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British colonies in Southeast Asia

Last modified: 2013-05-11 by rob raeside
Keywords: southeast asia | malaya | malaysia | brunei | singapore |
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British colonies in Southeast Asia

The principal British colonies southeast Asia included Malaya, Singapore, Straits Settlement, Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Labuan.


Governor General's flag

1946 pattern

[Southeast Asia Governor General flag] image by Martin Grieve, 21 April 2013

1953 pattern

[Southeast Asia Governor General flag] by Peter Johnson, 24 April 2013

I found the following information in Anne Thurston's Sources for Colonial Studies in the Public Record Office. Malcolm MacDonald was appointed a governor-general in May 1946 covering the Malayan Union, Singapore, and Brunei, extended later to Sarawak and North Borneo. There was also a special commissioner, Lord Killearn, who conducted foreign affairs in a region that included Burma, Thailand, Indo-China and Netherlands East Indies. In May 1948 these two posts were combined and MacDonald became commissioner-general for the United Kingdom in South East Asia, with the same responsibilities towards the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo as he had had, as governor-general. Brunei now had a high commissioner who was also governor of Sarawak. In September 1955 he was succeeded by Sir Robert Scott, and 'responsibilities declined during the 1950's'. I presume that this is a reference to the independence, in August 1957, of the Federation of Malaya, which had its own monarchy and would not have needed a governor-general. At a guess, the post came to an end in September 1963 when Sarawak, Sabah (North Borneo) and Singapore merged with Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia. So it seems reasonable to date the flag 1946-1963(?).
David Prothero
, 16, 18 and 28 January 2000

Before the Japanese invasion, the Governor of the Straits Settlements was, I believe, also the High Commissioner to the Federate Malay States. I don't think he had a special flag for the position.
Peter Johnson, David Prothero, 1 March 2005

Unfederated States had British advisers while Federated States had British residents. I have an idea that the British residents may have had swallow-tail versions of the state flag, but I am not sure.
David Prothero, 1 March 2005

From Nick Weekes:
"When the RCS (Royal Commonwealth Society) Library was still in London, I found there a photocopy of an extract from an article 'The Flags of the Malay Peninsula' published in 'Jour. Straits Branch R. A. Soc., No. 75, 1917' (I think this may be Royal Asian Society). The relevant text said 'The Chief Secretary of the Federated Malay States has a Jack corresponding to the Governor's [i.e., the Governor of the Straits Settlements as described earlier in the article] in which a kris is the emblem'.
     Perhaps the reason that I can find no other evidence of this defacement is that the Chief Secretary was getting above himself and was instructed by someone to stop using the defacement. The Chief Secretary was subordinate to the Governor of the Straits Settlements (also High Commissioner for the Malay States and British Agent for British North Borneo and Sarawak)."
David Prothero, 27 April 2005

In May 1946 a Governor-General post was created for the administration the Malayan Union, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak and the British North Borneo Company. At the same time a special commissioner assumed responsibility for advising the UK government on problems relating to Burma, Siam, Indo-China and the Netherlands East Indies. In May 1948 the two posts were combined and the Governor-General became a Commissioner-General with head-quarters in Singapore.

According to Carr, there should be a hyphen between ‘South’ and ‘East’. The ratio of the flag was 21:16 with the charge occupying “approximately three-quarters of the depth of the hoist”. The same dimensions applied to the ‘Federation of Nigeria’, ‘Ghana’ and ‘Federation of the West Indies’ flags.
David Prothero, 20 April 2013

 I assume that the same dimensions were maintained when the crown was changed in 1953. Accordingly, I have had a go at making an image of the post 1953 version.
Peter Johnson, 24 April 2013


Director of Operations, Borneo

[flag of Director of Operations, Borneo, 1964] image by Martin Grieve, 20 August 2005

An usual British tri-service flag. The normal order of the colours, first, dark blue-Navy; second, red-Army; third, pale blue-Air Force; has been altered putting the Air Force colour at the top of the flag. Approved September 1964 for the Headquarters of the Director of Operations, Borneo.
National Archives (PRO) WO 32/15019.
David Prothero, 20 August 2004