Ensigns - National Ensigns

National Ensigns

See also: Maritime flag

In nautical use, the ensign is flown at the stern of a ship or boat to indicate its nationality. Ensigns are usually flown from the stern staff of a ship, and may be shifted to a gaff (provided the ship is so equipped) when the ship is under way, where the ensign is known as a steaming ensign. Vexillologists distinguish three varieties of a national flag when used as an ensign:

  • A civil ensign (usage symbol ) is worn by merchant and pleasure vessels. In some countries the yacht ensign, used on recreational boats or ships instead of merchant vessels, differs from the civil ensign.
  • A state ensign or government ensign (usage symbol ) is worn by government vessels, such as coast guard ships.
  • A naval ensign (usage symbol ) is used by a country's navy.

Many countries do not distinguish between these uses, and employ only one national flag and ensign in all cases. Others (like the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan) use different ensigns. Such ensigns are strictly regulated and indicate if the boat is a warship, a merchant vessel or a yacht, for example.

If a warship goes into battle, large versions of naval ensigns (called battle ensigns) are used.

Read more about this topic:  Ensigns

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