Customs and Traditions – Naval Pennants

HMS Ocean

With HMS Ocean (L12) entering Portsmouth for the final time late last week flying her paying off pennant, before she is decommissioned and transfered to the Brazilian Navy, it is worthwhile looking at the naval tradition of flying pennants.

A pennant is a flag that is larger at the hoist than at the fly, and can have several shapes, such as triangular, tapering or triangular and swallow-tailed.

In the days of chivalry, knights carried pennants on their lances, just as men-of-war flew pennants from their masts. During the conflicts of the thirteenth century, when merchant ships were commandeered and placed in command of military officers they transferred their pennants from their lances to the mastheads of the ships they commanded. The tradition continued until the end of the Napoleonic Wars when the Royal Navy adopted the style of pennants used today.

Today the pennant is hoisted on the day a warship or shore establishment commissions and is never struck until the day of decommissioning. Onboard ship the pennant is flown at the masthead, for which reason it is also commonly referred to as a ‘masthead pennant’. In the Royal Navy (RN) today there are two types of pennant – a ‘Commissioning pennant’ and a ‘Paying off’ pennant.

In the RN the commissioning pennant (shown below) is flown continuously in every ship and shore establishment in commission unless displaced by a senior officer’s Rank flag. The masthead pennant is a cross of St George in the hoist and a white fly.

1920px-Royal_Navy_commissioning_pennant_(with_outline).svg

It is the custom in many navies for a ship which is ‘paying off’ to wear an extremely long commissioning pennant, which is normally at least the length of the ship, and the length of which reflects the length of service. HMS Gloucester (D96) is shown below flying her paying off pennant in 2011 when she decommissioned.

HMS Gloucester Paying Off Pennant

The term ‘paying off’ refers to the fact that RN ships formerly ‘paid off’ each time they returned home after a commission overseas. The ship’s sailors were not paid until the ship returned home, to avoid desertion.

In the US Navy (USN) the commissioning pennant is ‘blue at the hoist, bearing seven white stars; the rest of the pennant consists of single longitudinal stripes of red and white’. Like their RN cousins, ships of the USN fly the commissioning pennant from the moment of commissioning until the decommissioning ceremony. The commissioning pennant of USS McInerney (FFG 8) is shown below.

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The US Navy has no tradition of flying a paying off pennant before decommissioning. US Navy ships maintain a separate tradition of flying a ‘Homeward Bound’ pennant when returning from a deployment to their home port. The dimensions of the pennant are not prescribed by regulation, but the customary practice is one white star for the first nine months of continuous service outside the US, plus another for each additional 6 months. The overall length of the pennant is one foot for each member of the ship’s company on duty outside the United States for more than 9 months, but not to exceed the length of the ship itself. Below is a picture of USS George Washington (CVN-73) flying her 297 foot ‘Homeward Bound’ pennant returning from deployment in 2015.

USS George Washington Homeward Bound Pennant

Naval News – New interim Canadian Replenishment Ship MV Asterix completes maiden voyage to Halifax

Federal Fleet Services Inc-Media Advisory - Arrival in Halifax o

MV Asterix, a Resolve Class Naval Support Ship, arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Wednesday 27 December 2017, after completing its conversion from a civilian container ship.

Resolve Badge

Owned by Federal Fleet Services, Asterix will be leased to the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and commence service from 1 January 2018. She will be operated by a mixed crew and remain in service until HMCS Protecteur, the first of two new AORs based on the Berlin Class replenishment ship, commissions in 2021.

You can find out more about MV Asterix here: http://federalfleet.ca/2016/06/02/resolve-class-aor/

You can find out more about the new Protecteur class AORs here: http://www.navy-marine.forces.gc.ca/en/fleet-units/jss-home.page

Naval News – New additions to the RN and RAN Surface Fleets

HMS Queen Elizabeth conducts vital system tests off the coast of Scotland

There have been two recent significant additions to the Surface Fleets of both the Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

On Thursday 7 December 2017 HMS Queen Elizabeth (R09), the lead ship of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers, was commissioned in front of Her Majesty The Queen.

At almost 70,000 tons, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy as is based in Portsmouth. She begins Operational Sea Trials (OST) in January 2018 before conducting integrated flight trials with F-35Bs from 617 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF) later in the year in the US.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Ships Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Semper eadem‘ which means ‘Always the same‘ and she inherits five (5) battle honours from the two previous RN ships of the same name:

DARDANELLES 1915

CRETE 1941

SABANG 1944

BURMA 1944-45

EAST INDIES 1945

You can find out more about her here: https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/queenelizabeth

On Saturday 23 September 2017, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) welcomed HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) to the fleet.

HMAS Hobart Commissioning

HMAS Hobart is the first of three Hobart class Air Warfare Destroyers (DDGs) based on the Spanish F100 class Frigate, and equipped with the Aegis Baseline 7.1 Combat System from the United States.

HMAS Hobart III Crest

The ship’s motto is ‘Grow with Strength’ which is taken from the coat of arms of the City of Hobart. She inherits nine (9) battle honours from the two previous RAN ships of the same name:

MEDITERRANEAN 1941

INDIAN OCEAN 1941

CORAL SEA 1942

SAVO ISLAND 1942

GUADALCANAL 1942

PACIFIC 1942–45

EAST INDIES 1940

BORNEO 1945

VIETNAM 1967-70

HMAS Hobart Battle Honours Board

You can find out more about her here:  http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-hobart-iii

 

 

 

Naval News – RFA Tidespring commissioned

RFA Tidespring

Britain’s Royal Fleet Auxilary (RFA) welcomed RFA Tidespring (A136) to the Fleet on Monday 27 November 2017.

Built in South Korea by Daewoo, the new 37,000 tonne ship, one of the four biggest tankers to be purpose built for the RFA, will provide fuel, food and stores for Royal Navy warships all around the world.

She is the first of class of the Military Afloat Reach & Sustainability (MARS) Tankers and together with her three sister ships Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce, are flexible, state-of-the-art double hulled vessels, which will provide key future support to the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.

RFA Tidespring Ships Crest

The last RFA ship to bear the same name was RFA Tidespring (A75) in service from 1963 to 1991. Tidespring took part in the Falklands War, particularly in the recapture of South Georgia.

You can find out more here:

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2017/november/27/171127-rfa-tidespring

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/the-fighting-arms/royal-fleet-auxiliary/tankers/rfa-tidespring