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Austro-Hungarian Empire: Command Flags

Last modified: 2013-07-24 by rob raeside
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1730 flag

[Admiral flag] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The oldest Austrian naval flags regulations, the See-Articuli of 1730, introduced a special flag for use by the highest naval officers - the admirals. That was the yellow flag with the black double-headed eagle and bordered all around with black triangles ("wolf-teeth"). This was to be hoisted at main-mast when Admiral was on board, on the fore-mast for a Vice-Admiral and on the rear-mast for a Rear-Admiral. [Lehnert; Baumgartner, 1977]

The subsequent regulations of 1749 do not seem to have anything to say on this (possibly the wolf-teeth flag was retained? or there was no need for such distinctive flags?) The same is true for the regulation introducing the red-white-red flags of Josephinian pattern in 1786. [Lehnert; Baumgartner, 1977]
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007


1828 Flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The new distinctive flag for admirals was regulated in 1828, at the same time as when the distinctive flags for members of the imperial house were established. [Lehnert, p. 19; Baumgartner, 1977, pp. 31-32] This was a square form of the red-white-red Josephinian ensign of 1786, with the crowned coat of arms set in the middle of the flag. The position of the flag on the masts (main, fore, rear) denoted the admiral's rank, as was still usual in this period in all navies.

After a relatively short period (for the Austrian flags), after the revolutionary 1848, Archduke Ferdinand Max (the latter Emperor of Mexico, as Maximiliano I) took over the command of the Navy. He introduced two new rank flags: the Groß-Admiral flag and Admiral's flag. [Lehnert, p. 19; Baumgartner, 1977, pp. 31-32; USNavy, 1862]
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007


1853 Groß-Admiral's flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The Groß-Admiral flag (Großadmirals-Flagge) was square a red-white-red triband with the crowned shield in the middle and bordered with black and yellow triangles in the border all around. As it happened, this flag was never hoisted in this function, but this pattern was in 1880 determined to be used as the Command flag for Admiral.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007


1853 Admiral's flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

15:17, red-white-red with crowned shield, black-yellow-black canton. Vice-admiral and Rear Admiral hoisted the same flag on different places.
Željko Heimer, 11 October 2000

The other flag introduced by Archduke Ferdinand Max is the Admiral's flag, a square red-white-red triband with the crowned shield in the middle and with a horizontally divided triband black-yellow-black jack in the canton as high as the red stripe. (Even if the English term "Jack" is used in German literature for this black-yellow-black emblem in the canton, there is no indication that this triband was ever used as a Gösch [= bow flag] of its own, as the term might suggest to English reader!) This flag would be placed atop the main mast, the fore mast or the rear mast depending on the Admiral's rank (full Admiral, Vice Admiral, Rear Admiral, respectively). One such flag used was by Rear Admiral Tegetthoff in the glorious Battle by Lissa (Vis) in 1866 - that original flag is today preserved in the Military History Museum in Vienna. After 1880 this same design was used as a Distinction flag for General.

The two distinction flags introduced by Archduke Ferdinand Max in 1853 were in 1880 reused in different function, as noted above. The previous Groß-Admiral flag was installed as the Command flag for Admiral (Commando-Flagge für Admirale), still used on the appropriate mast depending on the admiral's rank. The previous Admiral flag was installed as the Distinction flag for a General of the Imperial-Royal Army (Distinctions-Flagge für Generale der k.k. Armee). [Lehnert, p. 19; Baumgartner, 1977, pp. 31-32; USNavy, 1899; Heyer]
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007


1874-1894 Flags

From 1874-23 December 1894, the Großadmiralflagge became the flag for admirals, while the previous Admiralflagge became the flag for Generals in the Army. 
Norman Martin, 10 October 2000

The British 1889 edition of Flags of All Nations shows all Austro-Hungarian admirals using a flag of the same pattern as that adopted in 1894, but without stars. Relative grade was indicated by hoisting on main, fore, or mizzenmast.

The American 1870 and 1882 Flags of Maritime Nations show the flag described by Norman Martin. It was the same as the central portion of the 1894 flag, without the border or stars, but with a square canton 1/3 of the hoist, divided horizontally black-yellow-black. It was also flown at main, fore, or mizzen to denote the grade of the flag officer represented.
Joe McMillan, 11 October 2000


1894 Admiral's flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

By the end of 19th century, the system designating admiral's rank by flying the flag from different mast was made obsolete since the modern warships did not have multiple masts any more. This was done by defacing the previous 1880 Admiral's flags with the appropriate number of yellow stars. Unlike the previous square flag, this one was made in ratio 7:8. Different sources show slightly different artwork for the stars, I show here the most complex, although it may well be that actual produced flags used some of the more simplified versions. [Kundmachung, 1869; Baumgartner, 1977; Ruhl; HM Stationery Office, 1907] These flags as a whole were named Kommandoflaggen (and among them was also counted the Commodore- und Anciennetäts-Stander).

The full Admiral (Kommandoflaggen der Admirale) was indicated with three yellow eight-pointed stars, two in white stripe on each side of the coat of arms and one in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The crown seen here is the royal crown that is neither St. Stephen's (Hungary) nor St. Vaclav's (Bohemia). It's the same crown used on the naval and (for the Austrian arms) the merchant ensigns of the time.
Joe McMillan, 10 October 2000

1894 Vice-Admiral's flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The flag for Vice Admiral (Kommandoflaggen der Vizeadmirale) was indicated with two yellow eight-pointed stars in white stripe one on each side of the coat of arms.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

1894 Rear Admiral's flag

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The flag for Rear Admiral (Kommandoflaggen der Kontreadmirale) was indicated with a single yellow eight-pointed star in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007


Sources:

- Josef von Lehnert: "Beiträge zur Geschichte der k. k. Flagge. Vortrag, gehalten im militär-wissenschaftlichen Verein zu Wien am 13. März 1885", Organ der militär-wissenschaftlichen Vereine, nr. 31, Mayer, Wien 1886 pp. 4-5
- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische
Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 p. 29
- "Flags of Maritime Nations, from the Most Authentic Sources", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, 1862. pl. 5
- Friedrich Heyer von Rosenfeld: "Die See-Flaggen, National und Provincial-Fahnen sowie Cocarden aller Laender", Verlag der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Wien, 1883 pl. 1
- "Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7

Continued at 1915-End of Empire Flags


Commodore

[Commodore] 2:5~ image by Željko Heimer

In use as Commodore's flag, since 1853, but called the Cornette from 1786 to 1853
Norman Martin, 2 December 2001

The old versions are unclear to me. Norman Martin says quoting Baumgartner [bmg77] that in 1880 there was no change in the pennant. In 1894 it was described as a "broad-pennant red-white-red with coat of arms".
Željko Heimer, 1 December 2001

When flown from the "Querstock", this flag was used as a seniority pennant.  The flag was adopted in 1874 (Lehnert (1886) says 1880, but is apparently incorrect, at least as far as the date of adoption is concerned; possibly there was a period before it was actually used). There was no previous version as far as I know.
Norman Martin, 2 December 2001

The cornette is in the same colour and design as the Ensign since 1786: used as Commando-Signal for the commander of a Schiffabteilung (Siegel 1912)
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 2 December 2001