Blue Ensign

The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several ensigns and can be used either plain or defaced with a badge or emblem. The evolution of the Blue Ensign followed that of the Union Jack.

Prior to the reorganization of the Royal Navy in 1864, the plain blue ensign had been the ensign of one of three squadrons of the Royal Navy. This changed in 1864, when an order in council provided that the Red Ensign was allocated to merchantmen, the Blue Ensign was to be the flag of ships in public service or commanded by an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, and the White Ensign was allocated to the Navy.

Thus after 1864, the plain Blue Ensign without any defacement (in most instances) or modification was permitted to be worn, instead of the Red Ensign.

This is the Ensign of the Royal Naval Reserve although permission has been given by the British Admiralty and later by the British Ministry of Defence (Navy) for its use by certain yacht clubs.

  • The Royal Naval Reserve – Volunteer reserve forces of the Royal Navy
  • British Merchant Vessels – whose officers and crew include a certain number of retired Royal Navy personnel or Royal Naval Reservists, or are commanded by an officer of the Royal Naval Reserve in possession of a Government warrant.
  • Royal Research Ships by warrant whether crewed by former Royal Navy personnel or merchant Navy personnel.
  • Limited Yacht Clubs of the United Kingdom
  • Limited Yacht Clubs of the Commonwealth

Several yacht clubs in the Commonwealth have permission to use the ensign in its original form and others to use the Blue Ensign defaced.

Clubs in Australia to use the Ensign in its original form are:

  • Royal Brighton Yacht Club, Founded 1875
  • Royal Geelong Yacht Club, Founded 1859
  • Royal Melbourne Yacht Club, Founded 1876
  • Royal Perth Yacht Club of Western Australia, Founded 1841
  • Royal Queensland Yacht Club, Founded 1885
  • Royal South Australia Yacht Club, Founded 1869
  • Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, Founded 1862
  • Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Founded 1859
  • Royal Yacht Club of Victoria, Founded 1853

When a defaced Blue Ensign is used an appropriate badge is placed into the fly.

Australian Yacht Clubs who can fly the Blue Ensign Defaced are:

  • Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association – Admiralty Crown and the letters- Founded 1947
  • Royal Motor Yacht Club – Cross with crown, Founded 1905
  • Royal Victorian Motor Yacht Club – Founded 1904
  • The Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club – Crown, Founded 1867
  • The Royal Prince Edward Yacht Club – Prince of Wales Feathers, Founded 1922
  • The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia – letters C.Y.C.A., Founded 1944


  • The Defaced Blue Ensign can be flown when the owners of the vessel are on board and in command.
  • The Defaced Blue Ensign must not be flown between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
  • The Ensign would normally be flown from the stern and must not be flown without the Club Burgee.
  • A yacht club flys its Club Burgee at the masthead. The Blue ensign is flown on the ensign staff or gaff.
  • The warrant to fly the Ensign must always be on board for inspection if the Ensign is being flown.