Union Flag flown on the foremast

I've been reading a book about the RN in the later Victorian period (From Warrior to Dreadnought, by DK Brown)

I notice that in some of the photos dating from between (I would guess) 1880 and the beginning of WW1 the ships are wearing a union flag on the foremast with the ship under way. In one case it is being flown inferior to a vice-admiral's flag. Now, I seem to remember that the union flag being flown on a mast, as opposed to the jackstaff, signifies either that a court martial is taking place on board, or that an admiral of the fleet is flying his flag. Neither seems likely in these cases.

Any bunting-tosser out there who knows what it signifies?


Lantern Swinger
During WWI, RN vessels flew the Union Flag in addition to the White Ensign because the White Ensign was thought to be too similar to the German Naval Ensign.


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