White Squadron

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White Squadron
White Ensign from 1801 animated.gif
Ensign of the White Squadron 1801 to 1864.
CountryUnited Kingdom
AllegianceBritish Empire
BranchRoyal Navy
TypeNaval Squadron
RoleStrategic Naval Formation
Part ofNavy Royal
Commonwealth and Protectorate Navy
Royal Navy

The White Squadron was established in 1558 when the Navy Royal was divided into squadrons for command purposes. This was the second senior squadron of the English and later British fleet and in any battle formation was in the van or front position. It existed until 1864 when coloured squadrons in the Royal Navy were abolished.


Historically, the English fleet was first divided into three squadrons distinguished by colour in 1558, the Admiral of the English fleet, the Lord Admiral of England's squadron, flew a plain red flag as its ensign.

The Vice-Admiral of the fleet, or Vice-Admiral of England, flew a plain blue flag, and the Rear-Admiral of the fleet flew a plain white flag. Order of precedence was red, blue, and white until May 1596.[1]

In 1620 as the Navy Royal was expanding the coloured squadrons were further divided into divisions leading to flag officers being appointed as commanders of their respective division within the squadron.

The white squadron was usually placed in the vanguard/van or front of the line of battle, and always led a commander-in-chief called the Admiral of the White in the centre division of squadron. The squadrons van division was led by the Vice-Admiral of the White, and the squadrons rear division was led by the Rear-Admiral of the White.[2]

Order of Precedence White Squadron

The white squadron, ranked second and generally placed in the van, would be commanded by the Admiral of the White, and its subdivisions would be led by a Vice Admiral of the White (van), and a Rear Admiral of the White (rear).[2]

Flag Rank Officers

Flag officers in order of precedence
# flag officer notes ref
1. Admiral of the White commanded white squadron from 1558-1864 [1]
2. Vice-Admiral of the White second in command white squadron from 1620-1864 [1]
3. Rear-Admiral of the White Third in command white squadron from 1620-1864 [1]

Junior Flag officers

Junior Officers in order of precedence
# flag officer notes ref
1. Commodore First Class from 1826-1864 used a plain white broad pennant with the cross of St George [1]
2. Commodore Second Class from 1826-1864 used a blue broad pennant all squadrons [1]
3. Commodore Distinction introduced from 1684 to 1826 1805-1864 [1]
4. Commodore Ordinary introduced from 1684 to 1826 [1]

Squadron Naval Ensigns (1558-1864)



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Perrin, W. G. (William Gordon) (1922). "Flags of Command". British flags, their early history, and their development at sea; with an account of the origin of the flag as a national device. Cambridge, England: Cambridge : The University Press. pp. 85–99.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Heathcote, T. A. (2002). British Admirals of the Fleet: 1734-1995. Barnsley, England: Pen and Sword. pp. 1–7. ISBN 9781473812703.