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Marryat Signal Flags

Last modified: 2015-06-28 by rob raeside
Keywords: signal flags: marryat |
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Code of Signals for the Merchant Service - 1817

Captain Frederick Marryat's Code of Signals for the Merchant Service first appeared in 1817 and was reportedly quite popular, going through several editions before being supplanted by the International Code of Signals (Wilson in Flags at Sea notes that the Marryat flags were still seen in use as late as 1890).

Click on the image for a large view.
Numeric 0

[Marryat Signal 0]

Numeric 1

[Marryat Signal 1]

Numeric 2

[Marryat Signal 2]

Numeric 3

[Marryat Signal 3]

Numeric 4

[Marryat Signal 4]

Numeric 5

[Marryat Signal 5]

Numeric 6

[Marryat Signal 6]

Numeric 7

[Marryat Signal 7]

Numeric 8

[Marryat Signal 8]

Numeric 9

[Marryat Signal 9]


[Marryat rendezvous pennant]

Telegraph pennant

[Marryat telegraph pennant]

First Distinction Pennant

[Marryat First Distinction pennant]

Second Distinction Pennant

[Marryat second distinction pennant]

Third Distinction Pennant

[Marryat third distinction pennant]

Fourth Distinction Pennant

[Marryat fourth distinction pennant]

images by Phil Nelson

1841 edition

In 1841 a new edition of Marryat’s 1817 Code of Signals was issued. The flags remained the same, but the vocabulary was enlarged and revised. The differences between the old edition and the new edition made it necessary to have a signal that indicated which edition was being used. In Australia a notice was published in the New South Wales Government Gazette of September 21, 1841.

“Marryat’s Code of Signals.”
As the numbering of the present Edition differs throughout from that of the last, it will be necessary, in order to prevent any misunderstanding from signalizing with the two Editions, that all vessels possessing this Edition of 1841, in making their number or other communications, with any Ship or Signal Station, should first hoist the Numeral Pendant (at some other mast head) to signify that they are using this Edition; upon seeing which, Ships and Signal Stations will immediately hoist the First Distinguishing Pendant with Union Jack underneath as the answering Signal; and when such answering Signal is not made, it will be understood that the Vessel or Station dos not possess the new Edition, in which case the Ship ( if she has it) will communicate with the old Edition.”
David Prothero, 23 March 2015

The preamble in the gazette has a little more detail:, under ‘Cases & Legislation’ select <Victoria>. Under ‘Other Materials’ select <Victorian Government Gazettes> which includes New South Wales.
David Prothero, 25 March 2015

1848 edition

In the preface to the 1848 edition, the claim is that, though occasionally the Code had been added to, up to that point there had been no serious alterations that would have rendered the first editions useless. This extra signal mentioned in the 1841 edition, on the other hand, suggests that in a world of 1841 editions, this would exactly be what would happen to the earlier editions. The 1848 edition did make such changes, but the implied assumption seems to be that because of those everyone would acquire a new copy.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 24 March 2015

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