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FLAGS are also used to signify the rank of the principal person on board. Thus the Royal Standard, containing the arms of the United Kingdom, is only hoisted when a member of the Royal Family is on board; on land it is flown over Royal residences.
The Admiralty Flag, containing the Foul Anchor on a red field, is flown wherever the Lords of the Admiralty are present, either afloat or ashore.
The St. George's Jack consists of a white field, which is divided into four quarters by a red cross, and is flown by Admirals instead of a pennant. For a Full Admiral it is flown at the main, for a Vice-Admiral at the fore, for a Rear-Admiral at the mizen.
The Trinity House Flag consists of the St. George's Jack, with the addition of a ship in each of the four quarters; it is flown by the Trinity Brethren, and by all Light Ships.
The Union Jack, which is the National Flag of Great Britain, represents England, Scotland and Ireland by means of a combination of the three respective crosses of St. George, St. Andrew and St. Patrick.
It is flown over all Ports and Barracks, and at the bows of all Men-of-War, either attached to a small staff on the bow-sprit, or (while they are at anchor) attached to the head-rail.
ENSIGNS are large flags denoting the nationality of a ship, and are hoisted on a staff at the stern.
The British Ensign has for its field one of three colours — white, blue or red — with the Union Jack on the upper corner next the staff.
The White Ensign, besides containing the Union Jack, is divided into four by a red cross, and is always flown by a Man-of War at the stern, also by Yachts belonging to the Royal Yacht Squadron, but by no other vessels.
The Blue Ensign is the flag of the Royal Naval Reserve, and is only permitted on the stern of a Merchant Ship, when it happens to be commanded by Royal Naval Reserve Captains, and has ten Royal Naval Reserve men in her crew besides.
The Blue Ensign is worn by any vessel maintained under the Colonial Defence Act; by all ships employed in the service of any public office; by Hired Transports, or vessels employed in the Surveying Service, and by all British merchant ships commanded by officers who are on the Retired List of the Royal Navy, or who are Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve, provided also that ten of the crew (officers and men) belong to the Royal Naval Reserve; and, lastly, by all British Merchant Ships in receipt of any Admiralty subvention.
A few Yacht Clubs fly the Blue Ensign, but in all cases a device is added to the field.
The Red Ensign is flown by all other British Ships, and is the only flag private individuals really have any right to use on land. The Colonies use it with their colonial badge added.
The Red Ensign is worn by British Merchant Ships without any modification whatsoever. No merchant ship shall, besides the Red Ensign or the Union Jack with a white border, wear any of the flags or pennants usually worn by, or resembling those worn by, His Majesty's ships, a fine of £500 being inflicted on any one who should hoist or cause the same to be hoisted without authority to do so.
A Foreign Ensign flying at the fore signifies that a distinguished personage, of the nationality denoted by the ensign, is a passenger on board.
The Man-of-War PENNANT is a long-flowing narrow piece of white bunting, with the Cross of St. George at the end next the mast; it is flown at the main-mast head and is called the "Whip," as significative of whipping the seas.
The National Flag of any ship when hoisted upside down, indicates that she is in want of immediate assistance.
A White Flag is accepted in all parts of the world as a token of peace; a Red Flag as that of defiance; and a Black Flag as that of a pirate.
The Quarantine Flag is a plain yellow flag hoisted at the fore; it shows that the ship has some infectious disease on board, or comes from an infected port. No one is allowed either to go on board or to leave such ship until permission has been received from the Local Sanitary Authorities.
A Plain Red Flag, called a Danger or Powder Flag, when hoisted at the fore, denotes that the ship has powder or shell or ammunition on board, and is intended as a warning to other ships not to come too close.
A Green Flag flying from a boat or barge at anchor denotes that there is a wreck in the vicinity, as does also a green buoy placed over the spot.
The Pilot Jack consists of a Union Jack with a white border, and, when hoisted at the fore, signifies that a pilot is required. At night-time a blue light is burnt at the end of the bridge.
The Pilot Flag is White and Red, and is equally divided horizontally — the white at top. It is hoisted wherever it can be seen by a ship directed by a Pilot.
The Blue Peter consists of a blue field with a white square centre. It is hoisted at the fore while in harbour to denote that the ship is ready to sail, and to warn any one on shore who intends to go aboard.
In addition to the National Flag, the ships of the Chief Mercantile Steamship Companies fly what is termed a "House Flag." These are designed and adopted by the owner or owners simply as a distinguishing mark. The House Flag is always flown at the main on entering or leaving the harbour. At long distances the painting of the funnels, by means of the colour and lines or designs painted upon them, serves the same purpose. Many of these flags and funnels will be found illustrated and described in Part II, under the headings of their respective companies.
The Fishing Smacks and Steamers around the British coast have their bows or sails marked with letters to distinguish the ports from which they sail. As a rule, the first and last letters of the name of the port are used, e.g., W.Y., Whitby; but there are a great many exceptions. The port from which they are registered is often that of the nearest large harbour. For instance, the Hastings fishing boats are marked R.X., which stands for Rye; and the Brixham boats D.H., for Dartmouth.
The foreign boats are also marked in this way. H. stands for Havre, as well as Hull.
[*By kind permission, from Lloyd's Calendar.]
Letters of British Fishing Boats
ENGLAND AND THE CHANNEL ISLANDS