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Dictionary of Vexillology: B (Black and White - Bow Pennant)

Last modified: 2024-05-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) In vexillology - see ‘monochrome 2)’.
2) In heraldry - see ‘argent’, ‘sable’ and ‘hatching 1)’.

black and white example black and white example black and white example
Flag of Cornwall, UK (fotw); Flag of Verquigneul, France (fotw); Flag of Tal-Pietà, Malta (Wikipedia & fotw)

1) A plain flag implying allegiance to nothing higher, and considered symbolic of anarchism.
2) See ‘jolly roger 1)’.
3) See ‘mourning flag’.

black flag black flag black flag
Flag of the Anarchists (fotw); Flag of Edward Lowe c1719 (fotw); Mourning Flag, Denmark (fotw)

See ‘Garvey colors/colours’.

Marcus Garvey flag
Marcus Garvey’s Flag 1917 (fotw)

See ‘St. Catherine's Wheel’.

Marcus Garvey flag Marcus Garvey flag
Flag and Arms of Lokve, Croatia (fotw)

See ‘leafy crown’.

blattkrone blattkrone
Lesser Arms and Civil Flag of Baden-Württemberg, Germany (fotw)

In heraldry the description, either oral or written, of an armorial banner, set of armorial bearings or a shield from those arms, given according to heraldic conventions (see also ‘armigerous’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘banner of arms’, ‘emblazon 2)’, ‘heraldry’ and ‘shield 1)’.

blazon example blazon example blazon example
Arms of Omišalj, Gornja Vrba and Barilović, Croatia (fotw)

a) The shields illustrated above may be blazoned as follows:
   Gules, a tower embattled Argent issuant from a base Azure and in chief a mullet Or;
   Parti per pale Gules and Argent overall a willow tree eradicated of the second and first counterchanged;
   Gules a bend Argent between two swords in bend of the same hilted and pommelled Or.
b) This term and its use should apply only to heraldic symbolism, and be employed in vexillology solely in that context.

(v) The act of describing (or having earlier described) heraldic symbolism as defined in ‘blazon’.

blazon example blazon example
Arms of Donja Dubrava and Krapina-Zagorje, Croatia (fotw)

The shields illustrated above may be blazoned as follows:
Gules an oak tree eradicated Or in base a cannon Sable;
Party per pale and per band embattled Gules and Or in chief three mullets of the second and first counterchanged.

See ‘consecration’.

The heraldic term for the colour sky-blue - see ‘shades of tincture’.


1) See ‘flag of defiance’.
2) See ‘red flag 2)’.

Bloody flag

1) In British maritime usage, the ensign worn (undefaced) by those merchant vessels commanded by an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve – but see 2) and the note a) below (also ‘armorial ensign’, ‘government ensign’ ‘red ensign 1)’, ‘undefaced’. ‘white ensign 1)’ and ‘yacht ensign’ under ‘ensign’).
2) In English then British RN usage, now obsolete (and largely – but not exclusively - dependent upon the seniority of the admiral in command), the junior of three alternative (undefaced) ensigns carried by a warship until 1864 – see ‘red ensign 2)’, ‘white ensign 2)’, ‘yellow admiral’ and note b) below.
3) Generically, any canton flag (either plain or defaced) with a blue field – particularly (but not exclusively) if flown at sea – a British-style ensign (see also ‘canton flag 1)’, ‘deface’ and ‘red ensign 3)’).

Blue ensign c1630 – 1707, England British reserve ensign Mauritium government ensign
Blue ensign c1630 – 1707, England (fotw); Reserve Ensign, UK (fotw); Government Ensign, Mauritius (fotw)

a) With regard to 1), the blue ensign is also used either plain or defaced as the ensign of many British yacht clubs, as a template (or archivexillum) for the flags of Government departments and – with few exceptions – of British Overseas Territories (see also ‘armorial ensign 2)’, ‘colonial flags’, ‘defaced’, ‘template flag’ and ‘warrant’).
b) Regarding 2), before 1864 an Admiral’s seniority was outwardly displayed by the colour of his command flag and by the ensigns flown by any ships under his command - the junior colour being blue, the next white and the senior red - however, in 1864 this colour system was abolished, and thereafter all flag officers flew a white command flag from the appropriate masthead where applicable, and all Royal Naval ships the white ensign (see also ‘distinction of colour’ and ‘flag flag of command 1)’).
c) Furthermore, the ensigns worn within a fleet could be arbitrarily changed (if the tactical situation required it) by order of the Flag Officer in overall command of that fleet irrespective of the grade held by any of his subordinate admirals.

British Department of Transport blue ensign Royal Corinthian YC blue ensign Montserrat
Ensign of the Department for Transport, UK (fotw); Ensign of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club, UK (fotw); Flag of Montserrat (fotw)

In European usage a flag awarded to beaches and marinas which have met established criteria with regard to environmental protection – a beach quality flag – see ‘clean marina flag’ (also ‘award flag’, ‘beach flag’ and ‘green flag’).

Blue Flag
Beach Quality/Blue Flag, European (fotw)

see ‘colonial jack 1)’, and ‘government service jack’ under ‘jack’.

[Blue Jack] [Blue Jack] [Blue Jack]
Jack of the Royal Maritime Auxiliary, UK (Martin Grieve); Jack of the Northern Lighthouse Board, UK (fotw), Jack of the Board of Trade c1939. UK (fotw)

A blue flag with a white panel in the centre, flown alone whilst in harbour to signify that all persons should report on board as the vessel is ready to proceed to sea - now also Papa in the International Code of Signals, but in use (with the same or similar meaning) since the 1750’s (see also ‘International Code of Signal Flags’, ‘preparatory flag’ and ‘signal flag’).

[Blue Peter - ICS Papa]
Signal Flag P (Papa) (fotw)

See ‘service flag 3)’.

single star service pennant
Blue Star Banner/Service Flag, US (fotw)

1) A small ensign (usually storm ensign size) used on ship's boats for identification when more than one nation's naval vessels are present in an anchorage (see also 'storm flag 2)').
2) See ‘boat flag 1)’ below.

Please note with regards to 1) that the ship's boats of naval vessels would not normally wear ensigns when operating in an anchorage if no foreign ships are present.

1) In US naval usage, now obsolete, a small national ensign of modified design (with 13 stars rather than the number on the normal U.S. ensign) formerly flown on small boats and submarines.
2) In US army usage, that version of a positional or rank flag intended to be flown on boats, or sometimes in front of that officer's headquarters (see also 'positional flag' and 'rank flag').
3) In British RN usage, that version of a flag of command which was originally for use only in boats, but from which the current versions of those flags are derived (see also ‘ball(s) of difference’ and the notes below, ‘barge flag’, 'flag of command', 'broad pennant' and vessel flag).

[US Admiral, early 20th century] UK Vice Admiral boat flag UK Rear Admiral boat flag
Late 19th – Early 20th Century, US (fotw); Boat Flags of a Vice-Admiral and Rear Admiral of the White c1702-1864 (fotw)

a) With regard to 3) these flags came to be flown aboard major vessels from c1872 onwards because the abandonment of an auxiliary sailing rig (due to the increased efficiency of marine engines and the weight of armour plate) meant that there was only one mast available from which to display a flag of command, and the previous system of varying mastheads to denote seniority, therefore, no longer viable.
b) The current versions of UK command flags date from regulations of 1898. These regulations reduced the width of the red cross, increased the size of the balls and changed their position on the flag of a rear-admiral (as illustrated below).

UK Vice-Admiral boat flag UK Rear-Admiral boat flag UK Rear-Admiral boat flag
Boat Flags then command Flags of a Vice Admiral and a Rear-Admiral 1864 – 1898, UK (fotw): Flag of a Rear-Admiral according to current regulations (fotw)

See ‘ogival’.

Thames barge sailing trust bob
Flag Ascribed to Ibernia, 14th Century (fotw)

In UK usage, the alternative terms for a small flag or pennant flown from the topmast truck of a sailing barge, bearing the owner’s logo and/or colours, and used to indicate wind direction – a bob-fly or Kent vane-fly (see also ‘colours 6)’, ‘house flag 1)’, ‘logo’, ‘main’, ‘truck 1)’, ‘vane 1)’ and ‘vane 2)’).

Thames barge sailing trust bob
Bob of the Thames Barge Sailing Trust, UK (CS)

The term for a (comparatively) wide band surrounding a field of a different colour, which may consist of one colour - either plain or have charges placed upon it - or may be made up of two or more colours in a variety of designs – a bordure (see also ‘double-tressure’, ‘flammulets’, ‘inner border 1)’, ‘inset border’, ‘orle 1)’ ‘outer border’, ‘panel’, ‘pierced 1)’, ‘plain 2)’, ‘tressure’ and ‘wolfteeth’).

[flags with borders] [flags with borders] [flags with borders]
National Flag of Maldives (fotw); Flag of King João II, Portugal 1485 - 1495 (fotw); National Flag of Grenada (fotw)

Please note - not to be confused with a fimbriation which is invariably plain and whose sole purpose is to divide one colour from another (see also ‘charge’, ‘fimbriation’, ‘panel’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

adj) The act of having placed a border around a flag – see ‘border’.

Prime Minister’s Flag, Portugal (fotw)

(v) A practice, now largely obsolete, of edging a flag in a different colour than the field, either for decorative purposes or to prevent fraying.

The term used to describe a flag whose border does not run along the hoist (see also ‘inset border’ and ‘outer edges’).

[border of three] [border of three]
Flag of Prince Edward Island, Canada (fotw); Flag of Stanbridge, Canada (fotw)

See ‘wolfteeth 1)’.

[Hungary president] [Hungary president]
Presidential Standard of Hungary (fotw); War Ensign of Hungary (fotw)

The heraldic term for a border – a border which sources suggest should occupy one-fifth of the field – see ‘cadency, mark of’ and its following note).

[bordure] [bordure] [bordure]
Flag and Arms of Oprisavci, Croatia (fotw); Flag of La Palma, Spain (fotw)

See ‘civic arms’.

[borough arms] [borough arms]
Arms of Westminster 1601 and 1964, UK (fotw)

See ‘civic flag’.

[borough flag] [borough flag]
Flag of Horn-Bad Meinberg, Germany (fotw); Flag of Southend-on-Sea, UK (fotw)

An alternative heraldic term to embowed - see ‘embowed’.

[flags with borders] [flags with borders]
Flag and Arms of Kyjov, Czechia (fotw)

See ‘jack’ (also ‘bow pennant’ below).

[bow flag]
Naval Jack of Argentina (fotw)

A small, usually triangular flag flown at the bow of pleasure craft, often facetious, but sometimes a personal flag (see also ‘personal flag 3)’).

[bow pennant]

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