Signal Flags


K

Kathy A. Miles

Guest
While reading The Night Lives On for about the hundredth time, I just read the comment about when Titanic was launched her signal flags spelled out "Good Luck." What were these flags like? I don't recall seeing them in any book.
Thanks,
Kathy
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Signal flags are more correctly called "code flags." Although there is one flag for each letter in the alphabet, the flags are not generally used to spell out words. Rather, certain combinations of letters have specific meanings. Here are a few samples:

Single Letter Messages:
Code A -- I have a diver down
Code B -- Dangerous cargo aboard
Code J -- I am on fire and have dangerous cargo
Code Q -- My vessel is disease free
Code U -- You are steaming into danger

Two Letter Messages:
Code AC -- I am abandoning ship
Code AN -- I need a doctor
Code JL -- You are about to go aground
code KF -- I require a tug
code NC -- I am in distress and require assistance

Three Letter Messages
Code ZA8 -- Communicate with me in Russian
Code ZD2 -- Please report me to Lloyds, London

Code flags are hoisted one above the other. The receiving ship replies by hoisting the "answering pennant. Or Navy ships often hoist the same flags in the same order, but only part way up. This is know as "at the dip." Once the message has been decoded, the receiving ship hoist its flags fully to indicate that it understands.

Code flags are also used to "dress ship" on important occasions. When used for this purpose they are normally arranged in a jumbled order that conveys no message.

Sometimes, words are spelled out with the flags, such as at launching of a new hull. "Good luck" or "Godspeed" are common.

By the way, a given code flag can only be used once in a hoist. If you need two letters E, then you have to use a "repeater" flag.

--David G. Brown
 
K

Kathy A. Miles

Guest
Thanks David! Do you know of any website which has pictures of these flags?
Thanks,
Kathy
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Kathy -- a friend has asked me to mention that the definitions of code flags that I gave are from the modern era. Some flag hoists had different meanings in 1912 than today.

--David G. Brown
 

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