Although you may never see them
displayed except at fleet parades, around naval installations, and areas
with heavy international shipping traffic, International code flags are
used to signal between two ships or between ship and shore. Also called
signaling flags, they are a set of flags of different colors, shapes and
markings which used singly or in combination have different meanings.
The flags include 26 square flags which depict the letters of the
alphabet, ten numeral pendants, one answering pendant, and three
substituters or repeaters.
Only a few colors can be readily
distinguished at sea. These are: red, blue, yellow, black, and white;
and these cannot be mixed indiscriminately. You will notice, for
clarity, the flags shown are either red and white, yellow and blue, blue
and white, or black and white; besides plain red, white, and blue.
One-flag signals are urgent or
very common signals (see meanings below). Two-flag signals are mostly
distress and maneuvering signals. Three-flag signals are for points of
the compass, relative bearings, standard times, verbs, punctuation, also
general code and decode signals. Four-flags are used for geographical
signals, names of ships, bearings, etc. Five-flag signals are those
relating to time and position. Six-flag signals are used when necessary
to indicate north or south or east or west in latitude and longitude
signals. Seven-flags are for longitude signals containing more than one