Union flag

Union Jack or Union Flag? A Brief History

When first introduced in 1606, the ‘Union Jack’ was known simply as the ‘British flag’ or ‘flag of Britain’, and was ordered to be flown from the main mast of all English and Scottish ships, warships and merchant ships.


The name ‘Union’ first appears in 1625, but what of the term ‘jack’?

Various theories exist, but the bulk of the evidence indicates use of the word in its diminutive sense. Before 1600, ‘jack’ was certainly used to describe a small flag flown from the mast mounted at the end of the bowsprit; by 1627, a small version of the Union flag – later described as the ‘Jack’, ‘Jack flag’ or ‘King’s Jack’ – seems to have flown commonly in this position; and by 1674, this flag was described formally as ‘His Majesty’s Jack’ and in common usage – officially acknowledged – as the Union Jack.


During the eighteenth century, the short mast on the bowsprit disappeared, to be replaced by staysails on the stays between bowsprit and foremast. The principal naval distinguishing flag had become the Ensign, so it grew customary to fly the Union Jack only in harbour – and from the ‘jackstaff’ (a specially rigged staff in the bows).


Note therefore that the ‘jack’ predated the ‘jackstaff’ by over 150 years, with the term ‘jack’ orginally denoting size rather than position.


It is sometimes claimed that the Union Flag should be described as the Union Jack only when flown in the bows of a warship, but this is a relatively recent idea. From its earliest days, the Admiralty often referred to the flag – however it was used – as the Union Jack. In 1902 an Admiralty Circular announced that either name could be used officially. And in 1908 the UK Parliament approved this verdict, stating that ‘the Union Jack should be regarded as the National flag’.

Cdr Bruce Nicolls OBE RN (Retd)

You can find out about all Britains flag days and also UK overseas territories!  

You can even order your own bespoke flag via the Flag institute.


You can find out about all UK national and county flags at the Flag Institute.

Great Britain Great Britain Great Britain

The British, who are we?  We are a proud union of 4 nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.   We have been a union for over 300 years and stuck together through strife and world wars in all that time. Together we built an Empire bringing democracy to many peoples around the world.


Many in our own country and around the world take great joy in knocking Great Britain, confusing as we have not committed genocide like some nations. So we want to help put the record as straight as we can about our achievements and the good we have done around the world.   There is a great video from Britain first showing the 4 nations flags and peoples.

Link for video of the 4 nations 'Land of Hope and Glory' anthem

We do not want to start at the dawn of time, but felt that from the era of Empire would be good to explain the British attitude to the world.


The song lyrics of 'Rule Britannia' probably sums up best the feelings of the British people. Although we no longer rule the waves..we will never be slaves! This inherited attitude cannot be wiped away by those complaining about Great Britain leaving the EU.

Britons be very proud....

......Below are the words Queen Elizabeth 1 spoke when she visited her troops in the field as they prepared for battle, during the nine-day onslaught by the Spanish Armada. 

When there was every possibility that Britain would be invaded!


My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects.


And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonour should grow by me, I myself will take up arms;


I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.


Queen Elizabeth I - 1588 Following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Britain became the dominant world power and remained so for centuries.

Photo credit- World of warships.com


Be commander of your own British warship!

The British Empire.

The Empire was not just an extension of England and the English, as many like to claim but was also the other nations of Great Britain...the Scots, the Welsh & Irish.


Native peoples in the British Empire had gained in many ways, from basic democracy to the very useful world language of English, unlike many other Empires of the era, such as the French, Dutch and German. 


But without dwelling on Empire which did in fact also have a long term effect on Great Britain as a country and nation.  It brought into our country many peoples from the British Empire countries, which later became the Commonwealth.  This changed the very nature of society in Great Britain, with inter marriage between the British national and Commonwealth citizens. This created a new generation of mixed race children.


Great Britain eventually became one of the most open and accepting nations in the world.

Not the racist backwater that many would promote!


The Commonwealth to this day is a force for good uniting over 2 billion people worldwide....so we can take a little credit I believe and sing our favourite national songs,with this link!


Our singing of Rule Britannia gives us a sense of nationhood.

Above is a link to You tube video for an important song of our identity. 

Yes, the words may have been out of context after Empire, but with leaving the EU...we will once again be ruling the waves around our Island home!!

War and it's effects on Great Britain

It was probably the 2 world wars of the last century that best defined the British spirit, but changed our society forever.


WW1 was when we went to the aid of Europe in 1914 and unfortunately the ramifications of that war were extreme. One only has to look at the number of spinsters from that era, which shows that the cream of British manhood lay under French and Belgian soil.


The war also brought women out of the home and into the factories, causing a social upheaval. After the war men returning home had no jobs and possibly thought it was unfair that they went off to war, and on coming back all that they knew had changed and the women had their job.


But this had been a necessary change, as all the men were away fighting, the women were needed to make the shells and bullets!


Then again with WW2, we went to the aid of Europe once again....and suffered horrendously with a blitz of our Island home...and without the RAF and those young pilots fighting off the Nazi regime...and many giving their lives to keep our Island free of a murderous dictatorship...we would not be in a free country today, with all the trappings of free speech!


The forgiving nature of the British

At the end of WW2, 500 German POW's in Middlesex were invited to a Christmas dinner in the homes of British families!!  One German later recalled:

"We were happy for weeks afterwards, it was this hospitality and goodness of heart from rich and poor alike, that showed us what we really could learn from being in Britain"...


The lesson was taken to heart by many prisoners and 26,000 POW's decided not to go back to Germany, but opted to stay in Great Britain and make a new life.


If you are of younger generations, spare a thought for your forefathers who endured so much being bombed or who gave their lives so that you could be born into a free country and have this freedom. It means today... that you are able to say what you want or write what you want on social media, as long as it is not offensive of course.  Dictator regimes around the world do not allow this freedom...one just has to consider China!


Here is a very useful website for the younger generation...it explains WW2 in simple facts.

In honour of the Spitfire and it's designer.


The Supermarine Spitfire is one of the best-loved and widely recognised British aircraft of all time. It was designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell, among whose other famous achievements was the design of the Supermarine S-series racing seaplanes which secured outright the Schneider Trophy after wins in 1927, 1929 and 1931.


The prototype Spitfire, K5054, first flew on 5th March 1936 powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin, the last of Sir Henry Royce’s engine concepts before his death. Delivery of the first production Mk1 Spitfires into RAF squadron service took place from July 1938. The Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane with their Merlin engines achieved lasting fame during the defensive action of the Battle of Britain in 1940 when the invasion of the British Isles was averted.


​Mitchell died in 1937 before seeing the true potential of the Spitfire, but his successor, Joe Smith, was the driving force behind the development of the aircraft we know today. By the time production ceased more than 22,000 Spitfires and Seafires (naval versions of the Spitfire) were built. Merlin engine developments brought the aircraft better performance, but the last marks of Spitfire used the larger, more powerful Griffon engine. It was the only allied fighter to remain in full production and front-line RAF service both prior to and after World War Two. The Spitfire also served in 28 other air forces across the world.


The Rolls-Royce Spitfire, PS853, is an unarmed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, one of a batch of 79 Mk XIXs built at Supermarine, Southampton. The Mk XIX was powered by the 2,050 hp Griffon 65 or 66 and represents the pinnacle of the Spitfire’s development in terms of speed and altitude capability with a top speed of 446mph and a ceiling of 42,000ft.


PS853 was delivered to the Central Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at RAF Benson on 13th January 1945, before moving to Belgium and Holland. The aircraft was engaged on active service with 16 Squadron up until the end of the war and participated in “Operation Crossbow” to detect V1 and V2 “vengeance weapon” launch sites.

At the end of the war it remained on duty in Germany until March1946 when it returned to the UK and was placed in storage. In 1950, PS853 was one of several Mk XIX Spitfires selected for conversion to conduct meteorological research, known as the Temperature and Humidity of the Upper Air Masses (THUM) Flight. PS853 performed the last ever Spitfire THUM sortie on 10th June 1957. Along with sister XIXs PM631 and PS915, PS853 retired into ceremonial and display duties to form the RAF’s Historic Aircraft Flight, the forerunner of today’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF).


In 1996, Rolls-Royce bought PS853 to replace the original Rolls-Royce Spitfire XIV, G-ALGT which had been destroyed in a crash in 1992. The aircraft was re-registered as G-RRGN. The aircraft is painted as 'C' of No. 16 Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force, being the markings PS853 wore between January and June 1945.


The Rolls-Royce Spitfire, as PS853 is now popularly known, has become widely recognised as an ambassador for Rolls-Royce appearing at air displays and charity events as well as at our own corporate functions. Not only does it represent the heritage of the Spitfire and the Rolls-Royce engines that powered them, highlighting the constant technical development of both the aircraft and its engines, it honours the pilots of all nations who flew them and the men and women who built and maintained them.


The aircraft is based in a dedicated hangar at East Midlands Airport, near Derby. It can usually be seen around the display circuit between April and October and during the winter months the aircraft undergoes an annual maintenance inspection programme.


In 2010, 65 years after its first delivery to RAF service and with over 2300 hours flying time accumulated in that time, PS853 was taken out of service for its first major overhaul. The aircraft was fully restored to as-new condition and is now presented in the exact colour-scheme worn on delivery to front-line squadron service in Europe in early 1945.


Source and Photo:  Great British prom


British inventions

We are one of the most inventive peoples in the world and if you are interested in our British inventions here are just 25 of the greatest, from the hundreds... have a look here on our webpage.  British inventions.