Maritime flag

A maritime flag is a flag designated for use on ships, boats, and other watercraft. Naval flags are considered important at sea and the rules and regulations for the flying of flags are strictly enforced. The flag flown is related to the country of registration: so much so that the word “flag” is often used symbolically as a synonym for “country of registration”.

Flag designated for use on ships or at sea
A medieval ship flag captured from a Danish ship by Lübeck forces in 1427 showed the arms of Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Pomerania. The original flag was destroyed in World War II during an Allied bombing raid on Lübeck, but a 19th-century copy remains in Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark. The saint accompanying the Virgin Mary and infant Christ is Saint James the Greater, identified by his scallop shell emblem.

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Main article: Ensign
The Red Ensign, as currently used by the United Kingdom‘s Merchant Navy

Ensigns are usually required to be flown when entering and leaving harbour, when sailing through foreign waters, and when the ship is signalled to do so by a warship. Warships usually fly their ensigns between the morning colours ceremony and sunset when moored or at anchor, at all times when underway, and at all times when engaged in battle—the “battle ensign“. When engaged in battle a warship often flies multiple battle ensigns. This tradition dates from the era of sailing vessels. Tradition dictated that if a ship lowered its ensign it was deemed to have surrendered. Masts were targets of gunfire, and the second and subsequent ensigns were flown in order to keep the ensign flying even after a mast hit.

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