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.

Blue Ensign
Government Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
UseState ensign
AdoptedBritish Government
DesignBlue 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 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:[1]

  1. British merchant vessels whose officers and crew include a certain number of retired Royal Navy personnel or Royal Naval 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[a] whether manned by former Royal Navy personnel or Merchant Navy personnel.
  3. British-registered yachts belonging to members of the following yacht clubs:

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 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:

  Aberdeen Harbour Board
Border Force
British Antarctic Survey
British Telecom and Cable & Wireless
  Combined Cadet Force (Naval Section)
Department of Trade and Industry
General Post Office
Global Marine Systems's cable-ships
  Government Service Ensign
  Her Majesty's Army Vessels
  Her Majesty's Coastguard
Link to file Commissioners of Irish Lights
Lloyd's of London
Marine Society
Mersey Docks and Harbour Company
  Metropolitan Police
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food[disambiguation needed]
  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
  Marine Scotland
  Sea Cadet Corps
Submarine Mining Service
  Welsh Government
Marine and Fisheries Division

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
Cruising Association
  HMS Conway
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 Bermuda 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 the Crown Dependencies using defaced blue ensignsEdit

Flags of UK Overseas Territories using defaced blue ensignsEdit

Current flags:

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

  • 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):

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 Hæc Tibi Dona Fero or "These gifts I bring thee." The seal was redesigned by Adelaine Lane, niece of Governor Sir Cavendish Boyle in 1903.

National flags based on the Blue EnsignEdit

These include:

Other flags based on the Blue EnsignEdit

See alsoEdit


  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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Flags of the Royal Canadian Navy 1910–1965".
  3. ^ Flags of the World: British India

External linksEdit