RAF Ensign-and-Standard

The Royal Air Force Ensign

The Royal Air Force Ensign

The Royal Air Force Ensign was introduced in 1920 amid much controversy. This was because it involved the Admiralty, The War Office and the Air Ministry. The Air Council had decided that the newly formed Royal Air Force should fly its own flag from its stations. This did not find much favour with the Admiralty who have the right to veto the introduction of any new flag intended for use either on land or at sea anywhere within the British territories.

The Air Council though, were most insistent and so the Admiralty reluctantly conceded, stating that if the Royal Air Force was intent on having its own flag, then it should adopt the Union Flag with some appropriate device attached to it.

The Air Council did not like this idea and sent a sketch of its proposed design to the Admiralty, which was a White Ensign minus the St George's Cross. Although the War Office had no objection to this, the Admiralty did and rejected the submission on the grounds that the White Ensign, along with the Blue and Red Ensigns, were reserved for the Royal Naval Service exclusively and any use of them not connected with the Royal Navy was to be forbidden.

Early RAF Ensign

Early submission for the RAF Ensign

King George V heard of these problems and suggested that the matter be referred to the Cabinet but, although a submission was put together for this purpose, it was never put forward.

The general public soon got to hear of all this and they stared sending in their own designs. Although none of these were adopted, one of them put forward the idea that the roundel should be used at it could be easily associated with the Royal Air Force as it had been used by both the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. This found favour with the various commanders-in-chief and its use was approved. Before the final vote was cast however, Air Vice-Marshal Salmond suggested that the Union Flag be included in the top left-hand corner so as to give it a mark of British authority. Lord Trenchard took the Ensign to the King who, sharing Lord Trenchard's views as to the sentimental value attached to the Roundel, approved the design. The design was then shown to the Lords of the Admiralty and was finally accepted.

The Ensign was officially introduced in December 1920, and on 24 March 1921, the King signed an Order in Council, thus defining its status and protecting it for authorised use.

The Royal Air Force Ensign is flown daily at established RAF stations. For reasons of modern day practicality, the flag is formally raised and lowered at a suitable hour just before and after routine working times respectively. This is done by station duty staff and sometimes at a unit parade on particular occasions.

At major formation headquarters the ensign is flown at the head of the staff atop the main headquarters building, while on a station the maritime custom is more closely followed.

Use of the Royal Air Force Ensign

RAF Ensign

The Royal Air Force Ensign

The RAF Ensign is never displayed except properly mounted on a staff or mast. As an ensign, it is not permitted to be carried on a parade nor may it be used as decoration among other coloured bunting. Further, it is not correct to use it to drape a coffin at funeral, the appropriate flag for that purpose being the Union Flag.

There are some occasions when the Royal Air Force Ensign has flown as other than merely the flag of the Royal Air Force, taking the temporary status of a national flag. This is demonstrated at the police border posts of the British Sovereign base Areas on the island of Cyprus.

The size of the ensign flown is usually 3 feet by 6 feet (0.91m x 1.82m). On important days and on days when a formal inspection is to take place, then an ensign twice this size is flown. When the situation dictates however, such as on a high building, a much larger ensign is flown to give an enhanced aesthetic appearance.

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