Flag to fly?

Ralf I Karlson
9th May 2007, 19:56
GM
we had a discussion onboard the coaster I serve on these days abt which flag to fly. The vessel is Dutch, and in UK we flew the Union Jack in the foremast, as there wasn't anything else onboard. Wouldn't the Red Ensign be more correct? My reliever didn't agree with me; according to him it doesn't matter. I'm right mates, am I not ?
(wont tell u the nationallity of my reliever)

rothesian
9th May 2007, 20:38
red ensign curtesy flag for GB

Peter4447
9th May 2007, 20:39
Interesting question Ralf. My understanding is that the national flag of the country is flown as a courtesy which would make it the Union Flag but will be interesting to see if anybody can come up with the definitive answer.
Peter4447(Thumb)

Bruce Carson
9th May 2007, 21:15
I'm probably wrong, but I thought it illegal to fly a Union Flag on a British Merchant ship.
It is, or was, sometimes modified with a white border to fly on British civilian ships.
I'm not sure if this would apply to foreign flagged ships in British waters.

Bruce C

rothesian
9th May 2007, 21:25
union flag with white border was flown fr'wd on the jackstaff, hence union jack British ship's only

captainchris
9th May 2007, 22:38
Hi Ralf,
The idea of a courtesy flag is to acknowlege the visiting coutries Merchant Navy, hence when you come to the UK you fly the Red Ensign, not like Eastern Block countries who fly the Union Jack. This flag is purely a privalage for Royal Naval Warships to fly at the bow, once their lines are on the quay. Similarly, Merchant vesels, British flags of course, fly the Pilot Jack, which is a Union Flag surrounded by a white border, only when you are tied up alongside or on any mooring. Normally a visiting Merchant vessel only flies the corresponding Merchant flag for that country. Often in Spain,ships fly the Spanish National flag , which has a badge in the centre of the yellow bit, but this incorrect as the Spanish Merchant Ensign is purely Red, Yellow, Red.
Hope this clears up any queries.
Best regards,
Chris

Pat McCardle
9th May 2007, 23:15
The Union flag of Great Britain can only be flown, from the Stem Jack, if there are any representitives of HM Government or anyone from the British Royal family on board said vessel. Hence, RN vessels fly Union flag with the Commander being a representitive of HM Government. I remember reading this from a book which covered 'Flag Etiquette' when at Gravesend Sea factory.

trotterdotpom
10th May 2007, 03:37
As Captain Chris says, the correct courtesy flag for ships entering the UK is the Red Ensign, similarly, in Australia and New Zealand, their Red Ensigns should be flown. However, I believe, the national flags are an acceptable substitue if nothing else is available. I was interested to read about the Spanish flag - you live and learn.

I remember arriving in Indonesia with the H Flag fastened up sideways because we didn't have an Indonesian flag. Good job we had two H flags as there was also a Pilot on Board - it costs a lot of Scotch to piss anybody off in that place!

I recall a bit of confusion in a conversation with some Americans about the "Union Jack". The canton containing the 50 stars on the Stars and Stripes is called the "Union" and this is the flag flown on the jack staff of US naval ships and is, therefore, called the "Union Jack". So, "Union Jack" is not just the preserve of us English.

John T.

Keltic Star
10th May 2007, 05:18
As a second trip Cadet was told to hoist the courtesy ensign on approaching Cristobal for the Panama Canal. It was nearly my last trip when the Old Man spotted the Panamanian flag flying instead of the Stars and Bars.

How times have changed!

Ron Stringer
10th May 2007, 11:06
On one ship that I was on there was much excitement on arrival in Belfast to find that the Irish tricolour had been hoisted as the courtesy flag!

Tony Breach
10th May 2007, 11:27
Interesting subject. I was always taught that the British national flag was the Union Flag but, if flown as a Jack on a warship became a Union Jack. The canton of the American Stars & Stripes is only ever, I beleive, flown as a Jack & is therefore properly called a Union Jack.

When I was with Geest we carried the Governor General around the Windward Islands & were instructed, by whom I can't remember, to fly the Union Flag at the fore-truck when he was actually on board. Was this correct?

Somewhere, & I think it is easily accessible on a web site, is a long article in respect of the what we call the British Pilot Jack from a long way back. It points out that it is (was) illegal to fly that flag except when requiring the services of a pilot & that ships should normally fly a house or owner's flag from the jackstaff. Many older paintings of ships show a "Pilot Jack" flown at the fore-truck; I have a feeling that before the days of radio ships approaching the pilot grounds of Brixham, Ushant, the Downs etc., would fly a flag to indicate the nationality of the port to which they were bound in order to attract the attention of the required pilot boat. The flag was simply the National Flag of the country concerned sewn onto a white sheet or peice of light duck canvas.

Tony

K urgess
10th May 2007, 12:46
There was some discussion on this subject here -
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/49556/cat/500/ppuser/8196
Cheers
Kris

trotterdotpom
10th May 2007, 13:23
Thanks for the info about the Pilot Jack, Tony. I looked it up in Wikipedia and found that the use of the Pilot Jack (ie Union Flag with white background) meaning "I require a Pilot" went out in 1970. Presumeably, it was replaced by the yellow and blue striped flag up the mast, meaning:"Gee, I'd like a pilot." Personally, I've never heard of anything but the G flag for that purpose, I thought it was in use much before 1970.

From what Pat McCardle and Captainchris say, you were doing the right thing when carting the Governor General round the islands, he being the Queen's representative. My short experience of Geest Line was pretty good, you must have done spectacularly well with His Excellency aboard.

As you say, the proper name for the British national flag is the Union Flag, but, apparently, "Union Jack" has become acceptable through its popular usage for many years.

Captainchris mentions the Eastern Bloc ships flying the Union Flag as a courtesy flag - could be the thin end of the wedge. I wouldn't like to see another tradition disappearing due to slackness or some perception that it is "just bullshit". Crack down on those ex commies, I say!

John T.

Tony Breach
10th May 2007, 20:51
While on this subject I must deplore the practice of some British yachtsmen, fishermen & possibly others of flying flags of constituent countries of the Union on the ensign staff. Well may they fly their own national flags elsewhere on their vessel with pride as I used to on the port spreader halliard when I had yachts under the Swedish & U.S. flags. However, the correct merchant ensign (or other if applicable) should always be flown in the proper
position.

Tony

notnila
10th May 2007, 22:18
I've seen ,on a few occasions in the last few years,Dutch and Norwiegen ships flying the Scottish Saltire as a courtesy flag.

Cap'n Pete
11th May 2007, 10:23
I remember the days when the red ensign, before it could be relegated to the rag bag, had to have the union flag cut out. The red bunting was then transfered to the rag bag and the union flag burnt. Also, heaven help any cadet who let the red ensign touch the deck when being bent onto the halyard.

These days, my first duty on entering the bridge each morning is to look up and make sure my Filipino crew have put the red ensign the right way up.

For info, as far as I am aware, the Australian authorities now insist that the correct courtesy flag is the Australian ensign and that only Australian flag vessls are permitted to fly the Australian red ensign.

Pat McCardle
11th May 2007, 10:43
What was all that cutting & burning of the 'Duster' about Peter? I am still the same today about Red Ensign's touching the deck. When starting out with P&O I remember getting a right earfull off one of the AB's about the right way to hoist & take flags down, it must have stuck.

Ralf I Karlson
11th May 2007, 11:20
Thanks mates, when I go back the Red Ensign will be ordered asap, so at least the Nordgard will fly the correct courtesy flag.
there must be hundreds of tales abt these flags. Once in Rostock, back with good old DDR my AB hoisted the flag the wrong way! Stevedores went on strike!

trotterdotpom
11th May 2007, 14:04
"For info, as far as I am aware, the Australian authorities now insist that the correct courtesy flag is the Australian ensign and that only Australian flag vessls are permitted to fly the Australian red ensign"

That's a new one on me, Cap'n Pete - if so, I'm very disappointed. I've consulted the authorities and will advise of their response.

John T.

Cap'n Pete
11th May 2007, 16:12
"For info, as far as I am aware, the Australian authorities now insist that the correct courtesy flag is the Australian ensign and that only Australian flag vessls are permitted to fly the Australian red ensign"

That's a new one on me, Cap'n Pete - if so, I'm very disappointed. I've consulted the authorities and will advise of their response.

John T.

This was certainly the case when I was last in Botany Bay (an absolutely awful port; if the First Fleet gave up on it, why on Earth did they build a port there). Of course, it could have been the local harbour master having a bad day.

Of course, the NSW port authority was the one that stopped it's pilots and harbour masters from calling themselves "captain".

Pat McCardle
11th May 2007, 16:16
Of course, the NSW port authority was the one that stopped it's pilots and harbour masters from calling themselves "captain".[/QUOTE]

& rightly so(Thumb)

peter barc
12th May 2007, 23:25
many russian ships used to fly the Union Jack as a courtesey flag also..

trotterdotpom
16th May 2007, 05:46
Cap'n Pete, I've just been informed by John Vaughan of the Australian National Flag Association that the correct courtesy flag for foreign ships to fly in Australian waters is the Australian national flag, ie the blue one.

Sadly, you were right, but at least it's not a boxing kangaroo or one of those other silly rags you see around the place.

John T.

Tony Breach
16th May 2007, 11:24
There has recently been a spot of controversy regarding the WAVERLEY flying the Welsh Red Dragon as a jack when on the Clyde. Apparently the jack on that vessel also indicates the nationality of the master (seemingly there being no British anymore ) and the vessel flies either the Saltire or the Dragon in any location accordingly. I don't know if she has yet had the opportunity to fly the Crosses of St. George or St. Patrick.

Last week I was photographing from the harbour entrance at Milford & snapped two trawlers with what looked sheet steel national 'flags' apparently welded to vertical pipes ( they could not be called masts or staffs ). The Belgian's was painted in the red/yellow/black tricolour while the British one, whose crew spoke a latin language, was painted with a very faded & incorrectly proportioned Union flag. When is a flag not a flag?

Tony

Ventry
16th May 2007, 11:37
There has recently been a spot of controversy regarding the WAVERLEY flying the Welsh Red Dragon as a jack when on the Clyde. Apparently the jack on that vessel also indicates the nationality of the master (seemingly there being no British anymore ) and the vessel flies either the Saltire or the Dragon in any location accordingly. I don't know if she has yet had the opportunity to fly the Crosses of St. George or St. Patrick.

Last week I was photographing from the harbour entrance at Milford & snapped two trawlers with what looked sheet steel national 'flags' apparently welded to vertical pipes ( they could not be called masts or staffs ). The Belgian's was painted in the red/yellow/black tricolour while the British one, whose crew spoke a latin language, was painted with a very faded & incorrectly proportioned Union flag. When is a flag not a flag?

Tony

When it's a Red Ensign and then it's a FOC!

Hague
16th May 2007, 20:09
Quick, tell the MCA they have competition!

Binnacle
16th May 2007, 21:57
As third mate I checked the flag locker when we got orders to load for Cork and Dublin, as we had no Eire flag I suggested to the old man that we get one from the chandler when we got to Australia. He promptly informed me that no republican flag would ever fly above his ship. He was from Co. Antrim.
A few months later when the pilot boarded he pointed out that our Yugoslav flag at the fore yard was minus the communist star. I got called to the bridge to sew on two red stars, despite the pilot assuring the old man that there would be no problem with officials. Half an hour from the berth I am on the chartroom deck drawing stars on the back of an old chart with pencil and twine. Fortunately the old man got on his knees to assist and got his pants in a twist and decided to take the pilot's advice. Years later in Long Beach, the day of Jack Kennedy's funeral, the longshoremen objected to us not having the courtesy flag at half mast. So so we lowered it at the fore yard to avoid hassle.

tom e kelso
16th May 2007, 23:52
Tony,

Your remarks about the Waverley reminds me of an occasion when calling at Leith in the educational cruise ship NEVASA. It had been the custom when calling at Scottish ports to fly the "Lion Rampant" at the foremasthead as a courtesy flag! On this particular occasion, an eagle eye ashore must have taken exception to this because several hours after arrival the (Edinburgh) agent boarded and relayed instructions from the Lord Lyon King of Arms that it was improper to fly the Lion Rampant and that the practice should cease! Thereafter, we always used "M" flag, as the Scottish Saltire!

Regarding the other points in this discussion, in our ships, there was a short period of several months after India either became "independent" (15/08/47) or became a republic (Jan '51?) when our ships were issued with and flew the national flag of India as a courtesey flag in Indian ports. Thereafter, the Indian merchant ensign was issued and used (red ensign with the Indian tricolour in the upper hoist canton)

Flag drill in BI ships (until the "Revolution" - assimilation into P&O) was always scrupulously observed under the direct responsibility of the 3/O. Should more than one of the company's ships be in port, then that of the senior master (Commander) "broke out" 5 pennant five minutes before 0800 or sunset. The junior ship(s) immediately responded by breaking out the answering pennant.
At the appropriate time the senior ship rapidly lowered 5 pennant (usually this was accelerated by cylindrical canvas sandbag being clipped below the pennant) and all the ships hoisted/broke out/lowered their flags as appropriate
With courtesy flag, jack, houseflag, ensign, Royal Mail pennant and even in Hong Kong, "joss" flag this entailed six kalassis plus the serang or one of the deck tindals...the latter "piping" the procedure on the bosun's pipe!

(on at least one occasion a cargo wallah "idling" below the foremast yardarm was struck by the said sandbag!)

Needless to say, when the time and motion folk came on the scene, the flag drill suffered.

Tom

David Davies
17th May 2007, 07:30
Tom
Although I only did two spells I can still remember working out the time of sun set and the "panch bowta" ceremony

Cap'n Pete
17th May 2007, 12:07
Cap'n Pete, I've just been informed by John Vaughan of the Australian National Flag Association that the correct courtesy flag for foreign ships to fly in Australian waters is the Australian national flag, ie the blue one.

Sadly, you were right, but at least it's not a boxing kangaroo or one of those other silly rags you see around the place.

John T.

Thanks for checking John. As the red ensign is now a flag-of-convenience, I do not blame the Australian authorities from prohibiting it's use as a courtesy flag. As one of the last British captains to sail on British-flag ships, I am only too aware that my days are numbered and that I will be soon replaced by an Eastern European or Filipino.

Pat McCardle
17th May 2007, 12:25
I'm pleased to say that the company I work for have 30 vessels working mostly in North Sea but also in India & Egypt, are all British registered/flagged & are continuing their new build program. The only trouble is recruitment, where I find some younger people do not like the harsh environment (winter N.S.) & leave after a couple of trips. These trips being 28 days on 28 days off. I would also like to say that they are 90% all British crewed too.

Cap'n Pete
18th May 2007, 10:32
Recruitment is an international problem. China has thousands of students in maritime training schools but most leave after their first voyage and very few last more than a couple of years. As reported in Fairplay recently, the most common reason given is that the life is too hard.

In my experience, Brits do not leave the sea because the enviroment is too harch but because the rewards are just not good enough. Only captains and chief engineers in my company earn more than the UK national average and the rate of leave is still little better than 2 on 1 off.

trotterdotpom
18th May 2007, 13:25
Thanks for checking John. As the red ensign is now a flag-of-convenience, I do not blame the Australian authorities from prohibiting it's use as a courtesy flag. As one of the last British captains to sail on British-flag ships, I am only too aware that my days are numbered and that I will be soon replaced by an Eastern European or Filipino.

Sorry to hear that Cap'n Pete.

From Tom E Kelso's brilliant description of the flag ceremony in BI to oblivion - and in just the blink of an eye, what a shame. That's progress.

John T.

alexjb
27th October 2007, 13:31
I ...

These days, my first duty on entering the bridge each morning is to look up and make sure my Filipino crew have put the red ensign the right way up.

....

Which reminds me: last time I went to Antwerp, was surprised to see one of the two pilots come back into the wheelhouse doubled up laughing (a Belgian even!) Turned out that he'd just told our (Kiwi) cadet that the Belgian flag was upside down!

shippix
18th April 2008, 10:19
I see that some ships are flying the flag of St Piran ie a white cross on a black background when in Falmouth Docks. This flag is regarded as the Cornish Flag.

Topherjohn
18th April 2008, 11:16
Thanks for the info about the Pilot Jack, Tony. I looked it up in Wikipedia and found that the use of the Pilot Jack (ie Union Flag with white background) meaning "I require a Pilot" went out in 1970. Presumeably, it was replaced by the yellow and blue striped flag up the mast, meaning:"Gee, I'd like a pilot." Personally, I've never heard of anything but the G flag for that purpose, I thought it was in use much before 1970.

etc etc..................

John T.
During my time at sea 1959 - 1970 G flag inter code certainly meant I require pilot; never heard of bow jack ever being used for this purpose in the 1960s although always flown on the bow staff. Can anyone shed light regarding earlier decades?

Lancastrian
20th May 2008, 17:10
From www.fotw.net
In the early years of the 19th century the Union Jack was the signal usually displayed by merchant ships wanting a pilot. The Admiralty Warrant, of September 16th 1822, includes:
"... His Majesty's Jack, commonly called the Union Jack, a Jack made in resemblance thereof, hath been the usual signal displayed and kept flying for pilots to come on board merchant ships and vessels on the coasts of this United Kingdom; ..."

Based on very limited information I have come to the tentative conclusion that soon after 1901 the white-bordered Union Jack (roughly 3 : 4), probably went out of general use as the signal for a pilot, and that the elongated version, which continued in used as an unofficial merchant jack, retained or acquired the name 'pilot jack'. Later, the fact that the flag, as a pilot signal, had been more square than oblong was forgotten, and it was assumed that it had always existed in its elongated form.

In 1900 the International Code of Signals Committee wrote:
"At present the single-flag signal to be used by British vessels requiring a pilot is the Union Jack with a white border. This flag is not suitable for international use, and there is a great diversity of practice amongst foreign countries in regard to the signal to be made by vessels wanting pilots. Some countries use their jacks with a white border as a signal for a pilot; while other countries use their ensigns or jacks without a white border, or the blue peter, or a special flag; and others seem to have no single-flag signal for a pilot, and use the flags P and T of the International Code, which mean 'I want a pilot.' We gather that foreign maritime powers are generally agreed as to the desirability of there being an internationally recognized single-flag signal for a pilot, and we are of the opinion that flag S (blue centre with a white border) is well adapted for this purpose. We therefore recommend that the Board of Trade should obtain an Order in Council making legal the use of flag S as a signal for a pilot."

The white-bordered Union Jack was still a legal signal for a pilot, and remained so until 1970, but I doubt that many ships bothered to carry a special flag, that could be used only as a pilot signal, when one of the International Code flags could be used instead. It is strange that the Flaggenbuch featured national pilot flags at all. They were not included in the Admiralty Flag Books. I suggest that in the case of the British pilot flag, they were unable to discover the correct form, and assumed that it had the same dimensions as the flag of the King's Harbour Master.
David Prothero, 18 October 2004
and
Merchant Jack Miscellany
The Merchant Jack was also called, Stem Jack, Signal Jack, Jackstaff Flag and of course, Pilot Jack.

The term Pilot Jack, according to Cecil King, first appeared in an official printed document in the Royal Navy General Signals of 1868, but not in Merchant Navy publications until the 1900 revisions to the Code of Signals. It was being used in Orders in Council by 1933, probably incorrectly, as it had not been defined.

Until compelled to fly the swastika flag as a jack, the German liners sailing out of Hamburg and Bremen flew the pre-1867 national flags of those cities as jacks.

Clan Line ships were given the name of a Scottish clan, and in the early 1950's flew the tartan of the clan for which they were named as a flag at the jackstaff.

At one time it was the practice of some shipping companies to fly the national flag of the next country for which they were bound at the jackstaff whilst in port.

It probably arose because the Union Jack was used generally for summoning officers to the flagship. The rank of officer was indicated by the position in which the Union Jack, sometimes in combination with a pendant, was hoisted. In 1782 yellow pendant over Union Jack meant, "For all pilots or other persons qualified as such", and in 1799 Union Jack alone meant, "For a pilot to come on board".

In the 1817 edition of Marryat's Code the Union Jack was not used as a single flag hoist to request a pilot. The three flag hoist "741" meant, "Send me a pilot from the shore", and "743" meant, "I have no pilot".

This suggests that the Union Jack as the signal for a pilot was not introduced until about 1822, and that the Admiralty acted immediately there was a responsible person against whom they could proceed. While the use of the Union Jack by merchant ships was unofficial, it would have been possible to pursue ship's captains or owners only on an individual basis when the offence was committed.

As soon as the white-bordered Union Jack was adopted by the Royal Navy, a plain Union Jack flown at the fore identified the ship to which boats or officers indicated by a previous signal were to proceed. [Functions of the Union Jack by A.A.Purves in Mariner's Mirror July 1951]
David Prothero, 10 September 2003

Frank P
20th May 2008, 22:52
I visited many UK ports while I was onboard on quite a few foreign flaged ships and we always had the UK Merchant Navy flag as the courtesy flag, I did notice some other ships flying the Union Jack as the courtesy flag.
Cheers Frank