Inglefield’s Useful Clips

by John M. MacFarlane 2013

Inglefield clips

An Inglefield Clip is an elongated clip (usually of bronze, but also now of a tough synthetic material) with an eye and double–tapered gap in the beak part, making it easy for two to be clipped together. The clips, spliced to the ends of halyards, are swivelled to allow the halyards to move freely. With similar Inglefield clips spliced to the ends of the hoist lines attached to flags, it allows for rapid and easy hoisting, especially of signal flags.

Speed and accuracy in signalling is paramount. The old rope eye and toggles were not conducive to speed, especially in cold weather when the ropes tended to freeze solid. Edward Inglefield, then Flag Lieutenant to Rear–Admiral St. George C. D’Arcy–Irvine RN in the Channel Squadron in 1888 described how the signalmen had to open the rope eyes with their teeth. He thought of designing clips "rather like putting the forefinger and thumb together with a slight opening". He had some made for trial and immediately his ship began winning all the flag signalling competitions. Eventually other ships realized the reason for this, and by about 1900 the Inglefield Clip had become the standard fitting for naval flags.

There are two styles – the one with the swivel goes on the bottom and ensures that the wind will not accidentally wind up the flag so that it is fully exposed to observers. The different shapes indicate to the signalman which is the top of the pennant without having to examine it – ensuring that goes up right way first. On national flags and special flags this is critical.

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