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Dictionary of Vexillology: S (Sable - Service Pennant)

Last modified: 2008-01-05 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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The heraldic term for the colour black (see ‘Appendix III’ and ‘rule of tincture’).

1) A special flag of internationally recognized design – such as that of the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and others – which (by international agreement) protects personnel engaged in medical succour, ambulances, civil and field hospitals and hospital ships against military action – a Geneva Convention flag, or flag of protection (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).
2) The Red Cross, Red Crescent, Red Crystal and other recognized flag designs (together with arm brassards or painted symbols) are also used to indicate the facilities and personnel of these organisations rendering aid to the survivors and casualties of natural or human disasters (see also ‘international flag’ and ‘supra-national flag’).

IRCRC flags
Red Cross Flag Red Crescent Flag Red Crystal Flag (fotw)

Please note that on 8 December 2005 the International Committee of the Red Cross adopted a Protocol (Protocol III) authorizing a red crystal (diamond shape) as an additional non-religious and politically neutral symbol, however, please also note that the flags of the Red Cross and of its associated organizations are at the same time international flags, safe conduct, flags of protection and Geneva Convention flags.

In largely German usage, a flag pole or mast (most often) erected ashore for the multiple display of barge or inland waterway related flags for decorative purposes, and equipped with a long gaff and yard – a display mast or bargemen’s association display mast (see also ‘dress ship’, ‘gaff’, ‘stayed mast’ and ‘yard’).

Please note that this term is a translation of the German schiffermast, and that use of such masts seems to be restricted to associations of bargemen or similar.

1) See ‘saltire’.
2) A white saltire on a blue field – the national flag of Scotland.
3) A blue saltire on a white field – the naval ensign of the Russian Federation (and formerly of the Russian Empire) - a St. Andrew's ensign.

Please note that whilst the term St George's Cross generally refers only to a red cross on a white field, the Cross of St Andrew, due to a tradition that the saint was crucified on a diagonal cross, has come to be regarded by many as a saltire of any colour or metal on a field of any colour or metal. Although this is considered inaccurate in English heraldic or vexillological usage, it is common in countries and languages where a term equivalent to “saltire” does not exist.

See ‘St Andrew’s cross 3)’ above.

See ‘cross 1)’ (also ‘St George’s Cross 3)’ below).

1) See ‘cross 1)’.
2) The Cross (as above) of St George - the national flag of England and the flag of the ancient Republic of Genoa. (see also ‘St George’s ensign’)
3) Any red cross on a white field.

Please note however, that such a cross with arms of equal length is also a Greek cross (see also 'Greek cross').

In English later British RN usage now obsolete, the term to describe a white ensign charged with a Cross of St George overall (as per the present pattern), and formerly used in order to differentiate it from one having a plain fly (see also ‘St George’s Cross 2)’ and ‘white ensign’).

[British White Ensign] [British White Ensign] [British White Ensign] [British White Ensign]
From left: White Ensign, England 1702 – 1707; With Plain Fly c1630 - 1707; White Ensign, UK 1707 – 1801; With Plain Fly 1707 – c1730 (CS)

Please note that white ensigns bearing a Cross of St George overall were introduced in 1702 and were at first restricted to use outside home waters, however, the version with a plain fly had disappeared by 1744.

A red saltire on a white field (see also 'saltire' and 'St Andrew's Cross').

Please note that this saltire has no known links to the saint, but when adopted for the British Union Flag was a symbol of the knightly Order of St Patrick (see also ‘union jack’).

A cross whose arms are of equal width, which usually intersect in the centre of the flag. canton or panel they occupy, and which generally run from the upper hoist corner to the lower fly corner, and from the lower hoist corner to the upper fly corner of a flag, canton or panel - a diagonal or diagonally-centred cross (see also ‘canton’, ‘orthogonal’, ‘panel’, 'per saltire' and ‘St Andrew’s Cross’).

[Jamaica - saltire] [Sweden 1815-1844]
From left: National Flag of Jamaica (fotw); War Ensign of Sweden 1815 - 1844 (fotw)

That custom, often prescribed by law or regulation, which requires military personnel to salute and civilians to remove their hats or place the right hand over their heart when a flag is raised or lowered, or when it passes in parade (see also ‘flag salute’).

1) A band of material, usually in the national colours and sometimes bearing the national arms, worn across the chest by a head of state, especially in South America, or by civic officials.
2) A similar symbol used by political organizations.

[Presidential sash of Honduras] The Presidential Sash of Honduras (Eugene Ipavec)

See ‘daimo flags’.

See ‘serrated’ (also ‘wolfteeth’).

(adj) Where the edges of a flag are cut into repeated semi-circular shapes.

Please note however, that a division line within a flag or shield is not scalloped, but is more correctly described as either engrailed or invected (see ‘engrailed’ and 'invected').

A cross with arms of equal width, whose horizontal arm runs along the centre of the flag, but whose vertical arm is off-centred towards the hoist – a Nordic or off-centred Cross.

[Norway - Scandinavian cross] [Sweden] [Åland Islands] [Shetland Islands]
From left: National Flag of Norway (CS); National Flag of Sweden (CS); Åland Islands, Finland (fotw); Shetland Islands, Scotland (fotw)

Please note that this term should only be used for those flags which are from, or have a connection with the Scandinavian region, otherwise see ‘off-centred cross 2)

See ‘off-centred cross 2)’.

[Shetland Islands]
Domingos Martins, Brazil (fotw)

A small ecclesiastical banner fixed to the top of a bishop’s crosier (see also ‘banderole’).

See 'tugh

1) A form of flag where a rectangular or triangular tongue extends from the upper fly corner of the flag, or where it has a strip along its top edge that extends beyond the fly to become a tongue (see also 'palm', ‘square-tongued’, ‘stepped fly’ and ‘tongue(s)’).
2) The tail as described above.

15th C Flag of Zurich, Switzerland (CS)

Please note, it is suggested that in the original German this term refers only to the tail.

A usually narrow ribbon of varying length and elaboration; it is normally (but not exclusively) placed below the shield in a set of armorial bearings or an emblem, and is inscribed with a motto or the name of a state or other entity – but see ‘ribbon scroll 2)’ (also ‘Appendix IV’, ‘armorial bearings’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘emblem’ and ‘motto’).

New Jersey New Jersey arms Brazil arms Brunei arms
The Flag and Arms of The State of New Jersey, US; The National Emblems of Brazil and Brunei (fotw)

An emblem or design representing a government or person that, when embossed upon or affixed to a document, proves its authenticity or which validates a legal instrument. The reproduction of an official seal often appears on US sub-national flags (see also ‘anti-heraldry’, ‘seal flag’, ‘sub-national flag’ and ‘state flag 2)’).

[Seal of US state of Georgia] [Seal of US state of Minnesota]
State Seal of Georgia and Minnesota, US (fotw and official)

Please note, that whilst a seal originally showed the user’s badge or parts of their armorial bearings (and was used to create an impression on wax or lead), when seen on flags today it is generally not a coat of arms as defined herein (see also ‘anti-heraldry’).

A term for the flag whose main charge consists of a seal as defined herein, set largely (but not exclusively) on a plain field and most often seen in the flags of US states (see also ‘anti-heraldry’, ‘armorial flag’, ‘charge 2)’, ‘plain 2)’ and ‘seal’)

[Utah, US] [Missouri, US] [New Hampshire, US]
From left: Flag of Utah, US (fotw); Flag of Missouri, US (fotw); Flag of New Hampshire, US (fotw)

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors since no established alternative could be found, and that flags of his type are often derived from previously established military colours.

See ‘Magen David’.

An old term, now rarely used outside the British and Canadian foot guards, for the regimental colour (see also ‘colour 2’ and ‘colours 2)’).

See ‘registration flags’.

The outer edges of a length of cloth so woven that the threads do not unravel, and used to minimize the area of a flag which might otherwise be lost through hemming – most particularly in those flags formerly made from breadths of fabric (see also ‘breadth 2)’.

A system of signalling by means of two flags hand-held in various positions according to a recognized code (see also ‘Morse code signalling with flags’ and ‘wig wag’).
2) A system of signalling by means of movable mechanical arms, now obsolete but widely used prior to invention of the electric telegraph and at sea sometimes fitted aboard warships - telegraphing.
3) A system of flags, pennants and black shapes hoisted in various positions to indicate the state and height of the tide in some French ports.

[semaphore positions]
Positions in Semaphore (Jim Croft)

Please note with regard to 2), in British RN usage ships hoisted a designated semaphore flag to indicate that they were about to make a signal by means of the mechanical semaphore system.

See 'semaphore 2)', and note.
An originally heraldic term for where the field of a flag or shield is sown or strewn over with an indeterminate number of charges such as fleur-de-lis or stars.

[a semy flag]
National Flag of France 1814 – 1830 (fotw)

A cruciform vexilloid of classical Greece used aboard ship (to indicate command, for signalling and for identification) and sometimes draped with a phoinikis or purple cloak/length of cloth (see also ‘standard 5)’ and ‘vexilloid 2)’).

Please note that word semeion had a broad range of meanings in classical Greek all roughly corresponding to “sign” (see also ‘signum’) and it is accordingly suggested that the definition given above (whilst based on written sources) must be considered to some degree conjectural.

Also please note that semeia is the plural form of semeion, and that classical Greek writers also refer to “barbarian semeia” with those of the Phoenicians recorded as having been a globe and crescent.

A fine silk fabric originally used as a field for the finest quality of various flags.

A pennant hoisted to indicate the senior officer's ship when several warships of the same navy are alongside or at anchor in a port – a senior officer present afloat pennant (see also 'broad pennant', 'command pennant' and 'flag of command'). It should be noted however, that many different designs are in use by different navies, and that these might also have differing or additional meanings.

[Senior Officer Afloat pennants]
From left: Argentina (CS); Estonia (CS); France, French Forces only (CS)

Please note that a green, white and green square-ended pennant – the starboard pennant in the NATO signal code - is used for this purpose (at the starboard yardarm) by all warships of the Alliance, but usually only when there is no flag officer present who is flying his flag afloat. It is, however, also employed to indicate the senior officer when ships of more than one NATO navy are present in a port, irrespective of whether any flags of command or broad pennants are flying.

[starboard pennant]
The NATO Starboard Pennant (CS)

See ‘Franklin flag

A saw-toothed line on a shield or flag – indented or dancetty (see also ‘wolfteeth’).

[Bahrain - serrated flag]
National Flag of Bahrain (fotw)

Please note that the five white points on the flag of Bahrain (illustrated above) refer to the five pillars of Islam.

1) See ‘state flag 1)’ (also ‘state service flag’).
2) See ‘ensign 2)’ and ‘government ensign’ under ‘ensign’.
3) In largely North American usage, a flag authorized for display by families, employers, or other organizations to signify that one or more members is serving in the armed forces – a sons in service flag.

single star service pennant two star service pennant single gold star/two blue star service pennant Canadian service pennant
From left: Service Flags US (fotw); Canada (CS)

Please note, a gold star (as illustrated above) or emblem indicates that the person being represented has died in service.

See ‘consecration’.

The generic term – and a direct translation of the German dienstwimpel – for an increasingly obsolete type of pennant that is sometimes flown (in varying forms) from the mainmast of vessels in government employ to indicate the function or service involved, or occasionally from an appropriate shore based establishments (see also ‘main’).

DDR Shipping inspectorate
The DDR Shipping Inspectorate, 1955-90 (fotw)

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