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Civilian Manned Defence Ships Ensign (Australia)

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by
Keywords: civilian manned defence ships | blue ensign | anchor: yellow |
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Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries Ensign
[Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries Ensign] by Željko Heimer, 19 June 2004

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Description and History of the Australian Fleet Auxiliaries flags

According to a letter sent to the Admiralty in 1920, Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries flew the Blue Ensign with the Admiralty Badge and the Mercantile Fleet Auxiliaries flew the Red Ensign. However in September 1928 the Commonwealth of Australia Naval Board wrote that the Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries were flying the Australian Blue Ensign, and a Blue Jack with the Admiralty Anchor, as flown by Royal Fleet Auxiliaries. The Board suggested that, on the principle that flags of the Royal Navy and Dominion Navies should all be the same, the flags should be a Blue Ensign (not Australian Blue Ensign) and Jack defaced with a badge to be decided. A proper yellow anchor was chosen, with a circle added to distinguish it from the Admiralty Badge.
[National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/8732/214 and ADM 1/8940.]

The badge appeared in the 1930 edition of the Admiralty Flag Book [hms30] plate 16 with the note "On Blue Ensign or Jack."
David Prothero, 17 June 2004

Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries Jack
[Royal Australian Fleet Auxiliaries Jack] by Željko Heimer and Miles Li, 23 June 2004

Today I went to the State Library of NSW almost by accident, and found that David was indeed quite right about the 1928 flag arrangement. In John Bastock's book 'Australia's Ships of War' (Angus & Robertson Publishers, Sydney 1975). There was a photo in page 76 of the water tender 'Ripple'. It flew the Australian (National) Flag as jack, and a British Blue Ensign (its fly was obscured by sunlight, but it probably had the Admiralty anchor of the old British RFA Ensign) at its stern.
Miles Li, 21 June 2004

Album 2000 features a civilian-manned defence ships ensign - a blue ensign with yellow anchor.
Ratio 1:2
Željko Heimer, 5 February 2001

I don't know what ensign is now flown by Australian Fleet Auxiliaries but the ensign illustrated went out of use sometime in the 1970s, or possibly at the same time that the Australian White Ensign replaced the British White Ensign.
David Prothero, 7 February 2001

It has indeed been customary for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to put most of her auxiliary vessels 'on commission', i.e. manned by naval crews and flew the White Ensign. However, before WWII there were nevertheless a few civilian-manned auxiliary vessels which would have flown the old British Royal Fleet Auxiliaries (RFA) or the (Australian) RAFA Ensign. During both World Wars requisitioned merchant vessels often had similar arrangements. Civilian naval auxiliaries were 'demobilized' after WWII.

During the Vietnam War the RAN requisitioned two freighters, and the original intention was to make them civilian-manned auxiliary vessels. The maritime Trade Union, which opposed Australia's involvement in that war, refused to allow its members to man the ships. So the RAN had no choice but to commission the ships, thereby putting willy-nilly teenage conscripts on board. And the RAN didn't try to bring back the RAFA Ensign ever again.
Miles Li, 21 June 2004

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