2 of dark blue charged with a crowned lion
upon a St. Edward's crown, with a gold scroll beneath bearing the words
"Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland"
and a personal flag. The official flag follows the pattern approved by
King George V in 1930 for use by the Governors-General of South Africa and Canada, and later adopted as the
standard design for use by other Governors-general in Commonwealth countries,
the central device being:
"Upon a royal crown proper a lion statant guardant Or, royally crowned also proper".
The personal and car flag was chosen by the Lord Llewellin, the first Governor-General, on his arrival in the Federation. It was the duty of the Governor-General to authorise the design of a personal flag which was to be a purely local symbol intended for domestic purposes. This flag was flown at his residence and on any vehicle in which he traveled and was also used with the territorial flag when the Governor-General was staying at the Government House of the territory concerned. The car flag of the Governor-General took precedence over that of a Governor when both officials traveled together.
The design chosen by Lord Llewellin was a pale
cream flag charged in the centre with a Flame Lily flower in the centre.
"I have decided to use an African flame lily (Gloriosa
Superba) as the emblem, a flower of great beauty
which grows in each of the three territories which comprise
the Federal area) (National Archives of Zimbabwe ref: F201/GG24).
Unfortunately the National Archives of Zimbabwe do not have an example of this flag in its collection and I have not seen any illustrations. However, a black and white illustration based on the above description was prepared for inclusion in SAVA Journal SJ:5/96 entitled Flags and Symbols of Rhodesia 1890 - 1980 by Richard Allport.
Lord Dalhousie, who succeeded Llewellin, continued
to use the Flame Lily flag as his personal standard until the Federation was
formally dissolved on 31 December 1963.
Bruce Berry, 20 Jan 2003
image by Željko Heimer, 23 Mar 2003
Some time ago Željko Heimer provided a image of the flag of the
Governor General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
I just had a look in Znamierowski's
Encyclopedia of Flags (1999), p. 71, where that flag has a red field.
Jarig Bakker, 23 Mar 2003
I queried this with Bruce Berry when the book first came out. He replied:
The illustration in Znamierowski for the G-G of the Federation of Rhodesian and Nyasaland is incorrect. The field should be the standard dark blue as found in the flags of other G-Gs elsewhere in the "Empire/Commonwealth" at that time. I guess this is a printing error in the book. The National Archives of Zimbabwe has such a flag in its collection of which I have a photograph and the field is definitely dark blue..
David Prothero, 23 Mar 2003
How many other countries have this official policy of flying
two flags (state flags don't count, neither do supra-national flags)?
This practice was also followed in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. (Federal flag and Union Jack)
Devereaux Cannon, 10 Jan 1998
The only oddity about this situation was that it continued so late, since in
the early days all British dominions flew the Union Jack (as the primary flag)
and the local flag, often side by side. (I use the word “dominion” here in the
pre-First World War sense, meaning a possession of the British Crown, as opposed
to a self-governing member of the Empire, which was the definition that came
into use in the 1920s, and more particularly in the 1930s following the Statute
of Westminster, which made the Dominions [capital D] independent states.) See
for instance South Africa 1910-1928.
Mike Oettle, 22 May 2002
The impression I have is that it was done, to a greater or lesser extent,
only in Australia, Canada,
Zealand, (Southern) Rhodesia and the Union of South
David Prothero, 23 May 2002
In the Rhodesian case, one of the reasons as to why this came into being was
due to the confusion in the 1930s over what was considered to be the Southern Rhodesia flag (see above). When the Admiralty
granted permission for a Southern Rhodesian dark blue ensign in 1937, this was
specifically stated as being for use OUTSIDE the country only while the Union
Jack remained the official flag of the colony and thus flew within the country.
With the advent of the Federation in 1953, it must be remembered that the UK
Government was an official participating entity in the Federal government
structure (along with the Governments of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia,
Nyasaland and the Federal Government - a unique, if somewhat clumsy, 5
administration arrangement), hence the Union Jack remained an
"official" flag along with the Federal flag. Following the
dissolution of the Federation at the end of 1963, the participating territories
reverted back to their individual "colonial" status and Southern Rhodesia continued with the dual flag
arrangement until after UDI in 1965. This "rebellion against the
crown" saw the adoption of a new flag on 11
November 1968 and the dropping of the Union Jack as an official flag of the
Bruce Berry, 23 May 2002