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How to Fly Ensigns and The Union Flag

Ensigns and Union Flags
We are regularly asked by customers which ensigns or flags they should be flying and how to fly them, so here is a quick guide to the most common Ensigns and the Union Flag.

Red Ensign Red Ensign
The Red Ensign is a red flag with the Union Flag in the top left hand corner (canton) and is used by British merchant navy ships and private craft. The Red Ensign is the correct flag to fly as a courtesy flag by foreign private vessels in UK waters. Merchant ships from British overseas territories and Crown dependencies can fly red ensigns with the badge of their territory.


Blue Ensign

Blue Ensign
The Blue Ensign is a dark blue flag with the Union Flag in the top left hand canton is used by masters of vessels who have a warrant issued by the Director of Naval Reserves, and by the members of certain yacht/boating clubs. These warrants are issued to officers in the active or retired lists of the Royal Naval Reserve and the maritime reserve forces of Commonwealth Realms and territories. They must hold the rank of lieutenant RN or above, and other vessels must be manned by at least four other Royal Naval reservists or retirees.


White EnsignWhite Ensign
The White Ensign is a white flag with a red St George’s Cross and the Union Flag in the top left hand canton can only be flown by ships, boats, submarines and on-shore offices of the Royal Navy. The Royal Yacht Squadron can also fly the white ensign by special dispensation.



Royal Air Force EnsignRAF Ensign
RAF Ensign, is an Air Force Blue flag, with the Union flag in the top left hand corner and the Royal Air Force roundel in the middle. These flags are flown by Royal Air Force stations and are normally flown during daylight hours. The Head of the RAF, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Attaches and the Heads of RAF mission may also fly the RAF Ensign as well.



how to fly a union flagUnion Flag
The Union Flag although it appears symmetrical, isn’t, and from time to time it can be seen flying upside down. To ensure that you fly your Union Flag the correct way, you need to take a good look at the flag. The white lines below and above the main diagonal red lines are different widths. Therefore you need to check that the white lines above the red diagonal are wider on the side which is closest to your flag and the white lines above the red diagonal on the side furthest from the flag pole are narrower.

By Joanne Morley