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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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))
A coat of arms was granted by Queen Elizabeth II even
before the gaining of independence on the first of December
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.
lions Or, langued and clawed Gules, each supporting
a palm-tree proper.
grassy ground Vert.
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
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
1 Leone Coin with badge of President
is dark blue with a white square in the middle on which is the achievement
of the Republic.
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
One of the
(after the war)
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).
The Emblem of the
Armed forces of Sierra Leone
is inspired by the former badge on the flag of the Protectrorate. It
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
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.
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.
© Hubert de Vries 2008-10-08 Updated 2010-02-24; 2020-07-01
 The W’lls
Cigarettes picture is the one and only documentation of this coat of arms
 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.
) 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