This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

British shipping companies (B)

Last modified: 2019-10-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: bm | star (blue) | bsnco | lion (red) | bcsc | bdc | bnfl | btc | lion (yellow) | bp | paddlewheel |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors



See also:

Bray Shipping Co., Ltd. (E.J.B. Mavroleon)

[Bray Shipping Co., Ltd. (E.J.B. Mavroleon) houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 10 November 2005

Bray Shipping Co., Ltd. (E.J.B. Mavroleon), London - red with two narrow horizontal white lines; in center blue disk (slightly tarred) (Mavroleon in Greek means: black lion; a black lion appears on the flag of the Traditional Traders of London, and the Falaise Ore Carriers of Hamilton, Bermuda, owned by the Mavroleon brothers).
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 10 November 2005


Breydon Marine Ltd.

[Breydon Marine houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 29 August 2005

Breydon Marine Ltd., Great Yarmouth - blue burgee, yellow slanting "BM".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 29 August 2005


Bristol City Line of Steamships Ltd.

[Bristol City Line of Steamships Ltd houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the house flag of Bristol City Line of Steamships Ltd, Bristol. A swallow-tailed white burgee with a five-pointed blue star in the centre. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. A rope and toggle is attached.

Bristol City Line was part of a company with shipping, shipbuilding and ship repairing interests that started in the 18th century. The founder Charles Hill, took over the Hilhouse business from his partner, George Hilhouse in 1845 and changed the name to Messrs. Charles Hill & Sons. The Bristol City Line, began in 1879, running steamships to New York in competition with the Great Western Steamship Line. In contrast to its rival, the Bristol City Line carried cargo rather than passengers and was based in Bristol docks rather than at Avonmouth. Following the closure of the floating harbour at Bristol by Bristol City Council in 1980, shipbuilding ended in Albion Dock and Charles Hill of Bristol PLC was taken over in 1981."
Jarig Bakker, 5 August 2004

Bristol City Line of Steamships Ltd. According to Loughran (1979) an ordinary rectangular version was used between 1935 and 1950 with the swallowtail version being the original and then reverted to. However no early source seems to support with their portrayals as they all show the rectangle until Stewart in 1953. Most sources show the livery under or also in the name of Charles Hill & Co. whilst the Bristol City Line itself was acquired by the Bibby Line in 1972 but this may not have included the livery as Charles Hill continued in their prime activity as a shipbuilder.
Neale Rosanoski
, 19 May 2005


Bristol Steam Navigation Co.

[Bristol Steam Navigation Co. houseflag] image by James Dignan

Based on Sampson (1957)
James Dignan, 11 October 2003

[Bristol Steam Navigation Co. houseflag] image by Rob Raeside

Bristol Steam Navigation Co. Coastal company with origins said to go back to around 1822, sources vary on the flag letters under two points. The first is whether the letters were black or blue and the second whether they were "BSNC" or "BSNCo." with the "o" being enhanced and the dot under it. According to Loughran (1979) the answer is that they were always black and he ascribes the confusion as resulting from an experiment in the 1950s when the colours on the funnel panel were changed to blue by a mate (I presume this only affected one ship therefore) but after he upgraded to a brighter blue the company, which had been gauging the effect, instructed a return to black but sources used this experiment as meaning a flag change had also occurred and so kept showing blue letters for it as well. However this seems to only apply to Stewart (1963), and as sources from Reed 1912 on show blue letters the confusion is probably due to the difficulty of distinguishing between black and dark blue. No comment is made on the "o". Some early 20th Century books show a different version with the red letters "SBNC" [see above] which is said to have originated from 19th Century sources but with company records having been decimated in a 1951 fire its use is uncertain. The company itself ceased around the early 1980s.
Neale Rosanoski, 22 March 2004


British & African Steam Navigation Society, Limited

[British & African Steam Navigation Society, Limited houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker

Source: Brown's Flags and Funnels [Wedge 1926]

British & African Steam Navigation Society, Limited (Elder Dempster), Liverpool - blue swallowtail, over all white cross.
Jarig Bakker, 24 January 2005


British & Atlantic S.N. Co.

The Liverpool Journal of Commerce chart for 1885 shows the British & Atlantic S.N. Co. with a white flag with red Prince of Wales's plumes in the centre (like Richards, Mills & Co., but without the letters). They are not on the 1909 chart.
Ian Sumner, 9 December 2005


British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd.

[British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd. houseflag]image by Jarig Bakker

The Clan and the Union Castle lines and their associated companies, the Houston, Scottish Shire, Scottish Tanker, Thompson, Natal, and King Lines, were merged in 1956, under the title of the British and Commonwealth Shipping Company Ltd. At the same time a distinctive flag was adopted. It comprises a navy blue swallow-tailed pennant charged with a white-bordered diagonal red cross: on the centre thereof, a large white diamond bearing a red lion rampant. This, it will be observed, is a unique combination of the designs of the Clan and Union Castle house flags. It is worn by all ships in the group and is hoisted superior to their respective house flags.
Source: Carr (1961)
Jarig Bakker, 31 July 2001

As an ex-B & C Deck officer, who sailed with both Union-Castle and Clan Line, I can report that following the merger of 1953/4, each of the companies within the group retained their own house-flag, always flying this under the B & C flag on the mainmast. 'Pendennis Castle' was the flagship until the arrival of the fleet in 1960 of 'Windsor Castle' which was built as the flagship; however, as the commodore preferred the 'Pendennis', she remained the flagship at least well into the sixties.

It was normal practice during the fifties and sixties for ships to wear a stemjack when alongside or at anchor, and this was normally a slightly scaled-down version of the company house-flag (except in those companies which preferred to use the pilot-jack). In B & C, the stemjack was normally the individual company house-flag (not the B & C flag), but in Clan Line, for those ships having 'Clan' names, the red background was substituted by the ship's individual 'name' tartan; this practice was discontinued in 1966/7 due to increasing costs.
G. H. Watt, 6, 7 January 2004

British & Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd. I get the impression from studying video shots that the proportions are in the line of 2:3 rather than 1:2.
Neale Rosanoski, 22 March 2004

[British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the house flag of British and Commonwealth Shipping Co. Ltd, London. A blue rectangular flag with a white- ordered red saltire and a white diamond bearing a red lion in the centre. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn with the lion printed. A rope and toggle is attached."
Jarig Bakker, 5 August 2004


British & Continental S.S. Co.

[British & Continental S.S. Co. houseflag]  image by James Dignan

based on Sampson (1957)
James Dignan, 14 October 2003

White with red St. George's Cross and blue capital BCSC in the four quarters.
Jarig Bakker, 14 October 2003

[British & Continental S.S. Co. houseflag]  image by Rob Raeside

British & Continental Steamship Co. Ltd. All other sources that I have seen (Brown, Talbot-Booth and Stewart) show the cross fesse point basically centered as though on a normal rectangular flag i.e. closer to the fork which is also shown as deeper. It appears that the company traces it origins back to the St. George Steam Packet Co. Ltd. of 1822 which owned the "Sirius", the first steamer to cross the Atlantic without use of sails in 1838. Their flag was simply white with a red cross. In 1844 they were reconstructed as the Cork Steamship Co. which initially used a swallowtail version of the previous flag (in this case sources show the cross fessepoint midway between hoist and fork):

[British & Continental S.S. Co. houseflag]  image by Rob Raeside

Lloyds 1904 and 1912 show that they apparently then surmounted the cross with a blue 6 pointed star with the same cross arrangement, although the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce 1909 sheet shows it as a star of 5 points. This company then presumably became the British & Continental Steamship Co. Ltd. in 1922 going by comments in Liverpool Shipping by George Chandler (1960).
Neale Rosanoski, 22 March 2004


British Channel Islands Ferries

[British Channel Islands Ferries houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 3 October 2005

British Channel Islands Ferries, Weymouth - white flag, two wavy triangles, top one blue, bottom one red, separated by white space. (not sure about the tear in the bottom blue stripe...).
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 3 October 2005

It would seem the bottom is an *orange* stripe, not red. See http://simplonpc.co.uk/BCIF.html, which also has a history of the company, which operated 1984- 1994. The photos of the ships show the logo on the funnels (with no tear), but the size of the pictures means that it's impossible to see whether they are flying a house flag. Do we know that this *is* a flag and not just a funnel logo? Though there is a prima facie vexillological link with Brittany Ferries, who part-owned BCIF; Brittany Ferries' house flag is also a blue over orange stripe on a white field.
André Coutanche, 4 October 2005


British Channel Islands Shipping Co.

[British Channel Islands Shipping Co. houseflag]  image by James Dignan

based on Sampson (1957)
James Dignan, 14 October 2003

British Channel Islands Shipping Co. Ltd. Began in 1899 as the London & Channel Islands Steamship Co. Ltd. changing in 1936 to the British & Channel Islands Shipping Co. Ltd., and then in 1937 to the British Channel Islands Shipping Co. Ltd. Became part of the Coast Lines Ltd. group with the flag being unchanged throughout its life.
Neale Rosanoski, 22 March 2004

An example at the National Maritime Museum, circa 1951, is longer and has an ultimately dark blue.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 6 May 2019


British Dredging Aggregates Ltd.

[British Dredging Aggregates Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 10 October 2005

British Dredging Aggregates Ltd., Cardiff - blue over yellow flag; over all a countercharged diamond; on yellow "BDA" in red.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 10 October 2005


British Gas plc.

[British Gas plc. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 10 October 2005

British Gas plc., London - white flag, the firms name in black, 4 slanting blocks of varying shades of blue.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 10 October 2005


British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.

[British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 20 December 2005

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., Warrington - blue flag, white "BNFL". Same family of flags as Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 20 December 2005


British Sun Co.

[British Sun Co. houseflag] image by Ivan Sache, 27 March 2008

Lloyds Book of House Flags and Funnels (1912) shows the house flag of "British Sun Co., Ltd." (#111, p. 42), a company based in Liverpool, as red with the white letters "SUN" in the middle.
Ivan Sache, 27 March 2008 


British Tanker Company / British Petroleum Tanker Company

[British Tanker Company houseflag] image by Rob Raeside

[British Tanker Company houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker

British Tanker Co. The original flag was red with a horizontal white band expanded at the centre in the form of a circle, the band bearing the black letters "BTC", the "T" being larger. According to the image in Loughran (1979) the red is edged black from the white bands but other sources neither show nor mention this so it may be incorrect. In 1926 the livery was changed to incorporate the Iranian national colours and lion which was shown as yellow and passant guardant. In 1955 the company name changed to BP Tanker Co. Ltd. and at that point the lion was changed to rampant and the colour to red. According to Lloyds the owners began as Anglo-Persian Oil Co.[formed in 1909], changing to Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd. in 1935 before becoming British Petroleum Co. Ltd. in 1955.
Neale Rosanoski, 22 March 2004

"Flags and Funnels of the British and Commonwealth Merchant Fleets" shows a flag similar to this, but the central "T" looks like an inverted anchor, with a visibly curved crossbar.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 June 2006

[British Tanker Company houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the house flag of the British Petroleum Tanker Co. Ltd. On a white field, there is a red St George's cross with a green diamond in the centre, bearing a red lion, rampant. This design was in use from 1955 to 1968 and was re-introduced in 1984. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist and is machine sewn. The lion is printed. A rope and two Inglefield clips is attached.

British Petroleum was formed as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1909 to exploit oil deposits in Persia. The British Tanker Co. Ltd started in 1915 to handle sea transport and achieve a contained, integrated oil company. The parent group was renamed the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1935. In 1951 the company's Iranian assets were nationalized, a crisis partly resolved by negotiation in 1954 when the company was re-named British Petroleum. During the 1970s BP extended its oil interests to the North Sea and Alaska and is now a very large multinational group."
Jarig Bakker, 7 August 2004

[British Tanker Company houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

By 1955, before British Tankers were re-named BP Shipping, the yellow lion passant guardant had been replaced a red lion rampant.
David Prothero, 18 May 2004

Loughran (1979), in "A Survey of Mercantile Houseflags and Funnels", writes:
"B.P. Tanker Co. Ltd., of London - Its markings have undergone many vicissitudes. The origins of the company date back to 1909, when the parent company, the Anglo-Persian Oil Co., was formed. Six years later, the British Tanker Co. Ltd., of London, was formed to manage the company's fleet with as house flag the triband with BTC. ... The first house flag and funnel marking was in use until 1926, when a most distinctive set of marking replaced them. A house flag was adopted which consisted of the St. George's flag with a green diamond in the center, bearing a golden lion passant gardant. In 1955, a further series of changes was made ... the golden lion was replaced by a red lion rampant. By this time the company had taken its present title (B.P. Tanker Co. Ltd.).
Jarig Bakker, 18 May 2004

[British Petroleum houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker

In 1968 the BP shield was placed on a white field bordered green a flag to match replaced the handsome lion flag. This is yet one more example of shore-based trademarks driving out traditional house flag designs, and the result constitutes the present livery of the company."
Jarig Bakker, 18 May 2004

[British Petroleum] image by Rob Raeside

British Tanker Co./British Petroleum Tanker Co. The white flag with cross, diamond and red lion adopted on the name change to BP Tanker Co. Ltd. in 1955 is given by the National Maritime Museum as being used until 1968 when it was replaced by the white version with green border and shield etc., all of which agrees with the information extracted from Loughran (1979). However the Museum then states that in 1984 the 1955-1968 flag was readopted. The next known change appears to have originated in 1989 when the BP website states the shield was restyled and more emphasis was placed on the colour green and this presumably led to that shown in Brown 1995 of green with a gold outline shield enclosing the gold letters "BP".
Neale Rosanoski
, 19 May 2005

[British Petroleum]    [British Petroleum] images by Rob Raeside

Other flags have been used by other divisions of the company. The BP Clyde Tanker Co. Ltd. used a similar one to the main 1955-1968 flag but with a yellow diamond and green ore in addition to the red lion rampant. BP Oil Ltd. which was set up in 1976, according to Loughran (1979), to handle the coastal tanker trade following the split up of the joint venture with Shell Oil, originally used a white flag with a red vertical band in the fly and on the white the green shield with gold "BP" but this was apparently short lived as in Brown 1982 he shows it using the 1968 main version of white with green border etc.
Neale Rosanoski
, 19 May 2005

The BP Shipping Company returned to using the house flag with the St George's Cross, Green Lozenge and Red Lion Rampant as shown above. This flag was re-adopted in the mid-1990's when the BP logo flag was discontinued and the BP logo was also removed from the funnel. The company returned to using the pre-1958 colours of a red funnel with a black top and white, green, and white bands and without the BP Shield, reflecting the colours of the national flag of Iran (Persia). The Helios logo is not used by the BP Shipping Company as a flag.

The yellow BP and shield on a green ground [shown above] is inaccurate as this revamp included a less pointed shield and the BP adopting a slight slope.

The use of the BP logo in its developing forms is strictly controlled by what we referred to as the 'CID' or Corporate Identity Department (The Logo Police) which had clearly defined BS colour standards for the green and yellow and frowned on alternative derivations such as brown and gold.
Trevor Hall, 26 October 2005

See also:


British Waterways Board

[British Waterways Board houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the house flag of the British Waterways Board. A blue rectangular flag with a yellow paddle wheel motif in the centre. There are two narrow yellow lines across the top and bottom edges. This design was changed in about 1970 to a wave motif. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting with a linen hoist. It is machine sewn. A rope and toggle is attached.
Jarig Bakker, 7 August 2004

British Waterways Board. Flags of the World (1961) gives this flag as originally adopted 1949 for the Docks & Inland Waterways Executive which appears to have split into the British Waterways Board and British Transport Docks. The NMM version shows a dark blue field but Ridley Chesterton in his 1967 book Coastal Ships whilst giving a "blue" version for England specifies a "light blue" for Scotland.

[British Waterways Board houseflag] image by Rob Raeside

The replacement flag noted by Jarig shows a blue field with the blue wave emblem on a horizontal white oval which is taken from Loughran (1979).


British Shipping lines: continued