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Dictionary of Vexillology: B (Base - Bayeux Tapestry)

Last modified: 2022-07-16 by rob raeside
Keywords: vexillological terms |
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1) In heraldry a term for the lower section of a shield or banner of arms, which heraldic use frequently suggests should occupy roughly one-third of the total depth of that shield or flag - a Champagne (see also ‘banner 1)’, ‘coat of arms’, ‘field’, ‘pointed’ and ‘shield’).
2) In vexillology an alternative name for the bottom edge of a flag.

example of base

In US Air Force usage, a post flag (see also ‘post flag 1)’).

See ‘enamels’ (also ‘tinctures’).

[colour example] [colour example] [colour example] [colour example] [colour example]
Gules, Azure, Vert, Purpure and Sable

In heraldry see ‘dragon’ and its following note.

Flag of Kazan, Russia (fotw)

See ‘beach flag’.

bathing flag bathing flag bathing flag
Safe Bathing, Bathing with Caution and No Bathing Flags, Spain (fotw)

1) A symbol (or symbols) of the highest military rank (a field marshal or five-star-general etc.), and usually displayed on their rank flags and insignia (see also ‘rank flag’).
2) In traditional heraldry it is considered a diminutive (although usually couped) of a bend or bend sinister, (see also ‘bend’, ‘bend sinister’ and ‘couped’).
3) In modern heraldry the term is often used to describe an undecorated walking staff, a rod or similar – but see ‘batons fleury’.

batons batons batons 
Flag of a Field Marshal, India (fotw); Arms of Vilar de Peregrinos, Portugal (fotw); Flag of Eiras, Portugal (fotw)

A heraldically derived term that covers a short shaft (or staffs) topped by a fleur de lis - staff(s) fleury - see ‘baton(s) 3)’, ‘fleur-de-lis’ and ‘fleury’ (also ‘sceptre’).

Flag of Brislach, Switzerland (fotw)

In heraldry see ‘baton(s) 2)’, plus ‘bend sinister’ and its following note.

baton sinister 
Arms of the Duke of Richmond 1519-1536 illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, England (Wikipedia)

A term for a metal band sometimes placed on the staff of a military or national colour (usually below the lower edge of the flag), and showing the battalion and regiment to which it belonged – a ring (see also ‘battle honour’, ’colour 2)’ and ‘staff 2)’.

Please note that as far as can be determined, this was a custom formerly in the US Army (but still in use in the US Marine Corps) and also in some European forces. see supplemental note

A generic term for those flags having heraldic (or armorial) symbolism that were carried into battle during the medieval period (see also ‘banner 1)’, ‘banneret 2)’, ‘battle standard’, ‘livery colours’, ‘lance pennon 1)’, ‘pennoncelle’ ‘pennoncier’ and ‘standard 3)’).

[battle banner] [battle banner]
Lance Pennon of Sir Robert Knolles. Knight Banneret c1360; England; Heraldic Standard of King Richard III 1483 – 1485, England (fotw)

In US usage, the organizational colour of a combatant Marine Corps unit or of the Corps as a whole when carried by dismounted troops (see also ‘branch of service flag’).
US Marine Corps battle color
Battle Colour of the Marine Corps, US (Sea Flags)

In US naval usage, a triangular pennant that is flown (from the foremast) to indicate that the vessel has achieved superior performance in an operational environment – an E pennant or meatball (see also ‘award flag’).

battle efficiency pennant  battle efficiency pennant
Battle Efficiency and Special Battle Efficiency Pennants, USN (fotw)

In RN/USN usage and in some others, one or more large naval ensigns flown from the yardarms of a warship prior to commencing - and during - a surface engagement at sea (see also ‘naval ensign’ under ‘ensign’, ‘garrison flag’ and ‘yardarm’).

battle ensign
Warship of the USN flying a Battle Ensign

A warship raises additional large-sized ensigns prior to an engagement at sea for added identification and in case one or more are shot away - see ‘strike’.
b) Dominion/Commonwealth navies (such as those of Australia and Canada) which formerly fought under the British white ensign are known to have (sometimes) flown their respective national flags as an additional battle ensign.

1) A flag (either official or unofficial) that is specifically intended for use in battle – either to avoid confusion with the flag of an enemy or to convey a patriotic sentiment – and used in addition to or instead of military colours (see also ‘colour 2)’, ‘colours 2)’, ‘Southern Cross 2)’) and ‘stainless banner’.
2) In US naval usage, an unofficial flag, sometimes marked with stars to recall the number of times a particular vessel has been in combat, and flown from the yardarm when entering or leaving port, completing underway refuelling, parting company with other ships, or similar occasions – a house flag or unrep flag (see also ‘yardarm’).
3) In US naval usage now obsolete, an unofficial flag which, defaced by a number of varying symbols, was used by submarines to signify that the boat flying it had successfully engaged an enemy – but see ‘jolly roger 2)’ (also ‘deface’).
4)In some Central and East European usage (e.g. the Romanian Drapel de lupta literally meaning battle flag) - an alternative term for an army flag or a military colour – but see ‘colour 2)’ (also ‘war flag 2)’)

Battle flag of USS Jack 1944 Battle flag of CSA Battle flag of USS Harry S Truman
Battle Flag of USS Jack 1944, US (sea flags); Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, CSA 1861 – 1865 (fotw); Battle/House Flag of USS Harry S Truman, US (sea flags

Please note with regard to 2), that these flags have no standard pattern, official existence or meaning, but are designed and used by individual ship’s companies to express pride in their vessels, that their use has become traditional in the US Navy, that US and that other naval forces have official naval code signals to order and conduct operations such as underway replenishment (with these unofficial flags being hoisted in addition).

A mark of distinction, usually including the name of a battle or campaign, added to a regimental or other unit colour to show that unit’s military service (see also ‘battalion ring’, ‘colour 2)’, ‘ferrule’, ‘staff 2)’ ‘streamer 1)’ and ‘streamer retaining ring’, and compare with ‘augmentation of honour’).

Battle honour Battle honour Battle honour
Regimental Colour 28th Regiment of Foot c1880, UK (fotw); Regimental Colour and Queen’s Colour,1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment (fotw)

a) Battle honours may take the form of an inscription within a ribbon scroll applied to the field of the colour (as on the illustrations above), or a metal band (or bands) around the staff, or a metal clip attached to a streamer, or to the streamer itself – a battle streamer or honorary distinction.
b) The ships of many navies show their battle honours on a carved board or similar on ceremonial occasions, or when the ship is open to visitors rather than on a unit flag.

A term, now obsolete, for the Scottish heraldic standard as carried in battle, and there are indications that it was the smallest of three sizes (see also ‘heraldic standard’, ‘pageant standard’, ‘pinsel’ and ‘great standard’).

Laird of Clan Barclay
Standard of the Laird of Clan Barclay (The Flag Center)

Alternative heraldic terms to embattled - see ‘embattled’.

Arms of Miren, Slovenia Flag of Miren, Slovenia
Arms and Flag of Miren, Slovenia (fotw)

See ‘battle honour’.

[battle streamer]
Battle Streamer Awarded for the Liberation and Defence of Kuwait 17 January - 11 April 1991, US (fotw)

Alternative 13th Century terms, now obsolete, for the plain red streamer flown from a ship’s masthead (in northern European waters) to signify that ‘no quarter would be given’, and the size according to record was 30 yards (24.45m) long by 2 yards (1.82m) wide (see also ‘flag of defiance’ and ‘streamer 2)’).


a) This flag first appears in records of the 1290s, and is considered to have been a direct ancestor of the later flag of defiance.
b) "No quarter would be given" indicates that surrender would not be accepted and all prisoners killed.

Alternative medieval terms for the black and white banner of the Knights Templar – the bauceans, bauceant, beucennus or balzaus (see also balcanifer’ and ‘rounded cross’).

[Bauceant] [Bauceant]
Two Conjectural Images of the Bauceant (fotw)

An 11th Century wall hanging that records the Norman invasion of English in 1066, and considered to be a primary source of pre-heraldic symbolism (see also ‘pallia’, ‘pre-heraldic’ and ‘raven flag’),

[Bayeux tapestry] [Bayeux tapestry]
Fragment of the Tapestry (Wikipedia); One interpretation of the Pallia given to William of Normandy in 1066 as shown in that Tapestry (fotw)

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