RULE BRITANNIA
 


 
UNITED KINGDOM NAVAL ENSIGNS & FLAGS

1801-1864
 

Images Added July 2008

Lord High Admiral's Flag    Naval Ordnance Department Ensign
 

Notes
 

In 1801 Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom and the Union Flag was altered to include the diagonal Cross of St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. This modification was naturally extended to the ensigns of the Royal Navy, producing the White, Red, and Blue Ensigns as we know them today.

Up to 1864 the squadron system was continued, necessitating three distinct sets of naval flags. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, this system no longer corresponded to the organization or rank structure of the RN. In 1864, therefore, an  Order in Council abolished squadron ensigns. The Order reserved the White Ensign and its associated flags and pennants for the Royal Navy, with the Union Flag as the naval jack and rank flag for Admirals of the Fleet. The Red Ensign became the British merchant ensign, while the Blue Ensign became the naval reserve and government ensign. The illustrations below show the squadron ensigns, flags and pennants as they were on the eve of the Order.

For most of the nineteenth century the office of Lord High Admiral was "in commission"; the flag of that office was therefore used by the Board of Admiralty. The ensign of the War Department Fleet, based on the Red Ensign, was not altered in 1864 even though the Order specified a Blue Ensign defaced with the appropriate badge for non-naval government vessels. This ensign continued in use until 1890, when a defaced Blue Ensign finally replaced it. In 1891 Naval Ordnance became a separate department and was granted its own ensign charged with a naval variant of the Ordnance Board arms and a foul anchor. In 1922 this ensign was abolished, being replaced by the standard Blue Ensign for naval auxiliary vessels.

Credits: Several UK members of the FOTW Mailing List provided the information and images on which these illustrations are based, including Graham Bentram and David Prothero. Timothy Wilson's excellent book, Flags at Sea, which reprints the complete text of the 1864 Order in Council, was also extremely helpful.
 



 

THE WHITE SQUADRON

 

ENSIGN

 

JACK

 

ADMIRALS

 

COMMODORE FIRST CLASS

 

COMMODORE SECOND CLASS

 

COMMISSIONING PENNANT

 

THE RED SQUADRON

 

ENSIGN

 

JACK

 

ADMIRALS

 

COMMODORE FIRST CLASS

 

COMMODORE SECOND CLASS

 

COMMISSIONING PENNANT

 

THE BLUE SQUADRON

 

ENSIGN

 

JACK

 

ADMIRALS
 

 

COMMODORE FIRST CLASS

 

COMMODORE SECOND CLASS

 

COMMISSIONING PENNANT

 

OTHER FLAGS

 

LORD HIGH ADMIRAL

 

BOARD OF ORDNANCE ENSIGN    1801-55
WAR DEPARTMENT FLEET ENSIGN    1855-90
 

 

NAVAL ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT
ENSIGN    1891-1922
 



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