Blue Ensign

For Australian oil shale company, see Blue Ensign Technologies.
Blue Ensign
Use State ensign
Proportion 1:2
Design Blue with the Union occupying one quarter of the field and placed in the canton.
RFA Brambleleaf flying the square Blue Jack based on the Blue Ensign

The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated with the United Kingdom. It is used either plain, or defaced with a badge or other emblem.

The evolution of the Blue Ensign followed that of the Union Jack. The ensign originated in the 17th century with the St George's cross (the Flag of England) in the canton, and with a blue field (top right).

The Acts of Union 1707 united England and Wales with Scotland in the Kingdom of Great Britain, thus producing a new Blue Ensign with the new Union Flag in the canton. With the Act of Union 1800, Ireland joined the United Kingdom and St Patrick's Cross was added to the Union Flag and, accordingly, to the cantons of all British ensigns from 1 January 1801.

Plain blue ensign

Prior to the reorganisation of the Royal Navy in 1864, the plain blue ensign had been the ensign of one of three squadrons of the Royal Navy, the Blue Squadron. This changed in 1864, when an order in council provided that the Red Ensign was allocated to merchantmen, the Blue Ensign was to be the flag of ships in public service or commanded by an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, and the White Ensign was allocated to the Navy.

Thus, after 1864, the plain blue ensign (i.e., without any defacement or modification) is permitted to be worn, instead of the Red Ensign, by three categories of civilian vessel:[1]

  1. British merchant vessels whose officers and crew include a certain number of retired Royal Navy personnel or Royal Navy reservists, or are commanded by an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve in possession of a Government warrant. The number and rank of such crew members required has varied over the years, as have the additional conditions required, since the system was first introduced in 1864.
  2. Royal Research Ships by warrant[lower-alpha 1] whether manned by former Royal Navy personnel or Merchant Navy personnel.
  3. British-registered Yachts belonging to members of the following yacht clubs:
  • Royal Albert Yacht Club
  • Royal Cinque Ports Yacht Club
  • Royal Cruising Yacht Club
  • Royal Dorset Yacht Club
  • Royal Engineer Yacht Club
  • Royal Gourock Yacht Club
  • Royal Highland Yacht Club
  • Royal Marine Sailing Club
  • Royal Motor Yacht Club
  • Royal Naval Club
  • Royal Naval Sailing Association

Permission for yachts to wear the blue ensign (and other special yachting ensigns) was suspended during both World War I and World War II.

Defaced blue ensign

Since 1864, the Blue Ensign is defaced with a badge or emblem, to form the ensign of United Kingdom government departments or public bodies. Current defaced Blue Ensigns (besides yacht clubs listed below) are:

Aberdeen Harbour Board
British Antarctic Survey
British Telecom and Cable and Wireless
Combined Cadet Force
Department of Trade and Industry
General Post Office
Global Marine Systems Ltd.'s cable-ships
Government Service Ensign
Her Majesty's Army Vessels
Her Majesty's Coastguard
Irish Lights
Lloyd's of London
Marine Society
Mersey Docks and Harbour Company
Metropolitan Police
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Ministry of Defence Police
Ministry of War Munitions
Northern Lighthouse Board
Ocean Weather Service
Ordnance Board
Pacific Cables Board
Port of London Authority
Royal Army Service Corps
Royal Engineers Divers
Royal Engineers
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service
Royal Hospital School
Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
Royal Ulster Constabulary
Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Sea Cadet Corps
Submarine Mining Service
UK Border Agency

Yachting Blue Ensigns defaced by the badge of the club were recorded in the Navy List until 1985, and now they are administered by the Royal Yachting Association for the Ministry of Defence. Current defaced Blue Ensigns are:

Aldeburgh Yacht Club
Army Sailing Association
Bar Yacht Club
City Livery Yacht Club
House of Lords Yacht Club
Household Division Yacht Club
Little Ship Club
Medway Cruising Club
Medway Yacht Club
Old Worcesters Yacht Club
Parkstone Yacht Club
Poole Yacht Club
Poole Harbour Yacht Club
Portsmouth Yacht Club
Royal Air Force Yacht Club
Royal Anglesey Yacht Club
Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club
Royal Artillery Yacht Club
Royal Burnham Yacht Club
Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club
Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
Royal Cornwall Yacht Club
Royal Dee Yacht Club
Royal Forth Yacht Club
Royal Harwich Yacht Club
Royal Gibraltar Yacht Club
Royal London Yacht Club
Royal Mersey Yacht Club
Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club
Royal Northumberland Yacht Club
Royal Ocean Racing Club
Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club
Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Royal Torbay Yacht Club
Royal Ulster Yacht Club
Royal Welsh Yacht Club
Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club
Severn Motor Yacht Club
Sussex Yacht Club
Thames Motor Yacht Club

Flags of UK Overseas Territories using defaced blue ensigns

Current flags:

Former flags: The defaced blue ensign was formerly used as:

  1. ^ Flags of the World: British India

National flags based on the Blue Ensign

These include:

Other flags based on the Blue Ensign

See also


  1. An individual warrant is issued by the Secretary of State for Defence for each ship
  1. Naval Staff Directorate. "Naval Flags and Ensigns" (PDF). p. 12. Retrieved 1 January 2013.

External links

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