Heritage100

Stork flag flown by HMS United

Stork flag, HMS United

On returning to base United flew a white flag emblazoned with a stork carrying a baby from its beak,

Lieutenant JCY Roxburgh, commanding the submarine United during the Second World War, was expecting news from his wife about the birth of his child, and arranged with base staff to signal the result while he was at sea.

A few days later he sank an Italian warship, picking up the commander and some of her crew. The Italian commanding officer's chief concern was for the safety of his wife as she too was expecting a baby.

That night United surfaced and the signal from base came through - a daughter.

On returning to base United flew a white flag emblazoned with a stork carrying a baby from its beak, and 1 bar in the corner to denote the successful arrival of Miss Roxburgh.

The story was also told in the magazine Tatler in 1943 by cartoonist EGO Beuttler. A total of seventeen babies are painted on the flag in the cartoon denoting how many of the crew had become fathers. Not bad for a crew of fifty-three!

Quick Facts

  • Made onboard submarine HMS United
  • Made in 1943
  • Made from a crewmember’s sarong
  • Dimensions Length 104.5cm, Height 81.5cm
  • Accession number A21/10/68

Facts

  • The flag is loosely based on the traditional Jolly Roger flag flown by RN submarines, on which different symbols are sewn to denote different actions.

Did you know?

HMS United was one of 49 U-class submarines that served during the Second World War, mainly in the Mediterranean. She survived the war and was scrapped at Troon in 1946. So far she has been the only ship in the Royal Navy to bear the name United.

Gallery

HMS United flying Stork flag and Jolly Roger
At The Sign of The Stork cartoon

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