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.
|Design||Blue with the Union occupying one quarter of the field and placed in the canton.|
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 ensignEdit
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:
- 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.
- Royal Research Ships by warrant[a] whether manned by former Royal Navy personnel or Merchant Navy personnel.
- British-registered yachts belonging to members of the following yacht clubs:
Defaced blue ensignEdit
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:
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:
Flags of UK Overseas Territories using defaced blue ensignsEdit
- Flag of Anguilla
- Government Ensign of Bermuda (the flag commonly used on land is Bermuda's Red Ensign)
- Flag of the British Virgin Islands
- Flag of the Cayman Islands
- Flag of the Falkland Islands
- Government Ensign of Gibraltar (there is another flag, not based on an ensign, that is commonly used on land)
- Flag of Montserrat
- Flag of Pitcairn Islands
- Flag of Saint Helena
- Flag of Turks and Caicos Islands
Former flags: The defaced blue ensign was formerly used as:
- The jack of the Royal Canadian Navy from its inception until the adoption of the Maple Leaf flag in 1965. The blue ensign was approved by the British Admiralty in 1868 for use by ships owned by the Canadian government.
- The ensign (1879–1928) and the jack (1928–1947) of the Royal Indian Navy (HM Indian Marine: 1879–1892, Royal Indian Marine: 1892–1934, Royal Indian Navy: 1934–1950):
- Flag of The United States of the Ionian Islands (a British amical protectorate, 1815–1864)
- Flag of British Hong Kong (1870–1997) and the ensign of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force were based on the Blue Ensign.
- Flag of Weihaiwei (1903–1930).
The badge in the flag consists of Mercury, the god of Commerce and Merchandise, presenting to Britannia, a fisherman who, in a kneeling attitude, is offering the harvest of all the sea. Above the device in a scroll are the words Terra Nova, and below the motto Haec Tibi Dona Fero or "These gifts I bring thee." The seal was redesigned by Adelaine Lane, niece of Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle in 1903.
- The ensign (1910–1928) of the Union of South Africa:
National flags based on the Blue EnsignEdit
Other flags based on the Blue EnsignEdit
- An individual warrant is issued by the Secretary of State for Defence for each ship