Semaphore Message | Semaphore Message on Beatles album cover

The Beatles album cover Help and its semaphore message vaulted in the news recently. Here are the details:

The album cover features the group with their arms positioned to spell out a word in flag semaphore. According to cover photographer Robert Freeman, “I had the idea of semaphore spelling out the letters HELP. But when we came to do the shot the arrangement of the arms with those letters didn’t look good. So we decided to improvise and ended up with the best graphic positioning of the arms.”- Source:

On the British Parlophone release, the letters formed by The Beatles appear to be ‘NUJV’, whilst the slightly re-arranged U. S. release on Capitol Records appeared to feature the letters ‘NVUJ’.

Wikipedia explains that Flag semaphore is a system for conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags, rods, disks, paddles, or occasionally bare or gloved hands. Information is encoded by the position of the flags; it is read when the flag is in a fixed position. Semaphores were adopted and widely used (with hand-held flags replacing the mechanical arms of shutter semaphores) in the maritime world in the early 1800s. Semaphore signals were used, for example, at the Battle of Trafalgar. This was the period in which the modern naval semaphore system was invented. This system uses hand-held flags. It is still used during underway replenishment at sea and is acceptable for emergency communication in daylight or, using lighted wands instead of flags, at night.

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