This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Little Ship Club (United Kingdom)

Last modified: 2019-05-15 by rob raeside
Keywords: little ship club | blue ensign |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

[Little Ship Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 26 September 2007

See also:

Flag of Little Ship Club

I forwarded a couple of variants to the club and they approved this one. They are asking around, but thus far, no one I have communicated with is familiar with the ensign badge encircled by the gold rope (as shown at World Flag Database). The ensign that I have drawn is evidently a copy of an original ensign currently on display at the club that was flown at Dunkirk during the evacuation.

A brief history of the club can be found at their website at

The Little Ship Club was founded as a private members club in 1926 to bring together yachtsmen and women working in the City of London who wanted to meet and exchange ideas during the long winter months. It rapidly became renowned for its classes in navigation and seamanship. In 1937, the club was awarded the right to fly the defaced Blue Ensign for its contribution to training the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve.
Clay Moss, 26 September 2007

The ensign was created in 1937. It was registered shortly thereafter. An early example --with proper oak leafs-- hangs in the Club's dining room in Bell Wharf Lane, London. As best I can see, the above version [with rope border] is simply a hackneyed version that was made for Lloyds Registers and then disseminated by others with no connection to the club.

The LSC was invited by the Admiralty (2d SL, if I recall correctly) to apply for the defaced Blue Ensign, during a club laying-up supper in late 1937. The club's well-known burgee had been in existence since 1926. I had not heard that the Club's proposal for a badge being rejected for lack of originality (or anything else). I recall reading that the Club submitted its design after the dinner. But if the Club's initial proposal was indeed rejected, it would seem to me at least far more plausible that the Club had proposed simply the "White Triangle" directly on the Blue Ensign. Such a simple design would arguably be so abstract as not to be related to the club, or readily referential to it.

So the burgee's light-blue over dark-blue came into being (i.e., make the badge follow the burgee). And this design needed to be surrounded by some device in order to define the dark-blue (sea) portion of the badge.
James Liston, 24 August 2010

I happened to find the the following information on how the Club came to be awarded its Special Ensign in 1937 from The Naval Review (Vo. 66., No. 3), July 1978, in an article called "The London Flotilla 1937-47":
As a preliminary note, Malcolm Farrow's Colours of the Fleet (TCOF) notes that the Admiralty's warrant for the LSC's Blue Ensign issued on 15 Dec 1937.

TCOF also states:
"The club applied to patent the ensign on 23 Mar 1938, but was refused, however it was granted on appeal one year later on 7 Mar 1939."

Note the use of the word patent. If the Club was indeed attempting to patent the entire ensign -- i.e., a British Blue Ensign with club badge-- this could raise some very interesting legal issues; e.g., could/should a private entity be given property rights in what otherwise is overwhelmingly a national flag? And if a patent was awarded, could the holder argue that similar flags were so similar as to be infringing thereon? Such concerns could have been why the matter had to be appealed. Reviewing the patent paperwork would be most fruitful because it is inevitable that it includes a technical picture of the proposed patent.

Anyway.... the Naval Review says:
"The Little Ship Club
"In 'setting the scene' for the birth of the Flotilla it is essential to mention the part played by The Little Ship Club of Beaver Hall on Garlick Hill, London. The Club had for some time arranged winter classes in navigation and seamanship for its members. When recruiting for the Supplementary Reserve first started the Club's Committee were delighted to find that applicants for the new Reserve who had attended their classes had this fact noted in their favour, and that those who had not done so were recommended to take the course. Most of those who signed on for the Reserve needed no urging.

"The Club rose to the occasion and, with the backing of a few of their members who guaranteed the cost of the hall, were able to inform the Admiral Commanding Reserves, Vice-Admiral Sir Studholme Brownrigg, at their Fitting Out Supper in April 1937, that arrangements could be made for a lecture hall to be made available throughout the summer months if the Admiralty would assist with the syllabus and the supply of lecturers. Although taken by surprise, ACR accepted the offer without hesitation and by July the Club was able to send out to members of the RNSVR details of the course with an invitation to join at half-a-guinea a head. No one knew how many would be prepared to give up their summer evenings to study, but a room large enough for seventy-five was booked for the first lecture on the 18 August, 1937. In the event, more than 300 applied and there had to be a hurried change to a larger hall. The course was an instant success and a letter of congratulation was soon received from ACR.

"The Club received the accolade for its efforts at its Annual Dinner Dance later in the year [1937]. This time it was not ACR who was surprised, but the Club Members. Admiral of the Fleet Lord Chatfield, First Sea Lord, opened his speech with a reference to the happy choice of name of the Little Ship Club: 'The most gallant deeds which have stirred the hearts of our forefathers were those performed in little ships. . . . It is the love of the sea which makes young Englishmen go into the little ships and which makes it so easy for us to man a Navy'. He went on to congratulate the Club for stepping into the breach by organising training which was otherwise lacking, and concluded by saying that the Admiralty, anxious to express its appreciation in some tangible form, had decided to offer the Club the greatly sought-after privilege of flying the Blue Ensign in their little ships.' (Cheers.)

"Lord Chatfield also included in his speech very warm references to Captain Johnstone Pratt, who had taken a leading part in the training courses,......."

James Liston, 25 August 2010

Variant flag

[Little Ship Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 3 October 2007

The uncertainty over the precise appearance of the badge is ironic, as it is one of the few ensigns, possibly the only yacht club special ensign, that is a registered design. After the warrant had been granted, the club applied, on 23 March 1938, to register the design of the flag under the Patent and Design Acts of 1907 and 1932. The application was refused, on 29 September 1938, because the flag as a whole was deemed to be not sufficiently original. However the ensign was registered on appeal, 7 March 1939. In Lloyd's Yachting Register, 1953, the badge is surrounded by a yellow rope circle, but in Stewarts' Yacht Club Burgees, 1957, the badge on the ensign is "as burgee in yellow oak leaf circle".

The club did not fulfil the normal qualifications for a special ensign, but, as noted in its history, was granted one in recognition of its help with the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve. The Supplementary Reservists were normally trained by Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve units, but in the London area volunteers were too numerous for the available RNVR facilities. It is possible that the club had hoped to be granted a plain Blue Ensign, but by 1937 only defaced Blue or Red Ensigns were being granted to yacht clubs. The ensign was granted for ten years in the first instance as it was "undesirable to give the impression that services rendered form the basis of a claim for a Blue Ensign irrespective of normal requirements." National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/22962.
David Prothero, 26 September 2007

Variant with rope border to badge (likely errant)

[Little Ship Club ensign] image by Clay Moss, 17 October 2007

Here is another variant of the ensign of the Little Ship Club, UK. Several sources over the years have made mention of this version of the LSC's ensign, and David Prothero pointed out several weeks ago that the design was even registered in March, 1939. The roped badge appears in the 1953 edition of Lloyd's Registry of Yachts but is replaced in Lloyd's '57 by the oak leaf wreath badge. I had commented earlier that there is an oak leaf LSC ensign hanging in their clubhouse. Club officials that I spoke to have not seen or heard of the roped version.
Clay Moss, 17 October 2007

I saw a few examples of club ensigns beginning in 1977 (and these appeared to be fairly old, woolen ensigns from a friend's father). All had oak leafs. First-hand evidence from that point forward (1977-to date) fails to turn up any examples of a "rope version." And even if it were a "rope," wouldn't it likely have the ends finishing in a reef knot, or otherwise tied? A never-ending rope?
James Liston, 24 August 2010


[Little Ship Club burgee] image by Clay Moss, 28 September 2007