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Dictionary of Vexillology: S (Sons in Service Flag - Stars and Stripes)

Last modified: 2008-01-05 by phil nelson
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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See ‘service flag 3)’.

1) A stylized representation of the constellation Crux Australis, and used as a symbol on flags in the Southern Hemisphere – as on those of, for example, Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.
2) A colloquial name for the saltire as used by the Confederate States of America on its battle flag, naval jack and later national flags (see also ‘battle flag 1)’ ‘stainless banner’ and ‘stars and bars’).

[Southern Crosses]
From left: National Flag of Samoa (fotw); Second Naval Jack, CSA (fotw)

A diagonal stripe that runs from the lower hoist to the upper fly whose corners touch the corners of the flag but whose width is entirely contained within the length of the flag – an enhanced bend sinister. See ‘bend’ in Appendix VI (also ‘ascending diagonal’, ‘descending diagonal’, 'east-west diagonal', ‘north-south diagonal’ and ‘west-east diagonal’).

[South-North diagonal]
Flag of the FNLA, Angola (fotw)

1) A generic term for flags or pennants exchanged during sporting matches by the captains of the contending teams (see also 'club pennant', ‘sports flag 1)’ and ‘sports flag 2)’).
2) Burgees presented to a club by visiting yachts, or collected by such visitors for display at their home port (see also ‘burgee 1)’ and ‘club pennant’).
3) See ‘brag flags’.
4) See ‘commemorative flag’.
5) Small flags or pennants sold (or issued) to school children and/or street-lining spectators for the purpose of waving at visiting dignitaries - usually in honour of a specific event (see also 'handwaver').

Please note however, it is strongly suggested that the types of flag given above are better defined by their type and/or circumstances of presentation, and that the more precise terms (as listed separately herein) are to be preferred in description.

1) In British Army usage the ceremonial flag (equivalent to a military colour or guidon) of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (see also ‘banner 5)’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’ and ‘guidon 2)’).
2) In Australian military usage the term given to a special ceremonial flag presented to a military organization by Her Majesty The Queen in place of or in addition to colours (see also ‘banner 5)’, ‘colour 2)’ and ‘colours 2)’).

See ‘colours 2)’.

In British military usage, that flag carried as a special mark of distinction by the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals - the Household Cavalry (see also ‘union standard’ and ‘standard 2)’).

[Sovereign standard]
Sovereign’s Standard of the Blues and Royals, UK (Graham Bartram)

1) The detailed description, either by diagram or in writing, of how the design of a flag is constructed (see ‘specification sheet’ below (see also ‘dimensions’, ‘proportions’ and ‘type flag’).
2) The act of drawing up such design details.

The detailed visual presentation of how the design of a flag is constructed, usually showing construction lines and figures and often including the source or sources of any such information – a construction sheet (see also ‘de jure’, ‘dimensions’, ‘flag law’, ‘proportions’, ‘specification’ above and ‘type flag’).

Sao Tome and Principe specification sheet
Specification sheet for the Flag of Sao Tome and Principe (CS)

A term for the European practice, now increasingly (but not entirely) obsolete, of decorating a flag pole or the staff of a parade flag or military colour with a spiral decoration, usually in the national or livery colours and often accompanied by a cravat (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colour 3)’, ‘cravat 1)’, ‘livery colours’ and ‘parade flag’).

[example of a spiral decoration]
State Flag of San Marino (fotw & CS)

The official name for the Danish state flag/naval ensign and its variants (see also ‘dannebrog’ and ‘double-pointed’).

[Denmark naval/state flag - double pointed]
The State Flag/Naval Ensign of Denmark (fotw)

See ‘banner 4)’.

1) A flag – often the appropriate national or provincial flag – bearing (or defaced with) the name of a sporting club or related slogan (see also ‘defaced’ and ‘souvenir flag 1)’).
2) A flag or pennant, usually in the club or school colours, bearing an emblem (and often associated lettering) that represents a sporting club or school team (see also ‘souvenir flag’).
<3) The flag of a national or international sporting organization (see also ‘international flag(s) 2)’)./dd>
4) One of a varied number of flags that are used to regulate or to assist in running a sporting activity – for example, the chequered flag in motor racing.

[Liverpool Football Club] [Liverpool Football Club] [Dutch Football Association] [Checkered flag]
From left: Liverpool Football Club, UK (CS and fotw); Dutch Football Association; Chequered Flag (fotw)

See ‘star 2)’.

See ‘command pennant’.

See ‘cross 1)’.

Quebec Canada
Quebec, Canada (fotw)

See ‘square-tongued’ below.

(adj) A term used to describe a flag, now increasingly (but not entirely) obsolete, whose fly is cut into two or more square-ended tails (see also ‘gonfalon 1)’, ‘gonfanon’, 'multi-tailed', ‘pallia’, ‘schwenkel’, ‘swallow-tail(ed)’, ‘swallowtail and tongue’ 'tongue(s)), and ‘triangular-ended tails’).

[Squared tongue flag]
Venice, Italy (fotw)

1) At sea, the short mast upon which the jack and ensign are hoisted – see ‘ensign staff’ and ‘jack staff’.
2) The wooden shaft, often with a spear point finial, to which indoor flags; military colours and parade flags are affixed – the pike (see also ‘indoor flag’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘finial’, ‘parade flag’ and ‘pike’).
3) See ‘flag pole’.

An unadorned staff with a single serpent wound around it, and symbolic of the medical profession (see also ‘caduceus’).

staff of Asclepius
Flag of The National Military Health Service, RSA (fotw plus enlarged emblem Martin Grieve)

Please note that this should not be confused with the caduceus as referenced above, which has two serpents on a winged staff and is symbolic of medical institutions.

The official name for the second (although first formally adopted) national flag of the Confederate States of America as introduced in 1863 and modified in 1865 (see also ‘banner 7)’, ‘battle flag 1)’, ‘southern cross 2)’ and ‘stars and bars’).

CSA 1863 CSA 1965
The Stainless Banner, CSA 1863 and as Modified 1865 (fotc)

See ‘finial’.

1) A term used to describe all the colours carried by an infantry regiment - formerly up to nine in English service - now generally (but not exclusively) limited to two per regiment/battalion (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’, ‘company colours’ and ‘postures’).
2) In US Civil War usage, a term sometimes employed (often in newspaper reporting) to describe a flag or flags, particularly those captured in battle (see also ‘trophy flag’).

[stand of colors]
A Stand of Six Colours, Colonel to the Third Captain, English c1644

Please note that the above illustrations are loosely based on a surviving colour from the English Civil War - that of a sixth captain in Sir John Gell’s Regiment of Foot (Parliamentarian) 1643-44 - and upon a system of differencing such colours known to have been in use at that time (see also ‘venn’).

Also please note, that some Continental armies (most notably those of France and Austria) often had a larger establishment of men per battalion than was customary in the English service, so the number of colours carried could be commensurately greater.

1) The flag of a head of state - see ‘presidential standard’ and ‘royal standard 1)’ - and its following note.
2) A rectangular flag used as a ceremonial unit flag by some cavalry and certain other military units (see also ‘sovereign’s standard’). See supplemental note:
3) A flag of heraldic design, long and tapering, possibly with a rounded or double-rounded (lanceolate or double-tailed descate) fly carrying the owner’s badge and motto (sometimes also a national symbol or personal arms), and bordered in his livery colours. Originally used as an identifying symbol by medieval noblemen, and still occasionally flown by those entitled to it – a heraldic standard (see also ‘badge in heraldry’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘lanceolate’ and ‘motto’).
4) The headquarters flag of a Scottish nobleman or clan chief (and a standard as defined in 3) above), it is between 3.5 and 7.5m long (dependent upon rank) and tapers from 120cm to 80cm. The hoist carries either the national flag or owner’s arms, whilst the tail is in the main livery colours and has the motto (usually on diagonal bands) separated by the owner’s crest and other badges. The tail is generally split into two rounded (double-tailed descate) ends (except for those chiefs who do not hold a title of nobility, baronetcy or knighthood whose standards have a simple rounded or lanceolate end), and the whole is edged or fringed with alternating livery colours (see also ‘battle standard’, ‘double-tailed descate’, ‘great standard’, ‘lanceolate’, and ‘pageant standard’).
5) In obsolete usage, a pole with an emblem on the top around which soldiers could rally (see also ‘eagle 2)’ and ‘vexilloid 2)’).
As 4) above but fixed in place (rather than carried by a soldier), or alternatively transported in a large vehicle of its own (see also ‘carrocium’ and ‘gajardus’).
6) A figurative or poetic term for the symbol around which people rally.

Please note that in English heraldry the entitlement to a heraldic standard is consequent upon the granting or possession of a badge, but is not dependent upon rank (see also ‘badge in heraldry’). In Scottish heraldry, however, the entitlement to a standard (and to heraldic flags other than a banner of arms) is consequent upon a separate grant by the Lord Lyon King of Arms (see also ‘pinsel’ and ‘guidon 3)’).

Please note also that in UK usage the standard of the Royal Horse Artillery comes within definition 3) – and is illustrated beneath ‘heraldic standard’– but is also a ceremonial unit flag (as outlined in 2), above,) under certain circumstances.

1) One who bears the regimental, unit, or national standard (see also balcanifer’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘colour bearer’, ‘cornet 3)’, ‘enceniator’, ‘ensign 4)’, ‘gonfalonier’, ‘standard 1) - 5)’ and ‘vexillary’).
2) See ‘colour bearer’.

A medieval term, now obsolete, for a standard.

Please note that standardum and standale are, respectively, the Latin and Italian words for standard, and that these and the derivations thereof were used more or less indiscriminately by medieval scribes.

1) On flags, a charge – either solid colour or voided - in the form of a geometric shape with radiating points. Stars with five points are the most common, but any number is possible, for example: Aruba - four, Israel - six, Australia - seven, Azerbaijan - eight and Malaysia – sixteen (see also ‘active’, ‘inactive’ ‘Magen David’ and ‘voided’).
2) In heraldry a charge of this type may have wavy edges, and is variously known as a mullet, estoile, (or if pierced) a spur rowel or rowel depending on the number of points. For complete details, however, a glossary or dictionary of heraldry should be consulted (see also ‘pierced’).

[flags featuring stars]
From left: National Flag of Aruba (fotw); National Flag of Azerbaijan (fotw); National Flag of Malaysia (fotw)

Please note that in vexillology the difference between a multi-pointed star and a sun is usually only a matter of official symbolism, however, a sun may sometimes be distinguished by having a ring around its central disk (Taiwan), a face (Argentina) or wavy points (British Columbia) – see also ‘active’, ‘inactive’ and ‘ring 1)’.

1) Generally a poetic nickname for the US national flag – the Stars and Stripes (see also ‘Betsy Ross flag ’, ‘continental colours’, ‘Franklin flag’, ‘old glory’, ‘quincunx’and ‘stars and stripes’ below).
2) The US national flag with 15 stripes and 15 stars in use between 1795 and 1818.
3) Specifically the flag, as defined in 2) above, but which flew over Fort McHenry, Baltimore in 1814.
4) The national anthem of the US – but see note below.

flag disc
National Flag of the US, 1795 – 1818 (fotw)

Please note that the US national anthem – from a poem by Francis Scott Key - specifically refers to the flag as defined in 3) above, and which is preserved in the Smithsonian Institute, Washington.

See ‘yardarm’ and following note.

See ‘senior officer afloat pennant’.

See ‘rank plate’.

A popular name for the first (although never formally adopted) national flag of the Confederate States of America, and in use from 1861 – 1863 (see also ‘southern cross 2)’, ‘stainless banner’ and, ‘stars and stripes’ below).

Confederate first national Confederate first national
Two Versions of the First National Flag, CSA 1861 - 1863 (fotw)

A popular name for the US national flag (see also ‘Betsy Ross flag’, ‘Franklin flag’, ‘old glory’, ‘quincunx’ ‘star-spangled banner’ and ‘stars and bars’ above).

[current US flag]
National Flag of the US from 1960 (fotw)

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