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Communicating using flags

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Communicating Using Flags

By Portante Della Bandierina

Flags are emblems usually consisting of a rectangular piece of cloth of distinctive design. The primary purpose of flags has always been military. Flags are used to coordinate the actions of combatants during the confusion of battle. They were used to tell soldiers where to march, where to rally, and where to charge. The distinctiveness of flags made it easy to tell to which side you belong. It also meant their bearers were primary targets, and if they lost their flag they were cowards. Therefore many men through out history have gladly died defending their flag.

In medieval times there were numerous flags in use, such as banners, banderoles, gonfalons, gonfanons, pennons, pennoncells, standards, streamers, and guidons. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians and Jews used symbolical standards like ensigns and banners. Early flags usually had a religious significance. William the Conqueror received his banner from the pope, and the crosses of national saints of England, Scotland and Ireland form the ensign of Great Britain, the Union Jack.

Flags also played a very important role on the high seas. A ship was identifiable only by the flag it flew. Other non-national flags also served as communication tools to warn of pirates, distress and storms.

Vexillology is the study of the flags. A person who enjoys the study of flags is called a Vexillologist. Flags are symbols of national or other allegiances. Flags have been used for signaling people at a distance. The Romans used flags as a form of communication extensively. Flags were widely used in the Navy as symbol codes in semaphore. Flags are normally linked to the history of a Nation

The word 'flag' is derived from the old Saxon word "fflaken" which means to fly or to float in the air. A ship carrying the flag of an admiral is called a flagship. The strict rules of Heraldry are still used when designing an emblem and creating flags of today.

The colors of flags have special meanings. The dominant colors convey the required attributes of the different flags of the world. There much symbolism is associated with the colors of flags following the customs of Ancient Heraldic traditions. For instance, white is the symbol of peace and honesty and yellow is a symbol of generosity. Red flags represent hardiness, bravery, strength and valor. Blue color symbolizes vigilance, truth and loyalty, perseverance and justice. Green color stands for hope, joy and love and in many cultures green has a sacred significance. And, black signifies determination and often reflects the ethnic heritage of the people

Flying a flag as a form of communication grew from the requirements of ancient battlefields. Uniforms were not worn in ancient times so shields were painted with emblems to identify friend or foe. Warriors also needed to know where their leaders were so the custom of carrying a pole was adopted and the idea of flags was born. An emblem such as a shield or religious device was attached to the pole for identification. The Romans were the first to use a cloth flag.

Portante Della Bandierina is the proprietor and editor of Flags  which is a premier resource for Flags information. For questions or comments, go to: http://www.flags-index.com




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