Our Colours Ceremony

At the start of each meeting or camp, we have a short ceremony to raise the National Flag of the UK.  As Sea Scouts – who are associated with the Maritime Community, we “wear” the Red Ensign. The Red Ensign is one of the UK’s National Flags – the same as the Union Flag (often called the Union Jack).  We raise the Red Ensign as part of a ceremony more closely associated with Naval tradition – than you would see at a traditional Scout “Flag Break”.

This ceremony is called Colours. This is because the Red Ensign (and any other National Flag) is known as the country’s Colours, just as a football team’s strip may be referred to as their colours.

The Colours ceremony starts with all of the Patrols lined up in a box, facing the Red Ensign. Any Leaders present will be standing either side of the flag, leading the ceremony. They will start with a short introduction, before handing over to the Duty Patrol to raise the flag.

Duty Patrol

Each Week, a Duty Patrol is appointed. This is usually done on a rota basis, so all Patrols get a fair turn. There are number of duties which the patrol is expected to carry out during the evening. These duties should be lead and organised by the Patrol Leader (PL) and Assistant Patrol Leader (APL).

The Group currently has three patrols: Seals, Kingfishers and Gannets.

Lowering the Colours

At the end of the meeting, all scouts again fall into their patrols. Any announcements from Leaders regarding activities, camps etc. will be read out, before it is handed back over to the Duty Patrol.

After which the Colours are lowered using a similar ceremony to when they were raised, however there is no need to salute the Colours when lowered. This signifies the end of the meeting, and the Scouts will be dismissed by a Leader.

The Red Ensign

At the Start of our meetings or camps we usually raise the Red Ensign. For Sea Scouts, and other Maritime Organisations, The Red Ensign is used instead of the Union Flag (often known as the Union Jack). The Red Ensign is a Queens Colour and Should be treated on a par with the Union Flag, it should, for example, never be allowed to touch the floor, and should not be flown at night when it can not be seen. 

National Flags, or Ensigns as they are properly known, are worn and not flown.

Why do we wear the Red Ensign

Once up on a time the Royal navy had three fleets – Red, Blue and White, each with its own Ensign. For some time they have been combined into just the one fleet, which uses the White Ensign (a Red Cross on a white background with a Union Flag in the upper hoist). The Blue Ensign is now used by certain approved Royal or National intuitions (e.g. the Coast Guard, Police Forces etc.). The Red Ensign is now used by the Merchant Navy and any other intuitions associated with the sea.

Those Sea Scout Groups, which have been Recognised by the Admiralty, are allowed to deface the Red Ensign with their own Symbol. The 89th Sea Scout Group are not currently recognised and so do not use a defaced Red Ensign.

Land scouts and other land based organisations, use the Union Flag (often, incorrectly known as the Union Jack) as their King’s Colour.

Most organisations will roll up the Union Flag, hoist it to the top of the flag pole and “break” it, so it flies.  With a Red Ensign, the Colours are raised, beforehand; attention is drawn to this important event by using a Bell or Boson’s call ( A special whistle used by the Boson on a ship to give commands over the noise of busy crew etc.). As it is the National Flag and representation of the King, it is saluted by many uniformed organisations.

The Red Ensign is often known as the Red Duster, as the Vessels that sailed under her, dusted the enemy of the Seas.