A Highly Desirable British Antique Royal Navy White Ensign Applique Flag; Lane & Neave, London 1909


Origin: British
Period: Early-Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1909
Height: 37.5 inches
Width: 73 inches

Double hand stitched in heavy cloth, with linen hoist, this superb wool bunting and linen appliqué Edwardian period white ensign flag would have flown from a small to medium sized ship, possibly a Q-ship, more than a century ago. Flags such as this are rarely dated, ink stamped ‘Lane & Neave London 1909’, making this more desirable, with further markings; ‘White Ensign, 4 BDS’ and crows foot symbol.

In sound condition with a heavy seafaring fade across the fabric, small holes frequent the flag but there are no tears or rips and the overall condition, considering the age is good. There are two quality metal ring attachments still present for pole attachment, still in tact.

Q-ships were small merchant vessels fitted with concealed armaments. They were intended as decoy ships, being small enough to tempt a U-boat to attack them on the surface. The Q-ship would then drop the shutters concealing her guns and return fire, having first lowered her merchant ensign and hoisted the White Ensign. The Q-ships were ballasted with timber to keep them afloat should they be torpedoed.

Originating in the 16th century, the White Ensign or St George's Ensign is flown on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments consisting of a red St George's Cross upon a white field with the Union Flag in the upper canton. The White Ensign is also flown by the Royal Yacht Squadron and ships escorting the Queen.

A beautiful antique example of real desirability considering the date and maker, and similar examples, such as a red ensign dated to 1914, feature in the National Maritime Museum collection in London today.