Dressing Ship

Code flags dressing a ship

Dressing ship, or dressing overall, is a time-honoured naval tradition where a ship is adorned with flags and pennants to celebrate special events or ceremonies. This tradition has been part of naval culture for centuries and is still widely practiced today in many countries.

The origins of dressing ship date back to the 17th century when ships would fly flags and banners to display their identity and allegiance. As time passed, it became a way to commemorate important occasions such as the arrival of a dignitary, victory in battle, the start of the yachting season, or national holidays. Today, dressing ship is an important way for navies worldwide to show pride in their ships and celebrate significant events. 

One of the essential components of dressing ship is the use of code flags. Code flags are a set of flags used to communicate messages between ships. Each flag represents a letter or number, and when flown together, they spell out a message. Code flags are used to signal messages such as "well done," "man overboard," or "danger." These flags also play a significant role in naval ceremonies, such as the commissioning of a new ship or the retirement of an old one.

When a ship is dressed, it is adorned with flags and pennants from bow to stern, including the mast and rigging. Though the specific rules and regulations vary slightly between different nations, it is crucial to follow the proper flag order, with the national flag at the top of the mast, and specific locations on the ship, with the largest flags flown at the stern.

Many yacht clubs throughout Australia also dress their ships, marking the start of the race season. At Harry West Flags, we take pride in supplying code flags for these events. Our code flags come in a range of sizes and are fully sewn on woven bunting, ensuring longevity in harsher conditions. While our individual code flags are available on our website, we also provide full sets (including all 26 alphabetic, 10 numeral, 3 substitutes, and 1 signal) – simply email us at office@harrywestflags.com.au for a quote.

In summary, dressing ship is a beautiful and meaningful tradition that is steeped in history and naval culture. From the earliest days of hoisting flags to identify a ship to the present-day ceremonies that honour naval achievements and accomplishments, the practice of dressing ship remains an essential aspect of naval tradition.

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