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Flag 1855-1916 (Thailand)


Last modified: 2023-06-03 by zachary harden
Keywords: siam | elephant (white) |
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[Siam 1855-1916 (Thailand)]
image by Pluethipol Prachumphol and Zachary Harden, 10 April 2018

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Not all flag books are in agreement on when the various flags of Siam/Thailand were introduced. (...) In 1855 the chakra was dropped, leaving only the white elephant on the red field. Sources: Crampton 1992; Jos Poels 1990; Crampton 1991.

From contributions by
Roy Stilling, 21 Feb 1996
Jan Oskar Engene, 3 Oct 1996 and
Mark Sensen, 3 Mar 1997

The Flags of the Principal Nations of the World 1837 flag chart, printed by Hinnman and Dutton, shows Siam with a red field and a white disk in the center. (...) The flag next to Siam in my chart is Burma — a red field with a white elephant facing the fly. If anyone has a copy of Norie and Hobbs 1848 (or the German reprint, Norie and Hobbs 1971) they should check Siam out.

Nick Artimovich, 3 Apr 1998

From the Singha Beer source:

During the reign of King Rama IV, Thailand signed more and more treaties with various Western powers. Realizing however, that plain red flags were used by several other countries as well, thus making it difficult to differentiate between them and the national flag, a white elephant was placed in the center, thereby creating a new national flag.

Santiago Dotor, 26 Oct 1999

The flag is dated 1855 but it appears in an 1848 flag book (Norie and Hobbs 1848). How does this fit?

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 12 Nov 2001

According to The booklet of Thai Flags, Thailand Fine Arts Department, 1977, the 1782-1817 and 1817-1855 flags were used as state flag together with the plain red flag as civil flag until the white elephant on red flag was introduced in 1855 by Rama IV.

Nozomi Kariyasu, 22 Sep 2002

There are more than 15 flags displayed in the Church of St. Louis des Invalides (Paris). You can see a picture of the display. (eternal link - click on picture to enlarge). You may notice [...] a red flag with a white elephant, most probably a flag of the Kingdom of Dahomey.

Ivan Sache, 1 Oct 2002

The flag is Thai, captured in a war between France and Siam (as it was then) in 1893. The sheet is red, 214cm x 326cm, the elephant is beige with the detail marked on the animal in brown ink or paint. I don't have any info. on what the flag was used for, but it is described as a 'pavillon' rather than a 'drapeau'. I'm sending a scan of the flag showing its appearance after restoration in the 1990s, taken from Revue de la Socie'te' des Amis du Muse'e de l'Arme'e, No.116 (1998) p.87.

Ian Sumner, 4 Oct 2002

The national flag was changed again in the reign of King Rama IV. The King viewed that the plain red flag used by the private ships cannot distinguish Thai ships from foreign ships. So the King decided to remove the wheel and only the white elephant remained on the red flag. This national flag was used by both royal and private ships.

from the Rama IX Art Museum Foundation, 10 Oct 2005

Use during World War II

In Dec. 1941, Thailand was taken over by Japan and became a puppet state. It adopted (according to [cos98]) the Siam 1855-1916 flag and also adopted aircraft markings consisting of a Japanese roundel on one wing and the Thai flag on the other wing and tail. In 1945 the former symbols were re-adopted.

Dov Gutterman, 26 Jun 2003

During World War II, in accordance to Flag law B.E.2479 (1936 A.D.) [PDF], Thailand still used the "Trairanga" as the national flag. But 3 of the 4 Cambodian provinces that Vichy France gave back to Thailand in 1941, Battambang, Sisophon and Siemreap (except Angkor Wat and the city of Siemreap), used the white elephant flag as a symbol of returning former provinces during the reign of Rama V to Thailand again. Nowadays in Trat province, people decorate with this flag the same as the 3 provinces in March 23, Trat Memorial Day. On this day in 1906, Trat became part of Thailand again in exchange for many areas east of the Mekong river.

Suttipong Phuensaen, 12 Mar 2007

Unidentified Variant 1910-1917

From the Singha Beer source:

During the reign of King Rama VI [1910-1925], Decree R.S. 129 concerning flags was amended. The new national flag that emerged consisted of a red background and a white elephant in a decorative harness with all the trappings, with its back towards a pole rising from the center of the raised dais on which it was standing.
I wonder if the latter is the same as the War Ensign 1891-1917.

Santiago Dotor, 26 Oct 1999

When describing the crown prince's flag, the Singha Beer source mentions Decree R.S. 129 to date from B.E. 2453 (1910 AD). So maybe the new national flag described above is the unidentified ensign 1910-1917?

Santiago Dotor, 26 Jan 2005