Flags with a special meaning: the Jolly Roger

Foto: Nicolas Reymond / Jolly Roger Pirate Grunge Flag by Flickr
Fans of the soccer team FC St. Pauli probably know this flag as well as every child that plays „pirate“ from a certain age on. The actual name of the pirate and also skull and bones flag is „Jolly Rogers“. Where the name comes from is not clear. There are different opinions, all unproven. Better verified is why the pirate flag always shows a skull with crossed bones: In early times this was a motive that often appeared at cemeteries.

Pirates in Asian countries did not know about the „Jolly Roger“. Here ships were marked with different colors.

Of course, the „Jolly Roger“ was the distinct mark of a pirate. After the pirate ship got close under false flag the skull and bones flag was hoisted shortly before capturing. Pirates had their own motives on the flags so that the victims knew who robbed and possibly killed them and probably also to strengthen their own ego.

However, modern pirates refrain from hoisting a skull flag or any other flag that would identify them as pirates. But the „Jolly Rogers“ did not disappear totally. The British submarine hoists the skull flag when returning to their home port after a successful operation at which an opponent ship was sunk. A more peaceful purpose is attributed to the flag by the environmental organization Sea Shepherd Conversation Society (without bones here) and of course by FC St. Pauli.

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