A mystery about Titanic's mast flags

Thanks for joining in! I plan to go scour the sites you posted right after I finish this!
Looking back at notes from my conversations with Jim (somewhat illegibly written
) he did tell me that the Merchant Jack was used for calling pilots.
" Their information on the WSL commodore flag is potentially misleading, but they do say 'possibly' flown, based on later WSL information"
I thought he had said this so it's good to know I wasn't going crazy!
Thanks for offering so much info and please, anything more that you find share it!
This subject has really gotten me interested (enough to have full size replicas of all the flags made

Jason Smith

On Friday, 15th June, Parks Stephenson said that he believed the Titanic flew the Stars & Stripes out of Southampton.

As Dave Gittins pointed out, you can clearly see very good views of the Titanic on her sailing day at Southampton, from many different angles.

An especially good view is provided by the photographer who took picture of the Titanic's starboard side as she approached the Isle of Wight with her anchor lowered.

It's easy to see, easier with the blown up one I've got, that she WASN'T flying any flags from here masts, only what looks like a couple of small pennants or some sort...
Hi, Jason:

You wrote: "It's easy to see...that she WASN'T flying any flags from here masts, only what looks like a couple of small pennants or some sort ...."

Then I'm not sure what I see flying from her foremast in the photo on page 34 of Titanic: An Illustrated History. It looks like a flag to me -- and fairly large one, too, not just a pennant.

Eric Sauder
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Jason Smith

As I haven't go the book to hand I can't check. The reason I said that 'It's easy to see, easier with the blown up one I've got, that she WASN'T flying any flags from here masts, only what looks like a couple of small pennants or some sort...', is because if you look at the picture closely, you can quite clearly see the stern flag of the Titanic.

The flags, if they are that, on her masts look like some kind of thin, long pennant of some description in comparison to the full sized stern flag. See what you think...

Mark Baber

Fiona asked, a long, long time ago:
Incidentally, does anyone know when the 'rank' of WSL commodore fell into disuse?

The New York Times, 5 July 1920

Olympic's Captain First to Receive White Star Title Since 1882
In recognition of his valuable services rendered during the war, including sinking two enemy submarines and transporting 310,000 troops safely across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the White Star Line will confer the title of Commodore upon Captain Bertram Fox Hayes, D.S.O., R.D., R.N.R., A.D.C., of the liner Olympic, which arrived at her pier from Southampton and Cherbourg Saturday.

The title of Commodore of the White Star fleet, which carries an allowance of $1,000 a year in addition to the pay, has been in abeyance since 1882, when it was held by Commodore Hamilton Perry, who commanded the Britannic when she was in collision with the Celtic of the same company and afterward resigned.

His successor, Sir Bertram Fox Hayes, who prefers to be addressed as Captain Hayes, is a Captain in the Royal Naval Reserve, has the Distinguished Service Order for sinking the two submarines on May 12, 1918, off Portsmouth, England, and is A.D.C. to the King.


I have a copy of a postcard in which Titanic is dockside with a US flag on her. The postcard says.." Titanic at Southampton two days before departure." Hope this helps. Em
hi everyone,

anyone here know what flags titanic was flying when she was on her way to NY because I have heared what flags she had but I forgot so I need some to tell me again.

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted as a separate thread, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject, and this thread and several similar ones have been moved to this new subtopic. MAB]

Heather Lee

the foremast depicted the country of destination, and in this case it was the USA. Ken Marschall depicts this accurately in his paintings. The main mast was reserved for the White Star burgee.
I will look further into this tonight when I can be in front of my books and Ken's paintings to see if perhaps the trip to Cherbourg would have found Titanic flying the France flag and from France to Ireland the Irish colors. It's been a long time since I researched the flag placement on the Titanic's foremast.

Dan, did you ever find out which flag she was flying on her way to France and Ireland? I would like to know if she flew those countries' flags, and what flag she would be flying on the stern? Thank you.
I haven't found a photo that proves what flag she flew on the way to France. My guess is that it was the US flag, as that was her ultimate destination. She definitely didn't fly an Irish flag, because in 1912 there was no Irish flag. Ireland was all part of the UK. On the stern she flew the British blue ensign, because Captain Smith and at least ten of his crew were members of the Royal Naval Reserve. (The rule on that has varied over the years).

Jim Currie

What you might be seeing is the International Code of Signals letter "Y" which, when flown by itself means "I am carrying mails". RMS?
I am Carrying Mails.jpg
While the ship was of British registry, and had a British crew, she was owned by the IMM and JP Morgan, an American, who financed the building of the 3 Olympic class liners.
I'm not saying that he ever exercised his power, but I feel certain that had he wanted to, Morgan could have had Old Glory flying from any mast that he wanted.

Tim Gerard

I think this is one of Francis Browne's photos, and it does look like the American Flag flying from the forward mast, the resolution isn't good enough to see individual stars in the field of blue.


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The American flag on the foremast had 46 stars. Another two stars would be added on July 4, 1912.