Boy's Manual of Seamanship and Gunnery


Distant Signals

The Distant Signals are made with the Square Flags, Triangular Flags, and Pendants, without any regard to their colour, and may be used as substitutes for the Numeral Flags when the distance is too great to make them out. Car is to be taken that all other Flags and Ensigns are hauled down when the Distant Signals are used.

Preparative, Stop and Answer
List of Navy


 The distinctive mark of a Distant Signal is three Pendants hoisted together, which is used as a "Preparative'.' "Stop," and "Answer."

Three Pendants at the Main Truck denotes that the Distant Signals will be used by the Ship which hoist them ; when hoisted after any of the Symbols have been shown, they denote that the number of the Signal terminates there.

When hoisted in reply to a Distant Signal, it is an affirmative answer to that Signal.

Two Pendants over a Triangular Flag is the negative answer, and also annuls the accompanying Signal, a Signal just previously made, or one which will immediately follow.

A Pendant between two Square Flags is interrogative of the accompanying Signal, or one which is to follow immediately.

When hoisted in reply to an ordinary Flag Signal, it signifies that the Flags cannot be made out, and that the purport must be communicated by Distant Signal.

If a Distant Signal consist of two hoists (at the same Masthead) between the displays of the three Pendants, the first hoist represents Tens, and the second Units.

If the Signal consists of three hoists between the displays of three Pendants, the first hoist represents Hundreds, the second Tens, and the third Units.

If the Signal consists of four hoists between the displays of the Pendants, the first will represent Thousands, the second Hundreds, the third Tens, and the fourth Units.

When these Signals are made from the same Masthead, each figure must of course be expressed by a separate and distinct hoisting of the Symbols ; but when it may be possible to show the numbers of a Signal together, by hoisting them at different places, they are to be displayed and read in the usual order, as given in Art. XII. of the "Instructions Relating to Signals," as in the following example :

A Ship using the Distant Signals should endeavour to place herself broadside on to the point addressed, and should, if possible, hoist the whole of the Signal at once at the different Mastheads.

If this is not practicable, the Signalling must commence with the display of three Pendants is a preparative, and when answered the rest of the Signal is to follow in order.

If a particular Ship is addressed, the Compass Signal, denoting her bearing from the Ship making the Signal, must first be displayed.

As Signal Flags can only be depended upon when their colours are distinctly visible, an important opportunity of communicating at sea is often lost because distance or haze prevents the Signal from being made out.

A Code of Distant Signals has therefore been introduced into the Commercial Code Signal Book, with the view of supplying what- is obviously a defect in existing Codes.

The practice of making Distant Signals, with the combination of a Ball with Fags, is of very old date, and the plan may be found in obsolete Signal Books as well at in the Admiralty Codes.

Whilst, therefore, there is nothing new in the method now introduced, as regards the Symbols employed, the design has been to adapt in the simplest way the use of these Symbols to the Commercial Code of Signals, adhering, at the same time, as nearly as possible to the principles originally, laid down by the Signal Committee of 1855.

Hence the characteristic of the Distant Signal is the Ball ; one Ball at least appearing in every hoist of the Distant Code. With respect to the two other Symbols, they may be Pendants or Flags of any colour ; that is to say, any of the Code Pendants or Code Flags may be employed irrespective of their colour. It will be seen from the Plate of Distant Signals, that the Code has been so arranged as to give the least possible trouble in finding the combination required ; thus

The first column contains all the combinations having the Ball or Balls first or uppermost in the hoist.

The second column contains all the combinations having the Ball or Balls second or separated in the hoist.

The third column contains all the combinations having the Ball or Balls last or lowermost in the hoist.


B. Asks name of Ship or Signal Station in sight.

C. Yes.

D. No.

F. Repeat Signal, or hoist it in a more conspicuous place

G. Cannot distinguish your Flags, come nearer or make Distant Signals.

H. You may communicate by the Semaphore, if you please.

J. Stop, or bring to. Something important to communicate.

K. Have you any Telegrams or Dispatches for me.

L. Want a Pilot; can I have one?

M. Want a Tug; can I have one?

N. What is the Meteorological Weather Forecast?

P. Calls attention of Signal Station in sight.

Q. Vessel asks for orders by Telegraph from Owner, Mr -, at -, (See Q N, Part I., and instructions thereto.)

R. Report me by Telegraph to my Owner, Mr -, at -. (See Q N, Part I., and Instructions thereto.)

S. Send the following message by Telegraph.

T. Send the following message, by the Signal Letters, through the Telegraph.

V. -----------------------------------

W. ----------------------------------

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