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Dictionary of Vexillology: D (Dhvaja - Drum Banner)

Last modified: 2008-01-05 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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A triangular flag usually containing seven red over white horizontal stripes whose lower edge is at right angles to the hoist, and symbolic of Hinduism (see also ‘religious flag’).

[Hindu dhvaja]
Dhvaja of the Hindus (CS)

Please note that the word is sometimes pronounced as d’vahjah, but that other pronunciations exist.

See ‘saltire’.

1) (v) On flags, to create a variation of another flag, either by changing one or more colours, or by adding or removing a charge. Usually done to indicate close cultural, historical, or geographic ties as in, for example, the flag of Italy was differenced from that of France by changing the blue stripe to green, or to differentiate between the various grades of senior officer in the armed services (see also ‘archivexillum’, ‘core flag’, ‘flag family’ and ‘rank flag’).
2) In heraldry, see ‘cadency, mark of’ and the note below..

[Hindu dhvaja]
National flag of Russian (fotw); Civil Ensign of Slovenia (fotw); National Flag of Bulgaria (fotw)

Please note with regard to 2) that in heraldry the terms difference and differencing may not have exactly the same meaning, that these terms do not necessarily equate directly with cadency as shown above and that we therefore suggest a dictionary or glossary on heraldry should be consulted for further details.

The actual measured size of a flag, or of a charge thereon, as opposed to its proportions (see also ‘proportions’, ‘specification’, and ‘specification sheet’,).

example of dimensions

(adj) The heraldic term for a charge or charges, such as animals, birds (particularly eagles) or fleur-de-lis,forming part of a coat of arms, or an entire coat of arms as defined herein, which are halved along the vertical centre line – but see ‘conjoined’ (also ‘coat of arms 2)’, ‘entire’ and ‘impale’).

[dimidated flags]
From left: Flag of Nysa, Poland (fotw); Flag of the Cinque Ports, UK (Martin Grieve)

Please note, however, that where two sets of dimidiated arms or any elements thereof are set side by side (as illustrated above), in heraldic terms they are said to be ‘impaled by dimidiation’, and that (whilst this is often the case) one dimidiated charge, or set of dimidiated arms, need not necessarily (as per the example below) be set beside another so halved (see also ‘conjoined’).

[dimidated flags]
Flag of Geneva, Switzerland (fotw)

See ‘dimidiated’ and following note above.

In US usage the practice, almost certainly obsolete, of flying a white flag from the starboard yardarm (or spreader) of a pleasure vessel when the owner is dining, and from the port yardarm when the crew are at meals – but see ‘meal pennant’ (also ‘guest on board flag’, ‘owner absent flag’ and ‘yardarm’).

Dinner flag
Dinner Flag, US (fotw)

Those distinguishing flags that are flown by the officers of a country’s diplomatic services (consular or ambassadorial) either ashore or afloat - an ambassadorial, ambassador’s, consul’s, consular or consular officer’s flag (see also ‘distinguishing flag 1)’.

[diplomatic flags]
Ambassador’s Flags – UK. US and Thailand (fotw)

Please note that these flags are not generally flown outside embassies or consulates (although they may be), but are more usually seen ashore as car flags, within diplomatic premises and/or outside the residences of ambassadors or consuls, or they may be flown from the main masthead of a vessel carrying a diplomatic or consular officer when afloat (see also ‘car flag’, ‘main’ and ‘masthead’).

1) On parade, a method of saluting with a flag in which the staff is lowered by inclining the staff forward then returning it to the original upright position, with the degree of such lowering being governed by national regulations or custom, and ranging from a slight inclination to dropping the head of the staff all the way to the ground or vailing – see ‘vailing’ (also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’, 'parade flag', ‘pike’, ‘staff 2)’ and ‘trailing 1’). When multiple flags are carried, which (if any) are dipped in salute generally depends on the status of the person or entity being saluted, dipping customs vary widely, however, and in some countries, the national flag is never dipped, while in others it may be dipped in salute to a head of state or other specified high dignitaries.
2) (v) At sea, a method of saluting with a flag whereby the ensign is lowered about one width from the truck of the ensign staff (or one-third the length of the halyard if flying at the gaff or yardarm) and then re-hoisted to its original position (see also ‘ensign’, ‘ensign staff’, ‘gaff’, ‘halyard’. and ‘yardarm’).
3) See ‘trailing’.

Please note that a warship will never dip its ensign to another vessel (whether warship or merchantman) but will invariably return the salute when offered by a merchant vessel - a courtesy that (whilst formerly given as a matter of course) is rarely seen today – and that that warships only return salutes from the ships of countries recognized by their own government. Saluting between warships not wearing the flag of a flag officer or a broad pennant is carried out by bosun’s call or bugle, and when flag officers meet at sea they salute each other with the appropriate number of guns, although usually only by prior arrangement (see also 'flag of command', ‘flag officer’, ‘gun salute’ and ‘private ship’).

Please note also, that at sea a manoeuvring signal will be dipped by the flagship when it has been acknowledged, and signifies that the signal is to be executed, however, an answering pennant flown at the dip in response to a hoist from the flagship, indicates that the signal is not understood - an answering pennant flown close-up confirms that the signal has been received and understood (see also ‘close-up’, ‘hoist 2)’ and ‘signal flag’).

A circular area of single colour used as a charge (see also ‘charge’ and ‘roundel 2)’).

Please note that a disc is called a roundel in heraldry.

(v) To add any unauthorised charge, device or wording to the field of a flag, particularly when it is of an insulting or pejorative nature (see also ‘charge’, ‘desecrate’ and ‘device’ and compare with ‘deface’).
See ‘hoistline’.

See ‘privateer jack’.

1) The flag of a civil position within a governmental structure, as opposed to that signifying military rank, as in for example, the distinguishing flag of a Government minister (see also ‘diplomatic flags’).
2) An alternative term for a rank flag (see also ‘rank flag’).
3) In US Air Force and Marine Corps usage, a flag denoting an officer's rank – see ‘individual flag’ (also ‘flag of command’, ‘personal flag 3)’ and ‘rank flag 1)’).
4) In US military usage, the flag of a command or organization not authorized to bear colours.

[distinguishing flags]
From left: Minister of Defence, Argentina; Secretary for Defence US; Minister of Defence Sweden (fotw)

Please note, that although these terms are sometimes considered interchangeable, the Editors have drawn a general distinction between the command flags used by senior naval officers, the rank flags employed by officers from the other armed services, the distinguishing flags of civilians and with personal flags.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), this is the mark that identifies a vessel's status as the warship or government owned ship of a sovereign state, and thus operated for non-commercial purposes.

Please note that this distinguishing mark is invariably the ship's ensign, to lesser extent the masthead pennant and in some cases also the jack (see also 'ensign' 'jack' ‘masthead pennant 1)’) and ‘suit of colours’).

See ‘rank plate’.

In British RN and some other naval usage now obsolete, the term for a short triangular pennant or large rectangular flag of different coloured panels, often stiffened with a frame and sometimes flown (in addition to a masthead pennant) by sailing warships to indicate (depending upon the masthead employed) the division of a fleet to which they belonged or to identify individual ships within that division (see also ‘masthead’ and ‘masthead pennant 1)’).

1) Flag A (Alpha or Alfa) in the International Code of Signals, signifying that the vessel flying the flag has a diver down and that vessels approaching should keep well clear and proceed at slow speed (see also ‘International Code of Signal Flags’ and ‘signal flag’).
2) In US and some other usage, a red flag with a white descending diagonal stripe indicating that divers are below the surface in the immediate vicinity of the flag.

[diver below flags]
Signal Flag Alpha (CS)

[diver below flags]
Unofficial Warning Flag (CS)

Please note however, that while often referred to as unofficial, use of 2) is required by law in most US states, and by law or regulation in some other countries.

See ‘golden mean’.

See ‘Appendix VII’.

A term for the shape of the national flag of Nepal, which was apparently created by two triangular pennants having been sewn together (see also ‘pavon’ and ‘pennant 2)’).

Nepal Dewaas
National Flag of Nepal (CS) Former Princely State of Dewas, India (fotw)

Please note that this term has been introduced by the Editors since no established alternative could be found.

A term for that variation of the swallow-tailed flag where a vertical section appears in the centre of the fly (see also ‘splittflag’ and ‘swallow-tail(ed)’).

Denmark yacht ensign [Iceland] [Aaland Islands yacht ensign]
from left: The Yacht Ensign of Denmark (fotw); Flag of Iceland (CS); Yacht Ensign of the Aaland Is, Finland (CS)

The term for a 17th Century Dutch naval flag usually (but not invariably) of six even, horizontal stripes in the Dutch national colours repeated – but see ‘triple-prince’ (also ‘princeflag’ and ‘tricolour 3)’)

[double prince] double prince with 7 stripes
From left: Double Prince c1660 (CS); With Seven Stripes c1660 (fotw)

Please note however, whilst all available evidence suggests that red, white and blue were employed, orange instead of red may have been used at an earlier stage.

(adj) A term used to describe a fly that is cut into two tails with rounded ends – a cloven bullnose (see also ‘fly’, ‘gonfanon’, ‘guidon 2)’, ‘multi-tailed descate’, ‘standard 4)’, ‘swallowtail’ and ‘triple-tailed descate’).

[double tailed descate]
Double-Tailed Descate (CS)

A Roman military flag formed like a windsock whose open end was fixed to a dragon’s head with gaping silver jaws (see also ‘dragon flag’ and ‘windsock’).

A bearer of the draco.

1) A pre-heraldic flag similar to the Roman Draco formed like a windsock, with a dragon’s head/shape, and possibly having a whistling tube within it (see also ‘draco’, ‘pre-heraldic’, 'standard 6)' and ‘windsock’).
2) The term for one of several varying designs of flag used in Imperial China up to 1912 – an imperial dragon flag.

[imperial China dragon flag]
Chinese Imperial Flag c1890 (fotw)

Please note with regard to 1), it is suggested by some authorities that the main standard used by the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings (in 1066) was of this type.

(v) The decoration of a staff with a black cravat or long black ribbons (particularly but not exclusively on flags that cannot be half-masted) as a sign of mourning – but see ‘cravat 2)’ (also ‘cravat 1’, ‘half-masted’ and ‘staff 2)’).

See ‘tricolour 3)’ (also ‘princeflag’).

See ‘indoor flag’.

A decorative knot of cord, possibly displaying the national colours or braided in gold with blue thread, and attached to the sword – a port epee or sword knot.

1) (v) Generally, the practice of decorating a naval vessel for special occasions, such as national days, whilst berthed alongside or at anchor, by stringing dressing lines between the masts (and down to the ensign and jack staffs), and with national flags at the mastheads - dressing ship, dressing overall or full dressing (see also 'national flag', 'dressing lines' 'ensign staff', 'jack staff' and 'masthead').
2) (v) Specifically, in US naval usage, the practice of decorating a warship during lesser commemorative occasions, whilst berthed alongside or at anchor, by displaying the ensign and jack together with an ensign at each masthead, but without the dressing lines – but see 'dressing overall 2)' (see also 'dressing lines', 'masthead', 'naval ensign' under 'ensign' and 'naval jack' under 'jack').
3) (v) Specifically in British Royal Navy and some other naval usage, the practice of decorating a warship with jack, ensign and masthead flags/ensign(s) but without the dressing lines, when underway within sight of a port or anchorage during dress ship occasions – but see 'dressing overall 3)'.
4) (v) The practice of merchant vessels (especially passenger liners) and yachts to decorate themselves with strings of dressing lines on special occasions such as maiden voyage departure and arrival, or on other occasions ordered by the shipping company or club.

[dressing ship example]
A Warship of the South African Navy Dressed Overall (Andries Burgers)

Please note that warships not directly involved in the occasion being celebrated, but who are berthed in the presence or in sight of ships that are, will also dress as a courtesy according to the local practice, using the ensign or national flag of the celebrant at the main masthead in lieu of their own ensign or national flag.

Please note also that this is a continuation of the earlier maritime practice (dating from at least the 16th Century) of hanging out every flag available by way of celebration, but that in modern navies and some merchant marine companies both the occasions for display and the make-up of dressing lines is strictly regulated (with this last being confined to signal flags only).

Signal flags and pennants made up in decorative strings according to the size and configuration of ship they are to be used on and also according to ordered patterns laid down by naval authorities in the case of warships, or commercial companies in the case of merchant vessels – rainbow lines (see also ‘dress ship, to 1)’, ‘dress ship, to 4)’ and ‘dressing overall’).

1) See ‘dress ship, to 1)’ and ‘dress ship, to 4)’.
2) (v or adj) In US naval usage the practice of decorating a vessel for major commemorative occasions, whilst berthed alongside or at anchor, by stringing dressing lines between the masts (and down to the ensign and jack staffs), and with a jack and ensign at the bow and stern, and national flags at the mastheads – but see ‘dress ship, to 2)’.
3) (v or adj) In British Royal Navy and some other usage decorating a vessel for commemorative occasions, whilst berthed alongside or at anchor, by stringing dressing lines between the masts (and down to the ensign and jack staffs), and with a jack and ensign at the bow and stern, and national flags at the mastheads – but see ‘dress ship, to 3)’.

SSee ‘dress ship, to 1)’ and ‘dress ship, to 4)’.

See ‘bannerette’ and ‘war banner’.

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