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Flags on the Bounty

Last modified: 2010-04-16 by rob raeside
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Flags on the Bounty

How many flags were worn by the ship Bounty? And what kind of flags?

Being under Admiralty orders she flew a Red Ensign (with the 1606 Pattern Union in the canton) almost certainly from an ensign staff at the stern (by this date in proportions of 1:2), and a red commissioning pendant from the main masthead. Other than signal flags, and unless in action, she would wear no other flags except for a Union Jack from the bow, whilst at anchor. HMS Bounty was flush-decked and 'unrated', and it is unlikely that the 18th Century practice of sometimes flying a Union for the fore masthead would have been applied to so small a ship.
Christopher Southworth, 22 January 2004

HMAV Bounty was not built as a vessel of war, but was purchased for a particular botanical expedition. None the less, she carried a naval officer in command, she was (as far as I am aware) commissioned into the Royal Navy and would therefore fly the flags normally flown my an unrated vessel of the that Navy? Assuming that I am right these would be (whilst underway and under Admiralty orders) a Red Ensign carrying the 1606 Pattern of Union in the Canton and a commissioning pennant at the main masthead - either with a plain red or tricolour fly. The Bounty had a loose-footed fore and aft sail on the mizzen so the chances are that she flew the ensign from a staff at the stern whilst at both anchor and underway, however, it is possible that she followed later practice and flew it from the peak of the gaff at sea? Whilst at anchor the 1606 Pattern Union Flag would be flown from a jack staff mounted on the bowsprit.
     As far as the proportions of the ensign are concerned, I would suggest that either 10:18 or 1:2 would be acceptable (although from surviving evidence my own feeling is that 1:2 is the more likely for so late in the 18th Century), and (whilst I have no evidence to support this) proportions of something like 1:30 seem about right for the commissioning pennant?"

Christopher Southworth, 9 February 2010

The British flags, taken in the war of 1812, that are in the Annapolis trophy collection give an indication of proportions twenty odd years later:

Ensigns. Two are 1 : 2 and eleven average 14 : 25. The cantons of five occupy one quarter of the ensign and the cantons of the others less than a quarter.
Union Jacks. One is 1 : 2 and three are 13 : 24
   Frigate 2 feet 2 inches x 46 feet 9 inches
Lake ships.
   Corvette 6 inches x 16 feet 6 inches
   Ship 6 inches x 16 feet 6 inches
   Schooner 6 inches x 26 feet
   Brig 3 inches x 13 feet

David Prothero, 9 February 2010

This confirms that the "breadth" (of fabric from which colours were made for the RN) still hadn't fully changed from 10" to 9" wide by the early 19th Century (depending, I suppose, upon which manufacturer supplied the various flag-lofts with their material)?
    We know as a matter of fact that 1:2 Ensigns were in use as early as the 1790's, however, it would appear that 10:18 (or thereabouts) is the safer bet for the date in question. I didn't mention it in my post to the list, but I had already suggested that the canton could actually be "rather less than a quarter of the flag", but that "in the scale being used this was probably not noticeable".

As far as the commissioning pendant is concerned, since the Bounty had three masts but was a very small vessel (having a lieutenant in command and a crew of less than 50) I will suggest that she be classed as a brig for that purpose.
Christopher Southworth, 10 February 2010

Snider gives the number of strips and dimensions of one ensign, but it is not much help in working out the width of a breadth. "Macedonian's Red ensign ... is a quadrilateral of bunting 16 feet 4 inches long by 9 feet 6 inches wide. It is sewn together from thirteen unlucky strips."
9 feet 6 inches divided by 13 is eight and a quarter inches. How much bunting would be 'lost' in sewing one strip to another ?

The ensign has probably been made to the 'half a yard per breadth' formula, if you assume that the canton was originally less that a quarter, and that the fly end has been repaired and shortened in the process. The end of the fly is neat and tidy compared with some other parts of the flag.
David Prothero, 11 February 2010

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