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Royal Navy Handbook of Signalling (1913): miscellaneous flags

Last modified: 2015-04-18 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: royal navy handbook of signalling (1913) | signal flags |
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See also:

Royal Navy Handbook of Signalling (1913)
numeric flags

Miscellaneous flags

Blue affirmative
[RHS blue affirmative]
Blue Burgee
[RHS blue burgee]
[RHS Negative signal]
Red Affirmative
[RHS red affirmative]
First substitute (flags)
[RHS preparative pendant]
Red Burgee
[RHS red burgee]

images by Phil Nelson


Answering pendant
[RHS answering pendant]
2nd substitute - pendants
Blue pendant
[RHS blue pendant]
Church Pendant
[RHS church pendant]
Compass or red pendant
[RHS compass/red pendant]
Equal speed
[RHS equal speed pendant]
See note on usage.
White pendant
[RHS white pendant]
Fishery duty
[RHS fishery duty pendant]
Interrogative pendant
[RHS interrogative pendant]
1st pennant substitute
Guard pendant
[RHS negative pendant]
[RHS numeral pendant]
Oblique pendant
[RHS oblique pendant]

images by Phil Nelson

Notes on the dimensions of pendants

In my handy little pocketbook sized Handbook of Signalling - 1918 (which I think was in force at least since 1912), the images of the pennants are a bit small and not well enough printed to be completely accurate. But measured with a school compass, I get the following approximations:

  • Normal signal pennant shape with, from the hoist, vertically striped white-blue-white-blue-white-blue-white.
  • Overall proportions of hoist to length: 1:3
  • Ratio of hoist width to fly width: 2:1
  • The width of the first three white and three blue vertical bars seems to be equal.
  • The last white bar tapering to the fly seems to be about 1.5 times the width of the other three white bars.

I think the apparent differences in widths observed, even on these very small images in front of me, are due to eye distortion resulting from the difference in the heights of the stripes as the they taper towards the fly. They also looked different to me at first glance, but measuring them with a compass proves them to be more or less the same. It is in my view also unlikely that the specifications would have called for different widths. Sailors, particularly signalers, are practical people and varying widths of the vertical stripes would have been just too complicated a design for a simple signal pennant. Signal departments were issued with sewing machines so that yeomen of signals could make their own repairs and even make up their own flags if needed when far from official replenishment.

A point about the actual sizes of the flags used in 1916 to keep in mind, is that HMS Iron Duke, Lord Jellicoe's flagship, was a very large battleship and that the signal had to be read by a very large number of other ships at varying distance away. They would therefore have been fairly large flags, but unfortunately I have no source to tell me what their actual sizes were.

Incidentally, Captain Barry Kent's book "Signal! A History of Signalling in the Royal Navy" has a dustcover painting of the fleet at Jutland showing a line of battle ships of which the foremost (Iron Duke I presume) is flying the clearly recognisable group: 'Equal Speed Charlie London' at the top starboard yardarm and it also shows the signal being repeated down the line.
Andries Burgers, 13 January 2008

The Admiralty Flag Book of 1889 gives the following dimensions:

  • Five bar pennant : 6'9" hoist, 2' fly edge, bars 4' - 4' - 4' - 4'8" - 5'4".
  • Six bar pennant : no vertical dimensions, bars 3'4" - 3'4" - 3'4" - 3'4" - 4' - 4'8".

David Prothero, 15 January 2008

Note on usage

Details about the use of the Equal speed pendant is available on the Battle of Jutland page.