History of the Canadian Red Ensign

Charles D. Maginley of Mahone Bay (who happens to be my stepfather) has been collecting old flags and plates featuring the heraldry of Canada for some years. He’s a former naval officer and Canadian Coast Guard instructor, and has authored some books on the history of the Canadian Coast Guard, so the flags are a bit of a sideline.

He put together a talk about the Canadian Red Ensign, formerly the official flag of Canada before we got the Maple Leaf Flag in 1965. He has presented the talk, along with real flags and pictures of ships sailing them, to several groups such as the Master Mariners and the gatherings of sailing aficionados one finds around Lunenburg.

It’s a specialized window on history which true history buffs find interesting. I thought his talk should get immortalized on YouTube so that such people who are not so fortunate to live in our local part of Nova Scotia will be able to find it.

4 Replies to “History of the Canadian Red Ensign”

  1. I have an image of an old Ensign that was carried with a Canadian killed at Dieppe and subsequently taken by a German soldier as a souvenir. The German was later captured an American in 1945. The Ensign was taken back to the US. Long story short – the Ensign is now at Ottawa. The Ensign is old and looks like it had an earlier history – perhaps taken into battle during the Great War by a father? Anyway, I can send some photos and perhaps you can identify the era. Just send me your email

  2. I purchase a red ensign with the 7 provinces and the jack about 6 feet by 4 feet with embroidery crest at a local private auction in BC. It was mentioned that it was WW1 but with no hard evidence. There are a few stains on the flag but in excellent shape for the time. I would like to have it verified if possible. I can send you photos if you are interested? Would you know of any local expert in B.C. Port Moody area? Mike 778 888 2986

    1. Hi Mike, Charles Maginley (my step-father) died in 2020, so is unlikely to answer your questions directly! But Wikipedia tells me that Canada had 7 provinces from 1873 to 1905 – which is pre-WWI. In 1905, Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces, so then there were 9. So the flag would be pre-WWI, though I can imagine people kept such flags for longer in those days, especially big ones in good condition.

      A careful listen to the video may give you more clues, but I have none to add.

      BTW he was pretty chuffed to know how many people had seen his video on YouTube – and the number keeps going up.

    2. PS: as per the video, look at the crown, and whether it has a dip in the middle or is rounded at the top. That would place it before or after Queen Victoria died in 1901.

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