DREADNOUGHT TO TRIDENT
 


 
UNITED KINGDOM NAVAL ENSIGNS & FLAGS
 

Image Added April 2008

Royal Naval Auxiliary Service Ensign
 

Notes
 

Prior to 1864 the White Ensign was, along with the Red and Blue Ensigns, one of the three naval ensigns flown by ships of the Royal Navy (RN). In that year, all RN ships were ordered to fly the White Ensign. The Blue Ensign was reserved for merchant vessels whose masters are qualified Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) officers and which meet certain other requirements, while the Red Ensign became the British civil ensign. Since then, the White Ensign has been the sole naval ensign of the United Kingdom. Until the mid- to late 1960s it was also flown by Canadian, Australian and New Zealand warships.

When flown at the bow by RN ships, the Union Jack (UJ) is the British naval jack; flown from the mast it is the rank flag of an Admiral of the Fleet. At sea the UJ is reserved for the RN and no other British ships are permitted to fly it. RN ships in commission also fly a commissioning pennant, and those serving on fishery protection duties fly a triangular pennant quartered blue and yellow.

The ensigns of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFAS) and the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service (RMAS) were adopted about 1970; previously the RFAS flew a Blue Ensign with a horizontal yellow anchor in the fly. The RFAS provides the RN's seagoing logistical support; its ships, both purpose-built and chartered, are manned by civilian crews. Most RFAS ships also carry RN detachments to maintain and operate embarked naval helicopters and defensive weapons. The RMAS provides the RN with various types of harbor, dockyard and training support; its vessels are also manned by civilian crews. Square versions of the RFAS and the RMAS ensigns are used as the services' jacks.

The flag of the Lord High Admiral dates from the sixteenth century, if not earlier, and it has existed in a number of forms. Prior to the establishment of a unified Ministry of Defense, it was used by the Board of Admiralty (to which the Crown had delegated the powers of Lord High Admiral). When the Board was abolished, Queen Elizabeth II resumed the title of Lord High Admiral and nowadays she alone is entitled to fly this flag. It is also flown by all RN warships for their launching ceremonies.

The RN's current rank flags (other than the UJ) were previously flown only by flag officers of the White Squadron; when the White Ensign became the sole naval ensign of the UK, they became the rank flags for all admirals. At first, the rear-admiral's flag had two disks side by side in the first quarter; the current design was adopted in 1898. Until recently, there were two versions of the commodore's broad pennant: one with no disk in the first quarter for the rank of Commodore 1st Class and one with the disk in the first quarter for the rank of Commodore 2nd Class. When the two ranks were combined the broad pennant without the disk was dropped. The Commodore, Royal Naval Reserve, has a broad pennant with a blue cross and no disk. The Commodore, Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service, has a blue broad pennant with the RFAS anchor badge inside a rope circle.

Credits: Several UK members of the FOTW Mailing List provided the information and images on which these illustrations are based. Special thanks go to Graham Bentram, David Prothero and Roy Stilling for answering many questions relating to these ensigns, jacks and flags. I relied on the United Kingdom section of Graham's excellent site, World Flags Database, for such details as the correct design of the anchors of the RFAS and RMAS flags.
 



 

ROYAL NAVY

 

NAVAL ENSIGN    THE WHITE ENSIGN

 

NAVAL JACK    THE UNION JACK

 

ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE (RNR) ENSIGN

 

COMMISSIONING PENNANT

 

FISHERY PROTECTION PENNANT

 

NAVAL RANK FLAGS & PENNANTS

 

THE LORD HIGH ADMIRAL

 

ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET

 

ADMIRAL

 

VICE-ADMIRAL

 

REAR-ADMIRAL

 

COMMODORE

 

COMMODORE, ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE

 

SQUADRON COMMANDER OR SENIOR OFFICER

 

ROYAL NAVAL AUXILIARY SERVICE

 

RNXS ENSIGN    1963-94

 

ROYAL FLEET AUXILIARY SERVICE

 

RFAS ENSIGN

 

RFAS ENSIGN

 

COMMODORE, RFAS

 

ROYAL MARITIME AUXILIARY SERVICE

 

RMAS ENSIGN
 

 

RMAS ENSIGN
 



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