The National Service Service (NFS) flag

The National Service Service (NFS) flag

Thanks to the generosity of the Dance family, the Trust is now the proud custodian of a National Fire Service Blue Ensign c 1944.

The NFS Fireboat Flag was approved by His Majesty the King George VI to be flown by Fireboats and consisted of a blue ensign with the NFS badge superimposed centrally in the right half. The Admiralty agreed to allow the flag to be flown as an identifying flag for fireboats.

The Flag was directed to be flown at the stern or the gaff of the main mast, by all self-propelled NFS boats. In addition, the flag should be hoisted at 9 am each day and lowered at sunset. At the discretion of the Fire Force Commander, a short ceremony would be allowed at the daily hoisting.

The allocation of the flags to Fire Boats was as follows-

  • NFS vessels over 40ft long ( Massey Shaw and her sister craft) – A flag 4ft by 2ft
  • NFS vessels under 40ft long – 2ft by 1 ft.

History of the Blue Ensign

It is second in status to the White Ensign and is authorised by the Admiralty by the grant of an Admiralty warrant. Blue Ensigns are often defaced with the badge of NFS.

The “Ensign” is an old term, commonly applied to the national flag flown by a ship, or near the stern. The Red Ensign was introduced in 1621 and was followed by the blue and white ensigns in 1633.

In the Navy List of 1934, a detailed list regulation was issued by the Board of Trade laying down the flying of the blue ensign.

Four conditions were imposed, with the fourth one containing the following warning –

“if it is found the ship is flying the Blue ensign without an Admiralty Warrant the Blue Ensign should be seized and the case reported to the Admiralty.”

We are led to believe that our Blue Ensign was acquired by Mr Dance when he collected Massey Shaw from having some repair work completed in Tilbury. Two NFS flags had been issued for fireboat and he became the custodian of one of them.

This article was written thanks to research undertaken by Geoffrey Cooper in his book Floating Fire Engines.