The Empire Strikes Back; Just 12 Colonies Left to Fly Union Jack

By Ellis, Mark | The Mirror (London, England), July 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

The Empire Strikes Back; Just 12 Colonies Left to Fly Union Jack


Ellis, Mark, The Mirror (London, England)


Once the sun never set on the British Empire.. but now it is a shadow of its former self.

The handover of Hong Kong to China means there are more people living in Southampton than under British rule overseas.

We have just 12 scattered former colonies, now known as dependent territories.

The list ranges from wealthy holiday isle Bermuda to the icy South Pole.

But at the height of the Empire in 1918, a huge swath of the globe was under our rule. The might of the empire stretched from Canada to Guyana in the Americas with the Bahamas and Jamaica in the Caribbean.

In Africa, British influence went from Somalia thousands of miles to South Africa. The key states of India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia completed the imperial picture.

Fifty years ago 540million people were under British sovereignty.

But the political climate changed after the Second World War. The Empire was transformed into a Commonwealth of independent states, starting with freedom for India in 1947.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa then asked for self- rule.

In the 1960s Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya cast off the imperial legacy. By 1980 Southern Rhodesia was transformed into Zimbabwe.

It was a similar picture in the Middle and Far East, ending in the handover of Hong Kong.

But the flag is still flying in:

ANGUILLA: Most northerly of the Caribbean Leeward Islands.

BERMUDA: Britain's oldest colony. First settled in 1615.

BRITISH ANTARCTIC TERRITORY: Vast area stretching to South Pole.

BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY: Five coral atolls.

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS: Holiday isles near Puerto Rico.

CAYMAN ISLANDS: These are 200 miles north-west of Jamaica.

FALKLAND ISLANDS: Retaken by British forces after being invaded by Argentina in 1982. Has uninhabited dependency of South Georgia 800 miles to the south.

GIBRALTAR: Gateway to the Mediterranean but Spain is still in dispute over The Rock's ownership.

MONTSERRAT: Ravaged by erupting volcano which has killed nine and destroyed 200 homes. Population down to 6,800 since 1995.

PITCAIRN ISLANDS: Last outpost in Pacific was colonised by rebels from HMS Bounty.

ST HELENA: Its dependency of Tristan Da Cunha is the world's most remote inhabited island.

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS: 50 miles east of Bahamas.

Turks & Caicos

Only eight out of 40 islands are inhabited.

Depends on tourism, fishing and offshore finance.

Planters from southern states of US moved here but left in 1838. …

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