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United Kingdom: Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Last modified: 2005-07-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | ireland | lifeboats | cross | anchor |
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[House flag of the RNLI] by Graham Bartram

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Royal National Lifeboat Institution

I've just finished work on another UK flag that can be seen on boats around our shores. It's the flag of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), founded over 150 years ago. This voluntary organization provides Britain's main offshore rescue service, backed up by helicopters from the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. When a distress signal is received from a ship in British waters (or nearby) the nearest suitable lifeboat is launched, manned by volunteer lifeboatmen.

Graham Bartram, 7 July 1997

[Ensign of the RNLI] by Graham Bartram

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution's house flag is painted on the sides of lifeboats (the search and rescue vessels) and flies from the lifeboat houses (their bases). The ensign is flown either at the ensign mast (most lifeboats don't have one) or the main mast. It features the house flag as a badge in the centre of the fly half.

Graham Bartram, 9 March 1999

The RNLI in Ireland

When the flag of the RNLI was posted to the list recently, some uncertainty was expressed about whether it is flown by the lifeboats or only used ashore. When I was in Dún Laoghaire yesterday I took the opportunity of visiting the Maritime Museum of Ireland where there is a section dealing with the RNLI - a body that is responsible for lifeboats in this country as well as in Britain. One photograph which caught my attention showed a lifeboat with a cross-shaped mast. Ropes extended vertically from the yardarms and a flag flew from each of these ropes: the Irish Tricolour and the house flag of the RNLI. So the RNLI flag is used afloat, in Ireland at least. There were also a couple of photos showing lifeboats flying only the Tricolour, but none which showed a lifeboat flying only the RNLI flag.

Vincent Morley, 20 July 1997