Wednesday, 29 October 2014

New Zealand flag referendum

I have just saw on the BBC News (online article see here) that New Zealand will hold two separate referendums in 2015 and 2016 to possibly try to change their flag. So I think now is a good time to share my proposals. My first thought was a flag based on the flag of the United Tribes, regarded as the first NZ flag
Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand 1834-1840
Not an actual proposal but it did get me thinking about the United Tribes design, particularly the design in the canton. Perhaps a modified version of the flag:
National flag and maritime Jack
It reflects the first New Zealand flag, with black representing the Maori people and blue those of European descent. White is neutral and represents peace and unity. The idea for a white cross rather than red came from the NZ Yacht ensign.
Likewise the red white and blue ensign system for use at sea would probably look like this:
Naval Ensign 
State ensign
Civil Ensign
Air Force flag
Army Flag
Most of the ensigns are relatively unchanged from the current one but have the white cross flag in the canton rather than a UK flag. The naval ensign is an altered Royal Navy ensign. Ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy (as did the Canadians and Australians) used an unaltered St George's ensign until the 1960s, So its another historical reference, The St George's ensign with the aproprate flag in the canto is not uncommon in Commonwealth navies and is used by India,Barbados and Jamaica. Undefaced versions of the state and civil ensigns still have the Southern Cross, as I think it looks nicer than a plain blank field. or alternatively the white cross could be used:

Flags of the territories in "Free Association" with New Zealand, are also based on UK ensigns, with Union Jacks in the canton, these may wish to change this to a NZ flag:
The Cook Islands
However the NZ Prime Minister, Mr John Key has said he would like a black flag witha silver fern similar to sport flags. So Mr Key these designs are for you:
Its distinct and a cross between the current flag and the silver fern one. The red, white and blue maritime ensign system can still be used:

Please feel free to comment and discus ideas or alternatives. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Personal flag redesign

I really made this by accident but I like it, its a redesign of my personal flag:

It is based on my personal flag, which is a heraldic banner of my coat of arms design:
personal banner
My coat of arms
The gold lion rampant on a black field, has always been a symbol I associated with my family. The thistles and flax flowers representing my Ulster-Scots heritage, the crest representing my life long passion of  ferroequinology, by way of the locomotive wheel, the lion passant continuing the lion theme. 
All this is symbolised in the redesigned flag. the floral symbols and lion rampant. However the red and white saltires on a blue field, is based on the Ulster Nation flag, which attempts to combine the St Patrick's saltire with the St Andrew's Saltire. This is again another heritage reference,and the crimson shade of red reflects my home city Londonderry. However, blue is also my favourite colour, and the split red saltire is also a reference to railroad tracks. The gold circle also makes the saltire look like a Celtic cross thats been turned 45 degrees, a reference to the Northern Ireland football badge, which is also based on a Celtic Cross design. 
Other variations of the design include a black field, with a crimson rather than scarlet saltire, crimson being the colour of my home town. Or using the crest rather than the lion rampant, however I still like the origional.

I am not quite sure which flag to use, I enjoy the symbolism of the new saltire design, but on the other hand I love the simplicity of the heraldic banner. One option is to use both flags, using the banner as a personal flag, and the saltire as an alternative flag for when it would be inappropriate to use a banner. For example it could be used over property when I am not present? Or is having two flags a little greedy?
I would love to hear your opinions and suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Development & History of Irish Flags Pt6 Williamites & Jacobites

What is known as the Glorious Revolution in the British Isles, led to the confrontation between King William III the Prince of Orange, (whose supporters were called Williamites) and the deposed King James II, (whose supporters were called Jacobites) on Irish battlefields. I am not going to add to the volumes that already exist about this conflict but I am going to look at the flags.

The Royal Coat of arms of the two Kings

first of all is the coat of arms used by James II/VII, like his grandfather James I/VI he used a shield quartered with the arms of his three kingdoms, typical of the Stewarts:
 William III and Mary II were joint sovereigns,(William refused to accept a position below his wife, who was James's daughter and therefore heir) and this is reflected in the Royal coat of arms. Mary uses the arms of her father, William uses the Stewart arms as King but with an inescutcheon of his own personal Dutch arms. These are impaled:

While James would have used a banner of his arms as his Royal standard, in Ireland, William probably did not use a banner of the impaled arms, his Royal Standard was probably just his proportions of the arms, he only used his arms after Mary's death:

This conflict was more than an Irish or British one, but was just one part of a wider European struggle mainly between the French and an alliance of smaller nations initially led by the Dutch. As such both side were relatively diverse, I will mention some non Irish flags as some of these groups settled on the island, but my main focus is on the Irish ones. 

Williamite flags

The Crimson flag of Derry & Boyne Standard

One of first important battles of the war in Ireland was the siege of Londonderry in north west Ulster. It began when the city's gates were shut by a small group of Apprentices and the townsfolk refused admittance of a new Jacobite garrison, fearing they would be massacred. It was the longest siege in the British Isles. Out of the siege came what is probably the most celebrated flag of the conflict. The bloody flag of Derry more commonly known as the Crimson Banner was a flag that was initially flown from the city walls, but was later moved to the tower of the city's St Columb's Cathedral, the highest point within the walls. There are some differences in accounts of flag, some say it was used as a symbol of defiance. Others that it was used to signal distress, to relief ships on the other side of a boom blocking their approach to the city. One sources says it was a rag dipped in blood, another it was an old ensign that was stained with blood. Either way all accounts say it was the governor Col Mitchelburne who was responsible for it and that the crimson colour came from it being stained with blood. 
The Relief of Derry by G Follingsby depicting amongst other things the crimson flag. 
It was Mitchelburne who left money in his will, for the hoisting of the crimson flag from the city's St Columb's cathedral on the anniversaries of the shutting of the city's gates and its relief each December and August. A tradition that is still practised. The Apprentice Boy's Clubs also carry crimson flags around the city's walls and through its streets whenever they parade, the crimson colour is also reflected on their regalia . 
crimson flag flying from Londonderry's Cathedral
Apprentice Boys parading on Londonderry's walls, with crimson flags and regalia 
Another flag that was supposedly used by Williamite forces, that is more widely used today, but perhaps not as celebrated as the Crimson flag, is the flag known as the Orange Standard or the Boyne Standard.  This is an orange flag, with St George's Cross in the canton, and a purple "star of fellowship" in the fly, which was supposedly the symbol of Williamites. It's said to be the flag carried before William III at the battle of the Boyne. Today it is popular with Orange Lodges and Protestant marching bands. 
re-enactment of a 1912 Unionist Honour Guard, with orange standard
It was also carried before Sir Edward Carson as he made his way to Belfast City Hall to sign the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant in 1912. That being said this flag doesn't seem to be in any of the painting or depictions (and there are many) that I have seen, of King Billy (to use the his colloquial title) at the Boyne. In fact the most common flag seen accompanying the king are plain orange, red or blue flags (they vary from painting) with the royal coat of arms. Some have the Dutch inescutcheon, others the plain Stewart arms, also used by the Jacobites, possibly the Sovereign Standard of the King's Life Guards;
William III crossing the Boyne, note the flag with the royal arms.

Williamite Colours

The method of using and carrying colours differed then from what they are today. In the seventeenth century infantry and cavalry companies were organised into regiments, initially each company carried its own flag or colour, however by the Glorious Revolution, most regiments had reduced the flags they carried to four, one for the company commanded by the colonel, one for the Lieutenant Colonels company, one for the Major's and one for the first captain's. The standard Irish colour was like the English a St George's Cross, with a coloured field, depending on the unit. Some  examples of non Irish colours of the Williamite Army at the Battle of the Boyne 1690 were:

There may be some slight differences in some accounts for example, the Order of the Garter badge on the Blue Guards colours (William III's personal troops which may be why they have English symbolism despite being Dutch!) might have been topped with a crown. The Colonels Colour of Bambington's Regiment may have had a sun on it rather than a plain field. There is limited information about Danish and Huguenot colours and I used more modern sources to recreate them, they might have been completely different. The Huguenots, may have had stripes on their flags. The Huguenot regiments did appear to have at least one flag each with a white cross on it, possibly a reference to their French homeland. Less is known about the flags of the Irish regiments (which includes Anglo-Irish and Ulster-Scots) in the Williamite army, but they appear to follow the standard pattern of the Irish army which mirrors the English practice of the time. Here are only some examples:
Colour party of an Enniskillen company
these are again from more modern sources and some contradict each other, Mitchelburn's Regiment may have had blue fields rather than crimson, with the colonel's colour having a white field, although other sources give them as crimson. This seems a little more likely as it was Mitchelburn who used a crimson flag during the Siege of Derry, Likewise the other Londonderry regiment, St Johns may have had pink colours! They both seem to have used the Londonderry coat of arms. Likewise all the sources give the colours of Tiffen's Regiment as blue, except one painting of an Inniskilling colour party with pink/red colours. There were more than one regiment of Enniskilleners, so this may be one of the others. The Meath regiment may have had a harp on their colours rather than the arms of the region's Earl. For most the colour of the 1st Captain's Company are unclear but, they probably follow the same pattern as the English colours.

Jacobite Flags

Royal Coat of Arms and French flags

Very little is known of the flags used by the Jacobite Army, a Dutch print of the Siege of Athlone in 1691 shows a Jacobite unit fighting under a flag depicting James II's coat of arms. Another print of James landing at Kinsale in 1689 shows the king's boats flying similar flags:
The best part of the Jacobite army were French troops provided by Louis XIV.  During the Siege of Derry the Williamites captured French Colours, They were later presented to the city and still hang in St Columb's Cathedral, although they have been refurbished two or three times, so how much of the flags are authentic is questionable, they probably did attempt to recreate the original design. 
They appear to be completely yellow with the fleur de lee of Kingdom of France in the canton:

Jacobite Colours

If little is known about the flags of Irish Williamite units, even less is known about the flags used and carried by the Irish Jacobite Army. As stated above various prints show Jacobites using flag with the Stewart arms. This may be to identify those on the print (most of which were made by the victors) as Jacobites rather than suggesting what flags they used, however it cannot be ruled out. There is a more modern painting of King James being fired upon when he presented himself before Derry's walls in 1688, (and thus begging the siege proper). This artistic interpretation of events is interesting as it depicts various Jacobite units and their colours (or at least one of them):

From left to right the regiments (and their flags) appear to be; James II's (English) Foot Guards, The Earl of Antrim's Regiment (the Red Shanks), The Royal Regiment of Foot Guards of Ireland(the first Irish Guards) and an unidentified regiment possibly French. Although another version of this painting shows the colour of Lord Bellew's Regiment of foot.
The best description of Jacobite colours was written by the English Jacobite soldier John Stevens who served as a junior officer in the Lord Grand Prior's regiment. In his journal of the war he describes flags carried at a munster of Jacobite forces on the eve of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. He describes the flags carried by six Jacobite units. The flags he describes are:

  • The Irish Army's Foot Guards 
The Guards colour is described as St George's Cross, and the arms of the four kingdoms. This has been interpreted as the arms in the quarters. This flag is interesting as the French arms are a separate entity from the English Leopards. Normally in this period the arms of England were quartered, alternating between French and English symbolism. Although Stevens did not mention it, the Col Colour was probably a St George cross with the Royal Cypher.
  • Earl of Antrim's Regiment (also known as the Red Shanks) 
The regiment which found the Gates of Derry closed against them, and begun the conflict. The Red Shanks colour is described as being a red cross (presumably a St George Cross) on a green field. Each quarter containing a Cross of Jerusalem being clutched by a hand, coming out of a cloud. Clearly adapted from the Earl's Arms, he belonged to the MacDonnells of Antrim an Irish sept of the Scottish clan of the same name. In the centre of the cross was a crowned harp, and the motto "In hoc signo vinces" (In this sign thou shalt conquer). Again not mentioned but the colonel's colour is believed to be a green flag with a cross patee in the middle.
  • Lord Bellew's Regiment
Bellew's Regiment's colours are described as "bendy black and tawny" black and gold-brown diagonal stripes. A harp and crown in the centre. In the canton is a crown with the motto "Toutb d'en Haut" (All from above) around it. Stevens also mentions that the colonel's colour had a small cross patee for distinction.
  • Gordon O'Neils Regiment
O'Neill's Regiment's colour was white with a "bloody hand" or red hand of Ulster. This was used as the arms of the O'Neills of Tyrone since the dawn of heraldry, and has a always been considered a symbol of the province of Ulster. It is perhaps one of the great ironies of history, that the red hand is the favourite symbol of those in Ulster who associate with the Williamites, when it appeared on a Jacobite flag and not on any Williamite flags (as far as we know), perhaps a testament to how symbols and their meanings can change throughout history.  Around the red hand was the motto "Pro Rege et Patria pugno" (I fight for King and Fatherland). We are also told that the colonel's colour had a cross pattee for distinctiveness.
  • Lord Louths Regiment 
The colours of this regiment was a blue cross, with an imperial crown and motto "Festina Lente" (Hasten Slowly) on a filamot (the colour of a dead leaf as described by Pro Hayes-McCoy) field. The Colonel's Colour was the same but without the blue cross. The use of a blue cross rather than red is interesting and unusual, it is not clear why a blue cross was used.
  • Lord Grand Priors Regiment (formally known as Ramsay's Regiment). 

Steven describes the colours of his own regiment, as a plain white flag for the colonel's company. "the other two the same device and motto as the grenadier's caps" The Grenadiers wore special caps similar to mirtes, those of his regiment had a picture of a burning town, and the motto "The fruits of Rebellion" on their caps.

 According to the description of Stevens most regiments had at least two colours (a colonel's and regiment) possibly three, and that the organisation and method of carrying and using colours were slightly different to that of the Williamites

The Wild Geese

In 1690 an exchange took place between James and his ally Louis XIV. James sent some of his Irish troops to serve alongside the French army, in exchange Louis sent some of his more experienced French soldiers to fight for James in Ireland. After the Jacobite cause was lost these units stayed in France to serve their exiled king, becoming the Brigade Irlandaise (Irish Brigade), also nicknamed 'the Wild Geese' eventually becoming absorbed into the regular French Army. As a result of its expatriate status the regiments of the brigade kept their Irish Army style of flags, for most of their existence as a distinct unit. This gives us another excellent example of the style of Irish Jacobite flags. The colours follow the old pattern of a St George's Cross on a coloured field, although some of the colours are alternating. Most of the colours depict a crowned harp, symbolising their Irish identity. The exception being Rooth's Regiment and Berwick's Regiment. The possible reasons for this could be because Rooth's Regiment's official title was "The Royal Regiment of Foot Guards" and hence was the same Irish regiment of foot guards already mentioned and never had a harp on their colours! Berwick's regiment was a new unit created from the merger in 1698 of the Earl of Clancarty's Regiment and other units in French service.
The regimental colour of Berwick's Regiment is particularly interesting due to the use of the red saltire, rather than crowns representing the four Kingdoms of Ireland, Scotland, England and France.Possibly a connection with St Patrick's Saltire, although the official symbolism of the flag is debatable. The motto "In hoc signo vinces" seems to have been used on all the colours of the brigade despite its actual motto being"Semper et ubique Fidelis"(Always and Everywhere Faithful). Towards the end of its existence most of the Irish soldiers were French born citizens of Franco-Irish families, and by 1791 the Irish Brigade was absorbed into the regular French Army losing its distinct Irish symbols and Identity. 

For more in this series see the links below or click the label History of Irish flags:

Also in the Series

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The coat of arms of Lord Bannside

Today was the public memorial service of the former Northern Ireland First Minister, the Rev Dr Ian Paisley the Lord Bannside. Watching it on TV I saw the front of the order of service which featured Lord Bannside's coat of arms. Personally I never knew he had a grant of arms, he must have got it after his elevation to the House of Lords. It is quite an interesting coat of arms:
I don't know the official symbolism but it appears to reflect his calling as a preacher (he founded the Free Presbyterian Church) from the winged lions (the heraldic symbol of Mark the Evangelist) with trumpets (to proclaim the Gospel with), open books possibly symbolising the word of God, even the motto "with Bold Proclamation" is reflective of his firebrand preaching.  Whatever you might think of the man its an interesting coat of arms.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Russian Empire (Micronation)

The Russian Empire is a micronation created by Anton Bakov chairman of the Russian Monarchist party. It was proclaimed on 20th July 2011, and claims about 18 different places as its territory, including Suwarrowatoll in the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica, places originally discovered or claimed by Russian sailors but later abandoned by the Empire due to the Russian Revolution.   It styles itself as a federal constitutional monarchy, the historical successor to the Empire founded by Peter I. It proclaims Karl Emich of Leiningen as its head of state as he is descended from  Russian Romanov Royal Family, with the title Tsar Nicolas III.
At present the flag of this micronation is the old Russian Navy ensign:

The problem I have this flag is that it is practically the same as the current naval ensign of the Russian Federation:

similar problem existed with the "royal" coat of arms, until it was changed when Nicolas III was proclaimed Tsar in 2014. Its current coat of arms are unique if perhaps a little distasteful:
Compared to the previous arms, which were almost the same as the Russian Federation's with the exception of the hammer and sickle:

My idea was to use a Russian Flag, but with the "St Andrews Flag" (presumably a reference to the sailors who discovered these places) in the canton. This way the flag keeps the Russian connections and symbolism but at the same time is something quite distinctive. 
Or alternatively they could use the black, gold and white design of the old Russian Empire's "Romanov dynastic flag" the official flag of the Empire from 1858 - 1883,as that is more associated with the Russian monarchists, with the saltier in the hoist:

All Comment Welcome

Sunday, 12 October 2014

UK football badge

I have been toying with this idea for a while, as I keep reading about various calls for a British national football team (rather than the four separate home nations teams). For some its looking to decrease the British influence on the FIFA board (by giving the UK one seat rather than a couple for the Home Nations), for others its an attempt to gain glory at the next World Cup (after England's shocking performance in Brazil, and the other nations not even qualifying for quite some time).
Personally I as a proud Northern Ireland fan I am against the idea. However if a Team UK is formed what would the team badge be. The concept is not that far-fetched, British national teams have competed against "The rest of Europe" in special one off games in 1947 and 55, their badge was based on the royal coat of arms, see here. A UK team competes in Olympic football and uses the Team GB logo, and in rugby there is a special British Isles team "the lions" who play special tours.
So What would a UK team badge look like. My first two attempts tried to include the Union Jack:

In both these designs I attempted to make the flag look like a football, I also included the star for England's 1966 World Cup win, as the other nations would never hear the end of it, if it wasn't included. I don't like these at all, and thought about including the various UK team badges:

The England and Scotland badges clearly based on their coat of arms.Wales based on their flag, and Northern Ireland's badge based on a Celtic cross. I think the best badge for a British team would be a shield quartered with simplified versions of the above badges, similar to the Lions shield:

I know its a little outside the scope of this blog, but I also attempted to design the Kit, I don't normally design football kits, so I apologise if its rubbish, but here it is anyway:  
Top row left to right 1st, 2nd and 3rd Kits. Bottom Goal Keeper 1st and 2nd kits
All kits (except the Goal Keepers 2nd kit) have the colours for the home nations, White for England, blue for Scotland, red for Wales, green for Northern Ireland. The red white and blue stripes are copied from the Allies kit in the film Escape to Victory, but I feel add to the kit. The flags are on both arms, however I was considering putting it above the name on the back instead, I am not totally decided on that yet. The team badge appears on the left side of the top (as you wear it) with the sponsor logo on the right, and vis versa on the shorts. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Jolly Roger

I recently added a Jolly Roger flag to my collection. It is arguably the most recognisable and possibly most used flag in the world today. But I as I opened it I asked myself what is it that i have bought? What's its history and what does it represent?


The Jolly Roger was designed to cause a panicked
 surrenderrather than keep calm
The exact origin of the pirate flag known as the Jolly Roger is unknown, most experts seem to think its original colouring was red rather than black. This seems to suggest that it evolved out of a signal flag. In historic naval warfare a red flag was used to signal that no quarter would be given in a battle. As pirates were hung when caught they had nothing to gain by being captured alive, and nothing to lose by murdering an entire ships crew.  The French Navy described this red flag as the Joli Rouge (pretty red), and it is thought that the English mishearing or mispronouncing joli rouge came up with Jolly Roger. This flag was used more to intimidate a ship's crew to surrender without a fight, rather than an excuse to massacre them. Pirates would sail up to the target vessel possibly flying a friendly flag, and at the last moment hoist their jolly roger, causing panic in the other ship which generally surrendered without a fight.
As an attempt to increase the effectiveness of these flags symbols of death would be painted or sewed on it. The skull and crossbones is symbol in popular culture but they varied from ship to ship depending on the individual tastes of the pirates. Other prominent symbols were hourglasses (symbol of death in 17th-18th century Europe) the devil and a stabbed heart. Black flags probably became the prime colour rather than red because of its association with death, and so the jolly roger as we know it began to take shape. 
A little bit of US comedy, but this was how the Jolly Roger probably was used, although the British "car" would normally surrender, also of note Peter is flying the Union Jack upside-down 

Historic Use of the flag

Probably the earliest record of a Jolly Roger being used is in a ships log book held in the national library of France. The entry into the log is dated December 6, 1687, and describes pirates using a Jolly Roger, on land rather than a ship. It states  "(we) raised a red flag with a Skull head on it and two crossed bones, and then we marched on." The oldest known reference of the flag being called the Jolly Roger is in a book called the General History of Pyrates, which was published in Britain in 1724.The mentions that both The book mentions that both Bartholomew Roberts and Francis Spriggs both called their flag the Jolly Roger, although both flags were different and not the popular skull and crossbones There is evidence Pirates used black flags before the term jolly roger became popular, accounts of the pirate Peter Easton describe the use of a plain black flag. Black flags were used by various pirates throughout the 1700s.Captain Emanuel Wynn is credited by the accounts of the captain of British warship, for flying a black flag with a skull and crossbones and an hourglass on it in 1700. Many people see this as the first use of the popular skull and crossbones Jolly Roger flag from a pirate ship. 
With an increase in piracy fallowing the end of the War of the Spanish Succession(possibly because of out of work privateers turning pirate) the flag seems to have become more popular. Pirates began to chose to decorate their black flag with various symbols. The pirate Edward England is credited with flying a black skull and crossbones flag from his mainmast and a red one from his lower mast. These flags appear to have been in the role of jack or pennant as he also apparently used the English National Flag as his ensign. (this could also be an example of using a friendly flag to get close, then hoisting a pirate flag to scare the opponent into surrender as stated above). he Jolly Roger quickly became an almost personal flag that could identify a ship or pirate captain. Films are not always the best way to express this but for example, in Pirates of the Caribbean the Curse of the Black Pearl. Their is a scene where Jack Sparrow is secretly betraying the HMS Dauntless to Captain Barbosa. Jack says "you take the Dauntless as your flag ship and I'll take the Pearl, I'll sail under your colours and give you 10% of my plunder."
Similarly in the third film of the Pirates of the Caribbean series At Worlds End, there is a fantastic scene where the pirate fleet all hoist their jolly rogers after a speech by the newly elected Pirate King Elizabeth Swan. It depicts the many different flags excellently, many of which are based on Jolly Rogers used by actual pirates: 
Unfortunately the last film, On Stranger Tides didn't keep up a good record of accurate flags, and depicts British Ships using Union Jacks rather than red, white or blue ensigns, which is rather disappointing as that was the case in the first film!
Here are some historic Jolly Rogers:
Accredited to Blackbeard but similar flags were used by other pirates 
John Quelch or John Phillips flag 
 One of two flags used by Bartholomew Roberts (the first flag depicted a figure of him and death holding an hourglass, and can be seen in the above clip). The two heads he is standing on represent two islands he didn't like Barbados (ABH) and Martinique(AMH).
 Flag used by Samuel Bellamy and from Edward England's mainmast.
Popular version of Henry Every's flag he might have also used a black version.  
Emanuel Wynn's jolly roger already mentioned above
Captain Jack Sparrow (fictional) 
as seen at the end of Pirates of Caribbean 3 At Worlds End

Of course the Jolly Roger was not flying at all times but wasn't used until the pirates were close to their target. It was often raised simultaneously with a warning shot.
The flag was probably intended as communication of the pirates' identity, which may have given target ships an opportunity to change their mind and surrender without a fight. For example in June 1720 when Bartholomew Roberts sailed into the harbour at Trepassey, Newfoundland with black flags flying, the crews of all 22 vessels in the harbour abandoned them in panic. If a ship then decided to resist, the Jolly Roger was taken down and a red flag was flown, indicating that the pirates intended to take the ship by force and without mercy. Richard Hawkins reports that "When they fight under Jolly Roger, they give quarter, which they do not when they fight under the red or bloody flag."
In view of these models, it was important for a prey ship to know that its assailant was a pirate, and not a privateer or government vessel, as the latter two generally had to abide by a rule that if a crew resisted, but then surrendered, it could not be executed. Possessing or using a Jolly Roger until quite recently was itself considered an act of piracy.

Modern Military Use 

the Jolly Roger is used by the Royal Navy Submarine Service as a type of victory flag. When a submarine returned or returns from a successful mission it flies a jolly roger, normally with markings on it depicting its achievements. It should be noted that the white ensign is still worn when the jolly roger is in use, in this way fulfils the role of a pennant. 
This tradition is as old as the Submarine Service itself and has its origins from the early days of submarine warfare. Following the introduction of submarines in several navies, Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, the First Sea Lord of the British Navy, stated that submarines were "underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English", and that he would convince the British Admiralty to have the crews of enemy submarines captured during wartime be hanged as pirates.
In September 1914, the British submarine HMS E9 successfully torpedoed the German cruiser SMS Hela. Remembering Wilson's statements, commanding officer Max Horton (who would ironically lead the fight against Nazi subs n WWII) instructed his sailors to manufacture a Jolly Roger, which was flown from the submarine as she entered port. Each successful patrol saw Horton's submarine fly an additional Jolly Roger until there was no more room for flags, at which point Horton then had a large Jolly Roger manufactured, onto which symbols indicating E9's achievements were sewn. This was copied by a number of other submarines and a way of protesting against the comments of one's superiors became a tradition. 
This practice was repeated in World War II, where it spread to other Commonwealth and Allied submarines that often sailed with and as part of the British fleet. 
Free Polish submarine ORP Sokół returning to base in 1944. A Jolly Roger flag displaying the boat's achievements and two captured Nazi flags are flying.

Although the symbols on each Jolly Roger were often unique to each Submarine some symbols were in common use.
A white bar denotes the torpedoing of a merchant ship
A red bar indicated the torpedoing of a warship.
A black bar with a 'U' stood for sinking a German submarine.
A dagger indicated a 'cloak and dagger' mission, such as secretly putting Commandos or spies on enemy shores.
A star or a cannon stood for firing the deck gun at the enemy, (obviously when on the surface).
Mine laying was depicted with he figure of a sea mine and a number indicating how many.
Rescue operations of downed air crew or shipwrecked sailors was often depicted with a lifebuoy.
The Jolly roger of HMS Proteus included a can-opener, referencing an incident where an Italian destroyer attempted to ram the submarine, but ended up worse off because of damaging it hull.
Crew of HMS Utmost displaying their Jolly Roger in 1942. All the symbols on it are mentioned above.
Royal Navy submarines continue to use the Jolly Roger flag in the modern navy. Returning home after the Falklands War of 1982, the submarine HMS Conqueror raised a flag with the silhouette of a cruiser on it, denoting the controversial sinking of the ARA General Belgrano. In 1999 HMS Splendid fired Tomahawk cruise missiles during the Kosovo conflict. On returning home to Scotland she flew a jolly roger with a tomahawk on it, (representing the type of missile used). HMS Turbulent flew a jolly roger depicting two crossed Tomahawks after firing cruise missiles  during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, her sister boat HMS Triumph flew a Jolly Roger with six tomahawk axes on it in 2011. The boat had fired six cruise missiles during the campaign to enforce a UN no fly zone over Libya. Its not just British submarines either. In 1980 the Australian sub HMAS Onslow flew a jolly roger with seven ships on it. The Onslow was acting as the enemy in a submarine hunting exercise with seven other ships, all of which she (not literally) sank. A great achievement considering it was supposed to be the other way around.
The Jolly Roger is popular with the US Air Force and fleet air arm with some squadrons like the 90th Bomber group having it painted on the tail of their air craft. The skull and crossbones has been adapted as military insignia by various militaries all around the world.

Popular Use

Because of books like the Pirates of Penzance and Treasure Island, and films like Pirates of the Caribbean, historic pirates have been romanticized and so has the Jolly Roger. The pirate ship with the jolly roger has become the emblem of the glory days of sailing, despite the fact that they pillaged, plundered and murdered. The Jolly Roger has become the international flag of the mariner, a sort of fun flag, being used by yachts, cruise ships and pleasure craft the world over, sometimes even in place of an ensign!  The Sea Shepard Conservation Society even designed their own version and  defiantly flew it from their ships as the went through a region of ocean where pirates are known to operate, its now become the popular flag of the organisation. Its been adopted by the Pirate party Movement, and other political groups and movements. Because of it historic symbolism of death it is perhaps inevitable that its been adopted by criminal gangs and terrorist groups. Perhaps those who use it get a feel like they are reliving (for want of a better word) the romance of the golden age of sailing, or perhaps it encourages a sense of adventure or a sense of fun, or perhaps even a sense of defiance, to a government/authority or as is the case of the sea shepherds pirates themselves?
Pleasure Boat, MV Maid of Antrim flying the Jolly Roger on the River Foyle.NI
 In conclusion the Jolly Roger is a fascinating flag or rather type of flag as it comes in many forms. Its use and its role has evolved and changed throughout history. Its terrifying origins as a pirate flag means it has almost been made into a legend by writers and film makers. It use has changed throughout history. As a warning flag, a type of personal flag, a military flag, and a fun flag. It has even been adopted by Sports teams, protest and political groups and even fashion. Ironically enough today it seems the only people who don't use it are modern day pirates.
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