Last modified: 2006-08-19 by rob raeside
Keywords: united kingdom | yacht ensigns |
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The answer is yes, as far as British practice is concerned.
A warrant for a special ensign is issued to a named person for a named boat; the two go together. If the owner lends or charters his boat to someone else, they may not fly the special ensign. If the person borrowing or chartering the boat is also a member of the same club, a temporary warrant to fly the special ensign may be issued, but only if the other member is British.
If the person named on the warrant is also a member of another yacht club, he ought not to fly the special ensign on the named boat, if he is flying the burgee of the other club. The special ensign and the burgee should match. This has not been specified in the warrant regulations because it is appreciated that there might be circumstances in which it is not appropriate. One example given in explaining this was of an owner entitled to a special ensign who was also a member of a Belgian yacht club. Whenever he visited the Belgian club he flew the special ensign, but as a courtesy, flew the burgee of the Belgian club. He should more correctly have flown the undefaced Red Ensign, but special ensigns have prestige which owners are reluctant to relinquish, even temporarily.
British yacht club special ensigns can be, (in order of "seniority"), the White Ensign (Royal Yacht Squadron), undefaced Blue Ensign (32 clubs), Blue Ensign defaced with the badge of the club (57) or Red Ensign defaced (14). There is also a defaced RAF Ensign for the RAF Sailing Association, but I don't know where that fits into the pecking order.
Royal Naval Reserve Blue Ensigns on merchant ships were similar. Named master for named ship. Originally when the master took command of another ship he had to re-apply for a new warrant, but this was changed so that he could carry-over the warrant, but only if the ship was owned by the same shipping company. He had to inform the Admiralty of the change, and there had to be enough naval reservists in the crew of the new ship to qualify. I would be surprised if there are any merchant ships that still fly the Blue Ensign.
David Prothero, 9 February 2000
In 1922, according to Perrin (Page 139), there were 42 clubs entitled to fly the
Blue Ensign "either plain or defaced", with 8 being "allowed to deface the Red
Ensign with their particular badge". A total of 53 including the Royal Yacht
Christopher Southworth, 5 November 2003
It all depends how you count them, and how you define a British yacht club.
There are 104 clubs in the Navy List. If you add the RAF Sailing Association
there are 105, but only 77 are in the United Kingdom. Of the 105 ensigns 27 are
plain Blue, three Blue Ensigns have the same badge, as do two Red Ensigns, which
makes 76 different ensigns. I don't agree with Perrin's figures. In 1922 I
reckon there were 34 clubs with plain Blue Ensigns, 30 with defaced Blue
Ensigns, and 8 with defaced Red Ensigns. The list of yacht clubs having a
special ensign is on pages 244 - 247 of the Navy List at
David Prothero, 11 November 2003
I think that I have found out why my figures for yacht clubs with special
ensigns in 1922 don't match Perrin's figures. Mine was a grand total; Perrin
appears not to have included Dominion clubs. The first warrants were issued in
1829. In 1840 2 clubs had plain Blue Ensigns, 1 had a defaced Red Ensign, and 8
had various forms of White Ensign.
Approximate figures after that -
1850. 5 Blue, 8 defaced Blue, 2 defaced Red, 2 White.
1860. 8 Blue, 10 defaced Blue, 2 defaced Red, 1 White and thereafter.
1870. 9 Blue, 12 defaced Blue, 3 defaced Red.
1880. 13 Blue, 18 defaced Blue, 6 defaced Red.
1890. 17 Blue, 22 defaced Blue, 6 defaced Red.
1900. 22 Blue, 28 defaced Blue, 7 defaced Red.
1910. 33 Blue, 28 defaced Blue, 8 defaced Red.
1920. 33 Blue, 30 defaced Blue, 8 defaced Red.
1930. 37 Blue, 32 defaced Blue, 6 defaced Red.
1940. 32 Blue, 42 defaced Blue, 7 defaced Red.
1950. 32 Blue, 45 defaced Blue, 8 defaced Red.
1960. 33 Blue, 51 defaced Blue, 11 defaced Red.
1970. 34 Blue, 49 defaced Blue, 12 defaced Red.
1980. 31 Blue, 55 defaced Blue, 12 defaced Red.
1990. 31 Blue, 55 defaced Blue, 12 defaced Red, 1 defaced RAF.
2000. 30 Blue, 55 defaced Blue, 12 defaced Red, 1 defaced RAF.
David Prothero, 13 November 2003
By Section 4 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, it is an offence to hoist on
board any ship or boat belonging to any British subject certain colours, flags
and pendants without a Permit from Her Majesty the Queen or from the Secretary
of State for Defence. The maximum penalty is one thousand pounds for each
offence. Among the prohibited flags are the Union Flag, the White Ensign, the
Blue Ensign (plain or defaced) and the Red Ensign with any defacement. The
prohibition applies to any ship or boat belonging to any British Subject
wherever it may be, and so extends not only to tidal waters but equally to
rivers, lakes and inland watersgenerally.
Yachts may not wear the special Ensigns prohibited above except:
David Prothero, 11 January 2006
Originally it was, as far as I
have been able to establish, the choice of the club. In 1927 it was decided that
since a plain Blue Ensign was the ensign of the Royal Naval Reserve, no more
would be authorised for yacht clubs. In fact three more were authorised, but
only for Service clubs; Royal Naval Sailing Association in 1936, Royal Naval
Volunteer Reserve YC in 1958 and Royal Marines Sailing Club in 1965.
There is an unwritten pecking-order based, it would seem, on heraldic principles, that a yacht club with a plain Blue Ensign ranks above a club with a defaced Blue Ensign, which in turn ranks above a club with a defaced Red Ensign; but this was not the view of the Admiralty. When the Royal Dee YC had its warrant withdrawn in 1928 because it had too few yachts, it offered to change from a defaced Blue to a defaced Red Ensign if this would enable it to retain a special ensign. The Admiralty replied that, "the standard required before a yacht club can be authorised to fly a special ensign is the same whether the ensign be the Blue Ensign, the defaced Blue Ensign, or the defaced Red Ensign."
David Prothero, 16 November 2002
On the website of a yacht club (I forgot which) I read that the ensign was
undefaced if the club was already "Royal".
Bryan-Kinns Merrick, 15 November 2002
Yacht clubs do not have royal charters. It is simply a title which they are
permitted to use, as a prefix to the name of the club. In the latter part of the
19th century some clubs that wanted a special ensign, would apply to the Home
Office for the title 'royal', in the belief that possessing the title would
improve their chances of being granted an ensign. It actually worked the other
way round. Any requests for the 'royal' title received by the Home Office were
passed to the Admiralty with the question, "Does this club have a special
ensign, and if not, would one be granted if it applied?" If the Admiralty
replied, "No", and "Would not", the club's request was almost certain to be
David Prothero, 16 November 2002
image located by Jose C Alegria
An example of a light blue British yacht ensign, from the RAF Sailing Association from www.rafsa.org.uk