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Jolly Roger Flag

Flag from HM Submarine Trenchant.


Trenchant was a Chatham built submarine. This submarine building tradition started in the early 1900s when the ships demanded by the Royal Navy became too large for the slips in Chatham and the River Medway and continued into the nuclear era with the refuelling facility at what is now Chatham Maritime.

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust,
The Sail & Colour Loft,
The Historic Dockyard,
Kent ME4 4TE


Traditionally the Jolly Roger flag was made by the crew and flown on the return to its home port after action. Jolly Rogers were used during both world wars and each crew developed their own designs for their experiences at sea. The symbols on the flag denote different actions by the submarine and her crew. The bar marks the sinking of an enemy merchant vessel. The stars mark the submarine firing its guns – the red a hit for a warship and the white a hit for a merchant or auxiliary vessel.

The Jolly Roger is a symbol that has been used by submarines, primarily those of the Royal Navy Submarine Service and its predecessors. The practice came about during World War I: remembering comments by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, who complained that submarines were “underhanded, unfair, and damned un-English” and that personnel should be hanged as pirates.

Curriculum Links:

  • KS1: Local History
  • KS2: Local History, Second World War, Measurement -Geometry, Symmetry, Artists, Architects and Designers in History
  • KS3: Local History, Britain 1901- Present Day, History of Art, Craft, Design and Architecture


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