Single Letter Signal Flags

Anchorman
7th February 2012, 10:19
I was just thinking over the last 45 years I have only ever used the usual flags B H G Q P A. Has anyone used the others or seen them being used ?

Barrie Youde
7th February 2012, 11:18
Going back only a little further, I can certainly recall seeing "Y" used many times in the early 1960s.

Hugh Ferguson
7th February 2012, 14:30
Yes, Z. My wife and I were sitting in the sun one day, in our garden on the cliff-tops between Dover and Deal, when I distinctly heard a Z signal being blown from somewhere out to sea. On closer inspection a yacht could be seen flying a Z flag and somewhat out of control.
They, very evidently, needed assistance so we hastily hoisted our inflateable aboard the car and rushed down to the beach, launched it and were alongside of them within twenty or so minutes.
It transpired that they had been trying to get into Dover Harbour but had been swept past on the strong flood tide. They were American and completely stumped as to how to get back to where they wanted to be: they were only too pleased to accept our offer to assist.
So, we took down the Z flag and got the yacht underway to beat back to Dover which we were able to do without too much difficulty. They were hugely grateful and offered payment which we declined.
We said our goodbyes, wished them bon voyage, called in at the Yacht Club to bum a lift back home and never expected to hear from them ever again. But we did! After their return to America they sent us a little glass figure of a mermaid and wrote, that when they had first set eyes on us, coming towards them, they thought that they were going to rescue us!!! (It transpired that skipper had flown B.17's during the war)

Andrew Craig-Bennett
7th February 2012, 14:48
OK not "properly" but "U" from the cross trees of my little yacht, at anchor, to my sons, sailing the dinghy, when their mother had had supper on the cabin table for the last ten minutes...

sidsal
7th February 2012, 15:25
The management of convoys in ww2 was done largely using Int Code flags.
There was a book MERSIGS which gave all the meanings of various combinations of flags. Some single flags were used for emergency turns. For instance if the Commodore wanted the convoy to turn 45 degrees to port he would hoist the E flag and blow a long blsat on the whistle to draw every ship's attention. Each ship's bridge watch wouod be watching the Commodore ship for signals and when one was seen each ship would hoist the same signal to ensure all ships had it. In the case of the emergency turn E flag, when the Commodore saw that all ships had it up, he would give 2 short blasts , lower the flag and turn 45 degrees to port. All ships, as one, would lower their flags and turn, as one. Hence in quick time the whole convoy woud be steaming a course 45 degrees away from the original.
It was a matter of pride for ships to be the first to repeat any signals from the
Commodore.
I have tried in vain to get a copy of Mersigs - perhaps it is restricted still.

chadburn
7th February 2012, 16:03
The information would have been listed in the Sailing Order Folder which each Master was issued with at the Convoy Conference prior to sailing. This and other information would be kept in the ship's safe and would have been placed in the weighted bag if the ship was sunk/captured.

Barrie Youde
7th February 2012, 20:15
Very slightly off-topic, according to my 1953 Nicholls' Seamanship (beside me as I write) the International Code of Flag Signals provided that "only those marked with an asterisk should be used by flashing". "Those marked with an asterisk" I learned (after 1959) by the acronym " Fanny Williams LUVZ PORK", with the addition that those [capital] letters might also be used as sound signals, in addition to flashing.

In the pilot-cutters at Liverpool the single morse-signal "G" (not asterisked) was often received (usually from coasters)as flashed by aldis lamp; and it was also heard as sounded by whistle.

Similarly the signal "Z" (asterisked) would flashed by aldis (as approved by the Code) or alternatively blown by whistle by an outward-bound ship wishing to discharge her pilot either at the Bar or Point Lynas. All of this was prior to the general development of VHF radio. At that time (early 1960s) (dreamtime?) alcohol was a fact of life at sea. I have a vivid recollection (as an apprentice pilot of tender years) of being on station one night at Point Lynas and hearing the pilot of an outward-bound Lamport & Holt steamer sound "Z" (two long and two short on her steam-whistle) as a request to be taken overboard by the pilot cutter. Even more vivid was the comment of an elderly senior pilot aboard the cutter :- "Listen, chaps, BOOOOZE, BOOOOZE, BOOZE, BOOZE."

Hugh Ferguson
7th February 2012, 20:40
In my Reeds, Z* is, "I Require a Tug": or if used by a vessel fishing, "I am shooting nets". *When made by sound must comply with rules 34 and 35 of the Collision Regulations.

Hugh Ferguson
7th February 2012, 20:52
Quote:- 'alcohol was a fact of life'

Not on my station! One of my contempories was prevented from boarding a ship by a fellow pilot-he lost his licence for good, and that was in the sixties.
He was one of the three who suffered likewise during my time.

Barrie Youde
7th February 2012, 21:13
#10

Hi, Hugh,

For sure, we had others who suffered a similar fate. Whisky, you're the devil, but there's no denying that it was then both freely available and widely abused. It is a very different story today.

Barrie Youde
7th February 2012, 21:21
#9

What date is your Reeds? I only ever knew Z as a signal for calling-up a shore station (which is what Nicholls [1953] says at page 625).

Barrie Youde
7th February 2012, 21:46
Hi, Hugh,

You're right! (How could I ever doubt you!)

I've dug out a Brown's (1978) which does indeed provide that Z means "I require a tug"- and that the meanings were amended at the beginning of April 1969 - which if I ever knew I had long forgotten. (A confirmation, perhaps, that lessons learned early tend to remain engrained!)

The advent of VHF has much to answer for!

Hugh Ferguson
7th February 2012, 22:20
"The advent of VHF"

It's hard to believe that we often went to the bridge of the pilot cutter-probably to the annoyance of the watch officer-just to see if an approaching, as distinct from a passing ship, might be flying a G flag, and if it transpired that she was, to go aboard and ask where he was bound!!! Amazing, but then I can well remember living in a house in which there was not even a radio let alone a telephone.

garry Norton
7th February 2012, 23:10
Does this mean anything.
Don't pull queens **** to long and freddy quenton williams loves pork

garry Norton
7th February 2012, 23:17
Look at www. yatchracing.com for international code of signals

John Cassels
8th February 2012, 08:52
Single flag signals which could be sounded , I used to remember with help
from the following ditty ;

Four Kings Looking Over Palace Wall Rubbing Up Virgins With Zest.

Binnacle
8th February 2012, 10:34
Single flag signal, UK ports - knotted red ensign
"Request HM Customs"
(The master is thirsty)

Anchorman
8th February 2012, 10:36
Just out of interest I was looking at the 1937 admiralty seamanship manual and the RN alphabetical flags were different to the international code flags. For example the RN "A" flag was the same as the international "Y" flag.
Must have caused a bit of confusion in convoy.
Neil

Davie M
8th February 2012, 12:06
#9

What date is your Reeds? I only ever knew Z as a signal for calling-up a shore station (which is what Nicholls [1953] says at page 625).

This years REEDS (2012) gives code flag Z as : I require a tug, or by fishing vessels " I am shooting nets".
Davie

Barrie Youde
8th February 2012, 16:30
The date attaching to any version of the Code is of high nostalgic relevance - particularly when you might be asked by a friend to read a flag signal depicted on an old painting.

Amongst the goodies bequeathed to me is a copy of "Practical Seamanship for use in the Merchant Service - Third Edition - Enlarged".It is written by John Todd and WB Whall and published by G. Phillip and Son. Inside is written the original owner's name - C.L.A. Lecoustre - Liverpool - 1901.

The book shows that the International Code at that time assigned a meaning to only some of the letters of the alphabet. A, E, I, O, U, V, W, X, Y and Z are assigned no meaning at all. The meanings given to the other letters bear little resemblance to the meanings assigned later. Some meanings are set out in language akin to "Stop the coach, the postilion has been struck by lightning" (I exaggerate). "H" is shown to mean "You may communicate by the Semaphore, if you please".

Captain Charles Louis Albert Lecoustre (the book's original owner) was a Conway cadet who eventually became an Examiner of Masters and Mates at Liverpool in 1905. He was Chief Examiner at Liverpool in the 1920s and early 1930s.At one time he was President (?) of MMSA. He died in 1933. I knew many who knew him. In 1969 I married his grand-daughter, Sue Lecoustre, who died in 1985. Thus I inherit her grandfather's most fascinating book.

If you need to know how to club-haul off a lee-shore, please let me know!

slick
9th February 2012, 06:52
All,
A Bucket hoisted at the yard in the London Docks for the Waterman /Turnkey, what was 'gleaning' used for?

Yours aye,

slick

chadburn
9th February 2012, 13:39
Just out of interest I was looking at the 1937 admiralty seamanship manual and the RN alphabetical flags were different to the international code flags. For example the RN "A" flag was the same as the international "Y" flag.
Must have caused a bit of confusion in convoy.
Neil

Neil, Usually the Convoy Commodore was either ex RN or RNR with both the Merchant and Royal having different ways of doing things, it was important to have a Convoy Conference and Sailing Order Folder's which each Master read and signed for (in my photo's it show's a Readiness Certificate). The pre-cursor workload before a Convoy sail's is quite high and it's not just a matter of shepherding a group of vessel's together and owf we go as every Master has to be sailing and working from the same song sheet (instruction's) otherwise collision's will occur. Is it all relevant today? well yes it is, if a 3rd War broke out the Convoy system would have to be re-activated, that is until someone dropped a large Brock's and we were "returned to produce".:@

Andrew Craig-Bennett
9th February 2012, 14:08
The date attaching to any version of the Code is of high nostalgic relevance - particularly when you might be asked by a friend to read a flag signal depicted on an old painting.

Amongst the goodies bequeathed to me is a copy of "Practical Seamanship for use in the Merchant Service - Third Edition - Enlarged".It is written by John Todd and WB Whall and published by G. Phillip and Son. Inside is written the original owner's name - C.L.A. Lecoustre - Liverpool - 1901.

The book shows that the International Code at that time assigned a meaning to only some of the letters of the alphabet. A, E, I, O, U, V, W, X, Y and Z are assigned no meaning at all. The meanings given to the other letters bear little resemblance to the meanings assigned later. Some meanings are set out in language akin to "Stop the coach, the postilion has been struck by lightning" (I exaggerate). "H" is shown to mean "You may communicate by the Semaphore, if you please".

Captain Charles Louis Albert Lecoustre (the book's original owner) was a Conway cadet who eventually became an Examiner of Masters and Mates at Liverpool in 1905. He was Chief Examiner at Liverpool in the 1920s and early 1930s.At one time he was President (?) of MMSA. He died in 1933. I knew many who knew him. In 1969 I married his grand-daughter, Sue Lecoustre, who died in 1985. Thus I inherit her grandfather's most fascinating book.

If you need to know how to club-haul off a lee-shore, please let me know!

Todd and Whall is one of my favourite books, along with Lecky's "Wrinkles".

(*))

Anchorman
9th February 2012, 15:26
Neil, Usually the Convoy Commodore was either ex RN or RNR with both the Merchant and Royal having different ways of doing things, it was important to have a Convoy Conference and Sailing Order Folder's which each Master read and signed for (in my photo's it show's a Readiness Certificate). The pre-cursor workload before a Convoy sail's is quite high and it's not just a matter of sheperding a group of vessel's together and owf we go as every Master has to be sailing and working from the same song sheet (instruction's) otherwise collision's will occur. Is it all relevant today? well yes it is, if a 3rd War broke out the Convoy system would have to be re-activated, that is until someone dropped a large Brock's and we were "returned to produce".:@


Thanks for that Chadburn. I notice in the 1951 admiralty seamanship that the flags are same for Naval and International Codes. Although a lot of the meanings are different now. "J" for example states I am going to send a message by semaphore. This would cause a few "whats" today I guess.
Neil

Hugh Ferguson
9th February 2012, 17:42
And who would ever believe that semaphore can be faster than morse by Aldis! It can be but talking flags reminds me of a watch as 2nd mate aboard the Glenroy in the Straits of Gibraltar one afternoon long ago.

As an R.N. aircraft carrier, closing us at a combined speed of about 36 knots, to my horror up went a hoist of flags asking us "what ship" and "where bound".
First thing, blow whistle for the Chinese quartermaster stand-bye man. Next, hoist our numbers and reach for the code book. Scan pages for the signal letters for London, string them together and get them up.
Abeam of each other now and stand-bye man to rush down aft to dip ensign.

Only later, after taking another peek at the code book did I notice that I had hoisted the flags indicating that we were bound for London, Ontario!!!
(Well, you'd think they would put London, U.K. first in the book would you not)

However, it was next voyage, and we were in Hong Kong, or Japan, and the old man, Walter Simmonds, told me he had just received a signal from the Admiralty complimenting HIM on the flag signalling efficiency of the Glenroy!!!