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British North Borneo 1881-1963 (Malaysia)

Last modified: 2013-11-11 by ian macdonald
Keywords: british north borneo | north borneo | sabah | borneo | lion (red) | disc (yellow |
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British North Borneo Chartered Company 1881-1937, State of North Borneo 1937-1946, Colony of North Borneo 1946-1963



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Presentation

Roughly speaking, Sabah was previously known as (British) North Borneo (Company).
David Prothero
, 6 March 1999

In 1878 Alfred Dent formed a British syndicate, and he persuaded the Sultan of Sulu to cede those parts of North Borneo which his ancestors had held for generations. Later a company was formed which took over the concession granted to the syndicate, and as the British North Borneo Company applied for and received a charter from Queen Victoria in 1881. The conditions laid down were that the company must remain British and that the religion and customs of the native inhabitants must be respected. Later on more concessions were added, granted by the Sultan of Brunei.

Because of possible complications with foreign powers, a British Protectorate was declared over the northern part of Borneo in 1888, which included Sarawak, Brunei and the state of North Borneo. The Crown took over external affairs, while the Chartered Company remained in control of internal administration of their territory, except that the Governor chosen by the directors of the company sitting in London to represent them in Borneo was to have the approval of the Colonial Secretary.

The British North Borneo Company continued its operations until the Japanese invasion in 1942. On 15 July 1946 the company's rights passed to the Crown. It then became the Colony of North Borneo and included the island of Labuan. Source: several.
Jarig Bakker, 2 January 2001


Introduction

Eight different flags of British North Borneo were used, six based on the badge of the Chartered Company, "a Lion passant, guardant, Gules on a circular field Or" and two derived from the crest of the Arms of the Company granted in 1894, "two arms hold flag flowing to the sinister Or charged with lion guardant Gules".

Admiralty warrant of 5th January 1882 authorised defaced Union Flag, Blue Ensign and Red Ensign. The badge was to be 2' 8" (approx. 81cm) diameter on a 6' × 12' (approx. 183cm × 366cm) flag:

  1. Union Flag defaced: principal representative when embarked.
  2. Union Flag defaced: jack of armed vessels which are not traders.
  3. Red Ensign defaced: for merchant and trading vessels.
  4. Blue Ensign defaced: for armed vessels.
5th January 1882. Governor's Yellow Flag

18th October 1937. Admiralty informed Colonial Office that a Dominion Office amendment to the Admiralty Flag Book [1930?] altered British North Borneo (Chartered) Company to State of North Borneo.

July 1946. "Following cession of State of North Borneo, HM King included it in his colonial empire."

30th January 1947. Suggestion that the Arms of the Colony should be based on the Arms of the Company and that the letter "T" should be included, being the flash of 9th Australian Division which had liberated the territory.

8th February 1949. Royal Warrant returned. 24th October 1949. Company liquidated.

New flag badge to be crest of Arms, on white ground on Blue Ensign, surrounded by garland on Union Flag. Now that North Borneo was a colony there was no need for a defaced Red Ensign.

2nd May 1952. Change in the design of the Native Chiefs flag.

Compiled from Public Record Office documents, ADM 1/21259, ADM 1/24010, ADM 116/213, ADM 116/300, ADM 116/898B, CO 874/204 and CO 874/778.

David Prothero, 4 January 2001

British ensigns are officially prescribed to be Post Office Red and Roundel Blue, whose nearest browser-safe equivalents are respectively RGB 204-0-0 and RGB 0-0-102, much darker than in Juan Manuel Gabino's images.
António Martins
, 28 January 2001

The 1882-1948 flags were used when North Borneo was administered by a governor and civil service appointed by the Court of Directors of the British North Borneo Company in London.
David Prothero
, 16 April 2002


Badge of the British North Borneo Company 1882-1948

[Badge of the British North Borneo Company 1882-1948 (North Borneo, Malaysia)]image by Juan Manuel Gabino

Lion on a yellow disc until 1948 when the badge was changed to the crest from the coat-of-arms (granted 13 September 1948), which (according to Carr 1953) was displayed on a white disc, presumably until 1963.
David Prothero
, 6 March 1999

In Kannik 1959 is a coloured image [of the 1948-1963 badge], and in Carr 1961 a description (including colours) and a black and white image.
Jarig Bakker, 2 January 2001

In the Admiralty Flag Book 1889 the lion faces the fly but is changed to face the hoist in a 1902 amendment. I think that this was probably to correct an error in the book and not a change in the design of the flag.
David Prothero, 4 January 2001

In 1946 the Company ceded control and a colony was established, which, incidentally, included the previously separate colony of Labuan. The Company's red lion badge disappeared and was replaced by a crest of arms. There is a nice example of a defaced Union Flag from the colonial period in the National Police Museum in Kuala Lumpur.
Peter Johnson, 26 February 2005


Blue ensign based on Arms of the British North Borneo Chartered Company

[Blue ensign of the British North Borneo Company (North Borneo, Malaysia)]image by Clay Moss, 31 August 2005

Source: based on Admiralty Flag Book 1889

The arms are from the crest of the Arms of the Company granted in 1894, "two arms hold flag flowing to the sinister Or charged with lion guardant Gules".

The British North Borneo Company administered British North Borneo from 1881 until its official  demise (pace the Japanese occupation) in 1948. The shield on the coat of arms shows a lion above a dhow. The crest shows two human arms grasping a flag flying to the right. One of these arms appears to be that of a Caucasian and the other that of a person of darker hue. A deliberate and obvious choice, I  feel. The small flag grasped by those arms was that of the Governor of  British North Borneo as flown from about 1882 to about 1910. It was  yellow with a red lion passant facing to the left as one looks at it.

After 1910 or so, the Governor flew the Union defaced with a yellow disc upon which was the same red lion. The disc was not surrounded by the usual garland as the Governor was appointed by the Board of Directors of the Company, rather than by the Crown. Notwithstanding this change to the gubernatorial flag, the small flag in the crest of the coat of arms remained that of the Governor pre-1910.

When the British North Borneo Company ceded control after the Second World War, the territory became a British colony. The flag of the Governor, from this point on an appointee of the Crown, changed again. The Union was now defaced not by the badge of the Company, but by the crest of the Company's coat of arms in a white disc surrounded by a garland. I have seen this flag (a scaled-down version for use upon a motor car) in the National Police Museum at Kuala Lumpur and I am pretty sure that the small flag grasped by the two arms in the crest was no longer the pre-1910 Governor's flag, but the Union Flag itself.

When British North Borneo acceded to the Malaysian Federation as the state of Sabah in 1963, the coat of arms was modified. The lion and dhow disappeared from the shield, but the two-armed crest was retained. Today, those same two arms grasp the current flag of Sabah.
Peter Johnson, 23 February 2006

Union Flag

[Union flag of the British North Borneo Company (North Borneo, Malaysia)]image by Clay Moss, 31 August 2005

Source: based on Admiralty Flag Book 1889