Blue Ensign

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The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated or formerly 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 Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag
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.

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 became a part of the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and St Patrick's Cross was incorporated into the Union Flag and, accordingly, into 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 crewed by former Royal Navy personnel or Merchant Navy personnel.
  3. British-registered yachts belonging to members of the following yacht clubs:[2]

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 Broadcasting Corporation
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
  His Majesty's Army Vessels
  His Majesty's Coastguard
Commissioners of 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 Government
Marine Scotland
  Sea Cadet Corps
Submarine Mining Service
  Welsh Government
Marine and Fisheries Division

Royal Air Force marine vessels (such as seaplane tenders) flew a defaced blue ensign with an eagle and anchor.[3]

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:[4]

Aldeburgh Yacht Club
Army Sailing Association
  Bar Yacht Club
City Livery Yacht Club
  HMS Conway
Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
Household Division Yacht Club
  Little Ship Club
Little Ship Club (Queensland Squadron)
  Medway Yacht Club
  Old Worcesters Yacht Club
Parkstone Yacht Club
Rochester Cruising Yacht Club
Royal Air Force Yacht Club
Royal Akarana Yacht Club
  Royal Anglesey Yacht Club
Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club
Royal Artillery Yacht Club
Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association
  Royal Bermuda Yacht Club
Royal Bombay 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 Fresh Water Bay Yacht Club
  Royal Gibraltar Yacht Club
Royal Hamilton Yacht Club
  Royal Harwich Yacht Club
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht Club
Royal Jamaica Yacht Club
Royal London Yacht Club
Royal Malta Yacht Club
Royal Mersey Yacht Club
  Royal Motor Yacht Club of New South Wales
Royal Nassau Sailing Club
Royal Natal Yacht Club
Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club
Royal Northumberland Yacht Club
Royal Ocean Racing Club
Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club
Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club
Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club
  Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Royal Suva 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
The Cruising Association
The House of Lords Yacht Club
The Medway Yacht Club
The Poole Harbour Yacht Club
  The Poole Yacht Club

Flags of the Crown Dependencies using defaced Blue EnsignsEdit

Flags of British Overseas Territories using defaced Blue EnsignsEdit

Current flags:

Former flags:

The defaced blue ensign was formerly used as:

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. ^ UK Ministry of Defence. "The Navy Directory 2019" (PDF). p. 30. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  3. ^ "RAF Marine Vessel Ensign". Flying Colours Flagmakers. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  4. ^ UK Ministry of Defence. "The Navy Directory 2019" (PDF). p. 31. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Flags of the Royal Canadian Navy 1910–1965".
  6. ^ Flags of the World: British India

External linksEdit