SIERRA LEONE

 

 

 

History

 

Early inhabitants of Sierra Leone included the Sherbro, Temne and Limba peoples, and later the Mende, who knew the country as Romarong, and the Kono who settled in the East of the country. In 1462, it was visited by the Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra, who mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour and gave it its name Serra de Leão, meaning ‘Lion Mountains’. Its Italian rendering is Sierra Leone, which became the country's name. Soon after Portuguese traders arrived at the harbour and by 1495 a fort that acted as a trading post had been built. The Portuguese were joined by the Dutch and French, all of them using Sierra Leone as a trading point for slaves. In 1562 the English joined the trade in slaves when Sir John Hawkins bought 300 slaves.

Sierra Leone became an important centre of the transatlantic slave trade, until 1787 when Freetown was founded by the Sierra Leone Company as a home for formerly enslaved African American and West Indians. In 1808, Freetown became a British Crown Colony, and in 1896, the interior of the country became a British Protectorate.

On 27th of April 1961, the two combined and gained independence as a sovereign member of  the British Commonwealth.

A republic was proclaimed on the 19th of April 1971.

 

Heraldry

 

Ancient Emblems

 

Sir John Hawkins (1532 – 12 November 1595) was a pioneering English naval commander and administrator. He was also a privateer and merchant who made money from the slave trade.

Initially the coat of arms of Sir John Hawkins was:

 

 

Arms: Sable, a lion passant Or, standing on a base barry wavy of four pieces Azure and Argent, in chief three balls Or.

Crest: On a helmet to the dexter, lambrequined sable and Gules, a wreath Sable and Argent, a bound negro issuant proper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1568, six years after his succesfull transaction of an odd threehundred black slaves, the coat of arms was augmented  by Robert Cooke Clarenceux, with a canton Or, a shell of St. James Azure between two daggers, points downwards Sable.

John Hawkins' augmented Coat of Arms

 

This is a sketch for the arms and crest granted to John Hawkins, 'Canton geven by Rob[er]t Cooke Clar[enceux] King of Arms 1568'. The bound African slave on the crest reflects the trade that Hawkins pioneered.

By permission of The College of Arms, London (1568)

 

The seal of the Sierra Leone Company (1791-1807) showed mountains and a lion assaulting and the name of the company in orle. Making a pun of the name Sierra Leone. It was printed on coins of the Company [1]

 

Half dollar piece , 1791

 

The badge of the Crown Colony showed a landscape with hills in the distance and an elephant before a palmtree. This badge, adopted in the fourth quarter of the 19th century was common for the British West African Settlements. In the case of Sierra Leone the letters ‘S.L.’ were added in base.

 

 

At the end  of the 19th century a coat of arms for the Protectorate seems to have been adopted. This showed a palm-tree on a silver field below a chief indented Azure, charged with a lion passant guardant Or. [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new coat of arms was granted on the 30th of July 1914. This was:

Arms: Per pale, the dexter a seascape, a windjammer in the distance, a sitting African warrior on the shore, all proper; the sinister Or, a palm-tree proper. And a chief of the first Union Jack.

Motto: AUSPICE • BRITANNIA • LIBER. (Free under British (rule))

 

 

 

The Achievement

 

A coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II even before the gaining of independence on the first of December 1960.

It is:

 

Arms: Vert a lion passant Or, langued and clawed Gules, standing on a base Argent, two bars wavy Azure, and a chief indented of four points Argent, three flaming torches Sable, its flames proper.

Supporters: Two lions Or, langued and clawed Gules, each supporting a palm-tree proper.

Compartment: A grassy ground Vert.

Motto: UNITY FREEDOM JUSTICE  in green lettering on a white ribbon.

 

The three torches symbolize the African population and their ambition for liberty and knowledge. The chief indented symbolizes the green mountains which, together with the lion passant,  gave the country its name. The waves in the base symbolize the coast and the maritime trade, so important for the development of the country. The palm-trees are for the main trade-crop.

 

Maybe not by a wry coincidence, the lower part of the arms reminds us of the lower part of the coat of arms of Sir John Hawkins. (see below)

It may be known that  Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595) was the founder of the British slave trade in this part of the African coast.

 

Æ See illustration in the head of this article

 

The flag

 

was adopted on the 27th of April 1961 and consists of three breadths of green, white and blue. The colors symbolize respectively agriculture, peace and justice and the Atlantic.

 

The Royal Banner

 

The personal flag of Queen Elizabeth II for Sierra Leone showed the arms of Sierra Leone augmented with the royal cypher in the middle.

 

The presidential emblem, seal and flag

 

Stamp showing the badge of the first president

 

The badge in inspired by the seal of the Sierra Leone Company

1 Leone Coin with badge of President Stevens (1967-1985)

 

Presidential Seal

 

Presidential Flag

 

is dark blue with a white square in the middle on which is the achievement of the Republic.[3]

 

Civil War

1991-2002

 

The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991–2002) was a civil war in Sierra Leone that began on 23 March 1991 when the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), with support from the special forces of Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), intervened in Sierra Leone in an attempt to overthrow the Joseph Momoh government (1985-1992). The resulting civil war lasted 11 years, enveloped the country, and left over 50,000 dead.

 

One of the belligents

(after the war)

 

Police

 

Emblem

 

The Colony of Freetown was set up in 1808 as a settlement for freed slaves, with a police force whose authority was restricted solely to the city limits of the colony itself. By 1889 colonial authority had been extended to the provinces. Police authority was also extended to these areas and performed largely paramilitary duties as opposed to the civil police back in the colony. The force at this point became known as the West African Frontier Force.

A Royal Gazette of October 1894 established the Sierra Leone Police Force. Following independence in April 1961, the Sierra Leone Parliament passed the Police Act of 1964 to consolidate and amend the law relating to the organization, discipline, powers and duties of the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).

 

Colonial Police Cap Badge

Sierra Leone Police Cap Badge

Royal (George VI)

 

Republican

Armed Forces

 

The Emblem of the Armed forces of Sierra Leone

is inspired by the former badge on the flag of the Protectrorate. It is:

 

Arms: Gules, an elephant statant on a grassy ground before a palm-tree proper; and a bordure Or charged with the words: REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE ARMED FORCES.

Garland: branches of laurel proper

Crest: The achievement of Sierra Leone.[4]

 

Navy

In June 1973 President Stevens announced that Sierra Leone had established the nucleus of a navy, disclosing that “a number of young men have been under training, both overseas and locally, to man the boats and aircraft, and the Government will soon invite more men and women interested in these careers." The strength of the navy was estimated at 100 in the mid-1970s.

 

Sleeve Patch

Air Force

At the same time that President Stevens announced the existence of the nucleus of a navy in June 1973 , he also disclosed the formation of a small air arm for the Sierra Leonean defense forces. What had existed previously was an air transportation crew comprising elements of the Guinean air force. In 1972, when the Guineans were replaced by Sierra Leoneans, the air wing had three helicopters and two small fixed-wing aircraft.

 

 

Sleeve Patch

 

Roundel

 

 

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© Hubert de Vries 2008-10-08 Updated 2010-02-24; 2020-07-01

 

 

 



[1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sierra_Leone_Company

[2]  The W’lls Cigarettes picture is the one and only documentation of this coat of arms available.

[3] There seems to be some confusion about the right color of the flag, as no decree about it is known. A picture of President Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah (1996-‘97/ 1998-2007) however shows the color clearly to be dark-blue.

[4]) This coat of arms was displayed during the handing over of some army trucks to the S.L. Armed Forces in 2005 (Photo Ministry of  Defence of U.K.). My reconstruction.