Commonwealth Flags

Mrs P and I happened to be strolling up the Mall over the weekend. There’s a big Commonwealth of Nations Heads of State conference going on, so the Mall is lined with the 54 flags of the Commonwealth and a small army of police and other security personnel. A particularly astute reader might want to stop me there and add a correction – there are only 53 members of the Commonwealth. But he or she would be forgetting that the Commonwealth itself has a flag. And he or she would no longer seem quite so astute.

I’d like to think I’m quite good with identifying flags. My ten minute stroll made me think otherwise. Where the hell does the one in the above photo come from? Indeed, I started to wonder even how many members of the Commonwealth could I name? This is a bit like the ‘Name All 50 States’ game that Americans play. But so much harder. Let me have a go, without cheating. Australia, Canada and New Zealand. They’re easy because they are ‘just like us’. Then there’s Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India and Singapore. I’ve been to all of them, so they shouldn’t slip my mind. Pakistan and Bangladesh kind of come with the whole India package.

South Africa is another biggy. Lesotho is actually an independent country too, right? Cameroon is more a Francophone country, but famously joined despite never being part of the Empire. There was another Francophone country that came with them. Was it Malawi or Mali? I’m going with the former. I’m struggling with African countries a bit. Kenya and Zimbabwe seem obvious. We fought a war for the Falkland Islands, so I’ll add them to the list. Gibraltar is similarly contentious. Then we have all those islands of the West Indies. Jamaica. Trinidad and Tobagos. Barbados. Antigua. The Bahamas.  Belize is nearby.

Ok, I give up. What did I get? A grand total of 24. Appalling. I shall consult a map to see what I missed. Oh dear there are some obvious ones. Botswana, Brunei, Cyprus, The Gambia, Ghana. And Grenada! I could kick myself for that one, famously invaded by the US in the 80s. Jersey and Malta – should have gotten those. Mauritius too.

I told you I was struggling with African countries. Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria. When did Rwanda sign up?? In 2009, apparently. Swaziland, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are others that I might have thought of on a different day. The rest? There’s another ten or so to finish the list, none of which I’d ever be likely to remember. But, if you’re interested, click here.

But what you are really wondering – probably – is which country does lay claim to that rather striking flag above? It is Antigua and Barbuda. Which means I have to reduce my final score from 24 to 23 and a half, I guess. But what am I really wondering? Whose grand idea exactly was it to abandon close trade links with the EU in preference to this ragtag bunch of countries??




5 thoughts on “Commonwealth Flags

  1. I believe the country you were trying to think of that was not once a part of the British Empire but which joined the Commonwealth, was the former Portuguese (not French) colony of Mozambique. Another one of those countries starting with “M”. Malawi was the former British colony of Nyasaland, and Mali is not a member.


    • You could well be right! ( A little look at Wiki tells me you are right!) I didn’t include Mali in my total, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a Commonwealth country. But I did make one err. Zimbabwe left in the early noughties after it was suspended.

      There’s two countries that have applied to join the Commonwealth. Suriname and Somaliland. The latter one is interesting. It doesn’t actually exist…


  2. According to my baby book (a contrivance that any therapist would love to get his hands on), I have been a vexillologist from a young age. One, to be precise.

    I can spot a flag flying a mile away. While most of my friends were collecting baseball cards, I was collecting fklag cards. In college, I started collecting flags. I gave most of my flag collection to Goodwill when I left, but I hung on to a few of my favorites. Liechtenstein. Marshall Islands. Russia (when I was a Yeltsin groupie; a fact I now rue, if for no other reason, he gave us Putin and the foundation on which he stands).

    I would have had no idea how many countries were in the Commoinewealth since we had our contested divorce from Britain before the idea had formed any anyone’s head — Brexiteer or Remainer. As for the flag, I knew it immediately, and had hoped you were jetting to the Caribbean. Maybe I need tio come over to itch my flag jones.


    • I did remember that you are something of a flag wizard when we were having our walk. And I did suspect you’d probably win any flag naming competition. If I had to pick out a favourite from the bunch, it would probably be Sri Lanka’s. Even though it perhaps looks more like a rug than a flag.

      But anyway….we have good news for you! Despite your rebellious history, the United States is eligible to apply for membership of the Commonwealth. You guys just have to say the word, and you’ll be back in the fold quicker than Trump could name all the Founding Fathers…


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