We have fought under other flags for decades

By Harold Scruby
Executive Director, Ausflag

Originally published as a Letter to the Editor in The Australian 9 May 1995.

No thinking Australian would dare denigrate the great sacrifices of our ex-servicemen and women in bygone wars. But that does not give people like ex-servicemen Keith Flanagan (Letters, 17/4), and M. Morton (Letters, 3/5) the right to distort history and employ nonsensical arguments in order to preserve the current flag.

All Australians fought under (not for) the Union Jack in the Boer War. Most Australians fought under the Union Jack in World War I. Most Australians fought under either the Australian Red Ensign or the Union Jack in World War II. All Australian Naval personnel fought under the British Naval Ensign in both world wars. Relatively few have fought in declared wars under the Australian Blue Ensign as we now know it.

The fact that we proclaimed the Blue Ensign as our national Flag in 1954 and the Navy changed to the Australian Naval Ensign in 1968 does not diminish one iota the efforts of those who fought previously under other flags. Similarly, it does not diminish the efforts of those such as the Canadians, New Guineans and South Africans who fought alongside us in most of these wars, but have subsequently changed their flags. Flags evolve as nations change. The Union Jack itself has changed since Captain Cook landed here.

Mr Flanagan's arrogance regarding the Aborigines' attitudes to the Australian flag is inexcusable. He seems to have conveniently forgotten that many Aborigines also died under the Union Jack - they were murdered under it. And they didn't even have the right to vote in 1954 when the current flag was proclaimed. Is this the kind of democracy for which he purports to have fought?

Mr Flanagan and M. Morton are not concerned about the Australian part of the flag or what colours or devices may appear thereupon. Their only real concern is to preserve the Union Jack.