• Flag
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

An “Ensign” is specifically a Flag or Banner of a Country, flown from a Ship or related Sea going Vessel. Ensign are normally the largest Class of Flags flown. Ensigns are flown from Merchant Ships contracted to  a Government Entity and Warships. The practice of flying modified Ensigns  (significantly smaller) – on private Vessels (such as a Yacht), originated in the late 19th Century.

The term Ensign goes back to France, possibly as early as the 15th Century, and was used to identify a Standard Bearer, on Land. Often The Ensign carried a larger than normal Flag, to identify the Main Position of an Army – so that it could easily be seen at distance. The sane practice was adopted by Seafarers with regards to flying the largest Flag available (to be seen at distance on The Sea).

Some Nations still refer to certain “Land” Colors as Ensigns. In this example, a Military Branch will often referred to it’s Flag as an “Ensign”. This is common in Europe. Traditionally regarding use with Warships, they flew their Ensigns between certain hours on board, to signal a “working day”. War Ensigns (which was essentially the same Flag), were flown continuously during War or when engaged in Naval combat.

Multiple Ensigns on Warships were also flown from Foremast and The Sternmast (front and Rear). This practice developed from the Naval Warfare tactic of attempting to shoot off The Main Mast of a Ship. A Countries National Colors were often flown aloft from the Main Mast. In addition, the “lowering of The Colors” in combat signaled surrender or defeat. The installment of twin Ensigns ensured that at least one Ensign would remain aloft.

Typically, an Ensign ranged from 15 to 25-feet across. War Ensigns in previous Centuries could also be quite different from a Nations Colors. Often, as most Regulations require, some element of National Colors must be present. Ensigns are also flown when Ships operate in foreign waters or when entering Port. Private Small Ships  (Yachts), began to use smaller Ensigns to identify their Country of Origin or place of Registry. However, no set Maritime Law regulates the flying of such.