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British Indian Ocean Territory

Last modified: 2013-07-20 by ian macdonald
Keywords: diego garcia | limuria | chagos islands | diego garcia | tree | chagos | palm | british indian ocean territory | crown | limuria | peaks of limuria |
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[British Indian Ocean Territory] image by Martin Grieve, 20 August 2006
Proportions: 1:2
Usage Code: [FIS Code]
Source: Flags of All nations B.R. 20 [gra00]

ISO Code: IO IOT 086 (Diego Garcia has a reserved code of DG DGA)
FIPS 10-4 Code: IO
MARC Code: bi
IOC Code: Not Applicable
Status: territory of the United Kingdom


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Description of the Territory

British dependency, with an important U.S. military base. Is formed by the Chagos Islands (Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos, etc...) in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Jaume Ollé, 9 June 1996

The territory was established on 8 November 1965 by the amalgamation of the Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches islands (formerly part of the Seychelles) and the Chagos Archipelago (formerly from Mauritius. On 29 June 1976 the former Seychelles islands were retroceded to the Seychelles and were called there 'ZIL ELOIGNE SESEL'.
Herman De Wael, 24 May 1997

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) lies about 1770 km east of Mahe (the main island of the Seychelles). The territory, an archipelago of 55 islands, covers some 54,400 sq km of ocean. The islands have a land area of only 60 sq km and 698 km of coastline. Diego Garcia, the largest and most southerly island, is 44 sq km. The climate is hot, humid and moderated by trade winds. The terrain is flat and low and most areas do not exceed two metres in elevation.

HISTORY

The Chagos islands were first discovered, uninhabited, in the 16th century.

The French assumed sovereignty in the late 18th century and began to exploit them for copra, originally employing slave labour. By then, the Indian Ocean and its African, Arabian and Indian coasts had become a centre of rivalry between the Dutch, French and British East India companies for dominance over the spice trade and over the routes to India and the Far East. France, which had already colonised Réunion in the middle of the seventeenth century, claimed Mauritius in 1775, having sent its first settlers there in 1772; it subsequently took possession of the Seychelles group and the islands of the Chagos Archipelago. (Although the latter were not commercially important, they had strategic value because of their position astride the trade routes.)

During the Napoleonic wars Britain captured Mauritius and Réunion from the French. Under the treaty of Paris in 1814, Britain restored Réunion to France, and France ceded to Britain Mauritius and its dependencies, which comprised Seychelles and various other islands, including the Chagos Archipelago. All these dependencies continued to be administered from Mauritius until 1903, when the Seychelles group was detached to form a separate Crown Colony. The Chagos islands continued to be administered as a dependency of Mauritius until, with the full agreement of the Mauritius Council of Ministers, they were detached to become part of the British Indian Ocean Territory in 1965. At the same time Britain paid a grant of £3 million to Mauritius in consideration of the detachment of the Chagos islands.

After the British Indian Ocean Territory had been created, the UK Government gave Mauritius an undertaking to cede the Chagos islands to Mauritius when they were no longer required for defence purposes. However, since the 1980s, successive Mauritian governments have asserted a sovereignty claim to the islands, arguing that they were detached illegally.

The territory is overseen by a Commissioner and Administrator who are based in London. The Commissioner's Representative in the BIOT is the commanding officer of the British Royal Navy Party at Diego Garcia and who serves as the Justice of the Peace.

In 2001, the population consisted of 1,500 military personnel and 2,000 civilian contractors.

The Royal Navy Party at Diego Garcia numbers approximately 40 people (last information was 38, down from a maximum of 40).
Phil Nelson, 3 June 2005


Description of the flag

There is a flag, only used by the commissioner. It has wavy lines of blue and white instead of the blue background of the Blue Ensign; the Union Jack in the canton; and a palm tree with a crown in the fly. Curiously, this flag, as it appears in my Crampton's Observers Book of Flags [cra90], has the proportions of 2:3 instead of 1:2.
Pascal Vagnat, 1 March 1996

Strictly speaking this is just the flag of the commissioner, the lone British official who keeps up the pretence that the British Indian Ocean Territory is anything other than an American base. Because the flag is rather unlike the usual British colonial pattern, it would not surprise me if it's an unofficial local creation that has since been ratified (it was formally adopted in 1990), especially as it's for use on land only.
Roy Stilling, 21 November 1996


Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms contrubuted by Gvido Petersons

The coat of arms of [British Indian Ocean Territory] shows the motto of "IN TUTELA NOSTRA LIMURIA" in some book and another shows the motto of "PEAKS OF LIMURIA". Which one is correct?
Nozomi Kariyasu, 17 August 2002

"In tutela nostra Limuria" means "Limuria is in our charge" - Limuria is to the Indian Ocean as Atlantis is to the Atlantic Ocean - the lost continent. The Peaks of Limuria refer to the same mythical continent.
Rob Raeside, 20 August 2002

The turtles on the coat of arms undoubtedly were due to the fact that there is a cove on the island (Turtle Cove) that is home to a large number of sea turtles.
Kevin Hughes, 11 September 2005