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British Royal Navy Signal Pennants
Last modified: 2012-01-06 by rob raeside
Keywords: signal pennant | equal speed pennant | alter course pennant | battle of jutland | equal speed charlie london |
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Fleet Manoeuvring. Changing course.
There were five different 'alter course pennants': all bearings relative to magnetic north.
When altering course
by Compass Pendant (white oval on red pendant) Guides preserve "Relative bearings and
distances" from the Guide of the fleet, and ships in column preserve "Relative
bearings and distances" from their guides, thus preserving "the Order of the
Fleet in Formation of Columns".
When altering course by
Blue Pendant (white oval on blue pendant) "All ships" alter course the same amount together
preserving "Compass bearings and distances".
When altering course by
Number Nine Pendant (red oval on white pendant) "Leading ships" alter course
the same amount together preserving "Compass bearings and distances"; "Ships in
column" preserve "Relative bearings and distances" from their leading ships.
When altering course by Equal Speed Pendant (white-blue-w-b-w-b-w) to form
single Line-Ahead, the column which becomes the Leading Column alters course in
succession to the point indicated, the remaining Columns alter course "Leading
Ships together, the rest in succession", so as to form astern of the now Leading
When altering course by
Oblique Pendant (yellow over red) to form
Single Line-Astern, the Column which becomes the Lead Column alters course in
succession to the point indicated, and increases speed to one knot less than the
maximum, the remaining Columns alter course "in succession independently" course
and speed being adjusted so as to form astern of the now leading column.
Course changes were signalled using the 128 point compass.
4 cardinal points : N, E,
4 quadrantal points : NE, SE, SW, NW
8 intermediate points : NNE,
ENE, ESE, etc
16 by points : N by E, NE by N, NE by E, etc
points : N 1/4 E, N 1/2 E, N 3/4 E, etc
The code for the compass table.
AA. N 1/4 E
AB. N 1/2 E
AC. N 3/4 E
AD. N by E
AE. N by
E 1/4 E
AF. N by E 1/2 E
AG. N by E 3/4 E
AI. NNE 1/4 E
AJ. NNE 1/2 E
AK. NNE 3/4 E
AL. NE by N
AM. NE 3/4 N
AN. NE 1/2 N
AO. NE 1/4 N
B. North East
BA. NE 1/4 E
F. South West
H. North West
Course or bearing in degrees.
Degrees were not numbered clockwise from due
north as a number up to 360,
but as degrees east or west from north or south.
Thus "222 degrees" was "south 42 degrees west" and signalled as :
[General Signal Book 1915. Copy in
National Archives (PRO) is ADM 186/699]
David Prothero, 1 December 2004, 18 January 2008
Admiral Jellicoe's famous flag signal,
"Equal Speed/C(harlie)/L(ondon)" [at the
Battle of Jutland] directed his fleet to change from a column
formation to a single battle line steering course Southeast by East, while
maintaining the current speed. What what were the components of the signal --
that is, what did each of the flags signify? Was "C" the signal for the
column-to-line maneuver, and "L" the course indication? Barrie Kent provides an
overall interpretation in his book "Signal!",
but does not break it down into its components.
Peter Ansoff, 1
The equal speed pennant was
(it no longer appears in the current list) part of the suite of Royal Navy
signal flags, and was employed in fleet manoeuvring. When the admiral in command raised
the equal speed pennant, followed by a pennant or pennants to indicate the type
of manoeuver required (turn in succession to starboard etc., etc), he was giving
an order for all the ships in a particular formation to act as one.
In the case of Jutland the article was probably referring to the first occasion
upon which Admiral Jellicoe ordered the Grand Fleet to change from column of
advance to line ahead in order to "cross the T" of the German (High Seas) Fleet
- in other words, to bring all broadside guns to bear - and engage the enemy.
Christopher Southworth, 18 January 2008
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