Blue Ensign

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For Australian oil shale company, see Blue Ensign Technologies.
Blue Ensign
Government Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
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[edit]

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[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 ensign[edit]

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.svg Government Service Ensign
Her Majesty's Army Vessels
HM Coastguard.PNG 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
Ensign of the British Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses.svg Northern Lighthouse Board
Ocean Weather Service
Ordnance Board
Pacific Cables Board
Port of London Authority
Royal Army Service Corps
Royal Engineers Divers
Royal Engineers Ensign.png Royal Engineers
British-Royal-Fleet-Auxiliary-Ensign.svg Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service
Royal Hospital School
British Royal Maritime Auxiliary Ensign.svg Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
Royal Ulster Constabulary
Ensign of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency vector.svg Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department
Ensign of the Sea Cadet Corps.svg Sea Cadet Corps
Submarine Mining Service
HM Customs Ensign vector.svg 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
LSC Ensign.png Little Ship Club
Medway Cruising Club
Medway Yacht Club
Old Worcesters Yacht Club
Parkstone Yacht Club
Ensign of the Poole Yacht Club.svg Poole Yacht Club
Poole Harbour Yacht Club
Ensign of the Portsmouth Yacht Club.svg Portsmouth Yacht Club
Royal Air Force Yacht Club
Blue Ensign defaced with crown.svg Royal Anglesey Yacht Club
Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club
Royal Artillery Yacht Club
Royal Burnham Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club.svg Royal Channel Islands Yacht Club
Royal Corinthian Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club.svg Royal Cornwall Yacht Club
Royal Dee Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Forth Yacht Club.svg Royal Forth Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club.svg Royal Harwich Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Gibraltar Yacht Club.svg 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
Blue Ensign defaced with crown.svg Royal Southampton Yacht Club
Blue Ensign defaced with crown.svg Royal Torbay Yacht Club
Ensign of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club.svg Royal Ulster Yacht Club
Royal Welsh Yacht Club
Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club
Severn Motor Yacht Club
Ensign of the Sussex Yacht Club.svg Sussex Yacht Club
Thames Motor Yacht Club

Flags of UK Overseas Territories using defaced blue ensigns[edit]

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):

National flags based on the Blue Ensign[edit]

These include:

Other flags based on the Blue Ensign[edit]

See also[edit]


  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. 
  2. ^ Flags of the World: British India

External links[edit]