Hoisting the battle ensign

Staevart

Newbie
In vintage war movies about the RN, just before the start of a sea battle, the Captain orders hoist the "Battle Ensign". The ensign is tied or secured in such a way that it is bound up as it is hoisted. Once it reaches the top of the yardarm or mast, the signalman pulls on a rope and the ensign catches the wind and unfurls dramatically.
I have been trying to find the knot(s) used to secure the ensign and allow for its quick release. Apparently, the Queen's Flag Sergeant at Buckingham Palace (yes, there is such a duty position - see Forces TV) uses a form of quick release for the Sovereign's Banner when the Queen returns to the palace after being away, but it looks different from those used in the films..
Other than a quick release knot used to tie horses, I am unable to find any reference to quick release knots used by the Royal Navy. Are there any signalmen (serving or ex) out there who can help or is hoisting the battle ensign some dramatic license taken on the part of some film makers?
 

redmonkey

Lantern Swinger
Book Reviewer
Isnt the lower halyard wrapped around the folded ensign with a loop pushed between the ensign and the wrapped around halyard?

It can then be unfurled by a sharp tug of the halyard.
 

huwshpis

War Hero
Isnt the lower halyard wrapped around the folded ensign with a loop pushed between the ensign and the wrapped around halyard?

It can then be unfurled by a sharp tug of the halyard.
That's how I was taught to do it by my father (a retired MN Captain). I was never a bunting-tosser, though.

Battle ensigns are larger than those ordinarily flown in day to day sailing and a warship would usually fly several from different places, in case any halliards were shot away. This avoids giving any impression that the ship is surrendering (the usual signal of surrender being the striking of the colours).
 

Knotty

Lantern Swinger
Isnt the lower halyard wrapped around the folded ensign with a loop pushed between the ensign and the wrapped around halyard?

It can then be unfurled by a sharp tug of the halyard.
Correct, you also hoisted the flag gently without snagging the lower halyard which would cause the flag to open/flutter prematurely. It's actually called 'breaking the ensign', I have one used during Falklands conflict, a rather large 10 or 12 if I'm not mistaken.
I am an x-tosser
 

Mackan2017

Badgeman
[QUOTE="redmonkey, post: 1447368, member: 8027
Isnt the lower halyard wrapped around the folded ensign with a loop pushed between the ensign and the wrapped around halyard? It can then be unfurled by a sharp tug of the halyard. [/QUOTE]

Correct, and if it's a tad windy or you're just a bit nervous about it breaking too early, pull the loop tight and put a matchstick in the eye of the loop to keep it in place. A good tug will snap the matchstick and the ensign will break exactly as planned.....

A trick shown to me by my first Chief Yeoman which never let me down, I used it many a time on many a signal deck....
 

Knotty

Lantern Swinger
[QUOTE="redmonkey, post: 1447368, member: 8027
Isnt the lower halyard wrapped around the folded ensign with a loop pushed between the ensign and the wrapped around halyard? It can then be unfurled by a sharp tug of the halyard.
Correct, and if it's a tad windy or you're just a bit nervous about it breaking too early, pull the loop tight and put a matchstick in the eye of the loop to keep it in place. A good tug will snap the matchstick and the ensign will break exactly as planned.....

A trick shown to me by my first Chief Yeoman which never let me down, I used it many a time on many a signal deck....
[/QUOTE]
I'd forgotten about the match trick Mackan2017, thanks for reminding me (not that I am ever likely to need use of it again)..! ;)
 

Staevart

Newbie
Thank you all for your input. As you can see by my avatar, I am not only a landlubber (if that term is still in use), but a Yank one at that!
Again, many thanks and cheers,
 

About half-way down.
 

Staevart

Newbie
Many thanks for the link. Yours is the first to show how the knot was actually tied.

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but a question comes to mind - how would the matchstick trick that Mackan2017 mentions work with this knot? It seems that with the Boy Scout knot, the matchstick would simply slip through the wrap around. Could it be that RN uses a different knot?
 

scabz

Lantern Swinger
Dunno, perhaps the matchstick sits in the upper bight, which is pulled tighter so that it doesn't drop out.
 

sampost

Newbie
I am inspired by Jack Crawford, who simply "nailed his colours to the mast". No knots involved (at that stage of the battle, at any rate).

Per Wikipedia: "During the Age of Sail, ships would legally fight only while flying their national flag. Flying another flag was considered to be a legitimate ruse de guerre only until the beginning of the fight. Striking the colours was a sign of surrender. Indeed, when cannon shots fell a ship's flag, her opponent would cease firing and inquire whether she was capitulating.
In contrast, fixing the battle ensign with nails would prevent it from being removed easily, and effectively prevented the surrender. It became an expression of defiance and willingness to force oneself to fight up to the bitter end."


A sitrep from the South, where the Union Jack was once an integral patch on the "Oranje, blanje, blou" (The Orange, white and blue):

 

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