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National Fire Service and Civil Defence (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2007-07-28 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | fire | national fire service | civil defence |
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The flag that inspired the Western Australia Fire and Rescue Service flag (click here to view flag) was similar to the Fire Service College flag on Graham Bartram's "Emergency Services" section.

The National Fire Service badge had no red ring around the central white circle, which contained the red letters NFS, the F being larger than the outer letters. The crown at the top of the badge was Tudor and the flag proportions were 3 : 5 .

Fire Brigades in Britain are organised by local authorities, but during WWII all were amalgamated into a National Fire Service to deal moreefficiently with fires caused by enemy action. The flags were produced in time for commemorations on 26th September 1943, which was designated Battle of Britain Sunday.

Garter King of Arms was involved in the design. He wrote that quarterly flags should be square, but that as when flying, part of the flag was concealed, it was desirable to have the length greater than the depth, and proposed 5 : 3 as a good compromise. He also suggested that it might be a good opportunity to settle the argument, that the Union Jack was a royal flag and should not be used by civilians, but be flown only on royal and government buildings, by introducing a civilian flag that would be the land equivalent of the Red Ensign. He suggested that it should be quarterly blue and white with the Union in the first quarter, and that it might also be used by civilian authorities, who could place their badge on the blue fourth quarter. He received no support for this idea.

The NFS and Civil Defence flags were approved by King George VI on 11th August 1943. The Civil Defence flag was 3 : 5 quarterly blue and yellow with a Union first quarter and a Tudor crown in colour above yellow letters C D in the fourth quarter. An ensign for Fire Boats was approved 19th November 1943. This was a 1 : 2 Blue Ensign with the NFS badge in the centre of the fly. It is possible that the star of this badge was yellow/gold not white/silver. A letter pointing out alterations that needed to be made to a sample flag included, ".. ground should be orange to represent gold."

After the war the Fire Brigades were handed back to local control and a National Fire Service flag was laid up in the Imperial War Museum on 20th January 1949.

Public Record Office documents HO 186/2636 and HO 187/1552.

David Prothero, 2 September 2000

In Campbell and Evans' 'The Book of Flags' there is a British Civil Defence Ensign (Union Jack in the canton, yellow 2nd & 3rd quarters, blue in 4th quarter). What happens to it now? I have just found out that Civil Defence was officially 'stood down' in 1968, which was a euphemism for disbandment. There is still a British Civil Defence, which is now a non-government volunteer organization that supports the emergency services, but doesn't get a penny from the government! In any case, this Civil Defence doesn't use the old CD Ensign.
Miles Li, 12 November 2003