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Dictionary of Vexillology: F (Flag of Ceremony - Flagship)

Last modified: 2010-01-02 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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See ‘indoor flag’.

Please note that this term is a direct translation of the Spanish "Bandera de Ceremonia" and should not be confused with a ceremonial ensign/or flag as listed separately herein.

1) In naval usage, the rank flag of an officer entitled to fly a flag or broad pennant when that officer is appointed to command naval forces (see also ‘broad pennant’, ‘command pennant’, ‘flag disc’, ‘flag officer’, ‘flagship’, ‘rank plate’ and ‘wear’).
2) An alternative term for a rank flag (see also ‘balls of difference’, ‘distinguishing flag 3)’, ‘individual flag’, ‘personal flag 4)’, and ‘rank flag)’.

[flags of command]
From left: Fleet Admiral, USN (fotw); Admiral. USN (fotw); Vice Admiral, USN (fotw); Rear Admiral, USN (fotw); Rear Admiral (lower half) USN (fotw)

Please note, that although these terms are sometimes considered interchangeable, the Editors have drawn a general distinction between the command flags used by senior naval officers, the rank flags employed by officers from the other armed services, the distinguishing flags of civilians and with personal flags. Please note also, that a further distinction has been drawn between the flag of command which replaces the masthead pennant, and command pennants which do not.

The flag flown by a vessel registered in one country, but whose owners are not nationals of that country, and usually for reasons of economy or the evasion of more stringent regulations elsewhere.

A plain red flag widely used in European waters prior to the invention of flag signal codes to signify an intention to give battle – colours of defiance or the bloody flag (see also ‘baucans’).

Please note that although in widespread use prior to this date, the flag of defiance did not appear in English naval Instructions until 1647 (and was dropped in 1799).

1) Flag V (Victor) in the International Code of Signal Flags flown at sea as a request for assistance.
2) Flags N (November) and C (Charlie) hoisted as a group at sea to indicate that a vessel is in distress.
3) In US usage, an orange flag bearing a black square and disk in the centre prescribed by the US Coast Guard for use by small boats and pleasure craft in the territorial and inland waters of the USA.

[flags of distress]
From left: 1) Signal Flag Victor; 2) - 3) November–Charlie; 4) US Signal

Please note that, whilst some may still acknowledge an upside-down ensign as a signal of distress, it is no longer recognized under international rules; and that the waft, also previously used, is now entirely obsolete (see also ‘International Code of Signal Flags’, ‘signal flag’ and ‘waft’).

Also please note that according to the US Coast Guard regulations the orange flag should be either square with vertically arranged symbols as illustrated above, or rectangular with the square and disc horizontal, and that a very similar signal is recommended in the ICS for identification from the air (see also ‘International Code of Signals’).

In now obsolete Austro-Hungarian maritime usage, one of two flags presented to merchant captains for meritorious service in peace (white field) or war (red field), and flown from the mainmast between 1850 and 1918 – an honour flag but see note below (also ‘main’).

[Austro-Hungary flag of honor]
Austro-Hungary 1850 – 1918 (Željko Heimer)

Please note that the term honour flag has been used for two other designs issued by different authorities under differing circumstances, and it is therefore suggested that this form of the term should be applied only to those flags – see ‘honour flag 1)’ and ‘honour flag 2)’.

1) See 'safe conduct flag 1)'.
2) In largely (but not exclusively) UK usage now obsolete, a term sometimes employed to describe the flag of a powerful state that has extended its military and/or naval protection over another.

See ‘St George’s Cross 2)’.

See ‘branch of service flag’ (also ‘armed services flag’ and ‘battle colour’).

See ‘state flag 2)’.
One of six different flags introduced by UNESCO in 1995 and designed to be symbolic of the spirit of tolerance.

A plain white flag displayed as a sign of surrender, or as a wish for the temporary cessation of hostilities – a parley flag (see also ‘cartel flag’).

1) Generally a naval officer entitled to fly a flag of command, which replaces the masthead pennant when that officer is aboard ship (see also ‘command pennant’, ‘flag of command’, ‘flagship’ and ‘masthead pennant 1)’).
2) Specifically in the British Royal Navy and some others, as above but an officer over the rank of commodore who is entitled to fly a flag of command – see note below (also ‘balls of difference’, ‘broad pennant’ and ‘flag of command’).
3) In US usage as 1), but the term may also include general officers of the army, air force and marine corps (see also ‘rank flag 1)’).

Please note with regard to 2) that in Royal Navy usage all officers of flag rank were formerly considered to be flag officers, but that the term is now restricted to those of that rank who are entitled to fly a flag of command aboard ship.

In largely European usage, a term for that person who provided funding for the production of a ceremonial flag, or is otherwise being honoured by the organization whose flag it is – but see ‘consecration’ with its following note (also ‘ceremonial flag 1)’).
A small representation of a flag sewn or otherwise fixed onto an item of clothing, usually but not invariably on the upper sleeve, and often used by military personnel – a shoulder patch.

See ‘lapel flag 1)’.
1) A single illustration or series of illustrations (almost invariably coloured) on a single page (or pages) which is printed separately (for reasons of production cost) and inserted into an otherwise completed book of textual information (see also ‘flag book’ and ‘flag chart’).
2) A term that may be used to describe those rigid plates that may replace the equivalent signal flags in some European regulations for inland navigation (see also ‘signal flags’).
3) See ‘rank plate’.
4) A term sometimes incorrectly used to describe a piece of tableware, often (but not invariably) produced by shipping companies, that bears the illustration of a flag.

See ‘flag salute’.

The post of wood, metal or a synthetic material upon which a flag is hoisted by means of a halyard, - a flag mast or flag staff, but see ‘outrigger pole’ (also ‘cone tapered’, ‘finial’, ‘halyard’, ‘Venetian entasis taper’ and ‘truck’).

Please note however, that the terms flag staff, flag mast and flagpole may be considered as interchangeable, but that mast and staff when used alone have specific meanings (see also ‘mast’ and ‘staff 2)’).

The term which covers any flag suggested as an alternative to a design currently used, or one of those designs from which the choice of a new flag is to be made, or for a design that has been so proposed in the past but never accepted, (see also ‘ausflag’ and ‘flag design competition’).

flag proposal - Bahamas
Rejected Design for the National Flag of The Bahamas, 1973 (fotw)

See ‘flag etiquette’ (also ‘Appendix II’).

See ‘flag officer’ and its following note

A term for the occasional practice of creating (or illustrating) a sail in the form of an appropriate national (or possibly provincial) flag or ensign (see also ‘armorial sail’).

Flag sail example
The National Flag of Canada as a square sail (Željko Heimer)

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors as no established alternative could be found.

1) An oath of allegiance through a ceremony involving the national flag – flag pledge. Flag salutes are required of military personnel in most countries, but when done by civilians, it is usually (but not invariably) out of custom.
2) A term also sometimes used to indicate a salute made with a flag – as in for example - a merchant vessel dipping its flag to a warship (see also ‘dipping’).
3) See ‘salute to the flag’.

See 'flag belt'.
See ‘flagpole’ (also 'mast' and ‘staff’).

Please note that the terms flagstaff, flag mast and flagpole may be considered as interchangeable, but that mast and staff when used alone have specific meanings (see also 'mast' and ‘staff 2)’).

The country in which a vessel or aircraft is registered, documented or licensed, and whose flag it is entitled to display.

A term used when one or more of the main charges on a flag (usually but not invariably part of a coat of arms or emblem) include the depiction of another flag or flags forming an integral part of the design (see also ‘coat of arms 1)’ and ‘emblem’).

examples of flags on flags (with some arms represented)
From left: National Flag and Arms of Ecuador (fotw); National Flag and Arms of Haiti (fotw); National Flag of South Africa 1928 – 1994 (fotw)

Please note that this category does not include those flags or ensigns whose canton consists of another flag (such as the British or Indian red ensigns) and for which the term canton flags should be used (see ‘canton flag’).

A sport and folk custom, particularly of Italy and Switzerland, in which flags are twirled and tossed in the air – a survival and extension of the standard 17th Century military practice of postures (see also ‘palio’ and ‘postures’).

Please note that an unrelated local ceremony of flourishing flags, called casting the colours, occurs annually in Selkirk, Scotland.

Use of the national flag, literally or figuratively to justify actions or principles, or to excite patriotic fervour.

See ‘width’.

The term sometimes used to describe a miniature flag - but see ‘car flag’, ‘handwaver’ and ‘table flag’.

Please note that the Editors consider this term too generic to be useful, and that the more precise descriptions given above are to be preferred in description.

A recently coined, term which is used to describe the illustration of a flag, or of a flag-like object, which is not intended to represent any flag in actual use, but which has the backing of some credible source and/or which employs a widely recognized emblem as part of its design – but see ‘fictional flag’ and ‘fictitious flag’. For example the official coat of arms of the Mexican province of Hidalgo includes the national flag of Mexico and a flagoid (a non-existent blue rectangular version of the Guadeloupe processional banner known to have been in use c1810).

[flagoid example]
The Arms of Hidalgo (fotw)

1) In US naval usage, a traditional nickname for signalmen whose duties include the display and care of signal flags and ensigns – but see ‘bunting tosser’ (also ‘flag bag’, ‘yeoman of signals’).
2) In British Royal Navy and some other usage, a traditional nickname for the flag lieutenant – see ‘flag lieutenant’.

The phrase used to describe a (usually illustrated) list of distinguishing flags or pennants as detailed in ‘house flag 1)’, and the sometimes matching funnel liveries shown by ships of that company.

flag - Luigi Pittaluga 1940 funnel - Luigi Pittaluga 1940 flag - Giovanni Gavarone 1940 funnel - Giovanni Gavarone 1940 flag - Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line 1940 funnel - Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line 1940
House Flag and Funnels: Luigi Pittaluga 1940, Italy (CS); Giovanni Gavarone 1940, Italy (CS); Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line 1940, UK (fotw and CS)

A naval vessel flying the flag of a flag officer or the broad pennant of a commodore (see also ‘broad pennant’, ‘flag of command’ and ‘flag officer’).

Please note that in British RN and some other usage, a naval vessel in commission which does not carry an officer described above is a ‘private ship’ (see also ‘command pennant’, ‘masthead pennant 1)’ and ‘private ship’).

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