Coloured squadrons of the Royal Navy

The Coloured Squadrons of the Royal Navy [1] were first introduced in the Tudor Period during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England (1558-1603) The purpose was to separate the English fleet into three squadrons for better command and control, though in 1596 there were four squadrons. In 1620 as the fleet was expanding the system was changed to include three squadrons but also three sub divisions. Assigned to each of these squadrons were flag officers who were separated in terms of their seniority by the use of coloured flags: in effect the squadrons provided a system of designating the nine or ten most senior admirals of the Royal Navy until the system was abolished in 1864.[2] Squadrons and divisions continued to be used as system of managing large formations when the British navy consisted of more than one fleet for most of the twentieth century until 1971.[3]


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