National Ensigns of British North America and the Dominion of Canada

Frobisher's Expedition, 1577
Royal Union Flag, 1707
Royal Union Flag, 1801
Canadian Red Ensign, 1871
Canadian red ensign, 1873
Canadian red ensign, 1876
Canadian Red Ensign, 1907
Canadian Red Ensign, 1922
Canadian Red Ensign, 1957

Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Air Force
Canadian Army Battle Flag (Canadian Active Service Force Flag 1939-1944)

Chronology of the Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921

Quarterly: 1- Green with three yellow maple leaves on one stem below a white chief with a red cross throughout; 2- Yellow with two light blue fleurs des lis in chief and three green maple leaves on one stem in base between a red fesse bearing a yellow lion passant reguardent; 3- Yellow with three green thistles with violet bloom, two in chief and one in base, between a wavy blue fesse bearing a white cod fish; 4- Yellow with a blue lymphad bearing red flags and sailing on green waters below a red chief bearing a yellow lion passant reguardent

The original Canadian Red Ensign had the arms of the four founding provinces on its shield. However, in the late 19th and early 20th century, flag manufacturers would often supplement this design with laurel wreaths and crowns. The design was frequently placed on a white square or circle in the flag's fly. There was no standard design for the Red Ensign until the early 1920s.

In 1868 a royal warrant created the Great Seal of Canada. The first Canadian Red Ensign was created shortly after this (without formal authority) and flown over the Canadian Parliament. This flag was made official in 1892 (after a personal intervention with the British Admiralty, which had the final say on such matters until 1931, by Governor General Stanley (the donor of the Stanley Cup for hockey), and remained so until 1922.
In 1917, during World War I, the Canadian Expeditionary Force raised this Canadian Red Ensign (popularly known at that time as the "Canadian Flag") on Vimy Ridge, not the Union Jack, even though all Commonwealth forces were technically British during the War. Canada was also signatories of the Versailles Treaty and charter members of the League of Nations, both under this Canadian Red Ensign. Through out this period, widespread use of this flag on land continued on Canadian government buildings.

87 by 45 inches

Canadian red ensign in Imperial War Museum
Red Ensign flying again at Vimy Ridge

Whilst the soldiers died for and under the Union Jack, and this flag was outdated by at least 20 years, at least it's a start...

At the 1936 dedication ceremony and in 1998
Back ten years later, this time to see the real flag honoured
Vimy LOL 2697 carrying the Canadian Red Ensign (described on its site as "of 1917") displayed in Remembrance Day commemorations honouring all Orange Brothers who gave the supreme sacrifice at Vimy Ridge.
11-foot flag from 1871 seen on the CBC's Four Rooms in Toronto
Glorious 72 inch by 34 inch sewn, crowned ensign


Right: Personal Collection
An early version of Manitoba's coat of arms was added to represent the new province surrounded by a wreath of maple leaves and a crown, giving the flag a 5-Province Shield. In 1870 the Canadian shield underwent a change dividing the bottom row of province arms into thirds, i.e. from left to right, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and adding the arms of Manitoba. This first design of Manitoba's seal is similar to the present arms, but without the rock, with a crown on the cross, and with the buffalo portrayed charging. This gave rise to the assumption that quarterings for other provinces would be added when they were admitted to Confederation, but the Manitoba symbol (and those of the later provinces) were never officially added to the Great Seal. However, this made little difference, since most flag makers usually added the symbol to both the Blue and Red Ensigns. Until 1922, there were many variations in displaying the shield on the flag: sometimes a white disk was behind the shield, sometimes there was wreath of maple leaves or a wreath of roses, thistles, and shamrocks, and sometimes the shield was topped by a beaver or crown.                  
45" x 70"

A scarce 19th century multi-piece constructed Canadian red ensign flag with beaver motif. The lanyard fringe is quite frayed along its entire length, and there are several picks, pulls and small holes throughout the flag, roughly 6' x 12'

1870-73 Canadian ensign with deranged Union flag

90 cm x 1.33 m
It is common, today, to find wildly misspelled words on souvenir items made in China, by assembly line workers not remotely familiar with the English language. But this is definitely an antique, not from China; the rust marks, the faded colours, the age burn generally, all combine to firmly date this flag to the 1880s or 90s, when work of this quality was actually made right here in Canada by newly arrived immigrants from mainland Europe, with hardly any schooling, certainly not in the English language, or knowledge of the flag of their newly adopted country. The quality control officer was probably an Irishman, and closet Fenian... The fabric is tough and thick cotton; the tack - that's the flag border traditionally nailed to the flagpole, for you non-sailor types - is reinforced with heavy canvas and two metal grommets. This flag is also huge, the biggest of its type we've seen, at 1.3 m long. It is strongly printed on both sides. The clew - that's the other end - is reinforced with thread to prevent fraying in the wind...
In 1873 the flag was modified to represent the new provinces of British Columbia and Prince Edward Island with the 7-shield badge placed on a white disk. The coat of arms was very similar to the present coat-of-arms, except that the motto "parva sub ingenti" was an integral part of the design.

18"X36", being sold on ebay currently for $250

5 by 19 inches which sold on eBay for an astonishing $460
Left: Personal collection: 26x56 inches (pole 4 feet)
Purported Canadian red ensign measuring 32" by 19"
 69 x 138 inches. red, white, and blue sewn cloth, with applied screen-printed medallion of white cloth, featuring the combined coats of arms of the seven provinces of Canada surrounded by a wreath of maple and oak leaves with beaver, all topped by the crown (condition of cloth is somewhat faded and toned, with many small holes and darning repairs. The unusually large scale of this flag, 5.9 x 11.6 feet, would indicate its previous use from atop a very high flag pole, a government building, or tower. According to the “Public Works and Government Services Canada” website, flags that are flown over the Peace Tower are 7.5 x 15 feet, and flags flown over the East or West Blocks are 4.5 x 9 feet in scale. 
Canadian merchant ensign, 1873-1892 pattern, made of wool bunting with a cotton hoist marked 'MP'. The design is printed and the edges of the flag are machine sewn. A rope is attached for hoisting. The flag has a shield, with a Queen's Crown above, bearing the arms of the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island. The design dates from the period after Prince Edward Island joined the confederation in 1873 and before British Columbia changed its arms in 1896. The Manitoba St George's cross does not have a central crown and the buffalo is unreadable on this version. The red ensign was used as an unofficial Canadian national flag from about 1870. From 2 February 1892 official permission was given for the Canadian red ensign to be used by merchant vessels registered in the Dominion. The version worn at sea seems to have been the same as that illustrated in 'Drawings of the flags in use at the present time by various nations' (Admiralty 1889). This had a shield divided quarterly with the arms of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
108" by 51"

159" by 66"

5 feet by 11 feet

Left: Hanging in the narthex at St. Peter's Anglican Church; Erindale; Mississauga, Ontario.
From the Elman W. Campbell Museum in Newmarket, Ontario. There used to be a Dixon's Pencils Factory in Newmarket; somebody there made this flag out of their pencils and eventually it was donated to the museum. 
 From my personal collection: 177 x 90 cm hessian material
Canadian Red Ensign which had belonged to a troop which closed in 1941.

British Columbia adopted a new coat of arms.
In 1907 Alberta and Saskatchewan were added to the shield whilst the coats of arms of British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, and Manitoba took on their modern forms making a 9-province shield.
The 19th Century provincial badges of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia were not recognized by the College of Heralds, and had to be altered when official provincial coats of arms were authorized in 1905.
The "Union Jack" was moved to the chief because the principal symbolism of the arms should occupy the bulk of the shield (e.g. the sun and water of the British Columbia arms is equivalent to the buffalo of the Manitoba arms).

Ensign currently held by the Regimental Museum of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment

The flag itself has the word "Kilmvir" or "Kilmuir" and has a faded "1918" that is legible. The flag appears to be made of wool. And is 125"X62" (inches) and 317.5X157.4(cm), 10ftX5.1ft.

34 inches by 53 inches
36" (grommet to grommet) x 52

From the film Passchendaele
A red field bearing in the Canton the Union Jack and in the centre of the fly end the shield of Canada (divided horizontally in thirds, the top two areas divided vertically, 1- Red with three yellow lions; 2- yellow with a red rampant lion within a red double tressure flory counter-flory; 3- Dark blue with a yellow crowned lady harp; 4- Dark blue with three yellow Fleurs des lis, 2 and 1; 5- White with innumerable small dark blue points bearing in the centre three green maple leaves on a single stem.
At the end of the Great War when the College of Heralds was working on the current Canadian Coat of Arms, they wanted the maple leaves to be red, as they are at present. Sir Joseph Pope did everything in his power to stop it in favour of green leaves, on the assumption that vigorous leaves are green and dying (fall) leaves are red. The College of Heralds got their way by recommending to King George V that the leaves be "proper," natural coloured in heraldic language. Since both red and green are "proper" hence the change in 1957 could be made without any need to revisit the Grant of Arms.

Canadian ensigns displayed during the Flag Day and Open House at the XII Manitoba Dragoons/26th Field Regiment Museum in the Brandon Armoury, a small museum of about 800 square feet which mostly tries to show the artefacts and history of the military from South-western Manitoba.
Presenting the flag to the Nova Scotia Alpha fraternity

2 1/3 yard long Pioneer Brand made by Jones Tent & Awning Ltd

Made of a blend of nylon and wool fabric, manufacturer is SCYCO, and measures approximately 36"x72" with two grommets at either end of the cotton sleeve. The sleeve has a rope going through it, but has been cut off at both ends. The shield has been screen printed and then sewn onto the flag in an appliqué style and measures approximately 8"x11"
Apparently flown at a public facility, the printing on the flag on the left states that is is 5 foot x 10 foot, but is closer to 58" x 116". Has original rope with brass ring and brass clasp to hang onto a flag pole.
The seller of the flag shown on the right measuring over 9 feet at 114 x 50 inches on eBay claimed that
This flag was flown on the ship during the First World War and draped on the coffin of a HMCS Niobe crew member who died in 1920 while still serving on board the ship.
However, this version of the Canadian flag did not come into existence until four years AFTER the war. In addition, if any Canadian ensign flew on a ship during WWI, it would have been the white ensign or perhaps even the blue ensign.

25 inches by 51 inches

The flag on the left measures 36"by 58" whilst the right measures approximately 132" x 68"

Left: 69 inches x 46 inches with gold frill along the edge.
Unusual dimensions from my personal collection: 4feet by 6feet

Massive 15 foot flag

5 feet by 13 feet

5' by 8'
Parade flags from the Kit Shop of the Royal Canadian Legion in Ottawa, Ont., each 27"x54" and individually mounted on a 7-foot oak pole, and comes complete with acorn ornament and cord/tassels.

From Russia with Love

The Canadian red ensign at the beginning of the second James Bond film 'From Russia with Love' during the chess match (which, incidentally, used Boris Spassky's ending against Bronstein in the 1960 USSR Championship).

Ceremonial Canadian Red Ensign
Made of High Quality Silk, the Union Jack is multi-piece assembled with shield hand-painted on silk and sewn on the flag. According to the seller, "this is the highest quality period red ensign that you could find!!" The size is approximately 24" X 48"
Canadian red ensign at 2007 Beijing World Youth Academy Sports Day
Canadian Flag in WWII

 LEFT: Unfurling the Canadian Red Ensign at First Canadian Army HQ in Normandy, June 29th, 1944. CENTRE: Major-General R.F.L. Keller addressing Canadian troops in Normandy, August 2nd, 1944. RIGHT: Still from Paul Verhoeven's film Zwartboek (2006)

Canadian Yacht Ensigns
Measuring 12"x23.5" and 11"x18"
 24" x 54"
A Shield divided horizontally in thirds, the top two areas divided vertically, 1- Red with three yellow lions with blue tongues and claws; 2- Yellow with red rampant lion with blue tongue and claws within a red double tressure flory counter-flory; 3- Dark blue with yellow harp with white strings; 4- Dark blue with three yellow fleurs des lis, 2 & 1 and 5- White with three yellow-veined red maple leaves on a single stem; the elements are all outlined in black.

The maple leaves at the base of the Canadian royal arms change from green to red. The 1921 proclamation specified that the leaves be a "proper," natural colour, but this was ambiguous because maple leaves can be green, yellow, or red. Artists had previously drawn them green, but on this date the Secretary of State announced that they should henceforth be red. The Irish harp was changed from its female incarnation, and the double border within the Scotch arms were erroneously changed to a single one.
[O]n October 8, 1957, a number of stylistic changes were made to the Canadian flag, but only the ones made to the shield affected the ensign badge: the green leaves were changed to red to accord with Canada's national colours and, at the Queen's request, that purely English invention, the female harp, was replaced by the old Celtic harp. This new depiction of the shield produced the third official version of the ensign... completed just in time to have Ottawa awash in the ensigns of the new pattern for the visit of Queen Elizabeth that year.
Unfortunately, in switching to the new design, an error was introduced ... found in the second (upper right) quarter of the shield where there appears the rampant lion of Scotland. This is supposed to be surrounded by a double red border described heraldically as a "double tressure flory-counter-flory gules". This pattern, which contains fleurs-de-lis recalling Scotland's ancient alliance with France, also appears in the flag of Nova Scotia. On the old green-leaf ensigns (1922-1957) it was always represented correctly, but on the red-leaf ensigns (1957-1965) the double border was sloppily reduced to a single one.
 Last Canadian Ensigns to be flown on Parliament Hill and at CFS Alert

Last Canadian Ensign to be flown in Canada as the official flag
The ensign above was lowered at the RCMP border post at Skagway on February 15th. 1965 at 2359hrs. (Alaska time) and replaced by the new Canadian Maple Leaf flag. It now hangs framed (bizarrely for a flag) in St. James Anglican Church, Caledon East, Ontario. Although it is claimed to be the last ensign flown in 1965, it has the pre-1957 shield.

 3' by 6' stitched red ensign
4 feet by 9 feet

Decommissioned from Fort York, Soest W. Germany

Shield on right appears pre-1957 but with red leaves.

Canadian red ensigns produced by Dominion Regalia

Proposed Red Ensign from 1946
Very rare vintage sewn 1946 Canadian Red Ensign Proposal Flag.  It is not a modern reproduction.  It was the choice recommended as the flag of Canada to Prime Minister Mackenzie King by the parliamentary committee he created to study the flag issue.  The idea was that this flag would replace both the Union Jack and the 1922 version of the Canadian Red Ensign with the green leaves, becoming Canada's official flag.  Ultimately, the matter was shelved by King and it would be almost another 20 years before the current maple leaf flag would be adopted.  In over 12 years of collecting flags and scouring Internet listings daily (with a special emphasis on British Ensigns and former Canadian flags), this is the only one of its kind I have ever come across.  It measures approximately 34" x 72".  It is sewn out of a heavy duty material.  Never flown, but it has bands of sun fading across the front and there is wear to the top of the appliquéd maple leaf on the rear side only.
Produced by Flying Colours

Royal Canadian Navy

  35 x 69 inches with shield mistakenly sewn on reversed
Glorious 184cm x 90cm

HMCS Sackville
HMCS SACKVILLE prior to her commissioning circa 1941. Today it continues to fly the blue ensign and that of the Royal Navy.

HMCS Haida
The HMCS Haida is a Tribal-class destroyer that served in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) from 1943-1963. She sank more enemy surface tonnage than any other Canadian warship. She is also the only surviving Tribal-class destroyer out of 27 vessels that were constructed between 1937-1945 for the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and the RCN and has been dubbed "the fightingest ship in the Royal Canadian Navy"
Left is 53" by 26" and appears to be wool whilst the label on the hoist reads Pioneer Brand Regâe(tm)d made by Jones Tent & Awning Ltd. Vancouver, B.C.
Personal flag in classroom and 9 foot version outside my flat

Royal Canadian Air Force


Made of thick sewn cotton and approximately 5ft 5 inches x 2ft 8 inches. It was manufactured by J.J. Turner and Sons Co, out of Peterborough Ontario.  

The world's largest RCAF Flag flying near the Nanton Museum in Alberta. Donated by Halifax 57 Rescue Canada, Flags Inc and The Model Train Store in the town.

Royal Canadian Air and Sea Cadets
The first Ensign of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets (RCSC) was a white flag with a Union Jack Canton with the insignia of the RCSC at the fly. Christophe T. Stevenson (Ex-Coxswain of the RCSCC 223 Longueull)
Canadian Army Battle Flag (Canadian Active Service Force Flag 1939-1944)
In the Second World War, which Canada entered after Britain declared war on Germany, they used the Canadian Red Ensign as their national flag, but also in use was a lesser known battle flag. Canada wanted its army to be distinguishable among the great mass of British troops, and so provided it with, not the Canadian Red Ensign, but this new battle flag.

Designed by Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid, Director of the Historical Section of the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, the flag of the Canadian Active Service Force, generally known as the "Battle Flag of Canada," was approved by the War Cabinet December 7 1939.
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
Remarkable example from the George Curtis collection
The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps does not have colours in the military meaning commonly associated with that of the Cavalry and Infantry, but has the unique distinction of flying a flag which embraces the Union flag in its upper canton next to the flag staff. The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps is the only Corps in the Canadian Army that has had this singular privilege bestowed upon it and which traditionally commenced through its parent corps, the royal Army Ordnance Corps, as far back as 1694 when the seal of the board of Ordnance was added to and flown with the red ensign of its day to mark the authority in matters pertaining to it. The design was submitted by the Director of Ordnance Services on 23 April 1947 for approval and was promulgated in CAO 54-3 on 1 December 1952. A later amendment made to Canadian Army Orders in 1964 defines the flag as follows:
On a blue field, the Union Flag in the upper left hand corner; on the fly end a green maple leaf 12 inches high; superimposed on the maple leaf, in full colour, the royal Canadian Ordnance Corps badge in the design approved by the Sovereign in December 1963, height of badge 6 ½ inches.
The proper size of this flag is 6 ft by 3 ft.

Canadian Victory Loan Flags
From the Great War
Here is attached also a new full-size drawing I did based on the photo on your web site of the Prince of Wales Honour Flag with two crests. As far as I can gather from the newspaper articles of the day, the additional badge for exceeding your quota could be any one of the Prince's three crests. However all I ever see mentioned are the "plumes" as they are referred to, which is exactly what appears in your photo. Dave Martucci, and

A rare example displayed at the Albert County Museum in Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick.
 I have acquired several news clippings about this flag and one other image with the augmentation of the "plumes" as described in the clippings. Here's how it worked in 1919 (which is different than WWII): an entity (usually a municipality, county, or major employer) was given a quota to meet by the local Victory Loan Committee (who in turn were given a total to raise for their district). When the entity reached their quota they got a flag. For every 25% above the quota they got a "plume" to sew on the flag. So this flag shows whoever was awarded this flag raised 250% of their quota. 
Dave Martucci

World War II Victory Loan Flags
1st Campaign
This was a Canadian flag of the early from June 2, 1941 connected with raising money for the war effort. It was the first in a series of nine Pledge Flags, each with a different badge, that were used in promoting the Victory Loan campaign. David Prothero, 27 September 2001
2nd Campaign
An original Second World War period Canadian Victory Bond Streamer Flag issued exclusively for the 2nd Victory Loan “Come on Canada!” campaign of early 1942. They were employed to decorate buildings, store fronts, city streets and even vehicles. This particular example was printed on plain-woven canvas fabric, measuring 4-inches by 5 3/4-inches, displaying a colorful Union Jack to the upper left and a dark green maple leaf to the lower right. The flag equally retains a 13 3/4-inch segment of stitched streamer cord.
3rd Campaign

This WWII Canadian Victory Loan pledge flag with the Union Jack, blue shield and dagger on the white field, is from the 3rd campaign of WWII in Oct 1942 to raise funds for the war effort. The slogan for this campaign was "Come on Canada." It was the 3rd in a series of nine Pledge Flags, each with a different badge, that were used in promoting the Victory Loan campaign.

Pennant issued exclusively for the 3rd Victory Loan “Nothing matters now but Victory” campaign of late 1942. This is a choice wartime tapering flag of fine quality woven cotton fabric, measuring 24-inches, at the widest point, by 56-inches in length. Pennant is obviously well made and consists of five machine stitched individual pieces. A printed pattern variation of the loan’s distinctive symbol, featuring a 1st Pattern Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Knife, is displayed within a white bordered blue shield. The pennant equally retains its full length, looped Manila hoisting rope.

4th campaign
It began 23 October 1944 using the slogan "Invest in Victory - Buy One More Than Before". The flag measures approx. 8' long by 4 1/2' wide. It contains a Union Jack in the upper left-hand corner with a flaming sword over a 7 on a shield centring a white field.
Fifth Campaign

24-inches, at the widest point, by 58-inches in length.

“Something new has been added for the Fifth Victory Loan campaign - a “V” Flag, to be awarded to Canadian plants whose employees do exceptionally well during the campaign. This flag will be awarded to those establishments where 90 per cent, or more of the employees invest 15 per cent or more of the monthly payroll in Victory Bonds or War Savings Certificates. Three stars will be affixed to the lower right hand corner of the flag. The flags were provided in two sizes 4ft.6in. by 9 ft. and 2ft.1in. by 4ft.2in. The larger size is No. 1 Admiralty bunting which will withstand outdoor conditions.”

Sixth Campaign

An actual unaffixed flag shield, measuring 12 1/2-inches by 18 1/2-inches, of fine quality woven cotton fabric holding a printed pattern variation of the loan’s “Winged Six” in Roman Numerals, nicely displayed within a blue bordered shield outline. 
Pennant measuring 22 inches by 55 inches in length.
Seventh Campaign

Left image by Eugene Ipavec and Martin Grieve; for some reason the image omits the red border on the right.The pledge flag on the right was flown in St. George during the Seventh Victory Loan. It began 23 October 1944 using the slogan "Invest in Victory - Buy One More Than Before". The flag measures approx. 8' long by 4 1/2' wide and contains a Union Flag in the canton with a flaming sword over a 7 on a shield centring a white field and a red border on three sides.
 Members of the Royal Canadian Navy pose with a sign recording contributions to the Seventh Victory Loan (centre) and a Victory Loan flag (top centre).  The sign probably depicts a flotilla of Fairmile motor launches and their mother ship, HMCS Preserver whilst aboard the depot ship HMCS Venture in Halifax, 1944. Members of the navy were encouraged and expected to contribute to Victory Loan campaigns.

8th Campaign

Unaffixed flag shield, a smaller example, measuring 7-inches by 9 3/4-inches, of a thicker woven cotton fabric holding a printed pattern variation of the loan’s symbol, a number "Eight" surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves, nicely displayed within a red and blue shield.

9th Campaign
This video clip contains footage of Ontario Premier Hepburn purchasing the first three Victory Bonds for his children. It also contains shots of a victory drive parade with floats carrying slogans such as “Let Us to the Task, Tools for Churchill” and “Help Finish the Job”, 1941. On the right, U.S. Radio stars Fibber McGee and Molly (James "Jim" and Marian Driscoll Jordan) at Victory Loan rally, Maple Leaf Gardens. Toronto, Canada with the badges of the nine Victory Loan campaigns in the background.

Approximately 4.5 x 9 feet, this flag is soiled and stained and unfortunately lacks the badge which would have indicated which Victory Loan Drive it was originally from. Complete with faded "SS Holden Ottawa" manufacturer's tag. Originally sold on eBay by flagsofempire
Governor General's flags
The Provincial Arms and Dominion Flags dated May 6, 1871, with what is identified as the Governor General's flag in the centre which appears as a white ensign with the arms in the centre.
1901-1921 Flag

1921-1931 Flag
The seller has a description along the lines of : a perfectly usable union jack that someone has ruined by cutting out the centre and by adding some symbol.
Currently hanging up in my classroom; specially commissioned from Artelina Sewn Flags