Rediscovered: York flags flown to celebrate the end of the First World War

David Harding with the First World War flags. Photographs: Richard McDougall

These flags were flown in York to mark the end of the First World War.

The five flags have been rediscovered 100 years after the end of the conflict – and have gone on display at York Castle Museum.

David Harding’s great grandfather and grandfather displayed a series of flags outside their family drapery shop, GW Harding, on High Ousegate and Coppergate in the city on November 11 1918.


Earlier this month Mr Harding found five of the flags representing countries of the allied forces neatly folded in a drawer at his late mother’s house in York.

He then kindly donated them to the Castle Museum, where they will be on display to mark the centenary of the end of the conflict.

Poignant find

High Ousegate in the early 1900s. Photograph: Explore York Libraries and Archives
The flags, which measure about three foot by six foot, represent the countries of Belgium, Serbia, Portugal, Ulster and the Royal Navy’s White Ensign.

Originally Mr Harding said there were flags of other allied forces too including France, Japan and the USA.

He said they were all flown again to mark the end of the Second World War, adding: “My grandfather dug them out and flew them again in 1945 – until a policeman came in and said ‘You’d better take the Japanese flag down before you get a brick through the window – they were on the other side this time!’”


Rachael Bowers, assistant curator of social history at York Castle Museum, said: “It is poignant that they have been rediscovered so close to the centenary and, together with the information Mr Harding has passed on to us, they offer a glimpse of how businesses in the city marked the end of the conflict 100 years ago.”

GW Harding ran in York in the premises now occupied by Urban Outfitters until 1974. At the time of its closure many of the older items were donated to York Castle Museum and for some years there was a Harding’s Linen shop in the former Edwardian Street.

They are on display in the museum’s First World War exhibition, 1914: When the World Changed Forever.