Flags on Titanic

  • Thread starter Tracey McIntire
  • Start date


Tracey McIntire

This is concerning the flags that flew on Titanic--I know that because Capt. Smith was in the Royal Naval Reserve the blue ensign was flown from the stern but what about the main masts? I assume the White Star pennant was flown from one of them--did the American flag fly from the other? I have several models with a couple of different flag configurations and I was wondering what was correct. Thank you!

Lou Kerr

Hi Tracey,

For information on flags see Titanic: A Journey Through Time by John P Eaton and Charles A Haas, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1999, pages 140 and 228.

Sincerely, Lou Kerr

Tracey McIntire

Thanks Lou! I just bought that book and haven't had a chance to read it yet!

Best Wishes,

Philipp Martin

This is about the warning sign at the stern of the Titanic.
I saw that in the movie. It starts like:
"NOTICE: This vessel has triple screw (...)"
Does anybody know the complete wording of this sign ?
Thank you and best whishes !


The red sign with white letters warned:

Three were posted on the stern, one just to port
of the jackstaff, and one on each side under the
wings of the docking bridge - basically one above
each propeller.

Hope this helps.......
In 1908 a question was asked in parliament as to whether citizens were authorised to fly the "Union Jack" . The reply was that " The Union Jack should be regarded as the national flag and it undoubtedly may be flown on land by all His Majesty's subjects". So it was that parliament established the Union Jack as the national flag and approved the use of this name for the flag.
I guess this is as good of place as any for the following questions: When Titanic had the near collision with The New York, it was mentioned that a flurry of flags where hoisted from the ship to try to explain what actions the crew where trying to take to avoid collision. What colors where these flags? What did each color represent? How many of them were there? Are such still in use? Where were they flown so other ships could best see them? And; when the Titanic is shown on good Friday "dressed in her flags" as it is often captioned; what are the type of flags that seem to cover the ship beyond the obvious company and port of origin flags? A long term interest of mine. Thanks to anyone who may have some answers!

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted to an unrelated thread in a different topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
I have since been able to find more information about signal flags flown/used and other related questions in the recent two set "Titanic Ship Magnificent" books that have a lot of great technical information. As far as flying flags at home such as a white star reproduction, a cunard flag or a Harland and Wolfe Flag, is there any speciality company that offers such to purchase?
It is normal practice for the ensign to be flown from the mainmast at sea and not the stern. Are depictions of the Titanic flying her ensign from the stern at sea accurate?

[Moderator's note: This post, originally posted as a separate thread has been moved to the pre-existing one discussing the flags. JDT]
>>It is normal practice for the ensign to be flown from the mainmast at sea and not the stern. Are depictions of the Titanic flying her ensign from the stern at sea accurate?<<

The White Star flag was at the mainmast, the ensign at the flagstaff at the stern. Never saw it on the mainmast and never hear or read that this was done.
>>The White Star flag was at the mainmast, the ensign at the flagstaff at the stern. Never saw it on the mainmast and never hear or read that this was done.<<

That's right. As I understand, the national flag of the country of the ship's next destination was flown from the foremast--the French flag when Titanic headed for Cherbourg and the U.S. flag when she left for New York. I don't know about the Queenstown stop though--does anyone know if Titanic flew the Irish colors en route there?

Jim Currie

Flag Etiquette:

When at sea, the red ensign or blue ensign in special circumstances will be flown from the stern or from a gaff at the mainmast.
The company house flag will be flown in port from the mainmast truck (top).
Other national (courtesy)flags will be flown from the foremast.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894 stated that any British vessel entering or leaving port or when challenged by an RN ship will hoist her national ensign. If not, the master would be fined not more than £100. She was not required to show the ensign at sea.

Unfortunately Ireland had not regained her independence in 1912.

Hence no Irish destination flag, as the territory had been incorporated in British statute into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

But here is a generic Irish Titanic flag anyway:

I sail on R.F.A ships which have a blue ensign flown from the stern and bow(there is no RFA jack)in port during the day and from the mainmast only at sea. Nothing is flown from the stern at sea. Perhaps it was done on liners then because the mainmast had the house flag on it already.
Senan--thanks for the info--I confess I'm not as much up on my Irish history as I'd like to be, especially since I'm 1/4 Irish (from the Kilgore side of our family--they came to America from Cobh/Queenstown).

I need to screen Bob's flag and shrink it to 1/350 so I can fly it from the foremast of my Minicraft Titanic model!

Jim Currie

Hello Costa!

The RFA Royal Fleet Auxiliary usually flies the blue ensign because the officers are mostly RNR.
Merchant ships in the old days seldom flew an ensign once the ship was clear of territorial waters. A flag flown continuously at sea soon ends up like a tattered rag. Same went for the foremast house flag.

I have to correct you there Jim. No RFA officers are naval reservists as this would be a clash of interests. The RFA is government owned and Fly Blue ensigns for that reason as do river police and the Northern lighthouse board. The point I was making was that The ensign is never flown from the stern at sea so why would a ship like the Titanic do so? Was it because the mainmast was already occupied by a flag or what?

Jim Currie

Kostas, I stand corrected!

I like many other 'red duster' men always thought that since the RFA worked with the fleet then there was an RNR/Navy connection. The Blue ensign for our lot always suggested a connection with the RN. (River Police? - what river police?)

In fact, many moons ago (I suspect before you were born) I did work on active service with the Navy and the RNR. I did know some officers who were also RNR or was it RNVR (Wavy Navy) who did serve with the RFA. They all got jobs through the 'POOL' (nothing to do with the prefix 'Liver')

I note Titanic did not have a gaff therefore if she flew her ensign at sea, after leaving territorial waters then she did so from her stern and engaged in a bit of 'bull'. I would be surprised if she flew her house-flag at sea!

As a bit of interest: House flags had a bad habit of getting caught-up in stays and fouling on all sorts of things. To prevent this, the flag was attached to the top end of a long bamboo pole. The hoist part of the halyard was then attached to the pole just below the bottom of the flag and the tailing end of the halyard to the extreme bottom end of the pole. When this 'gubbins' was hoisted to the truck of the mast (the top bit for landlubbers), the top part of the pole, with flag attached would be above and free of the top of the mast and any possible thing that might stop the flag flying properly.

Just thought I would share that with you all.