Tuesday 16 February 2010

ABC Wednesday Round 6 E is for Ensign

(Ensign from the Old French 'enseigne', Latin insignia)
When we go sailing I am always interested in the flags and pennants flown by different vessels. Sometimes ships in port are dressed overall for special occasions and they always look very colourful and inviting.
'Ensign' has more than one meaning. It can be a national flag flown on ships and aircraft and often has a special insignia denoting a branch or unit of the armed forces. Sometimes it is a standard or banner representing, for example, a military unit. In times gone by it was used to describe the person carrying a standard.
Ensign is a commissioned rank in the US Navy or Coast Guard below that of lieutenant junior grade. Ensign is also a badge of office or power.
As in all things, there is a great deal of data about ensigns and the correct wearing thereof and the following is just a short overview. I am grateful to Wikipedia for much of the information and the depictions of the various ensigns.
In Great Britain the ensigns with which we are most familiar are the Blue Ensign, Red Ensign and White Ensign. They are worn plain or defaced – that is, with an emblem or badge depicting their business, interest or allegiance.
The Blue Ensign is flown by ships in public service, like Her Majesty's Coastguard, Port of London Authority, the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, the Northern Lighthouse Board and by some long-established British yacht clubs as well as by some ships not in the RN but commanded by an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve.
The Red Ensign, also known as the 'Red Duster' identifies ships of the United Kingdom's Merchant Navy and civilian merchantmen. It is the courtesy flag that should be worn by foreign private vessels in UK waters.
The White Ensign or St George's Ensign is used by the Royal Navy, British Antarctic Territory and the Royal Yacht Squadron.
There is also a Royal Air Force ensign and a civil air ensign, both of which have a sky blue (air force blue) background. The RAF ensign is defaced with the RAF roundel.
There was also, from the 17th century to the early 20th century a Green Ensign which was flown by some Irish merchant vessels.
All ensigns shown here are the most modern versions.
Thank you to the ABC team for hosting this meme. To see more Es please click here.


  1. What an interesting post! I love it! Didn't realize there were so many "versions" of your flag! Great information and what did we ever do without Wikipedia???? Hope you have a great week!


  2. Very interesting. I didn't know there were so many emblems.

  3. It's good to see you flying the flag. I didn't know about the blue ensign. Informative post.

  4. Thanks for sharing this information - I did not much of it. I didn't realize there was so much variety in the flags.
    Geat E post!

  5. How interesting. I had no idea about these. Excellent post!

  6. What a lot of very interesting information. I knew about Ensigns as banners and Ensign as being a position in the Navy, but didn't know about the meaning of all the different and colourful ensigns. Great Post.

  7. Most interesting - I've learned something new from your post today! Although it seems obvious now, I hadn't made the connection between 'ensign' and 'insignia'! And though I knew that there were red, white and blue ensigns, I wasn't clear on which was which. :)

    On behalf of the team, thank you for taking part in ABC Wednesday this week! :)

  8. Thank you folks:-)
    Sylvia - I know people knock Wikipedia for its inaccuracies but I find it useful sometimes just to confirm what I think I know ;-)
    photwannabe - as in all things there's an interesting sub-culture in flags, pennants, ensigns et cetera
    anthony - thank you! I shall look more closely at ensigns now
    Beverley, Tumblewords Hildred and Charles - I think the history and development of flags is really interesting
    jay - thank you for your part in making ABC work :-)

  9. I was unaware of all those flags. Off topic, but New Zealand is considering changing its flag so that it wouldn't have the Union Jack on it.

    Interesting that in the US English, "defacing" would be pejorative term, meaning to mar or ruin.

  10. Roger - so many countries of 'our' Commonwealth and former Empire have changed or are considering changing their flags to reflect modern times. Soon the Union flag will only be seen in UK! It used to be seen in USA after all!
    'Defacing' is also a pejorative term here but has a specific meaning for flags - confusing, eh?

  11. A fascinating post. I'll have to show hubby this one. He was in the navy for many years and spent two of those on an exchange with the RN.

  12. A very good 'E' word and I've learned something new today. :)

  13. This is most interesting. I 've learned something knew right now! The ensigns are great! I wonder how our navy uses their ensigns.
    Thanks for visiting.

  14. Great post since I love maps, stamps, and flags. I have a book of flags that I share with my grandkids because the flags are such important symbols, i.e. the Olympics. They're such a huge share in the victory of each of those wonderful athletes.

  15. Denise - I'd like to bet that Gregg knows a great deal more about ensigns than I do :-)
    Thank you angelcel, Reader Wil,Kate and Spiderdama. I agree that flags are very important symbols and I'm sure they're getting a very good airing at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver right now.

  16. I've never seen a white ensign, how interesting. I rather like the green ensign, it does look the sort of thing the 17th century would come up with.
    I too like flag spotting on sea vessels, always nice to spot an unusual one.

  17. A fascinating and informative post. Flags are one of those subjects that, when you start to delve, you find there is so much information it can be almost overwhelming.

  18. lovely to know new things all the time.
    Wonderful choice for E!
    Mine is

  19. Joy - I liked the green ensign too!
    Sheila - how right you are. I find with so many things that once I start investigating, researching I'm soon lost in another world.
    Shakira - I have a granddaughter called Shakira :-)

  20. Dearest J,
    Just to let you know,
    I took my name after Michael Cain's wife,
    and of course, the singer,
    Shakira took hers from me!
    and I adore my name.

    It means THE GRATEFUL ONE in Arabic.
    I am chinese but you know chinese loves
    everything not chinese. lol



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