British flags and world flags

The National Maritime Museum has over 1000 historic flags from all over the world.

British flags

The flags of the Royal Navy and government departments include, a perhaps unique pre 1801 White Ensign, the Union flag used as a command flag by Lord Howe at the battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, and the standard of Generals at Sea during the Commonwealth period. The largest part of the collection consists of the house flags of once famous shipping lines. There are also signal flags, yachting flags, heraldic banners and the sledge flags used by polar expeditions.

World flags

These include some early examples captured during the 18th century wars with France and Spain, 19th century African and Chinese flags, and the flags of Britain's allies and adversaries during the turbulent years of the 20th century.

Historic foreign flags

A list of part of the collection is included below:

  • AAA2003 Flag of an African slaver captured by Commodore Eardley Wilmotc. 1862–66 Neg No D2318 (colour)
  • AAA0895 White flag of Antarctica, flown by Discovery (British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, 1929) Neg No RP/25/18A
  • AAA0720 Merchant ensign, Australia 1901–09 Neg No RP/19/3
  • AAA1083 Merchant ensign, Australia 1909 pattern SS Ferndale Neg No RP/73/32A (other examples)
  • AAA0512 Australian Federation flag or New South Wales ensign Neg No RP/17/34A
  • AAA0456 Modern replica 'Flag of the Murray' Australia Neg No RP/15/34A
  • AAA0718 Ensign, South Australia 1878–1904 Neg No RP18/22A
  • AAA2024 Ensign, Western Australia 1953 pattern Neg No D2889 (colour)
  • AAA0514 National flag, Belgium, 1831 pattern Neg No RP/17/36A (+ another example)
  • AAA0457 Regional flag, Sao Paulo, Brazil Neg No Neg No RP/15/35A
  • AAA1119 National flag, Brazil 1822–1889 pattern Neg No RP/31/25A
  • AAA0516 National flag, Brazil 1968 pattern Neg No RP/18/3A
  • AAA0558 Merchant ensign, Canada 1873–1905 RP/18/24A
  • AAA0517 Merchant ensign, Canada 1965 pattern RP/18/4A
  • AAA0458 National flag, Ceylon 1946–1951 Neg No RP/16/27A
  • AAA0547 Chinese ceremonial canopy captured at Fatshan Creek in 1857 Neg No ED102
  • AAA0554 Chinese pirate flag depicting Goddess Tian Hou Neg No C6646/9 (colour)
  • AAA0727 Chinese winged tiger flag captured at Canton in 1857 by Capt Charles Fellows Neg No RP/20/20
  • AAA0559 Chinese winged tiger flag captured at Canton in 1857 By Robert McClure Neg No C5335 (colour)
  • AAA0526 Chinese junk flag, First China War 1842, Neg No D3814 (colour) (other examples)
  • AAA0521 Chinese junk flag, First China War 1842, Neg No D3815 (colour)
  • AAA0520 Chinese junk pennant, First China War 1842, Neg No RP/17/15A
  • AAA0522 Chinese junk pennant, First China War 1842, Neg No RP/17/16A
  • AAA0552 Chinese flag, Tai Ping Rebellion, Neg No C8498 (colour)
  • AAA0561 Chinese state and war ensign 1872–c.1890
  • AAA0459 Chinese state and war ensign c.1890–1912, Neg No D3487 (colour)
  • AAA0527 Chinese pirate flag 1926, Neg No D3022 (colour)
  • AAA0513 Commonwealth flag Neg No RP/17/35A
  • AAA0460 Naval ensign, Denmark Neg No RP/16/28A
  • AAA0509 Ensign, Royal Navy, East Africa before 1962 Neg No RP/17/31A
  • AAA0560 Flag, Egypt and Turkey, 1844 pattern captured by Captain Wilson RN at Alexandria in 1882 Neg No D6087 (colour) (other examples of this design).
  • AAA0461 Regional flag, Aland Islands, Finland Neg No RP/16/29A
  • AAA0529 National flag, Finland after 1918 Neg No RP/18/29A
  • AAA0548 French Bourbon ensign, flown 1815 HMS Hebrus Neg No C8495 (colour)
  • AAA0564 Flag, boarding division of L'Amerique captured at the Glorious First of June 1794 Neg No 2647 (black and white) RP/75/17 (colour)
  • AAA0563 French republican ensign, captured from the Guerriere by HMS Blanche in 1806 Neg No RP/33/15
  • AAA0562 French republican ensign, captured from L'Etoile by HMS Hebrus in 1814 Neg No RP/31/7A
  • AAA0463 Ensign, France, post 1830 (hand-sewn in good condition) Neg No RP/16/1A (other examples of this design)
  • AAA0464 Free French ensign (Second World War) Neg No RP/16/3A
  • AAA2392 Regional flag, Brittany Neg No D3425 (colour)
  • AAA0468 Pilot flag, Imperial Germany Neg No RP/16/32A
  • AAA0469 Merchant ensign, Imperial Germany, steamer Adjutant sunk, Lake Tanganika 1915 Neg No RP/16/33A (another example)
  • AAA0467 Rear-admiral's flag, Imperial Germany Hindenburg Neg No RP/15/36A
  • AAA0533 Flag, admiral of the fleet, Imperial Germany RP/19/29
  • AAA0473 Naval ensign, Imperial Germany 1903–1921 Nurnberg Neg No RP/16/36A (other examples)
  • AAA0565 Naval ensign, Imperial Germany 1903–1921 Neg No RP/33/10
  • AAA0474 Flag, Imperial German protectorates, captured during the Cameroons Campaign 1914–16 Neg No RP/17/1A (another example)
  • AAA0475 Flag, Imperial German Customs Neg No RP/17/3A
  • AAA0483 Merchant ensign, Nazi Germany 1935–1945 SS Rheingold Neg No RP/17/7A (other examples)
  • AAA0466 Admiral of the fleet, Nazi Germany 1943–45 Neg No RP/16/31A (other examples)
  • AAA0478 Naval ensign, Nazi Germany 1935–1945 Neg No RP/33/4
  • AAA3686 Hitler Youth pennant commemorating submarine commander, Gunther Prien
  • AAA0534 National flag, German Democratic Republic 1959–1990 RP/18/31A
  • AAA0719 Blue ensign, with badge of the Gold Coast RP/18/26A
  • AAA0535 Merchant ensign, Greece, 1970–74 RP/18/32A
  • AAA0538 Merchant ensign, Italy 1848–1946 RP/18/23A
  • AAA3269 Naval ensign, Italy 1848–1946 captured by HM submarine Unseen in 1942 (another example of this design)
  • AAA0537 National flag, Italy after 1946 Neg No RP/18/28a (another example)
  • AAA0484 Merchant ensign, Italy after 1946, hydrofoil Freccia del Vesuvio Neg No RP/17/8A Itsekri people, Nana Olumu chief governor of Benin River:
  • AAA0455 'NANNA ALLUMA'S SON' Neg No RP/34/17A
  • AAA0555 (Man shooting leopard) Neg No RP/33/12
  • AAA0556 Union flag 'NANNA' Neg No RP/75/32
  • AAA0557 (Man decapitating enemy) Neg No RP/74/23
  • AAA0487 Naval ensign, Japan 1889–1945 Neg No RP/17/21A
  • AAA0539 Commissioning pennant, Japan Neg No RP/19/25
  • AAA0540 Rear-Admiral's flag, Japan Neg No RP/19/6
  • AAA0541 National flag/merchant ensign, Japan Neg No RP/18/18A
  • AAA0723 Blue ensign/jack, Royal Indian Marine 1877–1947 Neg No RP/18/21A
  • AAA0536 Broad pennant, commander in chief, Indian Navy Neg No RP/19/5
  • AAA0724 Green harp flag, Ireland pre-1919 Neg No RP/18/16A
  • AAA0488 Flag, Kuwait Neg No RP/17/22A
  • AAA0542 National flag, Mexico after 1922 Neg No RP/18/30A
  • AAA0569 Netherlands. Ensign of the Batavian Republic (part). Captured at Walacheren 1809 by John Lamb of HMS Powerful Neg No C2245/5
  • AAA0568 Netherlands. Ensign of the Batavian Republic, captured by Admiral, Sir Andrew Mitchell Neg No RP/30/3A
  • AAA0722 National flag, Netherlands Neg No RP/18/20A
  • AAA0489 National flag, New Zealand inscribed 'L.D.H.S. TO TERRA NOVA 1910' Presented by Lyttelton District High School to R F Scott's ship Neg No D447 (colour)
  • AAA0490 Flag, Nicaraguan Republic c.1848 captured at Serapaqui Neg No RP/17/23A
  • AAA0510 Ensign, Director Nigerian Marine AAA0511 Neg No RP/17/33A, broad pennant Neg No RP/17/32A
  • AAA0491 Minister of marine's flag, Poland (World War Two) Neg No RP/17/24A
  • AAA0543 Naval ensign, Portugal pre-1910 Neg No RP/18/33A
  • AAA0544 National flag, Portugal after 1911 Neg No RP/18/27A
  • AAA0496 Merchant ensign Serbia/Montenegro Neg No RP/17/28A
  • AAA0721 Red ensign with badge of South Africa Neg No RP/18/25A
  • AAA0571 Jack, Imperial Russia from Twelve Apostles captured 1854 Neg No RP/75/31
  • AAA0493 Merchant ensign, Imperial Russia, captured during Crimean War Neg No RP/17/26A (other examples) AAA0572 Naval ensign, Imperial Russia Twelve Apostles captured 1854 Neg No RP/30/4A (other examples of this design).
  • AAA0546 Ensign, Russian Republic 1918–1937 captured in 1919 outside Kronstadt Neg No RP/19/28 (another example)
  • ZBA0248 Naval ensign, USSR 1935–1991 Neg No D9150 (colour
  • AAA05733 Fragmentary Spanish flag captured from Moro Castle, Havana 1762 Neg No C6645/3–16 (colour)
  • AAA0551 Spanish flag captured during Siege of Gibraltar 1782 Neg No C8496 (colour)
  • AAA0567 Naval ensign, Spain 1785 pattern, from San Ildefonso captured at Trafalgar Neg No RP/34/3A (other examples of this design)
  • AAA0549 Naval ensign, Spain 1785 Neg No C8496 (colour)
  • AAA0498 Flag, Turkey (three crescents) Neg No RP/18/12A Flag, USA 1795–1818 captured during war of 1812
  • AAA0550 Neg No 1833 (black and white) RP/75/34 Flag, USA 1896–1908
  • AAA0503 Neg No RP/18/8A Flag, USA 1912–1959
  • AAA0502 Neg No RP/18/9A Flag, USA after 1960
  • AAA0725 Neg No RP/19/2 (another example) Table flag USA, made 1942
  • ZBA1267 Table flag, USA bi-centenary 1976
  • AAA3693 City flag, Port of Long Beach
  • AAA0500 Neg No RP/18/1 City Flag, Port of Los Angeles
  • AAA0501 Neg No RP/18/10A

Next steps

Other guides in the series which may be useful for researching Captain Cook:

For general research help see:

Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.