Half-mast is the common international English term used to describe the practice of flying of a flag below the summit of the flagpole (mast). In many countries this is seen as a symbol of respect, mourning, or distress.
In the US, the generally accepted term for half-mast differs depending on use. The official term for non-nautical use is "half-staff", and otherwise "half-mast". (For US use see below.)
The tradition of flying the flag at half-mast began in the 17th century, perhaps to allow "the invisible flag of death" to fly at the top of the mast—which signified death's presence, power, and prominence. In some countries, for example the UK, and especially in military contexts, a "half-mast" flag is still flown exactly one flag's height down from its normal position, and no lower, to allow for this flag of death. This was the original flag etiquette. It is now standard, especially outside the UK, to fly the flag at halfway down the mast regardless of the size of the flag or hoist. (For modern UK practice see below.)
When hoisting a flag that is to be displayed at half-mast, it should be hoisted to the finial for an instant, then lowered to half-mast. Likewise when it is lowered at the end of the day, it is to be hoisted to the finial for an instant, and then lowered.
- On the death of the Sovereign – from the time of announcement of the death up to and including the funeral. On the day the accession of the new Sovereign is proclaimed, it is customary to raise the flag to the peak from 11 a.m.;
- On the death of a member of a royal family;
- On the death of the Governor-General or a former Governor-General;
- On the death of the head of state of another country with which Australia has diplomatic relations – the flag would be flown on the day of the funeral;
- On ANZAC day the flag is flown half-mast until noon;
- On Remembrance Day flags are flown at peak till 10:30 am, at half-mast from 10:30am to 11:03am, then at peak the remainder of the day;
- On the death of a distinguished Australian citizen. Flags in any locality may be flown at half-mast on the death of a notable local citizen or on the day, or part of the day, of their funeral. Recent examples include the death of naturalist Steve Irwin, actor Heath Ledger, esteemed international opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland, and former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. In the case of cricketer Phillip Hughes, who died after being struck by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield cricket match, the Australian flag was flown at half-mast at Cricket NSW headquarters on 27 November 2014 - the day of his death, as well as on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and at Lord's Cricket Ground in London.
- At times of natural disaster such as bushfires or tragedy. For example, in the days immediately following the Black Saturday bushfires, many flags of all types were flown at half-mast in spontaneous acknowledgement of the enormous loss of life; the then Prime Minister announced that the Australian Flag would be flown at half-mast on 7 February, in remembrance of the victims. On 19 July 2014, the Australian flag flew half-mast across the country in tribute to the lives lost in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 incident. On 16 December 2014, flags on all NSW government buildings, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, flew at half-mast after the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis.
The French flag is flown half mast on any Day of Mourning by order of government (for example after Charlie Hebdo attacks on 7 January 2015, Paris attacks of 13 November 2015 and Nice attack on 14 July 2016). Other countries have also flown the French flag at half mast because of this too. (Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge flew the French flag at half mast because of the Paris attacks on November 13 of 2015)
- as a mark of respect for the passengers and cabin crew on board the Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501, in 2015.
- as a mark of respect for the passengers and cabin crew on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 applicable to some states on 26 March 2014.
- as a mark of respect for the passengers and cabin crew on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from 20 July 2014 to 23 July 2014.
- National Mourning Day of MH17 on 22 August 2014 and 23 September 2014.
- On the death of country's first elected president, Ong Teng Cheong (4 February 2002)
- Perishing the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake (2 January 2005)
- On the death of president Wee Kim Wee (2 May 2005)
- On the national mourning of the 2006 Singapore attacks (10 January 2006)
- On the death of S. Rajaratnam (20 February 2006)
- On the death of the HDB architect, Lim Kim San (20 July 2006)
- On the national mourning of the 2009 Singapore attacks (23 July 2009)
- On the death of the founding father, Goh Keng Swee, who had passed away on 14 May 2010. (20 - 23 May 2010)
- On the death of the late Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye, who had passed away on 3 February 2012. (7 February 2012)
- On the Exercise Heartbeat 2012 (26 October 2012)
- On the 1st anniversary of 2011 Singapore MRT breakdowns (15 December 2012)
- On the 2013 Singapore attacks (18 November 2013)
- On the death of first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had passed away on 23 March 2015.
- On the death of various people in the 2015 Singapore attacks, which had happened on 9 May 2015 (10 May 2015).
- National Day of Remembrance on 8 June 2015, due to the 2015 Sabah earthquake.
- 2015 Paris attacks - 19 to 21 November 2015
- 2016 Brussels attacks - 24 March 2016
- 2016 Nice attacks - 15 July 2016
- On the death of sixth president of Singapore, S.R. Nathan, who had died on 22 August 2016.
- On the death of former Cabinet minister, Othman Wok, who had died on 17 April 2017.
- As a mark of respect for the 2017 Manchester Arena bombings on 23 and 24 May 2017.
Jonathan Lim's house, will have their flag half-mast on 23 September 2014 due to Lim Seng Huat's death.
- 1st anniversary of Tampines Secondary School incident (7 May 2013)
- Goh Ee Khoon (7 January 2015)
- On the death of 7 pupils and 1 teacher from Tanjong Katong Primary School (8 June 2015)
- On the death of Timothy Mok's great-grandmother, Tan Ger Cheng on 20 September 2009.
- On the death of the Deputy Prime Minister and Dominique Sarron, who was buried on 21 April 2012.
- On the death of Timothy Mok's grandmother, Goh Ee Khoon from 3 to 7 January 2015.
- On the death of founding father and the first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew which affects the mourning of the leader in Singapore from 23 to 29 March 2015.
- Every September 11th in relation of 9/11 terrorist attacks
- Funeral of Neil Armstrong - 13 September 2012
- Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings - December 2012
- On the Boston Marathon bombings - 17 April 2013
- The death of Nelson Mandela - 15 December 2013
- 2015 Paris attacks - 13 November 2015
- 2016 Brussels attacks - 23 March 2016
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