Pennant number
Overview
 
In the modern Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, and other navies of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, ships are identified by pennant numbers (sometimes referred to as pendant numbers). The name pennant number arises from the fact that ships were originally allocated a pennant
Pennon
A pennon was one of the principal three varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages . Pennoncells and streamers or pendants are considered as minor varieties of this style of flag. The pennon is a flag resembling the guidon in shape, but only half the size...

 (flag) identifying a flotilla or particular type of vessel: for example, in the Royal Navy, the red burgee
Burgee
A burgee is a distinguishing flag, regardless of its shape, of a recreational boating organization.-Etiquette:Yacht clubs and their members may fly their club's burgee while underway and at anchor, day or night, but not while racing. Sailing vessels may fly the burgee from the main masthead or from...

 for torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

s, H for torpedo boat destroyers. By the addition of a number to the identifying pennant, each ship could be uniquely identified.
Encyclopedia
In the modern Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

, and other navies of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, ships are identified by pennant numbers (sometimes referred to as pendant numbers). The name pennant number arises from the fact that ships were originally allocated a pennant
Pennon
A pennon was one of the principal three varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages . Pennoncells and streamers or pendants are considered as minor varieties of this style of flag. The pennon is a flag resembling the guidon in shape, but only half the size...

 (flag) identifying a flotilla or particular type of vessel: for example, in the Royal Navy, the red burgee
Burgee
A burgee is a distinguishing flag, regardless of its shape, of a recreational boating organization.-Etiquette:Yacht clubs and their members may fly their club's burgee while underway and at anchor, day or night, but not while racing. Sailing vessels may fly the burgee from the main masthead or from...

 for torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...

s, H for torpedo boat destroyers. By the addition of a number to the identifying pennant, each ship could be uniquely identified. A pennant number thus consists of letters and numbers. Where a letter precedes a number it is known as a flag superior and where it is a suffix it is known as a flag inferior. Not all pennants have a flag superior.

For the American equivalent, see Hull classification symbol
Hull classification symbol
The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

.

For the Canadian equivalent, see Hull classification symbol (Canada)
Hull classification symbol (Canada)
The Royal Canadian Navy uses hull classification symbols to identify the types of its ships, which are similar to the United States Navy's Hull classification symbol system...

.

Royal Navy Systems

The system was adopted prior to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 to distinguish between ships with the same or similar names, to reduce the size and improve the security of communications, and to assist recognition when ships of the same class are together. Traditionally, a pennant number was reported with a full stop "." between the flag superior or inferior and the number, although this practice has gradually been dropped, and inter-war photos after about 1924 tend not to have the full stop painted on the hull. The system was used throughout the navies of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 so that a ship could be transferred from one navy to another without changing its pennant number.

Pennant numbers were originally allocated by individual naval stations and when a ship changed station it would be allocated a new number. The Admiralty took the situation in hand and first compiled a "Naval Pennant List" in 1910, with ships grouped under the distinguishing flag of their type. In addition, ships of the 2nd and 3rd (i.e. reserve) fleets had a second flag superior distinguishing from which naval depot they were manned; "C" for Chatham
Chatham Dockyard
Chatham Dockyard, located on the River Medway and of which two-thirds is in Gillingham and one third in Chatham, Kent, England, came into existence at the time when, following the Reformation, relations with the Catholic countries of Europe had worsened, leading to a requirement for additional...

, "D" for Devonport
HMNB Devonport
Her Majesty's Naval Base Devonport , is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the Royal Navy . HMNB Devonport is located in Devonport, in the west of the city of Plymouth in Devon, England...

, "N" for Nore
Nore
The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, England. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent....

 and "P" for Portsmouth
Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

. Destroyers were initially allocated the flag superior "H", but as this covered only one hundred possible combinations from H00 to H99 the letters "G" and "D" were also allocated. When ships were sunk, their pennant numbers were reissued to new ships.

The flag superior for whole ship classes has often been changed while the numbers stayed the same. For example, in 1940, the Royal Navy swapped the letters "I" and "D" around (e.g. D18 became I18 and I18 became D18) and in 1948, "K", "L" and "U" all became "F", where there was a conflict, a 2 was added to the front of the pennant number.

During the 1970s, the service stopped painting pennant numbers on submarines on the grounds that, with the arrival of nuclear boats, they spent too little time on the surface, although submarines do continue to be issued numbers.

HMS Lancaster
HMS Lancaster (F229)
HMS Lancaster is a 'Duke' class Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy. She is known as "The Queen's Frigate", the Duke of Lancaster being an honorary title of the Sovereign. She is also known as The Red Rose Frigate, after the emblem of Lancashire...

 was initially allocated the pennant number F232, until it was realised that in the Royal Navy, form number 232 is the official report for ships that have run aground; sailors being superstitious, it was quickly changed to F229.

No Flag Superior

Pennant number 13 was not allocated.
  • Capital Ships, Aircraft Carriers, Cruisers

Flag Superiors

Pennant numbers 13 were not allocated to flag superiors. The letters J and K were used with three number combinations due to the number of vessels.
  • DDestroyer
    Destroyer
    In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

    s (until 1940), Capital Ships
    Capital ship
    The capital ships of a navy are its most important warships; they generally possess the heaviest firepower and armor and are traditionally much larger than other naval vessels...

    , Aircraft Carriers
    Aircraft carrier
    An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

    , Cruiser
    Cruiser
    A cruiser is a type of warship. The term has been in use for several hundreds of years, and has had different meanings throughout this period...

    s (from 1940)
  • F — Destroyers (until 1940), ** Large auxiliary combatants (from 1940)
  • G — Destroyers (from 1940)
  • H — Destroyers
  • I — Capital Ships, Aircraft Carriers, Cruisers (until 1940), Destroyers (from 1940)
  • JMinesweepers
    Minesweeper (ship)
    A minesweeper is a small naval warship designed to counter the threat posed by naval mines. Minesweepers generally detect then neutralize mines in advance of other naval operations.-History:...

  • KCorvette
    Corvette
    A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

    s, Frigate
    Frigate
    A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

    s
  • LEscort destroyer
    Escort destroyer
    A Escort Destroyer is a US Navy post World War II classification for destroyers modified for and assigned to a fleet escort role. These destroyers retained their original hull numbers...

    s, Sloop
    Sloop
    A sloop is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter....

    s (until 1941)
  • MMinelayer
    Minelayer
    Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, since World War I the term minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying naval mines...

    s
  • N — Minesweepers
  • P — Sloops (until 1939), Boom Defence Vessels (until 1940)
  • R — Destroyers (from 1942), Sloops
  • TRiver gunboat
    River gunboat
    A river gunboat is a type of gunboat adapted for river operations. River gunboats required shallow draft for river navigation. They would be armed with relatively small caliber cannons, or a mix of cannons and machine guns. If they carried more than one cannon, one might be a howitzer, for shore...

    s, Netlayers
  • U — Sloops (from 1941)
  • W — Tugs and Salvage Vessels
  • X — Special Service Vessels
  • Z — Gate, Mooring and Boom Defence Vessels
  • 4Auxiliary
    Auxiliary ship
    An auxiliary ship is a naval ship which is designed to operate in any number of roles supporting combatant ships and other naval operations. Auxiliaries are not primary combatants, although they may have some limited combat capacity, usually of a self defensive nature.Auxiliaries are extremely...

     anti-aircraft vessels
  • FY — Fisheries (auxiliary fishing trawlers, drifter
    Drifter (fishing boat)
    A drifter is a type of fishing boat. They were designed to catch herrings in a long drift net. Herring fishing using drifters has a long history in the Netherlands and in many British fishing ports, particularly in East Scottish ports....

     etc.)


HT Lenton and JJ Colledge's book [British] "Warships of World War II" (published in the early 1960s in one or eight parts) provided even more information on pennant numbers classes and listed each ship's pennant number when this was known.

Flag Inferiors

Flag inferiors were applied to submarines. Royal Navy submarines of the "H" and "L", and some transferred American vessels, were not issued names, only numbers. In these cases, the pennant number was simply the hull number inverted (i.e. L24 was issued pennant "24L"). Pre-war photos show the pennants painted correctly, with the flag inferior, but wartime photos show that the numbers tend to be painted "backwards", in that the inferior was painted on as a superior. For obvious reasons, the inferior "U" was not used so as not to confuse friendly ships with German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s. For similar reasons "V" was not used. Pennant numbers 00—10, 13, and those ending in a zero were not allocated to flag inferiors.
  • C ("Coastal") — U class (pre-war construction)
  • F ("Fleet") — River class
    River class submarine
    The River class, or Thames class were a class of submarines built for the Royal Navy.They were the last attempt by the Admiralty to produce "Fleet Submarines" that is submarines fast enough to operate as part of a fleet which at the time meant being able to manage somewhere around while surfaced...

  • HH class
    British H class submarine
    The British H class submarines were Holland 602 type submarines used by the Royal Navy. The submarines constructed for the British Royal Navy between 1915 and 1919 were designed and built in response to German boats which mined British waters and sank coastal shipping with ease due to their small...

  • LL class
    British L class submarine
    The British L class submarine were originally planned under the emergency war programme as an improved version of the British E class submarine. The scale of change allowed the L class to become a separate class....

  • M ("Minelayer") — Grampus class submarines
    Grampus class submarine
    The Grampus-class submarines were a group of minelaying submarines built for the Royal Navy in the late 1930s. These boats are sometimes referred to as the Porpoise class from the single prototype, HMS Porpoise built in 1932. Five boats to a modified design were built between 1936 and 1938...

  • PO class
    Odin class submarine
    The Odin class submarine was a class of nine submarines developed and built for the Royal Navy in the 1920s. The prototype was followed by two ships originally ordered for the Royal Australian Navy, but transferred to the RN in 1931 because of the poor economic situation in Australia, and six...

    , P class
    Parthian class submarine
    The Parthian class submarine or P class was a class of six submarines built for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s. They were designed as long-range patrol submarines for the Far East. These ships were almost identical to the Odin class, the only difference being a different bow...

    • 31P— U class (wartime construction), V class
      British V class submarine
      The British V class submarine was a class of submarines built for the Royal Navy during World War II. 42 vessels were ordered to this design, all to be built by Vickers-Armstrong at either Barrow-in-Furness or at Walker-on-Tyne, but only 22 were completed...

    • 211P to 299PS class
      British S class submarine (1931)
      The S-class submarines of the Royal Navy were originally designed and built during the modernisation of the submarine force in the early 1930s to meet the need for smaller boats to patrol the restricted waters of the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea replacing the British H class submarines...

       (wartime construction)
    • 311P to 399PT class
      British T class submarine
      The Royal Navy's T class of diesel-electric submarines was designed in the 1930s to replace the O, P and R classes. Fifty-three members of the class were built just before and during the Second World War, where they played a major role in the Royal Navy's submarine operations...

    • 411P to 499PA class
      Amphion class submarine
      |-See also:- External links :**...

    • 511P to 599PUnited States Navy
      United States Navy
      The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

       lend-lease submarines
    • 611P to 699P— Commandeered foreign construction
    • 711P to 799P— Captured enemy submarines
  • RR class
    Rainbow class submarine
    The Rainbow class submarine or R class was a class of four submarines built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s. They were designed as long range patrol submarines for the Far East and were essentially repeats of the preceding Parthian class submarines with minor modifications...

  • S — S class submarines (pre-war construction)
  • T — T class submarines (pre-war construction)

Post-1948

After World War II, in 1948, the Royal Navy rationalised the pennant number system to a system where the flag superior indicated the basic type of ship as follows. "F" and "A" use two or three digits, "L" and "P" up to four. Again, pennant 13 is not used (for instance the current Ocean - L12
HMS Ocean (L12)
HMS Ocean of the Royal Navy is an amphibious assault ship , the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force...

 is followed by Albion - L14
HMS Albion (L14)
HMS Albion is a Landing Platform Dock of the Royal Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class. Built by BAE Systems Marine in Barrow-in-Furness, Albion was launched in March 2001 by the Princess Royal...

;
  • A — Auxiliaries (vessels of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
    Royal Fleet Auxiliary
    The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence. The RFA enables ships of the United Kingdom Royal Navy to maintain operations around the world. Its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment...

    , Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
    Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service
    The Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service was a British Government agency which ran a variety of non-combat support vessels for the Royal Navy.-Organisation:...

    , and Royal Navy Auxiliary Service
    Royal Navy Auxiliary Service
    The Royal Naval Auxiliary Service was formed in 1963 from the amalgamation of the Royal Naval Minewatching Service and the Admiralty Ferry Crews Association, in response to the nuclear threat to British ports. The service was disbanded on 31 March 1994 due to defence cuts...

    , including depot ships, boom defence vessels, etc.)
  • C — Cruisers
  • D — Destroyers
  • F — Frigate (former escort destroyers, sloops and corvettes)
  • H — Hydrographic vessels
  • K — Miscellaneous vessels (e.g., the seabed operations vessel or the helicopter support ship )
  • L — Amphibious warfare ships
  • M — Minesweepers
  • N — Minelayers (currently none in service, therefore unused)
  • P — Patrol boats
  • R — Aircraft carriers
  • S — Submarines
  • Y — Yard vessels

1925-1939

From 1925, flotilla leader
Flotilla leader
A flotilla leader was a warship suitable for commanding a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships, typically a small cruiser or a large destroyer...

s were issued with but did not paint on pennant numbers. Instead, a broad band 4 feet (1.2 m) deep was painted round their fore-funnel. Divisional leaders wore a pennant number and had a narrower 2 foot (0.6096 m) deep band on the fore-funnel, painted 3 foot (0.9144 m) from the top. The Mediterranean Fleet wore black leader bands and the Atlantic
British Atlantic Fleet
The Atlantic Fleet was a major fleet formation of the Royal Navy.There have been two main formations in the Royal Navy officially called the Atlantic Fleet. The first was created in 1909 and lasted until 1914...

 - later Home Fleet wore white bands. The flotillas wore combinations of bands on their after funnel to identify them. From 1925 the following bands were worn;
  • 1st Destroyer Flotilla — one black band
  • 2nd Destroyer Flotilla — two black bands (one red from 1935)
  • 3rd Destroyer Flotilla — three black bands
  • 4th Destroyer Flotilla — no bands
  • 5th Destroyer Flotilla — one white band
  • 6th Destroyer Flotilla — two white bands
  • 8th Destroyer Flotilla (from 1935) — one black and one white band

1939-

When single funnelled destroyers entered the fleet with the J class
J, K and N class destroyer
The J, K and N class was a class of 24 destroyers of the Royal Navy launched in 1938. They were a return to a smaller vessel, with a heavier torpedo armament, after the Tribal class that emphasised guns over torpedoes. The ships were built in three flotillas or groups, eight each of ships with...

 in 1939 and with an expansion in the number of flotillas, the system was changed accordingly. Single funnelled ships wore a 3 foot (0.9144 m) deep band as a flotilla leader. As a divisional leader they had a 2 foot (0.6096 m) wide vertical band the same colour as, and extending 6 feet (1.8 m) below, the upper flotilla band. Leaders bands were white for Home Fleet, red for Mediterranean Fleet, and the system of flotilla bands changed to;
  • 1st Destroyer Flotilla (Mediterranean) — 1 red, G class
    G and H class destroyer
    The G- and H-class destroyers were a class of twenty-four destroyers of the Royal Navy launched in 1935–1939. They served in World War II and sixteen were lost, with a seventeenth being written off as a constructive total loss...

  • 2nd Destroyer Flotilla (Mediterranean) — 2 red, H class
    G and H class destroyer
    The G- and H-class destroyers were a class of twenty-four destroyers of the Royal Navy launched in 1935–1939. They served in World War II and sixteen were lost, with a seventeenth being written off as a constructive total loss...

  • 3rd Destroyer Flotilla (Mediterranean) — 3 red bands, then none, I class
    I class destroyer
    The I class was a class of eight destroyers plus a flotilla leader of the British Royal Navy ordered under the 1935 naval programme, laid down in 1936 and completed in 1937 and 1938...

  • 4th Destroyer Flotilla (Mediterranean) — none, Tribal class
    Tribal class destroyer (1936)
    The Tribal class, or Afridi class, were a class of destroyers built for the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Australian Navy that saw service in World War II...

  • 5th Destroyer Flotilla (Mediterranean) — none, K class
    J, K and N class destroyer
    The J, K and N class was a class of 24 destroyers of the Royal Navy launched in 1938. They were a return to a smaller vessel, with a heavier torpedo armament, after the Tribal class that emphasised guns over torpedoes. The ships were built in three flotillas or groups, eight each of ships with...

  • 6th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — 1 white, Tribal class
  • 7th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — 2 white, J class
    J, K and N class destroyer
    The J, K and N class was a class of 24 destroyers of the Royal Navy launched in 1938. They were a return to a smaller vessel, with a heavier torpedo armament, after the Tribal class that emphasised guns over torpedoes. The ships were built in three flotillas or groups, eight each of ships with...

  • 8th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — 3 white, F class
    E and F class destroyer
    The E and F class was a class of 18 destroyers of the Royal Navy that served during the Second World War. Three ships were later transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy, one to the Royal Hellenic Navy and one to the Dominican Navy. Launched in 1934, they served in the Second World War. Nine were lost...

  • 9th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — 1 black & 2 white, V and W class
    V and W class destroyer
    The V and W class was an amalgam of six similar classes of destroyer built for the Royal Navy under the War Emergency Programme of the First World War and generally treated as one class...

  • 10th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — none, V & W class
  • 11th Destroyer Flotilla (Western Approaches
    Western Approaches Command
    Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches was the commander of a major operational command of the Royal Navy during World War II. The admiral commanding, and his forces, sometimes informally known as 'Western Approaches Command,' were responsible for the safety of British shipping in the Western...

    ) — 1 black over 2 red, V and W class
  • 12th Destroyer Flotilla (Rosyth
    Rosyth
    Rosyth is a town located on the Firth of Forth, three miles south of the centre of Dunfermline. According to an estimate taken in 2008, the town has a population of 12,790....

    ) — 1 white over 1 red, E class
    E and F class destroyer
    The E and F class was a class of 18 destroyers of the Royal Navy that served during the Second World War. Three ships were later transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy, one to the Royal Hellenic Navy and one to the Dominican Navy. Launched in 1934, they served in the Second World War. Nine were lost...

  • 13th Destroyer Flotilla (Gibraltar
    Gibraltar
    Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

    ) — 1 white over 2 red, V and W class
  • 14th Destroyer Flotilla (Home) — 1 red over 1 black, V and W class
  • 15th Destroyer Flotilla (Rosyth) — 1 red over 2 black, V and W class
  • 16th Destroyer Flotilla (Portsmouth
    HMNB Portsmouth
    Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

    ) — 1 red over 1 white, V and W class
  • 17th Destroyer Flotilla (Western Approaches
    Western Approaches Command
    Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches was the commander of a major operational command of the Royal Navy during World War II. The admiral commanding, and his forces, sometimes informally known as 'Western Approaches Command,' were responsible for the safety of British shipping in the Western...

    ) (from 1940) — 1 red over 2 white, Town class
    Town class destroyer
    The Town class destroyers were warships transferred from the United States Navy to the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy in exchange for military bases in the Bahamas and elsewhere, as outlined in the Destroyers for Bases Agreement between Britain and United States, signed on 2 September 1940...

  • 18th Destroyer Flotilla (Channel
    English Channel
    The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

    ) — 1 white & 1 black, A class
    A class destroyer
    The A class was a flotilla of eight destroyers built for the Royal Navy as part of the 1927 naval programme. A ninth ship, Codrington, was built to an enlarged design to act as the flotilla leader...

  • 19th Destroyer Flotilla (Dover
    Dover
    Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

    )— 1 white over 2 black, B class
    B class destroyer
    The B class was a class of nine destroyers of the British Royal Navy, ordered as part of the 1928 Naval Estimates, launched in 1930 and that commissioned in 1931. The class was similar to the preceding A class, with minor modifications...

  • 20th Destroyer Flotilla (Portsmouth) — 2 white over 1 black, C class
    C and D class destroyer
    The C and D class was a group of 14 destroyers built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s. As in previous years, it was originally intended to order a complete flotilla comprising eight destroyers—plus a flotilla leader as the ninth unit—in each year. However, only four ships—plus a leader—were...

  • 21st Destroyer Flotilla (China Station) — 2 white over 1 red, D class
    C and D class destroyer
    The C and D class was a group of 14 destroyers built for the Royal Navy in the early 1930s. As in previous years, it was originally intended to order a complete flotilla comprising eight destroyers—plus a flotilla leader as the ninth unit—in each year. However, only four ships—plus a leader—were...



Early into the war the bands soon fell out of use; ships were camouflaged, while war-losses, operational requirements, and new construction broke up the homogeneity of the destroyer flotillas. Vessels were deployed as and when they were needed or available, and were often incorporated into mixed "escort groups" containing a range of vessel types such as sloops
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

, corvette
Corvette
A corvette is a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship, originally smaller than a frigate and larger than a coastal patrol craft or fast attack craft , although many recent designs resemble frigates in size and role...

s, frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s and escort carriers. A few of the escort groups adopted funnel bands; others like B7 Group wore letters on their funnels.

Post-war

After World War 2, were no longer identified by bands, but by large cast metal numbers bolted to the funnels. Flotilla leaders continued to display a large band at the top of the funnel, however.

Deck codes

Aircraft carriers and vessels operating aircraft have a deck code painted on the flight deck
Flight deck
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is the surface from which its aircraft take off and land, essentially a miniature airfield at sea. On smaller naval ships which do not have aviation as a primary mission, the landing area for helicopters and other VTOL aircraft is also referred to as the...

 to aid identification by aircraft attempting to land. This is in a position clearly visible on the approach path. The Royal Navy uses a single letter (typically the first letter of the ship's name) for aircraft carriers and large vessels operating aircraft, and pairs of letters (usually letters from the ship's name) for smaller vessels. The United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, with its larger fleet, uses the numeric part of the hull classification number
Hull number
Hull number is a serial identification number given to a boat or ship. A lower number implies an older vessel. The precise usage varies by country and type....

 (a system analogous to pennant numbers). Deck codes used by contemporary major British naval warships include:
  • RFA Argus
    RFA Argus (A135)
    RFA Argus is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, part of the Royal Navy. Italian-built, Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA...

     — AS
  • HMS Albion
    HMS Albion (L14)
    HMS Albion is a Landing Platform Dock of the Royal Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class. Built by BAE Systems Marine in Barrow-in-Furness, Albion was launched in March 2001 by the Princess Royal...

     — AB
  • HMS Bulwark
    HMS Bulwark (L15)
    HMS Bulwark is an , the UK's newest class of amphibious assault warship and built in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. For numerous reasons, delays caused the delivery date to be put back, with the ship entering service in December 2004. Together with Albion, Ocean, and other amphibious ships, she...

     — BK
  • HMS Ocean
    HMS Ocean (L12)
    HMS Ocean of the Royal Navy is an amphibious assault ship , the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force...

     — O
  • HMS Invincible
    HMS Invincible (R05)
    HMS Invincible was a British light aircraft carrier, the lead ship of three in her class in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 3 May 1977 and is the seventh ship to carry the name. She saw action in the Falklands War when she was deployed with , she took over as flagship of the British fleet when...

     — N
  • HMS Illustrious
    HMS Illustrious (R06)
    HMS Illustrious is the second of three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to bear the name Illustrious, and is affectionately known as "Lusty" to her crew...

     — L
  • HMS Ark Royal
    HMS Ark Royal (R07)
    HMS Ark Royal is a decommissioned light aircraft carrier and former flagship of the Royal Navy. She was the third and final vessel of Invincible-class...

     — R
  • HMS Intrepid
    HMS Intrepid (L11)
    HMS Intrepid was one of two Fearless class amphibious warfare ships of the Royal Navy. A Landing Platform Dock , she served from 1967 until 1999...

     — ID
  • HMS Edinburgh
    HMS Edinburgh (D97)
    HMS Edinburgh is a Type 42 destroyer of the Royal Navy. Edinburgh was built by Cammell Laird of Birkenhead. She was launched on 14 April 1983 and commissioned on the 17 December 1985...

     — EB
  • HMS York
    HMS York (D98)
    HMS York is a Batch III Type 42 destroyer of the Royal Navy. Launched on 20 June 1982 at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear and sponsored by Lady Gosling, HMS York was the last Type 42 built. The ship's crest is the White Rose of York, and the "red cross with lions passant" funnel badge is derived from the...

     — YK
  • HMS Manchester
    HMS Manchester (D95)
    HMS Manchester was a Type 42 destroyer in the 5th Destroyer Squadron of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. She was laid down in 1978 at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, launched in 1980, commissioned in 1982, and decommissioned on 24 February 2011.Her nickname is the "Busy Bee", in reference to...

     — MR

International pennant numbers

Several European NATO and Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 navies agreed to introduce a pennant number system based on that of the Royal Navy. The system guarantees that, amongst those navies and other navies that later joined, all pennant numbers are unique. The United States, as mentioned before, does not participate in the NATO system; its ships are identified by a unique hull classification symbol
Hull classification symbol
The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

.

Participating countries, with their assigned number ranges, include:
  • Argentina — (D: 1x, 2x; P: 3x, 4x; S: 2x, 3x; C: x; V: x)
  • Australia (Formerly incorporated into the Royal Navy system until 1969; now uses a system based on the U.S. hull classification symbol
    Hull classification symbol
    The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

    s)
  • Belgium — (9xx; M: 4xx)
  • Denmark — (N: 0xx; A/M/P: 5xx; F/S/Y: 3xx; L: 0xx)
  • France — (R: 9x; C/D/S: 6xx; M/P/A: 6xx, 7xx; L: 9xxx)
  • Germany — (D: 1xx; F: 2xx; M: 10xx, 26xx; P: 61xx; A: 5x, 51x, 14xx; L: 76x)
  • Greece — (D/P: 0x, 2xx; A/F: 4xx; L/S/M: 1xx)
  • Italy — (5xx; M/A: 5xxx; P: 4xx; L: 9xxx)
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands (8xx; Y: 8xxx)
  • Norway (F/S/M: 3xx; P: 9xx; L: 45xx)
  • Poland
  • Portugal (F/M: 4xx; S: 1xx; P: 11xx0)
  • Spain (0x)
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • Turkey (D/S: 3xx; F: 2xx; N: 1xx; A/M: 5xx; P: 1xx, 3xx, L: 4xx; Y: 1xxx)
  • United Kingdom (R: 0x; D: 0x & 1xx; F: 0x, 1xx, 2xx; S: 0x, 1xx; M: 0x, 1xx, 1xxx, 2xxx; P: 1xx, 2xx, 3xx; L: 0x, 1xx, 3xxx, 4xxx; A: any)


The NATO pennant number system added the Y (for yard) symbol for tugboats, floating cranes, docks and the like.

See also

  • Hull classification symbol
    Hull classification symbol
    The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

  • Hull classification symbol (Canada)
    Hull classification symbol (Canada)
    The Royal Canadian Navy uses hull classification symbols to identify the types of its ships, which are similar to the United States Navy's Hull classification symbol system...

  • Ship prefix
    Ship prefix
    A ship prefix is a combination of letters, usually abbreviations, used in front of the name of a civilian or naval ship.Prefixes for civilian vessels may either identify the type of propulsion, such as "SS" for steamship, or purpose, such as "RV" for research vessel. Civilian prefixes are often...

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