Jump to content

RN flag signals


Recommended Posts

Hi, guys,
I am currently working on the HMS Berwick model in 1940. The question arose: what signal flags to raise on the foremast so that their combination would not be meaningless?
Signals from 4 or more flags are especially interesting (this is more beautiful).
Raised signal flags on the mainmast?
In different photos, the White ensign is raised in different places. What were the rules about this?

Link to post
Share on other sites

By the rules the position of white ensign(s) depends on whether the ship was in harbour/underway in piloted waters or at sea or in action (battle). Which are you aiming for?

 

Potential signal hoists will then follow from the choice you make above, but in the case of Berwick would have been from the foremast.    

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
42 minutes ago, dickrd said:

By the rules the position of white ensign(s) depends on whether the ship was in harbour/underway in piloted waters or at sea or in action (battle). Which are you aiming for?

 

Potential signal hoists will then follow from the choice you make above, but in the case of Berwick would have been from the foremast.    

Thanks for your responsiveness, Dick, you are my best consultant!

I am modeling a ship at sea, possibly as part of a squadron or convoy escort.

 

Could you tell me a specific signal that is logical for this situation?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, I don't have copies of the pages of the Fleet Signal Book that would enable me to make up complex signals such as might be made at sea.

 

I do however have copies of the the pages that show the meanings of individual flags. This one might be appropriate:  

 

 

IMG_1251 - Copy

 

 

Berwick would have flown it when catapulting off or embarking her aircraft. Rather pleasingly we still use it today:

QE 2020 09 23 b - Copy

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably Pennant number , and if escorting carriers, various warning messages. I'' certain someone will respond.

This photograph shows her flying a Rear Admiral's flag  Photo06caBerwick2NP.jpg

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, davepb said:

Probably Pennant number , and if escorting carriers, various warning messages. I'' certain someone will respond.

This photograph shows her flying a Rear Admiral's flag  Photo06caBerwick2NP.jpg

 

 

Sorry, it's not entirely clear in the photo: the rear admiral's flag on the foremast, and on the mainmast - white ensigh? and some other signal flags on the mainmast?

Link to post
Share on other sites

The first question I'd ask is are you modelling her at sea or alongside/at anchor?

 

If attached to terra firma either through being alongside, moored to a buoy or at anchor and "in routine", the Union Jack is flown from the Jackstaff up forward and the White Ensign from the Ensign Staff down aft.  If out of routine alongside it's subtly different.

 

When at sea, it gets slightly more complicated depending upon the role, who is on board etc.  A good friend of mine is an ex-Chief Communications Yeoman, and I couldn't remember the detail of flag positions when I was finishing off BULOLO last year (which of course was a flag ship flying the flag of Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia), so this is what he told me:

 

In a one masted ship with no gaff, the commissioning pennant is flown at the masthead or truck and the sea ensign at the starboard outer halyard. With no masthead halyard I’m sure the Yeoman of signals would have sent the Signals Boy aloft to nail or lash the pennant to the masthead. When becoming a flagship, the admirals flag replaces the pennant. The seniority of halyards is stbd outer, port outer, stbd inner, port inner. Protocol dictates that the admirals flag should always fly in a superior position above all other flags.  Without a masthead halyard it would be incorrect to fly the admirals flag at the stbd outer and the ensign at the port outer as they would then both be at the same height and the admirals flag would not be in the superior position. If the ensign were to be lowered to an inferior position, that would be classed as flying at half mast and that can only be implemented on specific instructions from the Admiralty.
 
In a two masted ship, the pennant is flown at the masthead  of the mainmast, when becoming a flagship the pennant is replaced by a Flag Offices flag which is flown at the foremast masthead whilst a Commander-in-Chiefs flag would be flown at the mainmast masthead irrespective of rank. With no gaff then the sea ensign would fly from the stbd outer halyard on the foremast.
 

Looking at the picture of BERWICK above, she clearly has a gaff on the main mast so I would fly the Ensign from there.  If you want to be completely accurate then fly a commissioning pennant from the mainmast masthead.

 

As to signal flags, it is difficult to advise as although I have a modicum of knowledge of modern (1980s onwards) signals, the signal flags and messages were a fair bit different in WW2

 

By way of explanation, the 1943 copy of BR 867, "A seaman's pocket book" shows these:

 

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/br827082.jpg

 

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/br827083.jpg

 

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/br827084.jpg

 

This page has some useful background notes though most of it pertains to WW1: http://www.gwpda.org/naval/s0100000.htm

 

Nowadays, the RN signals are based on the NATO publication ATP-1D which is classified but there is an unclass version called MTP-1 - do a Google search for NATO MTP-1D and you should find it but I must stress that the signals in there were not in use in WW2.

 

The one thing I would say is that the only time in  over 30 years in the RN that I ever remember us flying our pennant number in signal flags from the stbd outer yardarm was when entering harbour.

 

Hope that helps

 

 

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/6/2021 at 6:29 PM, Chewbacca said:

…one thing I would say is that the only time in  over 30 years in the RN that I ever remember us flying our pennant number in signal flags from the stbd outer yardarm was when entering harbour.

Even then only when entering a Naval harbour; if entering a non-Naval port, didn’t we usually fly the international call sign? [e.g. Golf Uniform Uniform Sierra for Broadsword]

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Hi, guys,

One more question about flags.
On several photos of HMS Berwick on the foremast over the admiral's flag (if I understand correctly) a flag similar to the Scottish one is raised.
Does anyone know what this means?

 

11-3614542-hms-berwick-1938.jpg

 

 

Berwick-My-First-Ship-psp.jpg

 

 

11-3614544-hms-berwick2.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 08/06/2021 at 16:42, Ex-FAAWAFU said:

Even then only when entering a Naval harbour; if entering a non-Naval port, didn’t we usually fly the international call sign? [e.g. Golf Uniform Uniform Sierra for Broadsword]

Very good point Crisp.  I'd forgotten that.

 

17 hours ago, thekz said:

Hi, guys,

One more question about flags.
On several photos of HMS Berwick on the foremast over the admiral's flag (if I understand correctly) a flag similar to the Scottish one is raised.
Does anyone know what this means?

 

Noting the point I made earlier that the Admiral's flag will always be flown superior to all other flags, I'd be pretty certain that's not an Admiral's flag.  Plus it would be rare, though not impossible, for a full Admiral to fly his flag in a cruiser; much more likely to be a Vice or Rear.

 

It could be, if you look at the second of the links I posted earlier, that the upper flag is the "Ahead" flag and the lower is the numerical flag 2 indicating that she's moving ahead at 2 kts.  She's certainly underway and making way at very slow speed in all of those images but I'd think that it was a very strange co-incidence that she's always doing 2 kts.  It's remarkably slow for a ship that size and it would barely be enough for her to maintain steerage way.  

 

Here's another thought though, and I have no idea if this was ever practiced during the second world war, but it might explain why she's often seen flying those two flags together

 

Nowadays, a lot of ships fly unofficial "house flags" when, for example, replenishing at sea.  In GLASGOW, for example, we used to fly either Mr Happy with the caption "Glasgow's miles better" which was the  advertising slogan and logo of the city of Glasgow in the 1980s and 90s (http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44770000/jpg/_44770686_44770330.jpg), or occasionally the flag of Scottish Power who supported us with sponsorship of the ship's sports teams.  I wonder, and this really is a long shot, if it actually is the Saltire (of Scotland) and the cross of St George (of England) representing the fact that Berwick is the most northerly town in England, at several points in its history used to be part of Scotland and many of its inhabitants associate more with being Scottish than English?

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

11 minutes ago, Chewbacca said:

I wonder, and this really is a long shot, if it actually is the Saltire (of Scotland) and the cross of St George (of England) representing the fact that Berwick is the most northerly town in England, at several points in its history used to be part of Scotland and many of its inhabitants associate more with being Scottish than English?

I also had a similar idea.😊

But can the Scottish flag be hoisted higher than the English one?
Understand - I have lived all my life in Russia and I do not understand anything about your national mentality:giggle:

  • Haha 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

As a County class cruiser. she would not be representing the town of Berwick, which is English, but the county of Berwick(shire) which is in Scotland.

 

Note that the "Union Jack" is not the flag of England but of the United Kingdom, and similarly the White Ensign is not specifically English.  As for national pride, a Scot is proud of not being English and would take every opportunity to make the point.  It might be interesting to know the nationality of Berwick's captain at this time.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a good point about the county of Berwickshire being in Scotland which might explain why the Saltire, if that is what it is, is flown superior.  But all ship's have affiliated towns and I'd bet good money that she was affiliated to the town of Berwick and I suspect those links were stronger than with the county.  I've never served in a county class ship so don't know much about the affiliations they might have but generally speaking the "home town" affiliations are very strong.  Bear in mind as I noted in my post that these flags are flown unofficially, she would not be "representing" either.  

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

It might be interesting to know the nationality of Berwick's captain at this time.

the first 2 photos refer to 1939
according to the site https://uboat.net/allies/warships/ship/1174.html

Capt. I.M. Palmer, DSC, RN, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral S.J. Meyrick, KCB, RN

 

the last photo - 1944 or 1945. Capt. N.V. Grace, RN on 5.04.44

by these names you can find out the nationality?

Link to post
Share on other sites

No hint in the names, I'm afraid.  I feel that the flag is being flown instead of a pennant number, as only County class cruiser named after a Scottish county, and hence instantly identifiable.

 

I take the point about the link to the town, but suspect that the link to Scotland would over-ride this when it came to identity.  To be fair, I also suspect a lot of English sailors (or even citizens) wouldn't be aware that the town of Berwick was in England.

Link to post
Share on other sites
28 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

No hint in the names, I'm afraid.  I feel that the flag is being flown instead of a pennant number, as only County class cruiser named after a Scottish county, and hence instantly identifiable

then the flag under the Scottish is the vice admiral's flag?

Link to post
Share on other sites

A Vice Admiral's flag is the cross of St George with a red ball (I recall it does have a very specific name but I can't remember what it is is) in the upper quadrant nearest to the halyard.  Having blown those photos up to 500%, I don't think there is anything there so I would say no.  Furthermore, if it were a Vice Admiral's flag, it would be flown above all other flags.

  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I am confident that this flag hoist on Berwick has nothing to do with county affiliation or any (unlikely at that time) nationalist inclinations of her captain. This flag combination was commonly seen on RN ships entering and leaving ports:

Ahead and pilot flag

The lower flag of the two flags has a white border and is not the Union Flag. The name of each flag was as captioned below:

Ahead flag

But RN flags had multiple meanings depending on the context and/or combinations they were flown in. The screen flag was also the Pilot Jack. Without the contemporary Fleet Signal Book/Manual of Signalling Instructions I can only guess that the hoist indicates the ship is going ahead under the guidance of a pilot.  

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Would certainly agree with your assessment Dick for the photos that you have uploaded which clearly show the lower flag to be the screen flag and although the 3 original photos do not show that flag hoist clearly enough when blown up (to my eyes at least) to show any colour in the 4 quadrants, it's a much more plausible explanation than mine.

 

@thekz - the photos of EFFINGHAM and HOOD above clearly show what I was trying to explain about the Vice (and Rear) Admiral's flags being flown superior to all other flag hoists.  You can also clearly see the red balls in the quadrants nearest the halyards.  

 

2 balls indicates a Rear Admiral

1 ball indicates a Vice Admiral

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...