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Colonial Flags 1914 (Germany)

Last modified: 2008-08-30 by jarig bakker
Keywords: kiautschou | cameroon | german east africa | german south west africa | togo | german new guinea | samoa |
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In Schurdel 1995 there is a short chapter, illustrated with some flags used in the former German colonies. It is said that in the year 1914 there was a decision to grant the colonies some flags. This idea was based on the fact that the British possessions flew the blue ensign with the badge of the colonies. Germany had to show its flags also. The flags proposed —but never seen since in 1919 Germany lost all its colonies— were all black-white-red horizontally defaced with the coat-of-arms of the colony in the center. Only six coats-of-arms are known. They have all a chief (top of the shield) with the black Prussian eagle on white:

- Cameroon: on red a white elephant head
- Togo: a palm tree with two snakes (colours not known)
- German East Africa: on red a white lion head
- German Southwest Africa: on blue a white Cape buffalo head above which there is diamond
- German New Guinea: on green a bird of paradise, head at the bottom (colour not known)
- Samoa: above white-blue-white-blue waves on red, three white coconut tree each of them on a little mount (island?)
Pascal Vagnat, 21 Feb 1996

In contrast to territories which made up the British Empire, virtually all of which were granted a distinctive heraldic and vexillological identity, German colonies and protectorates did not have their own heraldic devices or flags. Following in the Portuguese and Dutch colonial practice, the Germans treated their overseas possessions an an integral part of one empire and consequently the Imperial German arms and flags were used throughout the Empire.

During a visit by the then German Secretary of State, Dr. Solf, to German possessions in Africa during 1912-1913, he noted that each of the British colonial territorities had their own distinctive colonial emblem. The fact that these 'colonial flags' all followed a single pattern made a great impression on Dr. Solf who submitted a memorandum to Kaiser Wilhelm II stressing the desirability of adopting distinctive emblems for Germany's overseas possessions. He went to far as to suggest that the matter receive urgent attention. The Kaiser agreed and suggested that Dr. Solf take the necessary steps to prepare the appropriate designs. In close co-operation with Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg and the Herald's Office a series of designs were prepared and submitted to the Kaiser.

The flags were to be based on the German horizontal tricolour of black, white and red charged in the centre with a distinctive shield of the colony.
The outbreak of World War I in 1914 diverted attention to more pressing matters and the flags designed for Germany's colonial possessions were never taken into use.
Bruce Berry, 13 Feb 1998

I recently saw the flags of the german colonies on the FOTW Homepage. It appeared to me that you made a little mistake. The Eagle above the shield is part of the coat of arms but not of the flag. I have looked it up in: Hormann, Jörg-M./Plaschke, Dominik: Deutsche Flaggen – Geschichte, Tradition, Verwendung. Bielefeld 2006, S. 85-88.
Roland Lammers, 7 May 2008

Cameroon / Kamerun

[Cameroon proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.

Togo / Togoland

[Togoland proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.

Togo doubtful flag

[Togo doubtful flag] image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 26 Aug 2008

Description of flag: It is a black over white over red horizontal tricolour with the coat of arms in its centre.
Description of coat of arms: In a silver (=white) shield is a green palm tree surrounded flanked by two green attacking snakes (cobras?).
Note: Others say, that the colours of the coat of arms were either unknown or at least there had never been any official reconfirmation. Furthermore all German colonial flags had been more or less proposals because Germany lost its colonies rather early after WWI
Source: Jörg M. Hormann and  Dominik Plaschke: “Deutsche Flaggen: Geschichte – Tradition – Verwendung”, ISBN 3-89225-555-5, p.86.

Maybe the colours this time are part of  the authors fantasy. Obviously most of the images are based on an own collection of flag images. So it is said on the indoor cover. There are a few exceptions. But not this one. Access to that own collection (for me) is not possible.
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 26 Aug 2008

German East Africa / Deutsch Ostafrika

[German East Africa proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, the British moved to occupy the territory. Unfortunately for the tens of thousands of British, Indian, South African and other Empire troops eventually bogged down in East Africa, the German forces commander, Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, was a brilliant guerrilla leader. By the end of the European war in 1918, von Lettow and his troops (most of whom were black, by the way) were still in the field, having led no less a figure than the South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts a merry dance through the bush, including excursions into Kenya and the Portuguese territory of Mozambique (Portugal being an ally of Britain during World War I).
Stuart Notholt, 29 Jun 1996

There are coloured prints of the jack and ensign of "German government vessels engaged in East African trade", in the 1892 amendments to the Admiralty Flag Book.

The jack is the merchant flag with a plain blue anchor in the centre of the white band, and the ensign a Reichskriegsflagge with a plain blue anchor in the lower hoist.
[National Archives (PRO) ADM 116/353]

"The German civil ensign - a horizontal tricolor black white red - flew over Witu and was carried by askaris."
A photograph shows the German flag being dipped to the Sultan of Witu when he reviewed askaris in front of his palace c1882.
[Article "The Forgotten Flags of Witu" by James Marill in (probably) an issue of the Flag Bulletin]
David Prothero, 28 Oct 2003

German Southwest Africa / Deutsch Südwestafrika

[German South West Africa proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.

In Namibia the Imperial Kriegsflagge is the symbol most usually associated with German rule. The German Imperial flag is still very much in use by the German population. You can also get car stickers with 'DSWA' for Deutsch Südwestafrika and other paraphernalia and there is a thriving industry in Swakopmund where German tourists can buy historical flags and emblems which they cannot buy back in Germany.
Stuart Notholt, 15 Feb 1996

The German administration of South West Africa lasted little more than three decades from 1884 to 1915. The 1914 colonial flag proposals were to be based on the German horizontal tricolour of black, white and red charged in the centre with a distinctive shield of the colony. In the case of South West Africa, this was to be a blue shield bearing a silver ox's head and diamond.
Bruce Berry, 13 Feb 1998

German New Guinea / Deutsch Neu-Guinea

[German New Guinea proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.

Editor's note: see also German New Guinea Company 1885-1899 (Deutsch Neuguinea-Kompagnie)


[Samoa proposal 1914 (Germany)] image by Mark Sensen

Description: see: Introduction.