It’s not every day that a country finds their own flag, but that’s exactly what happened when someone discovered the first Australian flag in Newcastle Cathedral. The flag was found in a dusty vault somewhere in the heart of the cathedral, pretty much taking everyone by surprise when it was found. Historians have rejoiced at the finding, since the old flag is technically a relic from the first World War.
When the country was still young, the flag was called the Birdwood flag and was flown to the headquarters of General William Birdwood, according to ABC. At the time, Birdwood was in charge of the Australian troops who were fighting for the “empire” back in the day. “Our nation was only about 13-14 years old at the start of the first world war and the Union Jack, what we see as an English flag, was the main flag that our troops fought under,” Patricia Gillard of the Birdwood Heritage Committee said.
Rebuilding the first Australian flag wasn’t easy at all, since it disintegrated and looked like confetti according to Stephen Williams, the dean that found the pieces. “Eventually we emptied this vault out and discovered [the flag] here in the corner of the vault and it was in a bag within a bag inside a bag inside a box — just an ordinary cardboard box — and it just looked like confetti,” Dean Williams said. “We’re very, very fortunate that no-one had thrown it out.”
It took a total of 18 months to turn the pieces into a proper flag again, according to Sydney native Julian Bickersteth. “We’ve worked on lots of flags but never anything like [one in] this condition — this is a very complex job,” he said. “We had a lot of larger pieces, plus we had a lot of stitched edges.”