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3rd Dec, 2021

Flags on UK government buildings to be half-masted

Redditch Editorial 16th Oct, 2021

Following the death of Sir David Amess MP yesterday, flags on all UK government buildings will be flown at half-mast.

The MP for Southend West was stabbed several times whilst conducting a constituency surgery at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea yesterday afternoon (Friday).

Flags will be flown at half mast on UK government buildings until 8pm on Monday 18 October.

Other organisations and local authorities may follow suit if they wish to do so.

What does half-mast mean?

Half-mast refers to a flag flying below the summit of a ship mast, a pole on land, or a pole on a building. In many countries this is seen as a symbol of respect, mourning, distress, or, in some cases, a salute. In the USA they use the term half-staff instead of half-mast.

According to the Flag Institute of Great Britain, British tradition states a flag should be flown no less than two-thirds of the way up the flagpole, with at least the height of another flag between the top of the flag and the top of the pole.

The practice dates back the 17th century. Some sources suggest the flag is lowered to make room for an “invisible flag of death” flying above.

The only official flag that is never flown at half mast is the Royal Standard, which is the flag of the British monarch. This is because it represents the monarchy and there is always a living monarch, given the title passes over immediately upon a sovereign’s death.

The Flag Institute of Great Britain state flags are flown at half-mast when the nation is in mourning such as on the following occasions:

  • From the announcement of the death until the funeral of the Sovereign, except on Proclamation Day when flags are flown at full-mast following the proclamation.
  • From the announcement of the death until the funeral of a member of the Royal Family styled ‘Royal Highness’, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.
  • On the day of the announcement of the death and on the day of the funeral of other members of the Royal Family, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.
  • The funerals of foreign Rulers, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.
  • The funerals of Prime Ministers and ex-Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case.
  • The funerals of First Ministers and ex-First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, subject to special commands from the Sovereign in each case. Unless otherwise commanded by the Sovereign, this only applies to flags in their respective countries.
  • At British Embassies, High Commissions and Missions when flags in the host country are flown at half-mast, subject to the discretion of the Chef de Mission.
  • Any other occasions where the Sovereign has given a special command.

Downing Street photo licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.

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