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Dictionary of Vexillology: B (Banner Roll - Billet)

Last modified: 2010-01-02 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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An 18th Century corruption, now obsolete, of the also obsolete term bannerole (see 'bannerole').

Please note, it is suggested that this term could also apply to a roll or scroll depicting banners.

1) A term sometimes used to describe a miniature banner; this is often (but not invariably) straight-sided and swallow-tailed, is designed to be displayed vertically and usually shows emblems of both national and local significance (see also ‘bannerette’, ‘emblem, general’ and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).
2) A medieval term, now obsolete, for a knight entitled to lead men into battle – a knight banneret – whose armigerous and whose lance pennon was square-ended, or for the group of knights so lead – a banneretus (see also ‘armigerous’, ‘banderium’, ‘lance pennon 1)’ and ‘pennoncier’).

1) A small ceremonial banner decorating a set of bagpipes, a drum or a trumpet – a drum banner, pipe banner or a trumpet banner or tabard (see also ‘war banner’).
2) See ‘banner 3’.

A medieval term, now obsolete, for a banneret (see ‘banneret 2)’).

See ‘bannerhead’.
The term - and a direct translation of the German term "bannerhaupt" used in German language vexillology - to describe the usually (but not invariably) white area of field that may appear at the head of a hanging flag or a banner and usually bearing a civic or regional coat of arms (see also ‘banner 2)’, ‘hanging flag’ and ‘hoisted flag’).

Bad Westernkotten, Germany Main, Germany
Banner of Bad Westernkotten, Germany (Klaus-Michael Schneider); Hanging Flag of Frankfurt am Main, Germany (fotw)

1) In largely Scottish usage a term, now obsolete, for one who bears a standard.
2) An originally 17th century term, now obsolete, for a Chinese soldier belonging to one of the eight “banners” (or divisions) of the Manchu army (see also ‘banner 7)’).

The term, now obsolete, for a small flag (usually three feet - 91 cm - square) that displayed a single quartering from a deceased person’s coat of arms for use at that person’s funeral – a banner roll (see also ‘achievement of arms 2)‘, ‘badge banner’, ‘canton 3)’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘great banner’, ‘grumphion’ and ‘quartering’).

Please note - not be confused with banderole (see ‘banderole’).

See ‘Appendix VI’.

A heraldic term used when describing the leaves of a rose or the metal point of an arrow or of a spear, particularly when these are of a different tincture - but see note below and ‘shafted’ (also ‘garnished’, ‘hafted’, ‘hilted’, ‘rogacina’ and ‘tincture’).

Ceskύ Krumlov, Czech Republic Dalecarlia, Sweden Spytkowicem, Poland
Flag of Ceskύ Krumlov, Czech Republic (fotw); Flag of Dalecarlia, Sweden (fotw); Flag of Spytkowicem, Poland (Jarig Bakker

Please note that this term is sometimes also applied to the thorns found on the stem of a rose.

In UK usage, one of a number of varying flags (usually a banner of arms) which are flown from the ceremonial barges of London’s livery companies (see also ‘boat flag 3)’).

See ‘Appendix VI’.

See ‘Appendix VI’.

1) In heraldry a term for the lower section of a shield or banner of arms, which heraldic use frequently suggests should occupy roughly one-third of the total depth of that shield or flag - a Champagne (see also ‘banner 1)’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘field’, ‘pointed’ and ‘shield’).
2) In vexillology an alternative name for the bottom edge of a flag.

example of base

In US Air Force usage, a post flag (see also ‘post flag 1)’).

See ‘beach flag’

A term for a metal band sometimes placed on the staff of a military or national colour (usually below the lower edge of the flag), and showing the battalion and regiment to which it belonged – a ring (see also ‘battle honour’, ’colour 2)’ and ‘staff 2)’.

Please note that as far as can be determined, this was a custom formerly in the US Army (but still in use in the US Marine Corps) and also in some European forces. see supplemental note

A generic term for those flags having heraldic (or armorial) symbolism that were carried into battle during the medieval period (see ‘battle standard’, ‘livery colours’, ‘lance pennon 1)’, ‘pennoncelle’ and ‘standard 3)’).
In US usage, the organizational colour of a combatant Marine Corps unit or of the Corps as a whole when carried by dismounted troops (see also ‘branch of service flag’).

One or more large naval ensigns flown from the yardarms of a warship prior to commencing - and during - a surface engagement at sea (see also ‘naval ensign’ under ‘ensign’ and ‘yardarm’).

Please note that a warship raises additional large-sized ensigns prior to an engagement at sea for added identification and in case one or more are shot away.

1) A flag (either official or unofficial) that is specifically intended for use in battle – either to avoid confusion with the flag of an enemy or to convey a patriotic sentiment – and used in addition to or instead of military colours (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’, ‘Southern Cross 2)’) and ‘stainless banner’.
2) In US naval usage, an unofficial flag, sometimes marked with stars to recall the number of times a particular vessel has been in combat, and flown from the yardarm when entering or leaving port, completing underway refuelling, parting company with other ships, or similar occasions – a house flag or unrep flag (see also ‘yardarm’).
3) In some Central and East European usage (eg the Romanian Drapel de lupta literally meaning battle flag) - an alternative term for a military colour – but see ‘colour 2)’ (also ‘war flag 2)’)

Battle flag of CSA
Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, CSA 1861 – 1865 (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2), that these flags have no standard pattern, official existence or meaning, but are designed and used by individual ship’s companies to express pride in their vessels, that their use has become traditional in the US Navy, that US and that other naval forces have official naval code signals to order and conduct operations such as underway replenishment (with these unofficial flags being hoisted in addition).

A mark of distinction, usually including the name of a battle or campaign, added to a regimental or other unit colour to show unit’s military service. This may take the form of an inscription within a ribbon scroll applied to the field of the colour, or a metal band (or bands) around the staff, or a metal clip attached to a streamer, or to the streamer itself – a battle streamer (see also ‘battalion ring’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘ferrule’, ‘staff 2)’ ‘streamer 1)’ and ‘streamer retaining ring’, and compare with ‘augmentation of honour’).

Please note however, that in many navies ships show their battle honours on a carved board or similar on ceremonial occasions, or when the ship is open to visitors rather than on a unit flag.

A term, now obsolete, for the Scottish heraldic standard as carried in battle, and there are indications that it was the smallest of three sizes (see also ‘standard 5)’, ‘pageant standard’ and ‘great standard’).

See ‘embattled’.

See ‘battle honour’.

A 13th Century term, now obsolete, for the plain red streamer flown from a ship’s masthead (in northern European waters) to signify that ‘no quarter would be given’, and the size according to record was 30 yards (24.45m) long by 2 yards (1.82m) wide (see also ‘flag of defiance’ and ‘streamer 2)’).


Please note that this flag first appears in records of the 1290’s, and is considered to have been a direct ancestor of the later flag of defiance. Note also “no quarter would be given” indicates that surrender would not be accepted and all prisoners killed.

A medieval term for the black and white banner of the Knights Templar – the balzaus (see also balcanifer’).

One interpretation of the Bauceant (CS)

A flag or pennant from one of several different systems for signalling the condition of a beach, the state of the ocean or weather at that particular point, and/or to what degree bathing safety precautions are in place – a bathing or surfing flag, a shark alert or alarm flag, a wind, windsurf or windsurfing danger flag or similar (see also ‘red flag 1)’ and ‘storm warning flag’).

beach flags
Some Beach Flags and Pennants, UK, The Netherlands, Portugal and France (fotw)

The heraldic term which may be used when the beak of a bird or a bird-like creature is of a different tincture than the body (see also ‘appendix V’, ‘armed 2)’, ‘attired’, ‘gorged’, ‘jelloped’, ‘langued’, ‘membered’ and ‘tincture’).

See ‘charge’ and ‘charged’.

An early 18th Century alternative term, now obsolete, for bunting – see ‘bunting 1)’ (also ‘bewper’ and ‘breadth 2)’).
A loop at the end of the hoist line of a flag that fastens to a toggle at the end of the halyard when hoisting a flag – a running eye or eyesplice (see also ‘halyard’, ‘hoistline’, ‘running eye and toggle’).

Becket and toggle (AB)

See ‘logo on a bed sheet’.

See ‘bullock pennant’.

Please note, information suggests that this term - a direct translation of the French "flamme de boeuf" - may have ceased after 1792, however, this is not certain and no equivalent signal can be found in contemporary British naval sources. Nonetheless supply vessels of the late 19th and early 20th Century which were carrying foodstuffs to the Royal Navy are known to have flown a ’beef flag’.

An increasingly obsolete method of securing the halyard by means of movable vertical pins (fitted into a frame or rack at the foot of the mast) and now largely replaced by the cleat - a tack pin or jack pin (see also ‘cleat’ and ‘halyard’).

Belaying pin example

See ‘Appendix VI’ (also ‘abased’, ‘ascending diagonal’ and ‘descending diagonal’).

(v) A nautical term for securing two pieces of rope together as in attaching the hoistline of a flag to the halyard of a flag pole or mast (see ‘halyard’ and ‘hoistline’).

See ‘Appendix VI’.

See ‘in bend’ and ‘in bend sinister’.

See ‘Appendix VI’.

The flag of the Bethel Union, a seaman’s missionary organization, and occasionally flown in the 19th Century by some British and US merchant vessels to indicate that a church service was taking place (see also ‘church pennant’ and ‘flying angel flag’).

[Bethel flag] [Bethel flag]

A pattern of the starns and stripes whose canton carried thirteen five-pointed stars arranged in a circle, which according to legend was ordered by George Washington in 1776 and sewn by Betsy Ross of Philadelphia (see also ‘continental colours’, ‘Franklin flag’, ‘old glory’, ‘quincunx’, ‘stars and stripes’ and ‘star-spangled banner’).

[Betsy Ross flag]
The Betsy Ross Pattern US National Flag (fotw)

Please note that the US flag had no official star pattern until 1818, at which time the 20-star flag (and all subsequent flags) had official patterns for military purposes. Since 1918 (the 48-star version), the flag has had an official pattern for all purposes, therefore, the type above is likely one of many patterns used during the period 1777-1795.

A 17th Century term, now obsolete, for bunting (see also ‘bunting 1)’).

The heraldic term for a particularly (but not exclusively) gold or yellow disc – see ‘disc’ (also ‘roundel 2)’ and ‘plates’).

example Duke of Cornwall Harelbeke, Belgium Geuensee, Switzerland
From left: example; Standard of the Duke of Cornwall, UK (fotw); Flag of Harelbeke, Belgium (fotw); Flag of Geuensee, Switzerland (fotw)

Please note that in strict English heraldic usage this term should only be employed when the charge described is gold/yellow (“or”) - see ‘tinctures’ in ‘appendix III’.

1) A flag of two even or uneven stripes or bands of colour (whether divided vertically, horizontally or diagonally) and whether defaced or plainbut see note below (also ‘ascending diagonal 2)’, ‘descending diagonal 2)’, ‘per fess’, ‘per bend’, ‘per bend sinister’, ‘per pale’, ‘deface’, ‘plain 2)’ and ‘stripe’).
2) An undefaced flag with two equal (vertical or horizontal) stripes or bands of colour – a simple bicolour (see also ‘undefaced’).

Bicolour [Poland]
National Flag of Poland (fotw)

[bicolor flags]
From left: National flag of Haiti (fotw); National Flag of Portugal (fotw); National Flag of Bhutan (fotw)

Please note that the division line on a bicolour may be described by using the vexillogical terms: horizontal or vertical, by 'descending diagonal' and 'ascending diagonal'; or by the corresponding heraldic terms (party/divided): 'per fess', 'per pale', 'per bend' and 'per bend sinister'.

The heraldic term for a small rectangular charge usually (but not invariably) shown upright.

example Chastre, Belgium Kampenhout, Belgium
From left: example; Flag of Chastre, Belgium (fotw); Flag of Kampenhout, Belgium (fotw)

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