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Dictionary of Vexillology: P (Pierced - POW-MIA Flag)

Last modified: 2010-01-02 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) In vexillology, a heraldically derived term sometimes used to describe a flag with a plain border around a plain centre panel – for example a white flag pierced red as shown below (see also ‘border’, ‘panel’ and ‘plain 2)’).
2) In heraldry the term used when a charge (such as a quatrefoil or mullet) has a hole in its centre (see also ‘quatrefoil 2’, ‘star 2)’ and ‘voided’).
3) See ‘transfixed’.

pierced example pierced example
From left: example; Flag of Ra's al-Khaymah, UAE (fotw)

See ‘truck 2)’.

In British and some other military usage the staff upon which an infantry colour is carried (see also 'colour 2)', ‘colours 2)’ and ‘staff 2)’).

Please note that the term is derived from the long-shafted spear with which a proportion of infantry were formerly armed, and whilst the term is still applied, the staff may often no longer have a spear point, but may carry a finial of some other design.

1) On flags, a triangular charge whose base generally occupies the full length or width of a flag, and whose apex touches the centre of its opposite edge - a triangle throughout. When the apex is on the fly it may be called a simple pile, with the apex on the hoist a reversed pile, with the apex on the top edge an upright pile and with the apex on the bottom edge of the flag an inverted pile (see also ‘reversed’, ‘triangle’) and ‘upright’).
2) In heraldry, an elongated triangular charge which is less than the full width of a shield or banner of arms (although it is sometimes stipulated that the pile should be one-third the width of that shield or banner of arms) and is generally (although not invariably) placed with the point downwards – but see ‘per chevron’ (also ‘reversed 2)’).

Eritrea Houvet, Belgium Antigua-Barbuda Stockholm County, Sweden [pile]
National Flag of Eritrea (fotw); Flag of Houvet, Belgium (fotw); National Flag of Antigua-Barbuda (CS); Flag of Stockholm County, Sweden (fotw); Example

Please note with regard to 1), however, that on flags a triangular charge whose apex and/or base do not touch opposite edges of the flag should be considered a triangle - see ‘triangle’.

A small triangular pennant, or occasionally a handwaver size flag, purchased as the souvenir of a spiritual (usually Roman Catholic) pilgrimage, religious festival or special place of worship, and often made from paper (see also ‘handwaver’).

That flag which is flown by a vessel requiring or carrying a pilot, now either G for Golf (if requiring a pilot) or H for Hotel (if under pilotage) from the International Code of Signal Flags  (see also ‘International Code of Signal Flags’ and ‘signal flag’).

Signal flags Gold and Hotel
From left: Signal Flag Golf (CS); Signal Flag Hotel (CS)

Please note however, that many countries originally had their own designs for pilot flags, of which the UK version - that is the national flag with a white border - is typical of the type and a rare survival (see ‘civil jack’ under ‘jack’ and ‘pilot jack’). See supplemental note:

Belgium former pilot flag Netherlands former pilot flag
From left: Former Pilot Flag of Belgium (CS); Former Pilot Flag of The Netherlands (fotw)

In UK usage, originally a name for the national pilot flag, now an alternative name for the civil jack (see ‘civil jack’ under ‘jack’, ‘pilot flag’ and ‘union jack’).

[a pilot jack]
UK Pilot Jack (fotw)

A triangular pennant used by the authorized representative of a Scottish clan chief in that person’s absence. It has a solid field and is 0.60 x 1.35m long, it is generally charged with the grantee’s crest within an annulet or ring (ensigned with a coronet or bonnet dependent upon rank), and the grantee’s motto (see also ‘annulet’, ‘ensigned’, ‘guidon 3)’,  'pennon 3)’ and ‘ring’).

See ‘bannerette’.

See 'jolly roger'.
1) On a flag see ‘honour point 1)’.
2) Of a flag or coat of arms see ‘position of honour’.
1) See ‘undefaced’.
2) On flags, the term that is applied to a flag which has monochrome field, or to a bicolour, tricolour, triband or multi-stripe which carries no charges other than its stripes, or to an undecorated border or panel consisting of a single colour (see also ‘bicolour 1) & 2)’, ‘border’, ‘charge 1) & 2)’, ‘multi-stripe 1) - 4)’, ‘panel’, ‘pierced 1)’, ‘triband 1) & 2)’ and ‘tricolour 1) & 2)’).
3) In heraldry the term is sometimes used to describe a simple charge when it is displayed in the same quarter of a coat of arms with another which is decorated or in some way altered – for example a plain chevron may be surrounded by an engrailed border (see also ‘bordure’, ‘charge 1)’, ‘coat of arms 2)’, ‘chevron 1)’, ‘engrailed’ and ‘quarter 2)’).
See ‘antique crown 1)’.

A heraldic term for a number of particularly (but not exclusively) white or silver discs – but see ‘quinas’ (also ‘bezant’, ‘disc’ and ‘roundel 2)’).

example Ichtegem, Belgium Koelkelare, Belgium
From left: example; Flag of Ichtegem, Belgium (fotw); Flag of Koelkelare, Belgium (fotw)

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

See ‘honour point’.

A heraldic term for when the division of a shield forms a chevron – usually with curved sides - usually embowed - at its base - point in point or enty (see also ‘base’, ‘chevron 1)’, ‘embowed’ and ‘shield 1)’)

Pointed example
Flag and Arms of North Rhine – Westphalia, Germany (CS)

See ‘flag pole’.

A flagpole that is straight and clear of any projections such as cross bars, yards, or gaffs (see also ‘cross bar’, ‘flag pole’, ‘gaff’ and ‘yard’).

Please note that this term was originally introduced to describe a mast or masts on those steam vessels not equipped with an auxiliary sailing rig.

1) The flag, either official (formally adopted) or unofficial (spontaneously displayed by supporters), of a political party or movement (see also ‘"tribal flag’).
2) A flag, as opposed to a banner as defined herein, that is specifically designed to express a political or popular sentiment - a protest flag (see also ‘banner 3)’ and note below).

[political flags] [political flags]
From left: African National Congress, RSA; American Indian Movement, USA; Communist Party, UK; Polish Independence Movement Solidarity 1980’s (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2) that, in both historical and/or contemporary terms, a political flag and a trade union flag can often be very closely linked– see ‘trade union flag’.

A term sometimes used to indicate the pommel of a sword or dagger – but see ‘hilted’ and following note (also ‘hafted’ and ‘shafted’).
See ‘dress knot’.

The term for a navigational chart of the 14th to the 16th Centuries, particularly showing coastlines and ports and usually bearing illustrations of their arms and flags.

The position in which the most senior flag, emblem or coat of arms – usually a national flag, emblem or coat of arms - is to be placed - sometimes called the place of honour. The particulars vary slightly in detail, legal status and extent from country to country; however, the general principles remain the same and are listed in Appendix II (see also ‘rules of etiquette’ and ‘precedence’).

Please note – not to be confused with the honour point – see ‘honour point’.

1) In US army usage, that flag which corresponds to a particular position held, rather than to the rank of the officer who currently holds it – but see ‘appointment flag’ (also ‘rank flag 1)’).
2) See ‘distinguishing flag 1)’.

[positional flag example]
Army Surgeon General, US (fotw)

See ‘postal flag’.

The distinguishing flag, ensign or pennant of a country’s postal services – a mail flag/pennant or post flag/pennant (see also ‘air mail flag).

postal flag of France [postal flag - Denmark] postal pennant - Poland royal mail pennant - UK
From left: Postal Flag, France (fotw); Postal Flag and Ensign of Denmark (fotw); Postal Pennant, Poland (fotw); Royal Mail Pennant, UK (fotw)

A 16th/17th Century term for the formal flag waving expected of a colour bearer for reasons of either bravado or dignity (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colour bearer’, ‘company colours’, ‘ensign 4)’, ‘flag tossing’ and ‘stand 1)’).

See ‘memorial flag 2)’.

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