The British Navy Made a Flagsquad for Its Veterans in the 1980s

Boats washed up on the Scottish shore after storms last week. Boats washed up on the Scottish shore after storms last week.

We’re used to seeing American flags all over the countryside. Flags showing American pride and the spirit of patriotism are everywhere — from banners unfurled at sporting events to a firetruck’s American flag.

But what about the British flag? The one that appears in the Scottish highlands on some boats and in garden decorations?

Not many have noticed that the flag is actually a flag made by the Royal Navy. There are more than 50,000 of them, usually depicting a body of water or landmarks such as the Tower of London or the Diana memorial. They’re great for hanging in your home, but they’re not very common in the English countryside.

To honor the late World War II Royal Navy officer King William IV, the British government set aside money in 1948 to celebrate the commander’s 100th birthday. It also decided to give away one of the flag’s shields for the first time. More than 60,000 people applied to receive one — but only 5,500 were chosen. The remaining 4,500 were auctioned off to raise cash for British Legion veterans, and everyone who received one of the flags becomes a lifetime member of the Royal Navy.

A total of 2,000 British Vets were among the winning bidders.

And in their race to stay alive, the British are overcoming anything — even the fear of being an American. (Some observers say that a song from the British theater based on the Navy flag shows what the Vets are really meant to be: a welcoming sea party.)

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