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Thread: British Naval Flag

  1. #1

    Default British Naval Flag

    Hello boys!
    Like any regular British Chap, I do love to see our proud naval flag hovering above the azure mer. After all, everyone knows that "Brittania Rules the waves!" But I'm slightly puzzled, which one is it? One a Google search for "British Naval Flag" it comes up with the flag of the Royal navy aswell as the flag used in Empire and Napoleon as the naval ensign. Well sirs, without further ado, I show the two flags used to represent the British Navy.
    Flag of The Royal Navy.

    Flag used in Empire/Napoleon.

    Thank you in advance boys!
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  2. #2
    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    THE NAVY OF THE KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN http://tmg110.tripod.com/british1.htm
    In 1707, new ensigns were established for the Royal Navy. All ships were ordered to fly the Union Flag as a jack and each squadron was given its own ensign displaying the First Union Flag in the canton. (In 1801 the diagonal red Cross of St. Patrick was added to the Union Flag.) These Red, Blue and White ensigns were used until 1864. In that year, the Union Jack and the White Ensign were reserved for the Royal Navy, the Blue Ensign was reserved for the use of qualified Royal Naval Reserve officers in command of merchant ships, and the Red Ensign became the British merchant ensign. All three are still in use today.

    About 1700, the practice of using the royal banner as a command flag was abandoned. Thereafter, it was only flown at sea when the monarch was personally present. Queen Anne's royal banner displayed England impaled with Scotland in the first and fourth quarters, France in the second quarter, and Ireland in the third quarter. When the Elector George of Hanover assumed the British throne as King George I in 1714, the fourth quarter of the royal banner was altered to display his electoral arms.

    Command flags for admirals of the three squadrons were white with the Cross of St. George, red and blue—hence the rank titles Vice-Admiral of the White, Rear-Admiral of the Red, etc. Exact rank was denoted by the mast from which the flag was flown: from the mizzenmast for a rear-admiral, from the foremast for a vice-admiral, and from the mainmast for an admiral.
    The Board of Ordnance was the government department responsible for the supply of weapons and munitions to the Army and Navy. Its vessels were permitted to fly a Red Ensign with the badge of the Board in the fly.

    Some of the dates given with the drawings are approximate and it is likely that there were many deviations from the system described above. Commanding admirals, for example, often specified the flags to be flown by their fleets.



    Royal Banner (1707-14—Queen Anne) • Royal Banner (1714-1801—House of Hanover)





    Ensign of the White Squadron







    Ensign of the Red Squadron (The Meteor Flag) • Ensign of the Blue Squadron







    Lord High Admiral







    Jack & Admiral of the Fleet • Admirals of the White Squadron







    Admirals of the Red Squadron • Admirals of the Blue Squadron





    Also see http://www.flaginstitute.org/pdfs/Bruce%20Nicolls.pdf "Britannia’s Banners - A Brief Outline of the Development of the Principal British Naval Flags" - a paper submitted to the XIXth International Congress of Vexillology by Bruce Nicolls FFIAV FFI
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 06, 2010 at 08:03 AM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    I always thought the red ensign was used at this time but most pictures of Victory at Trafalgar show the white ensign
    http://smartpei.typepad.com/robert_p...b-tv-ketc.html

  4. #4
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    Quote Originally Posted by Jihada View Post
    I always thought the red ensign was used at this time but most pictures of Victory at Trafalgar show the white ensign
    http://smartpei.typepad.com/robert_p...b-tv-ketc.html
    At Burnham Thorpe on the Norfolk coast, there is a Church that has a special honour.

    Unlike all other established institutions, the Church of All Saints is the only place in the UK that is allowed to fly the original White Ensign without the cross of St. Patrick being upon it. The Reason why it's allowed is due to the year 1798 and the total defeat of the French Fleet at Aboukir Bay.

    The White Ensign has been the Battle Colours of the Royal Navy for a very long time, The Red Ensign, I've always though was for the Merchant Navy?
    Justice 4 Charlene

  5. #5

    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    That seems to be the case since the mid 19th century but in ETW British ships fly the red ensign and it seems both flags (even other colours) were in use for various squadrons in the Napoleonic times

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Ensign

    A woolen jersey made at the bombardment of Bomarsund during the Crimea War in 1854 still shows the red ensign on RN ships for instance
    http://www.vandekar.com/archives/det...Number=NY05165
    Last edited by Jihada; September 06, 2010 at 03:07 PM.

  6. #6
    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    Quote Originally Posted by Jihada View Post
    That seems to be the case since the mid 19th century but in ETW British ships fly the red ensign and it seems both flags were in use for various squadrons in the Napoleonic times

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Ensign

    A woodcut made at the bombardment of Bomarsund during the Crimea War in 1854 still shows the red ensign on RN ships for instance
    http://www.vandekar.com/archives/det...Number=NY05165

    Admirals in Napoleonic & earlier times were either of the White, Red or Blue - hence their squadrons flew the coloured flags accordingly - see my first post. Fuller explanation below extracted from Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Admiral_(Royal_Navy)

    The Royal Navy has had Vice and Rear Admirals since at least the 16th century. When in command of the fleet, the Admiral would either be in the lead or the middle portion of the fleet. When the Admiral commanded from the middle portion of the fleet his deputy, the Vice Admiral, would be in the leading portion or van. Below him was another admiral at the rear of the fleet, called Rear Admiral.

    In Elizabethan times the fleet grew large enough to be organized into squadrons. The admiral’s squadron wore a red ensign, the vice admiral’s white, and the rear admiral’s blue. As the squadrons grew, each was eventually commanded by an Admiral (with Vice Admirals and Rear Admirals commanding sections) and the official titles became Admiral of the White, et cetera.



    The squadrons ranked in order Red, White, and Blue, with admirals ranked according to their squadron:
    1. Admiral of the Red (Admiral of the Fleet)
    2. Admiral of the White
    3. Admiral of the Blue
    4. Vice Admiral of the Red
    5. Vice Admiral of the White
    6. Vice Admiral of the Blue
    7. Rear Admiral of the Red
    8. Rear Admiral of the White
    9. Rear Admiral of the Blue
    Promotion up the ladder was in accordance with seniority in the rank of Post-Captain, and rank was held for life, so the only way to be promoted was for the person above you on the list to die or resign. (This created serious problems when Admiral of the Fleet Provo Wallis lived to be almost 101.) Another way was to promote unsuccessful captains to the rank of admiral without distinction of squadron (a practice known as yellowing—the Captain so raised became known as a yellow admiral).[1]
    In the 18th century, the original nine ranks began to be filled by more than one man per rank, although the rank of Admiral of the Red was always filled by only one man and was known as Admiral of the Fleet, but the organisation of the fleet into coloured squadrons was abandoned in 1864. The Red Ensign was allocated to the Merchant Marine, the White Ensign became the flag of the Royal Navy, and the Blue Ensign was allocated to the naval reserve and naval auxiliary vessels.

    Also see Royal Naval Museum's infomation sheet No 55 Squadronal Colours of the Royal Navy THE RED, THE WHITE AND THE BLUE http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info...on_colours.htm
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 07, 2010 at 04:47 PM. Reason: additional info

  7. #7

    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    Hi Prince, as always very informative +rep for you.

    I must admit I always thought the colours Red, White and Blue were area specific e.g. the White Ensign was the home fleet, the Red Ensign for the Caribean fleet and the Blue for the West Indies and India. But I guess that may just have been a consquence of the Admiral's commanding the fleets in those areas at the time.

    Incidently, when I was in the RNR I was told that the way to tell the difference between the masthead pennants of an Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral was that they led such disolute lives that Rear-Admirals had two balls, Vice-Admirals only one and by the time the reached the dizzy heights of Admiral they had no balls at all.



    Command flag for Admiral




    Command flag for Vice Admiral




    Command flag for Rear Admiral

  8. #8
    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    Quote Originally Posted by Didz View Post
    Incidently, when I was in the RNR I was told that the way to tell the difference between the masthead pennants of an Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral was that they led such disolute lives that Rear-Admirals had two balls, Vice-Admirals only one and by the time the reached the dizzy heights of Admiral they had no balls at all.
    Well done - you got me splitting my sides with that one!!!

  9. #9
    AUSSIE11's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    wasn't it also which mast they flew the flag on which informed you as to their rank? i think (but im not sure) that it was rear admiral on the fore-masr, vice on the main mast and Admiral on the mizzen... im not sure about the masts but that was also a system
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  10. #10
    AUSSIE11's Avatar Semisalis
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    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    also there where commodores of the red, white and blue as well...
    The eight most terrifying words in the english language... I'm from the government, I'm here to help.

  11. #11

    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    Yes, as Prince has explained there were Red, White and Blue fleets, so all officers were nominally of the Red, the white or the Blue depending which fleet/admiral they served.

  12. #12

    Default Re: British Naval Flag

    It seems the whole subject is confusing and full of exceptions to a rule
    http://flagspot.net/flags/gb-ensig.html

    'It's British - you just knew it was going to be odd '

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