Flags on Titanic

  • Thread starter Tracey McIntire
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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.


Most interesting. I think the big Cunarders also few blue ensigns because they were registered auxiliaries as well. I think there were a few RNR and formerly RNVR people in the RFA before we became sponsored reservists ourselves. I had considered joining the RNR to fill my copious amounts of leave. Not allowed to now. Yes the river police and MoD police launches have blue ensigns. Do you have any recollection of Merchant captains flying Blue ensigns for being ex RN or having a portion of ex RN men in their ship's company? I think this has been discontinued but did used to happen.

Jim Currie

Oh yes Kosta.

I was in several ships's that did this. The most common ships in the MN to do it were what we called the 'BUll...t companies:

Mostly passenger companies Anchor Line, White Star, Cunard, P&O, Blue Funnel, Canadian Pacific, B&I etc. The tramp companies didn't have any time for that nonsense -to much work!
There was a time in the early 1950s when MN officers did courses with the RNVR, RNR and RN. Then they used to run ABC Warfare Courses at RNR centres and we could get time off for taking them.. bit of a giggle really!

I did used to fly a blue ensign from my narrowboat as a naughty being different thing. I am at least partially entitled being serving RFA of course haha! I saw an ex RN officer had one on his boat in an issue of 'Waterways World' a few years back. I've even seen a white ensign being worn by a narrowboat which is a big naughty. I've got a Lancashire county one now. And A Falklands one for occasional use as I'm a regular visitor there.

Jim Currie

In my final working years, I was HM in charge of a little port which had a Marina section. Quite often we would get the lads in with massive plastic gin palaces and bottomless wallets. Many of them sported a Blue Ensign - I referred to them as 'plonkers'! Money will buy anything and lots and lots of plonk!
I had no idea that flying a flag could be either so physically problematical, as Jim tells us, or that failure to have read and digested the Currie Book of Flag Etiquette would reveal you to be a "plonker". Thank goodness standards are being maintained ;)

Jim Currie

Hello Monica!

Oh that I did actually have a book published about anything!

Actually there was such a book. In fact flag etiquette was very much a serious thing in the old days. There were in fact fixed fines for violating certain aspects of it. I quote from 'Business for Shipmasters'



Not showing a pilot flag [ code flag 'H'] when carrying a licensed pilot.


A British ship wearing colours other than the Red Ensign, unless she hold a warrant so to do.

Failing to show colours entering or leaving port or if requested to do so by one of H,M. ships. (Fishing vessels are exempted if lettered and numbered).

So you see my dear, I didn't make it up!

The 'plonker' bit comes with the feeling of superiority (warranted or otherwise) that seafarers felt for those 'putting on the style'.

Forgive me for I occasionally rave - it's my time of life!

I shall have my vessel wear it upon my return from sea in June. That is when I get the staff put up. She's having a great load of hull work done on her now preparatory to inspections and surveys.
Re: Flags on the Titanic.

It's probably so bad it's not worth mentioning but there is that scene in the 1953 "Titanic":

Captain Smith receives a parcel from "Henry Evans" ...."Henry Evans...I thought he was dead" ...Containing the flag "From the old Star of Madagascar where I first served as apprentice."
"She's not top issue nowadays, but up she goes."
and the new flag is hauled down and the old one up on the mainmast. Pure fluff of course but just one more incident in the movie which one person has called "The worst Titanic movie ever made." As another person remarked, "They just put it in because they thought they could get away with it and nobody would notice it."

l sexton

Does anyone know where I can get a replica of the White Star flag flown on the Titanic