Historic War Flags Collection
This one-of-a-kind collection of 64 flags, ensigns, and pennants from World Wars I and II, representing 27 nations, was assembled over several decades by Carolyn Apperson Leech of the Louisville Society for the Perpetual Observance of Armistice Day, and later donated to the Auditorium. It is through her hard work and generosity that we are honored to present this collection to you today.
These antique flags from all over the world were presented at Armistice Day commemoration events by representatives of cities, countries, and various organizations and military bodies over the course of several decades, spanning from 1923 – 1952. As the auditorium was built as Louisville’s World War I memorial, commemorating the sacrifices made by members of our community, it is fitting that these flags have ultimately made their way here. Each flag has a brass plaque inscribed with its origin, the name of the presenter and the year it was gifted. These inscriptions have been recorded and placed on the signage inside the flag cases.
Although this collection is far from exhaustive, we believe that it helps put into perspective these major events in our history. Each flag represents the story of a place, battle, campaign or other event. In addition to humbly paying our respects to the millions of people who gave their lives in the two greatest conflicts of the modern era, we are honored to present this collection for its great educational value.
The two World Wars were truly global conflicts, drawing in dozens of countries. Those nations that didn’t see fighting on their own soil sent troops, medical aid, and supplies to their allies on the front lines of the struggle. As you peruse the flags, you will notice some very interesting, beautiful coats-of-arms from French and Belgian cities that were the sites of major battles. You will also see flags from Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. The multiple US flags in the collection have great historic value as well. They were flown by various generals and lieutenants at their overseas headquarters, onboard ships and during campaigns.
You will notice that some of the flags and names are out of date, which is to be expected due to their age. You’ll also see colonial influences, which were still quite strong during the first half of the twentieth century. India, for example, is represented by the Union Jack, the well-known image on the flag of Great Britain. India was a British colony until 1947. South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) are a few of the other colonized states represented in the collection. All of these nations have since gained their independence.
It is our hope that these flags stand as a symbol of our world history, a memorial and acknowledgement of lives given and sacrifices made, as well as an opportunity for education and catalyst for discussion and further exploration.