??

1.  NAVAL LAW - FLYING THE WHITE ENSIGN ON NAVAL SHORE BUILDINGS.pdf - covered by Section One

AND

2.  LORD MOUNTBATTEN's QUESTION TO THE ADMIRALTY.pdf - and he a Communicator himself - covered by Section Two.

GENERAL

Number 1 above dated 1948 and number 2, 1953, opened a bag of worms for the Admiralty and for all those concerned with Flag Ceremony.  It appeared that nobody in the navy knew when and at which shore establishments the white ensign should be  worn, flown, or hoisted, and secondly what were the correct terms to be used in Flag Ceremony, this after flags had been used in the navy for at least a couple of hundred years. The Head of Naval Law wasn't sure; the chief bunting tosser DSD [Director of Signal Division] wasn't sure, nor were a whole host of boss' of buildings ashore associated in some way with the navy. Whilst it is true that some of these shore buildings were not in being before and during the second world war, they certainly were in the immediate and early post war years and yet in Flag Ceremonial terms, nobody knew what the rules were. However, war or no war and therefore time notwithstanding, the words used in Flag Ceremony should have been established, written down and published well before Nelson got to be a Post Captain, but for some inexplicable reason, those involved were NOT SURE !  Amazing.

SECTION ONE

Really, what does a ship do with a jack, an ensign, a commissioning pennant, a paying-off pennant, an admirals flag, whether in the ship proper, a barge or boat belonging to or being used by the ship, a motor car conveying a Flag Officer embarked in the ship or a shore headquarters, etc ?  Well in a minute we will know assuming that the rules agreed from as late on as 1953 are still extant and haven't been changed by more uncertainty.

Before we do that and to be fair to the navy, the rules for enabling a shore establishment to fly a white ensign were clear and left no one in any doubt. Any ship or shore establishment commissioned as one of His or Her Majesty's ships qualified. But, then some guy changed the rules allowing a "relaxation" but left the application of the relaxation in cryptic form. This relaxation of the rules COULD have affected a sizeable part of the navy who were beavering away, minding their own business, serving and doing good things for the Service who were not commissioned at all.  It is rather pointless to compose a full list of these 'beavers' but ten such outfits are mentioned in this rather large Admiralty file as follows:-

Reserves Training Centres RNH's Recruiting Offices Dockyards RN Helicopter repair establishment [Fleetlands] RN ships building in private yards Naval Patrol HQ's Queen Anne's Building London - HQ of Second Sea Lord RN Stores Depots RN Fuel Depots, experimental stations and Admiralty Test House - National Gas Turbine Establishment

Note that the Admiralty building itself is missing from the list and that is because they fly The Admiralty flag and not an ensign. Note also, with cynicism in mind, that we will not be covering the countless times we see the white ensign displayed at football matches, pop festivals, gigs, and yes, public order demonstrations. The displayers of this ensign in such places are a disgrace and their action is virtually akin to trampling on the ensign or setting light to it - it is nothing less than an insult to the Royal Navy.

We start with the Naval Provost, the dear and much loved Regulating Branch. In 1948, the Regulating School was in HMS Kestrel a virtually abandoned airfield at Worthy Down, Winchester in Hampshire. The C.O., posed the question as to whether it would be appropriate for Naval Patrol Headquarters to fly the white ensign.  He didn't mean HMS Kestrel for Kestrel flew the white ensign in her own right.  What he meant was any building which acted as a Patrol HQ and there would be several, nay many of those around the world at that time. One such place of high profile was an old police station in Paddington London which was now the HQ of the NPM [Naval Provost Marshal] London. I think the question quite caught the Admiralty off guard and they responded accordingly.

HMS KESTREL.pdf letter to C-in-C Portsmouth.

C-in-C PORTSMOUTH's LETTER TO THE ADMIRALTY.pdf

followed up by

C-in-C PORTSMOUTH's LETTER TO HEAD OF NAVAL LAW.pdf

then, quick as a flash, it was approved by the 4th Sea Lord on the 20th September 1948

NAVAL LAW LOOSE MINUTE WITH APPROVAL [TYPED] ON PAGE 3.pdf

Well, to say that this 'opened the flood gates' is an understatement, because the "relaxed" rules [however special and privileged the admirals thought they would be for the Naval Patrol boys] others saw it as a free for all, not necessarily in wanting to fly flags all over the place, but for wanting to know where they stood in the pecking order.

Whilst the powers that be were considering HMS Kestrel's case the Captain Superintendent of Contract Built Ships in Newcastle-on-Tyne was transcribing a letter.  His letter [and follow-ups] is self evident and relates to the white ensign and the responsibility for insurance.

CAPTAIN CLARIDGE's LETTER and FOLLOW UPS.pdf

As they say [sometimes] advertising always pays, so the next in line is the Director of Naval Recruiting wanting to know whether his recruiting offices are eligible to fly the white ensign.  That was comparatively easy because the office of DNR was just around the corner to the office of Naval Law and the 4th Sea Lord. Since there is only one very brief loose minutes from asking the question to getting approval I rather think that it was a 'wink and a nod'.

RECRUITING OFFICES CAN NOW FLY THE WHITE ENSIGN.pdf page two of this file shows the amendment to the AFO in DNR favour.

Sometime later the recruiting office in Valletta {sic} Malta wanted the same perk

MALTA RECRUITING OFFICE NOW FLIES THE WHITE ENSIGN.pdf

Hospitals of the Royal kind, navy, army and air force were also confused and the naval Medical Director General, the War Office and the Air Ministry all got involved. This saga started when a captain in the RCN, a Naval Member of the Canadian Joint Staff [London], wrote to the Admiralty asking for the correct procedure of flying a RED CROSS on R.N. Hospitals, reminding Their Lordships that such Hospitals  were separate naval establishments and consequently entitled to fly the White Ensign as well. He had to wait nearly three months for an answer, and would I am sure, have been sad to learn that RNH's were definitely NOT ALLOWED to fly a white ensign !

At this point in the story, being a Communicator myself but of the Wireless Telegraphy type, I find it difficult to accept that all this paper exchanged between learned men in high places over pieces of bunting is real, especially when these rules [Flag Ceremony] should have been set in stone a hundred or so years ago. The word petty comes to mind.

CAPTAIN RCN LETTER TO ADMIRALTY.pdf

Over the many weeks, correspondence and loose minutes were written including the answer to captain's letter above. In the first page of the following PDF file reflect well upon para [a] and apart from the ensign flying illegally [as you will read in this PDF file] can you credit that this came from the office of a Surgeon Rear or Vice Admiral ?

SERVICE ENSIGNS ON SERVICE HOSPITALS.pdf

4th Sea Lord [Mountbatten] Still not happy and wants a further investigation into the eligibility of shore stations concerned.
Note page 2 D.S.D is Director of Signals
Page 3 N.L. is Naval Law
Page 6 Note Mountbatten's signature {MofB} on approval
Page 10 - top - note Mountbatten's written comments
Pages 11-15 are all examples on when and where to use the expressions flies, flying, wears, fly, hoist, displayed, hoisted, bearing, carrying, use etc.

A CLUTCH OF CORRESPONDENCE FROM 1951 WHEN MOUNTBATTEN WAS 4TH SEA LORD.pdf

This file below is the only thing to date which makes good sound common sense.  It is written by a member of the Naval Law Branch who serves on the Committee of the King's Regulations and Admiralty Instruction {KR&AI} now QRRN. In his first letter dated 17th November 1950 his paragraph 5 viz "3. The White Ensign.....[page 2 of the PDF file] has the pencilled word "omit" pointing to R.N. Hospitals. This has been added by the Head of Naval Law. In his second letter dated 27th November 1950 [pages 3 and 4 of the PDF file] he ably argues the point in favour of White Ensigns on RNH's. However, as we will see, he was over ruled.

KR & AI COMMITTEE COMMON SENSE.pdf

The Head of Naval Law finally poo pooed the idea of RNH's flying a white ensign and in July 1951 it was approved by the 4th Sea Lord. Haslar alone, had lost its white ensign and the royal dockyard at Portsmouth could rest easy in not confusing a RED CROSS flag as a reversed white ensign which would signify that RNH Haslar was well and truly ablaze and burning well. What rubbish is that ?

HEAD OF NAVAL LAW & 4TH SEA LORDS FINAL DECISION.pdf

The subject of the white ensign was discussed in Parliament, in both houses and the proceedings as usual were recorded in Hansards. The Superintendent at the R.N. Aircraft Repair Yard at Fleetlands in Gosport happened to come across a copy of Hansards and noted that the flying of a white ensign was just what Fleetlands wanted [or needed] to enhance it image.  It wasn't enough having half of Gosport under tarmac, or a huge and triumphal gateway bedecked with knackered old helicopters leading to his office, so he got on the band-wagon and made his bid.

ONE OF MANY QUESTIONS ASKED IN THE HOUSE.pdf - I chose this because I am familiar with both speakers
FLEETLANDS BID TO FLY THE WHITE ENSIGN.pdf

The 'pinkies' got together first convincing a Rear Admiral and few weeks later an Admiral to submit the Fleetlands claim to the Admiralty [pages 1 and 2 of the PDF below]. Admiralty discussed it, threw it out [pages 3-5], and left FO Air [Home] [page 6] to deliver the bad news.

FLEETLANDS SUPPORT AND ADMIRALTY REFUSAL.pdf

Next though in no logical order of the rolling band-wagon came the RNV[W]R known as inland training centres.  These were all centres outside the remit of RNVR Headquarters.  Admiral Commanding Reserves [ACR] but much too long, boring and trivial to show here, decided that they should have a white ensign just like those in the RNVR proper had.  The 'W' stood for WIRELESS. Out of the 5 metre high [or so] pile of paper on this crucially important subject, I am showing you just the stations issued with a 4 breadth white ensign to play with.

ADMIRAL COMMANDING RESERVES RNV[W]R WHITE ENSIGNS.pdf

One more request [and we will leave the rest to the funny farm] asking to fly the white ensign before we go to Section Two of this web page.  They asked for permission on the 6th May 1952 and permission was given on the 6th June 1952 - just one month.  Clearly the 'clankies', yes 'clankies', had friends in high places and permission to fly a white ensign outside the gates of their property was readily given.  There is another one of interest and that came from Mr Kipling who as the supplier of pies to the Admiralty wanted...............sorry I am being facetious.

NATIONAL GAS TURBINE ESTABLISHMENT.pdf

SECTION TWO

I have in front of me a large pile of papers and files concerning Flag Ceremony and all written by the most senior officers in the Royal Navy in the late 1940's early 1950's, mostly within the confines of the Admiralty and exceptionally with the Mediterranean Fleet. Lord Mountbatten was the 4th Sea Lord in 1951 and C-in-C Mediterranean in 1953.  The departments under the 4th Sea Lord were Director General Dockyards and Maintenance; Directors of Dockyard Division, of Fleet Maintenance Division, of Marine Service Division, of  Stores, of Victualling, of Armaments, of Movements; Head of Fleet Work Study; Superintendent of Admiralty Material Standardisation and Deputy Chief of Supplies and Transport.

It beggars belief as to why the subject matter should pre-occupy these men, when I can visualise many of my old friends in the V/S Branch, sitting in HMS Mercury, in Eagle Block, absorbing this detail without any undue effort.

In 1953, a new Director of Signals admits that there is confusion both in the minds of the public and in official circles. Given what I have shown you above since the late 1940's this is a terrible indictment and cast doubts on the Board to get these simple things correct. With DSD's loose minutes are three examples of 'letters to the Times' on the subject, followed by a Table giving more "correct" ways of referring to Flag Ceremony.

DSD's DOUBTS & TIMES LETTERS & CORRECT WAY OF SAYING THINGS.pdf

 With the letter at the beginning of this web page from Lord Mountbatten [No 2], came ten or so pages of instances when each word [fly, hoist etc] should be used, all attached as appendices. The letter asked for clarification as to how to use each and every expression.  After a great deal of discussion in the Admiralty and bearing in mind that three years previously Mountbatten himself had sat in the 4th Sea Lord chair dealing with the same subject [without a resolution], the Head of Naval Law penned a reply. This is it, in its original draft form. The draft was never approved and no reply was sent to the Mediterranean.

HEAD OF NAVAL LAW DRAFT LETTER TO MOUNTBATTEN.pdf

Head of Naval Law slept on that draft and then decided he would have a word with the 1st Sea Lord who at that time was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Rhoderick Robert McGrigor GCB.  The old admiral listened and compared his own research into the use of the correct expression so forcibly insisted upon by Mountbatten. He did not want to enforce change and neither he nor Mountbatten could stop the time honoured way officers used expressions about Flag Ceremony. Mountbatten's letter at 2 above was dated 16th September and the draft on the 10th December. Have a look at the penultimate and ultimate paragraphs.

End of Story and an Admiralty snub to Mountbatten.pdf

Whether Lord Mountbatten ever got to know why his letter had never been answered is not known, but what is known, is that a lot of senior men in the navy wasted their time with silly things, for does it really matter how a piece of bunting gets into position as long as it does and signifies the desired meaning to the fleet.

Yours aye.

P.S. If you look at this page white ensign - Google Search, you will see two full pages of pages on my website dealing with the WHITE ENSIGN.  This is copied from the "Search this Site" on my Home page at http://www.godfreydykes.info