Hanging Flags Upside Down

With all this about Alito’s wife hanging a US flag upside down, and Trump supporters hanging flags the wrong way to protest his being found guilty, I wondered if hanging the flags of other nations upside down is also a distress signal. Judging from this site, it is:

North Carolina Secretary of State International Services Flag Protocol.

With some flags, though, how can you tell? The flags of France, Italy, Ireland, and many others look exactly the same when upside down (The UK flag may look so, at first glance, but the placing of the diagonal red arms of the St. Patrick’s cross aren’t quite symmetrical, which is why the North Carolina page cited above cautions you about being careful how it’s flown).

So if you’re a French or Italian vessel, how do you signal distress with your flag?

I found this:

The use of an inverted ensign–the national flag flown upside down–as a distress signal dates back many years, apparently originating in British practice but carried over to the United States at an early date. The U.S. Flag Code says that the American flag should never be flown upside down except as a signal of dire distress, which would appear to give the practice official sanction.

To be a useful distress signal, however, a flag must have an obvious right side up. Many national flags do not. As a result, neither the international nor U.S. inland rules of the road list the inverted ensign as a recognized sign of distress. Using it instead of one of the approved signals should therefore be avoided, as it may not be understood by other vessels, especially outside the United States. - SOURCE

The flag below seems to be the recognized flag for distress.

in 2022 a lot farmers in the Netherlands hung the national flag upside down in protest against the Dutch government’s environmental policy.

Because they flew the upside flag on the outskirts of their farms near the provincial and national highways, the flags got a lot of visibility.

The Thai flag is another one that looks exactly the same upside-down. This may be intentional. According to legend, during the time of the previous flag, the King was visiting a rural village, and a local flew the flag in a show of patriotism, but accidentally flew it upside-down, which was a source of great embarrassment to him. The King, wishing to spare others a similar loss of face, ordered that the flag be redesigned to be the same when flown in any way.

That’s extremely interesting, especially because I have never heard of this flag, nor seen it reproduced. If I saw it flying, right side up or upside down, I would have no idea what it meant.

(If you hang a “distress” flag upside down, does that mean everything is OK?)

I think it may be a signal flag akin to these:

Do you have any education or background in naval signaling flags?

(me neither; the extent of my knowledge on them is knowing that they exist, and that some represent letters)

Some. I’ve read quite a bit about naval history and practice, fact and fiction. I’m very familiar with the signal flags Whack-a-Mole posted above, for instance. Which is why I’m surprised about that recognized distress flag WaM posted further up. I’d never seen nor heard of it before.

Has anyone seen people in the US actually turning their flags?
I saw one upside down flag flying near us. There was also a person on the NextDoor app encouraging others to reverse their flags in response to the verdict. Maybe it’s the same person.
Oh yeah, and I saw an upside-down flag on a bumper sticker yesterday, but this person had so many MAGA-themed decals on their car, I doubt it was related to the verdict specifically.

just out of interest:

how were those “alphabetic” flags used at high sea?

did they spell out a string of words with them? … if that was the case you’d probably need a lot more “E,I,O or U” flags than X flags …

or were they presentes “waved” secuencially?

I assume that was a matter of last resort, rather than common practice in the past 100+ years …

They’re hoisted in a string.

They werere usually used in conjunction with a code, in which common words are represented by three flags, so those reading the signal read it in groups of three and decode it. An additional flag is flown immediately before flags which do not signify a code, but actually spell a word out.

Nelson used an earlier version of this flag alphabet to send his famous signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty”, before the Battle of the Nile in 1805. All of the words in that signal were reprsented by three-flag codes, except the word “duty”, for which there was no code, so that word was spelt out.

Which, given upside-down flags were not a thing in The Netherland, proves at least some of these farmers were in the Trump bubble…

I’m watching for Trump to wear his Flag lapel pin upside down.

Isn’t there something treasonous about this whole thing?

It’s kinda funny all those Maganuts wearing all the flag printed gear to the rallys now. :thinking:

Pretty much…yes. Some flags (like the distress flag) had a meaning unto their own but letters could be used to communicate a short message.

They originated in the days of sail, before the radio. It was the only way to communicate to the rest of the ships in the fleet. That’s where the name “flagship” comes from. The admiral runniing the show (or whoever was in overall command) was on the flagship. It would put up the flags that gave orders to the rest on what to do.

While modern navies do not need them the tradition is still there.

For Italy their ensign does have a different top and bottom, at least at close range.

And ensigns using the Royal Navy pattern, a cross with a smaller flag in the top left corner, are also easier to see as being inverted.

It is not always precisely alphabetic, as evidenced by this Admiral Nelson signal:

The alphabet flags also have meanings when flown on their own. I went scuba diving on Sunday and because Inwas not near the US (that does everything differently) the boat displayed the A flag while we did so.

Huh. I would think the diver flag (red with diagonal white stripe) would be more recognizable by anyone world wide.

This morning I saw an upside down American right side up because the coal roller it was attached to was upside down after side swiping an RV. I couldn’t find an ounce of caring for the driver.