Ensigns of the Royal Australian Air Force


The Royal Australian Air Force shared the sky blue ensign of their British counterpart from 1922. There would be an Australian variant adopted in 1948 featuring a titled southern cross to accommodate the downsized roundel previously occupying the fly half. The RAAF roundel was last modified in 1982 with the creation of an Australian roundel featuring a stylised leaping red kangaroo in place of the concentric red disk.



RAAF ensign (1922 - 1948).

RAAF ensign (1922 - 1948).


RAAF ensign (1982 - ).


From its inception there was a RAAF custom of painting Australian flags on the fuselage of Australian warplanes as seen below in this image of two unidentified members of the RAAF 460 Squadron sitting in the cockpit of an Avro Lancaster aircraft named ‘Foolship III’ (PB407) in Binbrook, Lincolnshire. The nose art depicts a cartoon caricature wearing a crown and grass skirt who is holding a boomerang in one hand and an Australian flag in the other. Attached to the boomerang by a trailing string are the caricatured heads of Adolf Hitler, Bentio Mussoloni, Japanese emperor Hirohito and a bone. This warplane was destroyed over Emmerich, Germany on 7 October 1944.



It was an RAAF custom to paint Australian flag on the fuselage of warplanes.


There is another scene dating from circa 1943 showing 'Bluey' Farnsworth (probably 10653 John James Farnsworth of Portsea, Vic) in the cockpit of on Lancaster bomber aircraft A Able of 460 Squadron RAAF. The nose art shows an Australian flag and 30 missions flown. The captain of the aircraft had been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and this has been painted beside the bombs and ice cream cones (Italian missions) to display the number of missions.

An Australian airman attends to the artwork on the fuselage of an RAAF bomber. Note the Australian flag has a six pointed Commonwealth star which was superseded in 1908.

The Australian flag which flew outside the Administrator of the Northern Territory’s residence during the first bombing of Darwin by the Japanese which took place 75 years ago today. In the early morning of 19 February 1942 a force of 188 Japanese warplanes took off from four aircraft carriers in the Timor Sea. Arriving in Darwin just before 10 am the initial raid on the harbour, city and airfield lasted about half a hour. Around noon there was another aerial bombardment by 54 bombers from Ambon. Among the naval losses was the Australian medical ship Manunda and the USS Peary which sank with the loss of 88 lives. In total some 236 people were killed and the Administrator's office, police barracks and station had been destroyed. This relic of the second world war was the first Australian flag to have been damaged by an enemy attack on the mainland and was turned over to the Australian War Memorial for preservation by the NT administrator Charles Abbott where it remains on display.


There was also another Australian flag belonging to 12-squadron RAAF to have been damaged in the Japanese air raids now held by the Darwin Military Museum.



The Australian flag which flew outside the administrator's residence during the 1942 bombings of Darwin is now on display at the Australian War Memorial.


The 12-squadron RAAF Darwin bombing flag.



In the Army News, 30 January 1943 edition, there was a report stating that "A famous Australian flag now flies over Tripoli" raised by an Australian fighter squadron who were the first 2nd AIF contingent to enter the city after it fell to the British 8th army.



Extract of Army News, 30 January 1943 edition, page 1.


The Australian flag is seen below flying in the dispersal area of Lancaster No. 463 Squadron RAAF, RAF Station Waddington, Lincolnshire, England, 6 December 1944. Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith was carrying on his famous family name with distinction, commanding No. 463 Lancaster Squadron based at Waddington, when he was personally awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Prime Minister of Australia John Curtin in May 1944.



The Australian flag flies at Waddington RAAF base during the second world war.


The Australian flag flies as a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft of No. 451 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF is seen nearby at the Poretta Airfield in Corsica, France, May 1944.

Members of the 464 RAAF mosquito squadron would attend a flag raising ceremony at Gravesend airfield in Kent, England for Anzac Day 1944. The Australian flag seen below would be presented by the widow of an Australian squadron leader who had been killed in action flying a mosquito aircraft over Germany and may be the one held by the Australian War Memorial which was also flown over Melsbrock, Belgium.


This flag raising ceremony took place at Gravesend airfield in Linconshire, England to mark Anzac Day 1944. Note the Union Jack flying in the background.



An eyewtiness statement to the Anzac Day ceremony at Gravesend airfield in 1944.


There is another photograph in the State Library of Victoria collection featuring members of the Royal Australian Air Force standing under the Australian flag somewhere in England before setting out on a raid during the second world war.



Members of the RAAF are seen here with the Australian flag during the second world war.


Here we see an aerial view of the RAAF Aircrew Rest Camp at Garoka, New Guinea, which was situated at an altitude of 5,000 feet. In November 1945 there were elaborate gardens in which purple, green and yellow shrubs have been grown in a variety of patterns, including the RAAF wings, the Union Jack and the flags of Australia, the United States and the USSR.


The RAAF Aircrew Rest Camp at Garoka, New Guinea, 1945.


The Union Jack would often be displayed along with the Australian flag at military funerals as a sign of loyalty as seen here draped on the coffins of Sergeant J.C. Lawrence and aircraftman K.J. Barnwell at the RAAF station in Kingaroy, Queensland, circa 1944.


The flags of Australia and empire covering the coffins of Sergeant J.C. Lawrence and aircraftman K.J. Barnwell of the RAAF station at Kingaroy, Queensland, 1944.

This flag draped coffin is covered with wreaths at the funeral service of 410210 Flight Sergeant H. A. Bird who was buried at Haycombe Cemetery, 7 August 1943.



The coffin of RAAF Flight Sergeant H. A. Bird who was interned at Haycombe Cemetery in August 1943.



Australian flags, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Awards and Culture Branch. (3rd ed.), 2006.

Australian War Memorial <www.awm.gov.au>.

Elizabeth Kwan, Flag and Nation, University of New South Wales publishing, 2006.

Flag of Australia <www.wikipedia.org>

Rupert Goodman, Don't change our flag: An exposure of false and misleading arguments, Boolorong Press, 1998.

Last updated 5 July 2018