Union Jack: which way up is the Union Jack flag meant to go?

You may be hanging it upside down...
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  • Not sure which way up the Union Jack flag is meant to fly or hang? You're not the only one...

    Forces.net report that a YouGov poll this year found that less than half of the British public know how to ‘correctly’ hang the Union Jack flag, with only 45 per cent of people able to identify the right way.

    In fact, it may be a surprise to you that there’s a ‘correct way’ to hang it at all.

    But apparently, many of us decorating our homes for national holidays and celebrations are actually hanging it upside down! So what actually is the right way?

    Which way up is the Union Jack?

    In war time, it was said that flying the Union Jack flag the wrong way up was used as a distress signal. But now, it’s more often than not an honest mistake – with many likely not realising that there is a ‘right way up’.

    So which way up is the Union Jack flag meant to be flown?

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    When flying your flag, the thicker, wider white stripe nearest the flag pole should sit on the left as you look at the flag. It should sit above the red band.

    On the side furthest away from the flagpole, the white stripe should be thinner on top of the red stripe, and thicker underneath.

    Take a look at the diagram below for an explanation…

    Why does the Union Jack flag look like it does?

    The Union Flag is recognisable around the world, but did you know that it’s actually a combination of three individual flags of the United Kingdom?

    The Union Jack is a combination of the red and white England’s cross of St. George, the blue and white Scotland’s cross of St. Andrew, and Northern Ireland’s red and white cross of St. Patrick.

    Any mention of the Wales flag is noticeably missing though – it’s reported that this is because Wales has historically always been a part of the United Kingdom, so was not to be considered separate to the UK flag.

    When should you fly the Union Jack flag?

    You can fly the Union Jack flag whenever you want, although it is commonly flown on national holidays or days of British significance.

    For example, many flew the flag in their gardens or from their homes during VE Day recently, on 8th May. VE Day marks Victory in Europe Day, and the end of the Second World War, a hugely signficant moment in British history.

    Many also choose to fly the Union Jack during special royal events – for example, many were flown from homes across the UK during the two recent royal weddings, that of Prince Harry and Meghan and Prince William and Kate Middleton.

    The government also notes that royal birthdays and wedding anniversaries are counted as designated days for Union Flag flying.

    Examples they give here, on the gov.uk website, include the Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday on the 9th January, the anniversary of the Queen’s accession on 6th February, and the Queen and Prince Philip’s wedding anniversary, on 20th November.

    They also explain that the Union Jack can and should be flown on days of National Remembrance – including Remembrance Sunday on 8th November this year.

    And, of course, many of us will be flying the flag during fun celebrations like  Eurovision.

    When will the Union Jack be flown at half mast?

    The Union Jack should be flown at half-mast (half way down the flag pole) when the death of a soverign is announced.

    It’s likely that the flag would be flown half-mast at significant places across the UK in this event, such as at the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Windsor Castle.

    The flag will be flown at half-mast until the state funeral, which normally take place a few weeks after the death.

    The Flag Institute notes that flags should also be flown at half-mast on the following occasions:

    • the death of a Royal Family members styled His/Her Royal Highness
    • whenever the Soverign has given a special command
    • on the funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers
    • the funerals of First Ministers of Scotland, Ireland and Wales
    • the funerals of Foreign rulers

    All instances are subject to special commands from the monarch.