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Battle of Jutland flag signals

Last modified: 2012-01-06 by rob raeside
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Admiral Jellicoe's famous flag signal, "Equal Speed/C(harlie)/L(ondon)," directed his fleet to change from a column formation to a single battle line steering course Southeast by East, while maintaining the current speed. What what were the components of the signal -- that is, what did each of the flags signify? Was "C" the signal for the column-to-line maneuver, and "L" the course indication? Barrie Kent provides an overall interpretation in his book "Signal!", but does not break it down into its components.
Peter Ansoff, 1 December 2004

The pennant indicated the method that should be used to alter course. There were five different 'alter course pennants'.

Equal Speed Pennant.
"When altering course by Equal Speed Pendant to form single Line-Ahead, the column which becomes the Leading Column alters course in succession to the point indicated, the remaining Columns alter course 'Leading Ships together, the rest in succession', so as to form Astern of the now Leading Column."

The letter(s) below the pennant were selected from the compass table, in which one letter represented the major points of the compass, and two letters represented the minor points of the compass.

A was North
AA was North 1/4 East
AB was North 1/2 East
AC was North 3/4 East
AD was North by East
AE was North by East 1/4 East
B was North East, C was East, D was South East, etc..
David Prothero, 1 December 2004

The "Equal Speed Charlie London" signal has a somewhat iconic status in naval history. It was hoisted by Admiral Jellicoe as a result of a bold decision which forced the German fleet to turn away. This is an important piece of flag-related history. This incident was significant in a larger sense because it was (symbolically, anyway) the last time that flag signals were used as the primary means of controlling a large formation of major warships. In later times, flags gave way to radio and other means of communication.
Peter Ansoff, 18 January 2008

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