Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flying the flag for Britain...for Sepia Saturday 168

My eyes were drawn only to the flags..........................

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. Click here to learn more.

I  am fanatical about the Union Jack being flown the correct way up.

 Lets start with a basic lesson:

Flagpole to the left.............................Correct                  

Flagpole to the left.............................Upside Down

Convention is that any flag is always viewed correctly with the flag pole to the left.

So how do your remember? Firstly just remember to have to check with someone who knows and don't put it up until you are sure. I simply look at the bottom left quadrant and remember the broad white stripe is on top, but you may need a more sophisticated way of remembering. (Yes, I know that there is a special word for a way of remembering something, but I can't even remember that!)

Did they get it right at Potsdam?

Its hard to say from the Sepia Saturday image as the Union Jack is hidden, so I went searching for another image taken from the other side of the table.

After careful analysis....yes!!..they got it right.
(Nice table cloth Joseph...but perhaps green would have been more tasteful.)

( Courtesy Christies.COM) [POTSDAM CONFERENCE, 1945]. Oversized color photograph of the attendees of the Potsdam Conference seated at a large round table, signed on the mat in ink by President HARRY S. TRUMAN ("Harry S Truman"), British Prime Minister WINSTON S.CHURCHILL ("Winston S Churchill"), Truman's Chief of Staff, Admiral William Leahy and one other unidentified participant, [Potsdam, July 1945]. 18½ x 22 inches, matted and framed. Fine. Realised $19,120.SALE 1246.New York, Rockefeller Plaza. 17 June 2003.

Did Churchill know what was correct and incorrect?

History does not tell us whether he knew or cared about which way up to fly the flag, but he certainly got confused with his V signs, and his embarrassed aides had to correct him.

(In Britain the right hand gesture is particularly offensive !!)

Do I always get it right?

Well....I hope so, but its easy to slip up. But ever time I see a Union Jack I check, and if I can I will let the person know. I have pushed notes through doors, and have even gone into The Hotel Royal reception desk in Poznan, Poland to tell them. Such a sweet and apologetic girl  behind the desk !!

Poznan 2011: I had to be extra observant!
(courtesy Google Streetview)

My most Royal encounter in 2012

(.................. for which I am still awaiting my knighthood)

May 16, 2012: On the TV news I saw the lighting of the Olympic flame at the Acropolis, and the flag was upside down !! Outrage !! But too late to grumble. 

The next day at 4 pm Anne, Princess Royal, was due to take delivery of the flame at the Panathenaic stadium for onward transportation to the UK. At 1 pm UK time I put on the TV news by chance, and saw the venue, with crowds gathering...................and again the flag was upside down !!

Time for me to slip into action.

I rang Buckingham Palace and asked to speak to the Princess Royal's office. No problem, as easy as pie, a palace phone number on the internet, a polite real person answers the phone, no option buttons to press. Straight through to the right office.  "Oh Dear !!" the the well spoken lady said  "I will get a message over there immediately"

.....and she did !!

.....and they got some Greek soldiers out of bed...........still in their slippers.........

back to bed.. .......flag now correct !!

Cheers Nigel !

Later....the flame come through Derby..............

All correct!! I took my flag party to watch the Olympic flame come past my street.
Spot the Grand Union flag (stripes) and the pre 1805 Union Flag.
Red Australian Ensign, New Zealand flag and Fiji flag hidden.
(Own collection)

Oh dear !!! This little girl had not read my blogs !!
(Own collection)

Even the Prince of Wales was oblivious

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales throwing the ball
 at Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football,
February 21, 1928.
(Own collection)
When the present Prince of Wales threw the ball up in 2003 his
 security men were, presumably, checking the flags when they
lost him to the mob !!
(Courtesy Reuters)

My match-box cover

I am not sure if  I can still buy a box of matches the size to fit this little 1945 pressed tin souvenir cover.

In my reading of history it was in fact Stalin who was the "Greatest Tyrant in History",
 and indeed Hitler takes some beating, but 1945 was not a good year to upset Stalin.



  1. Excellent Nigel. I think you deserve a medal for your duty to crown and country, and for having the nerve to ring the Palace. I do admire people as public - spirited as you, with the energy to campaign for what is right. If we were being picky we would call the flag The Union Flag, but the Jack is acknowledged as a popular alternative I believe. A thoroughly enjoyable post.

    1. Flag or Jack?? Yes...much confusion...and I should have anticipated some comment from ex-armed services bloggers. I used to be precise (and sometimes was not understood) by referring to the Union Flag, but then I decided I liked the following explanation that has survived some time in Wikipedia:........"It is often stated that the Union Flag should only be described as the Union Jack when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From early in its life the Admiralty itself frequently referred to the flag as the Union Jack, whatever its use, and in 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that Their Lordships had decided that either name could be used officially. In 1908, a government minister stated, in response to a Parliamentary question, that "the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag".

  2. Is that why we Australians inserted the southern cross on our flag? So we would always know which way was the right way up :)

    1. Ever thought what the Southern Cross looks like from England? ;)

  3. From what I recall of my flag-raising school days, the attachments on the flag were a toggle and a loop at the upper corner, so it was pretty difficult to get it wrong. Perhaps my memory is faulty?

  4. Great post Nigel. It's always been the Union Jack to me, I always check ou the way it is flown as well. I just wonder what will happen if Scotland decides to go its own way.

    1. Should I care? I *married a mix of Macdonald and Forsyth blood but they won't give me a vote in the referendum. (*Mr Cameron...I am a man married to a woman, for clarity)

  5. Toggles are what you get with with a quality wool (bunting)or linen sewn flag, for which you won't have any change out of £150 these days. Most cheaper flags now are printed, in the far east, and come with 2 brassed eyes and no clues !

  6. Until you pointed out the particulars, I had never noticed how intricate the pattern is. In the US, the flag is pretty easy to read. The pet peeve here is the etiquette of LOWERING the flag to half-staff.

    1. Yes, the US seems to have gone overboard with the number of possible occasions. I prefer not to fly a flag at all if there is any doubt or possible controversy.

  7. I didn't realize there was a right and wrong way for the flag and V sign.

  8. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful learning experience for me here, and so interesting too! This is just what I needed growing up, in a school that far too often didn't bring out the best sources especially those that held our attention! Nice work!

  9. This is why I love the folks at Sepia Saturday, I always learn something new! What a great post, thanks so much for writing it.
    I can't beleive you got a "real" person at the Palace.

  10. that really made me smile, because I'm similar

  11. What a wonderful tale. I hope I can count on you to tell me if I ever get the Sepia Saturday banner upside down.

  12. I kept scrolling up and down comparing the flags from the very first photo you showed as correct! This was fun. I appreciate the flag lesson :)

  13. You must have been busy during last year's Jubilee when there were more flags strewn around Britain than I can ever recall.

    There is a similar American flag issue with the current flag badge on military uniforms. The orientation of the red,white, & blue (which are also now embroidered in shades of camo green!)puts the box of stars on the upper right, instead of upper left as is usual. It seems that there is weird rule for maintaining the stars' position always facing the same way whether on the left or right sleeve. Could there be a British equivalent?

  14. Your post made me laugh so hard. What a funny story about calling the palace and getting right thru. And then to see that your call actually resulted in such a success. And that photo of Prince Charles - hilarious.

  15. As an American, I want to thank you for flying Americas true first national flag alongside the others! Unity!