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  #1  
Old 22-02-2015, 13:53
Egypt's Avatar
Egypt Egypt is offline
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Default Cable Flags

Anyone remember the use of cable flags in the RN? These were small handheld flags (mounted on staves) used during anchoring and weighing anchor. They would be waved from the foc'sle up to the bridge in order to indicate such things as anchor aweigh, up & down, or the number of shackles on deck.
RN Signalmen were still having to use these as late as the eighties, only my suspicion was that not a single ship's officer had any comprehension of their actual meaning. It may have looked pretty, but it all seemed a complete waste of time to me, since all communicaions with the bridge were in any case being relayed via had held vhf radios.
Did any other navies use cable flags - was there anything similar in use in the USN?
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  #2  
Old 22-02-2015, 14:40
TCC TCC is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

I've always pondered if the wooden handles propped against the back of the aircraft recognition chart are the counterpart to the signalling flags used as you describe on the focsle, weather decks, etc?
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  #3  
Old 22-02-2015, 14:54
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Nice photo!
But I think the set of wooded-handled flags shown in the picture are more likely to be speed flags. These were displayed from the bridge wings when manouvering in company with other vessels in order to indicate your own vessel's actual speed.
Michael
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Old 22-02-2015, 15:00
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Actually, having given the matter a bit more thought - most likely the same set of hand flags were used for both purposes.
Michael
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  #5  
Old 22-02-2015, 16:14
Grosser Kreuzer Grosser Kreuzer is offline
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Talking Re: Cable Flags

Michael,

Interesting Post.

I am not a visual signal specialist but having been a Cable Officer, this might help. Older members of this site will properly correct what I have got wrong as my memory is now somewhat hazy on the subject.

Cable flags were a combination of letters of the alphabet, with numerals being used to indicate to the bridge which "joining shackle" was on deck. Speed flags were numerals.

Certain alphabetical flags were hoisted on the relevant side halyards to indicate the state of weighing to ships in company. Flag "U" springs to mind

COs used a small hand flag, usually the colour of the anchor to be let go and with a white anchor sewn on it.

If I recall correctly, the use of flags while working cable had largely died out by the 1970's, if not earlier, though some CO's may still have favoured them after that. Otherwise, a sound-powered telephone was used, eventually to be replaced by that super-efficient piece of kit known as the "Stornophone."

I joined the RN in 1960 but cannot recall "Speed" flags being employed after the mid-1960's with the demise of formed squadrons of ships carrying out OOW manoeuvres. Such pieces of equipment were placed in angled highly-polished copper tubes that were located either side of the Flag Deck, which might mean that what can be seen in the photograph are not speed flags. However, I may be wrong.

GK
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  #6  
Old 22-02-2015, 19:36
Scatari Scatari is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Quote:
Originally Posted by Egypt View Post
Anyone remember the use of cable flags in the RN? These were small handheld flags (mounted on staves) used during anchoring and weighing anchor. They would be waved from the foc'sle up to the bridge in order to indicate such things as anchor aweigh, up & down, or the number of shackles on deck.
RN Signalmen were still having to use these as late as the eighties, only my suspicion was that not a single ship's officer had any comprehension of their actual meaning. It may have looked pretty, but it all seemed a complete waste of time to me, since all communicaions with the bridge were in any case being relayed via had held vhf radios.
Did any other navies use cable flags - was there anything similar in use in the USN?
Egypt:

They were certainly used in the Canadian Navy.
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  #7  
Old 23-02-2015, 11:25
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Derek Dicker Derek Dicker is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

As an ex old bunting 57/69. It was always the job for the junior bunting to proceed to the f/cl with a set of anchor flags, numeral flags were used to indicate the number of cables on deck, flag uniform was used to indicate the state of the anchor (up and down) meaning the cable was about to break away from the bottom, position of the flag uniform horizontal. Anchor away from bottom flag in the vertical position. Flag Charlie used to indicate the state of the anchor at the hawse ie clear of rubbish, if it was fouled then the negative pnt would be shown. Of course as soon as the anchor was away the union jack would have to be lowered, think I got it all correct.

Derek (bunts)
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  #8  
Old 23-02-2015, 12:13
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Default Re: Cable Flags

That's pretty much as I remember it to too Derek (after some prompting).
Although the use of Anchor (Cable) flags fell away once Stornophones came into general useage, some Yeomen still liked giving the evolution to the baby bunting (after all.... if it was good enough for Nelson, it's good enough for you Sunny Jim!). So in addition to collecting and waving the cable flags on the foc'sle, I also had to pick up and return the Stornophones and make sure that the batteries were always put back on charge after each evolution.
And thanks for GK's recollections too - as regards Speed Flags the tubes mentioned either side of the flag deck were for placing the handles of the flags in, so that they didn't have to be held continuously.
Anyway, I loved doing old school comms/visual signalling and especially any opportunity to conduct OOW manouvers/fleetwork. It was a sad, sad day when Sparkers and Bunting Tossers were axed and our Alma Mater (Mercury) closed
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  #9  
Old 23-02-2015, 17:01
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BelliniTosi BelliniTosi is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Speed flag tubes, copper, highly polished and mounted on the flag deck as described by GK & Egypt
John
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  #10  
Old 23-02-2015, 17:15
Scatari Scatari is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

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Originally Posted by BelliniTosi View Post
Speed flag tubes, copper, highly polished and mounted on the flag deck as described by GK & Egypt
John
A lovely bit of "bright work" for the morning watchmen to polish!
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  #11  
Old 23-02-2015, 17:16
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Default Re: Cable Flags

I just knew someone on the Forum would be able to produce a photo, well done and thanks.
Michael
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  #12  
Old 23-02-2015, 19:03
Dave Hutson Dave Hutson is online now
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Quote:
Originally Posted by BelliniTosi View Post
Speed flag tubes, copper, highly polished and mounted on the flag deck as described by GK & Egypt
John
Thanks for the memory [I'd rather forget] ....... The only upperscupper brightwork I ever did regularly as a Boy/Ord Tel was the "BELLINI TOSI"

Dave H

{Off topic .... two demirits acceped}
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  #13  
Old 04-04-2015, 13:56
TCC TCC is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Quote:
Originally Posted by Egypt View Post
Actually, having given the matter a bit more thought - most likely the same set of hand flags were used for both purposes.
Michael
These old photos must be marvellous for stretching the old brain cells. It's amazing what recollections they bring forth.
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  #14  
Old 13-10-2015, 08:42
dorbel dorbel is offline
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Default Re: Cable Flags

From the log of HMS Gnat, Kiukiang on the Yangtse, 20th August 1919:"Hands employed making cable flags".

Thanks all for the info, especially the photos.
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  #15  
Old 13-10-2015, 14:55
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Default Re: Cable Flags

Jerry Proc has an excellent website with all sorts of information relating to Canadian Navy Communications. There's also a page on visual signalling ...
http://www.jproc.ca/rrp/rrp2/visual_flags.html
If you scroll half-way down there's a picture of a set of cable flags in their canvass wallet, laced to the guard rail ready for use, and also a description of their use and meaning.
Michael
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  #16  
Old 05-11-2015, 13:09
Mackan2017 Mackan2017 is offline
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Default Cable Flags

Seems like some of you chaps might not've been through Portland in the 70s or 80s. A co-ordinated departure by several ships on a miserable, wet, freezing cold (usually Thursday) morning under Radio Silence meant that cable flags were the primary method for the fo'csle party to communicate the status of weighing anchor to the bridge. We (Buntings) used them from my first ship to my last. I was the Yeoman on a frigate in the mid-80s and we used them even when the stornos were being used. Good practice for the lads and the skipper (old school) loved it. Hard to believe that they're not still in use in today's RN?
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  #17  
Old 05-11-2015, 17:38
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Default Re: Cable Flags

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Originally Posted by Mackan2017 View Post
Seems like some of you chaps might not've been through Portland in the 70s or 80s.
Or if we have, perhaps we simply choose not to remember the joy of thunder flashes being thrown into the messdeck, CS gas being sprayed into your face by over enthusiastic FOST staff and endless NBCD, fire fighting and damage control evolutions. Bloody Thursday Wars!
Michael
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