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Austro-Hungarian Empire: After the downfall, 1918/1919

Last modified: 2012-12-29 by rob raeside
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Introduction

Most of the Austrian-Hungarian naval fleet stationed in Pula was surrendered to the National Council of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs (the state proclaimed by the parts of Austria-Hungary settled by Southern Slavic peoples, later united with Serbia and Montenegro to form what shall be called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes [SHS] and afterwards Yugoslavia) on 31 October 1918 after the order by the Emperor Carl I. The replacement of ensigns in Pula was performed in the afternoon of 31 October, and in other Adriatic ports on 1 November 1918. The ensign of a red-white-blue Croatian tricolour was hoisted. Some ships hoisted also Slovene tricolour and other Serb tricolour (all probably without any defacements - the remaining reports are mainly "ignorant" to the difference in the "Slavic colours" and name them all the same). Several ships were reported hoisting a Montenegrin ensign, as their captains reasoned that this was the only internationally recognized at the time. Some ships hoisted a fourth flag, beside Croat, Serb and Slovene - namely the Czechoslovak one, since part of the crews were also Czechs or Slovaks. Non-Slavic crew (Germans/Austrians, Hungarians) was removed from ships. Occasionally, such ships would fly the French flag (e.g. ships returning from Corfu), to avoid being seized by Italians. Of course, the Italians soon took their hands on the most of the Adriatic fleet, some ships were taken by the French and so on, while a few of the oldest and least useful ships were eventually left to SHS. [Isaić]

White ensign

[white ensign] image by Zeljko Heimer, 12 October 2007

The ships carrying the non-Slavic sailors and officers (and state servants and their families) from Southern Dalmatia to Pula were using the white ensign (i.e. the parley flag, the sign of negotiations), as is documented in a number of photographs. [Isaić, Baumgartner]

The river flotilla on the Danube was surrendered to the Royal Hungarian Government in Budapest only on 6 September 1918, and before that the red-white-red naval flag of Austria-Hungary with the Hungarian red-white-green tricolour were hoisted side by side. Afterward the hand-over the Hungarian tricolour was used solely. [Baumgartner]

This was the end of the official use of the Austrian naval Kriegsflagge. However, yet at one time it was to be briefly and rarely  raised in an official capacity - it was introduced on 1 August 1940 in the Nazi German Navy, as a special flag to be hoisted on the main mast of the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen" on 31 May every year, instead of the German Imperial flag that was used on that date on the other naval ships of the Third Reich. [Neubecker]

Inter-Allied flag

[Inter-Allied flag] image by Zeljko Heimer, 12 October 2007

[Inter-Allied flag] image by Zeljko Heimer, 12 October 2007

[Inter-Allied flag] image by Zeljko Heimer, 12 October 2007

However, while the negotiations regarding the division of the Austrohungarian naval fleet were ongoing, in the international waters the Inter-Allied flag of four white and blue stripes was to be used as an ensign [Vasiljević] with the ensign of the country that requisitioned the ship hoisted on the mainmast [Pomorska enciklopedija]. Other sources mentioned triband flags for Inter-Allied ships (blue-white-blue and white-blue-white) of the Allied Maritime Transport Council [Pregel; cf. Prothero on our page on Ensigns for Merchant Ships Transferred to the Allies 1918].

It doesn't seem clear if there was any difference in the flags for former German and former Austrian-Hungarian ships (in spite of the reports above), or how much this regulation was followed at all. Also, it does not seem clear whether this was meant for naval or merchant ships, or for both.
Zeljko Heimer, 12 October 2007

Sources:

- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische
Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 p. 34
- Vladimir Isaić: "Pomorski običaji i tradicije", Adamić, Rijeka, 2001. p. 37
- Ottfried Neubecker: "Flaggenbuch (Flg.B.). Bearbeitet und herausgegeben vom Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine. Abgeschlossen am 1. Dezember 1939", reprint Mauritius Buch Verlag, Zwickau, 1992. add. p. 8a, IXa
- Jovan Vasiljević: "Stvaranje ratne mornarice Kraljevine Jugoslavije (Oktobar 1918 - Septembar 1923)", Istorija XX veka - Zbornik XI, Beograd, 1970, pp. 137-213
- "Zastava", Pomorska enciklopedija VII, Jugoslavenski leksikografski zavod, Zagreb, 1964
- Georg Pregel: "Die SHS Kriegsmarine in den Jahren 1919-1923", "Marine - Gestern, Heute" (MGH), 1/1987, Mistelbacj-Wien, pp. 1 ff.