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From the Bilge

the ensign

Category: General

The country in which a ship is registered is indicated by a flag known as an ensign.Traditionally,this flag is flown from the gaff,which extends from the top of the foremast,just aft of the bridge,when at sea or the staff on the stern of a ship whilst alongside a quay.British vessels may fly one of three different ensigns,which consist of a union flag on one of three coloured backgrounds.The red ensign is flown by British registered merchant ships. The blue ensign is flown by British naval auxilliary vessels,such as those operated by the Royal Fleet Auxilliary as well as by a merchant  vessel if the commanding officer has attained the rank of commander or above in the royal naval reserves.The white ensign is flown by all ships of the Royal Navy.When hoisting the  ensign,a sailor must be very careful and ensure it is flown the right way up.An ensign flown upside -down traditionally indicated distress on board a vessel,usually mutiny!