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Austro-Hungarian Empire - Ensigns used by non-naval ships

Last modified: 2013-07-24 by rob raeside
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Introduction

Since the 18th century the Austrian tribar was established as the naval flag, and the same flag was also used as the only flag by the civil and government vessels until 1848 when the Hungarian tricolour was established, and the Hungarians insisted it be used at least in their part of the state. The Ausgleich of 1869 introduced a new double flag as the merchant ensign, but the unfortunate inconclusive wording of the treaty left opened questions of the use of that flag on inland rivers and by the government ships (like customs and other authorities). The Hungarian side insisted on the use of the red-white-green tricolour, the Austrian side was kind of indifferent to the issue and the military authorities were insistent on the unique merchant practice and kept trying to remove the war ensign from civilian use. However, the issue remained ever unresolved until the breakup of the country with the end of the World War.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007


National Ensign, 1786 - 1869, Naval Ensign, 1869 - 1915, Naval Jack, 1786 - 1915

Ensign in 1786

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Ensign in 1894

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The Austrian red-white-red tribar with a crowned Austrian coat of arms was introduced on 20th March 1786 as the naval ensign for the ships of the Monarchy in 1786. This was prescribed also as the jack. It was used also by all merchant ships until 1869, when a new merchant flag was introduced and this tribar was prescribed to be exclusive flag of the war (naval) ships. However, the flag was not dropped from use - on the Austro-Hungarian ships navigating on the Danube while in Austrian part of the Monarchy and by the government ships on the Austrian part of the Adriatic, even if numerous attempts were made by the Naval department of the State Ministry of War to break up this practice. In the 1894 the new graphic layout was prescribed confirming the stylization that was already present in practice. A new war ensign was prescribed in 1915, but was not implemented in use due to the war conditions.
This ensign was also granted for use to the members of the imperial and royal yacht squadron (k. u. k. Yachtgeschwader) with  a special grant.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007


Merchant Ensign, 1869 - 1918 (Österreichisch-ungarische Handels-Flagge)

The 1869 Ausgleich ("agreement" or "compromise" between Austria and Hungary that created the dual system) introduced a new merchant ensign "for the merchant ships at sea and the ships of inland (river) navigation abroad". The flag is a horizontal tricolour composed of red-white-red Austrian and red-white-green Hungarian colours so that the bottom stripe was vertically divided into red hoist and green fly half. At the middle of the hoist half is set the crowned Austrian coat of arms, as in the war ensign, and in the middle of the fly half is set the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen.

In the good tradition of heraldry, the artwork of the coats of arms was relatively widely interpreted, so many designs of small  artistic differences have been in use and probably even more differences were shown in various contemporary (and later) sources. Here are given a few as illustration:

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Fflag layout as pictured in the 1869 official gazette [No. 28 Kundmachung]

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

From the 1896 gazette [No. 233 Kundmachung], [note the incorrect number of stripes in the Hungarian coat of arms!]

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

One of the numerous stylized designs used in practice (notice simplified crowns and similarity with the naval ensign design). The simplification of the crowns went significantly further, especially in cruder (cheaper?) productions. Some other contemporary sources showing slightly different artistic designs include [US Navy 1862], [US Navy, 1899], [Heyer, 1883], [HM Stationery Office, 1907] and afterwards [Neubecker, 1939] to mention a few.

However, the exact wording of the Ausgleich was rather vague in this regard and was the source of all subsequent problems. The dual merchant ensign was prescribed by it for the seas only - so Hungarians interpreted it so that they insisted that the Austrian-Hungarian ships on the Danube in the part under Hungarian jurisdiction fly the Hungarian national tricolour, while the flag in the Austrian half of the Danube was at first not clearly established, and the war ensign was continued to be used, but the dual ensign was finally introduced there in 1894. Introduction of the dual ensign for the government ships on Adriatic was also slow.

The following flags are a result of the confusion produced by the Ausgleich that left unresolved issues of ensign used on rivers (Danube in the first place) and by government ships. The merchant ships on the sea, the naval ships and private yachting and motor boats had the issue clearly resolved, flying either the dual ensign or the naval ensign.

Sources:
- Lothar Baumgartner: "Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)", Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.
- P. Diem: Die Symbole Österreichs, Wien, 1995.
- No. 28. Kundmachung des Handelsministeriums vom 6. März 1869, über die Einführung einer neuen Flagge für die See-Handelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie. Reichsgesetzblatt für das Kaiserthum Oesterreich 1869 (13.3.1869), p. 111 (+ plate)
- No. 233. Kundmachung des Finanzministeriums vom 9. December 1896, betreffend die Einführung der Flagge für die Seehandelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie bei den k. k. Finanzwachschiffen.Reichsgesetzblatt für die im Reichsrathe vertretenen Königreiche und Länder 1896 (19.12.1896), p. 751 (+ plate)
- "Flags of Maritime Nations, from the Most Authentic Sources", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, 1862. pl. 5
- "Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7
- 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. 2
- "Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 53 - Ottfried Neubecker: "Fahnen und Flaggen. Eine bunte Fibel", L. Staackmann Verlag, Leipzig, 1939. pl. 87

Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007


Hungarian Ensign, 1848 - 1918

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The revolutionary government of Hungary of 1848 proclaimed a new constitution introducing the modern tricolour based on the historical heraldic colours red-white-green. Even though the revolution was soon put down, the Hungarian side continued to call upon the decision of the 1848 Constitution as the basis for their right to fly the Hungarian colours on ships in the waters under their jurisdiction. The unclear wording of the Ausgleich gave them here a strong legal argument that they never gave up. The decision in this sense was readopted in the Hungarian parliament in 1873 and 1882, and at least on 1st June 1875 the tricolour was being used by the two administrations (financial and maritime) in Rijeka. The flag with the greater coat of arms (above) is shown by Baumgartner, though probably the flags in use had the coat of arms hand-painted and many other artistic variants existed (and presumably versions without the coat of arms might have been in use as well).

The flag was used by all Austrian-Hungarian ships on the Danube navigating through the part of the river under Hungarian jurisdiction, which would first of all be the ships of the Danube Steam Shipping Company (Donau-Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft, DDSG).

Baumgartner cites the Austrian writer Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando (1877-1954) who describes in one of his works how the ensigns on one ship navigating from Germany on the Danube would be replaced four times until reaching the Black Sea: leaving Passau, Germany, a ship navigating down the river to Engelshartszell (i.e. abroad of Austria-Hungary) would fly the dual merchant flag, then entering the Austrian jurisdiction the war ensign would be hoisted until reaching Theben/Devin (today in Slovakia). From there the Hungarian national tricloour would be flown until leaving the Hungarian jurisdiction [that would be passing though the Iron Gate, I guess?], when the dual flag would be again hoisted.

Similarly, the ships of the Hungarian administrative and customs services would, in spite of all the insistence of the Naval Department, fly the tricolour. At times when the pressure was strongest, the dual flag would be accepted and the tricolour would be flown at mainmast or similar, but as it seems each time the giving up was always only for a short period of time.

The naval authorities pointed out several times that the Hungarian tricolour is a flag that is not internationally recognized and that such ships would not have the protection of the international maritime legislation, upon which the Hungarian side kept replying that the international regulations are of no interest since the ships are flying that flag at home, and that the central authorities should take action for the international recognition of the flag anyway.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007


Administrative Signal - Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration, 1884

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

In 1884 the Royal Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Trade notified the Harbour Admiralty in Pola/Pula that the three new ships of the Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration - Deli, Bator and Klotilde shall, instead of the dual ensign, fly the "flag in Hungarian colours" as illustrated: almost a square flag with white lozenge throughout, the remaining triangles coloured red (hoist top and fly bottom) and green (hoist bottom and fly top) and containing the greater coat of arms of the lands of the Hungarian crown, i.e. the shield quartered: Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Transylvania (Siebenburgen/Erdely) and in point Fiume/Rijeka with inescutscheon Hungary (per pale Hungary Ancient and Hungary Moderne). The shield is crowned with the crown of St. Stephen.

After a relatively strong answer of the Austrian side arguing the lack of international recognition of this flag, it was followed with a conclusion that "it must have been a misunderstanding", and the Hungarian Ministry gave up their initial intention and "explained" that the flag shall be used as administrative signal (bandiera distinazione) atop the mainmast, and that on the stern the dual ensign remains in use (even if it seems that the Hungarian ensign was used until that period). This flag is not mentioned in any further notes between the ministries, so it seems that it might have not been introduced into practical use.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007


Administrative Signals, 1893/1894

After a lengthy discussion among several involved ministries in 1893/1894 finally agreement was reached on the designs of the administrative signals of the four administrations with jurisdiction in the Adriatic - as it has been decided already in 1869. The Emperor even signed them. Until the introduction of the signals the administrations did not want to use the merchant ensign, as that would make their ships indiscernible from the civil ships. Therefore they used either the war (Austrian) ensign or the Hungarian tricolour. However, the agreed patterns were never introduced into use, the maritime authorities continued with their previous practice until the breakdown of the Monarchy, while the financial signals were introduced of different design, in 1897 by the Austrian, and around 1900 by the Hungarian financial administration. Baumgartner shows these signs with a  "perspective" layout of the coats of arms (i.e. the height of the coat of arms in its fly end is smaller than in the hoist end), following the originals in Akten des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs/Kriegsarchivs-Präsidialkanzlei/Marinesektion. Analogous rectangular flags for the chiefs of the administrations were also adopted to serve as distinction flags when they are aboard the ships.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The chiefs of the administrations adopted rectangular flags at the same time, being distinction flags when they are aboard the ships. Baumgartner does not provide drawings of these, only vaguely describes them as rectangular versions of the pennants. Based on this I "reconstruct" those - so they should be taken with a grain of salt.
Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

Imperial and Royal Maritime Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The Austrian maritime administration with headquarters in Trieste and Zadar was given a triangular tricolour of red-white-red with stripes converging towards the fly point. In the middle is the Austrian coat of arms topped with a heraldic crown and in the canton there is a white fouled anchor.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Chief of the Administration

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

Imperial and Royal Financial Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The Austrian financial administration (performing customs inspections) with headquarters in Trieste and Zadar was given a triangular green flag. In the middle is the Austrian coat of arms topped with a heraldic crown.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Chief of the Administration

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The Hungarian maritime administration with headquarters in Rijeka was given a triangular tricolour of red-white-green with stripes converging towards the fly point. In the middle is the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen and in the canton there is a white fouled anchor.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Chief of the Administration

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

Royal Hungarian Financial Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)

image by Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

The Hungarian financial administration (performing customs inspections) with headquarters in Rijeka was given a triangular green flag. In the middle is the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen.
Željko Heimer, 18 October 2007

Chief of the Administration

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007


Inland Ensign, proposal 1896

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

In 1896 the Austrian Ministry of Trade informed the Naval Department that, according to their wish, it was resolved with an "internal direction" of the DDSG (sic!) that from now on in the Austrian part of the Monarchy they would use the dual merchant ensign, and no longer the war ensign. At the same time they offered, as a compromise towards a global solution, two proposals of the unique merchant ensign for inland navigation (i.e. on rivers, mainly Danube). Baumgartner shows one of the two proposals: Red-white-red triband with the crown off-set to the hoist in the white stripe. The crown artwork is similar to that used on the top of the coat of arms in the naval ensign. The other of the two proposals is not published anyway yet, I believe.

Such a flag would be used on all ships on inland rivers in both state halves. As could have been easily expected for such a design, soon the Hungarian Prime Minister declined any possibility for a unique flag, since he said "the matter was unambiguously solved in Hungary since 1848" and repeatedly requested that the Foreign Ministry begin the procedure for the international recognition of the Hungarian tricolour.
Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007


Administrative Signal - Imperial and Royal Financial Administration, 1897 - 1918 (Dienstabzeichen (Wimpel) der K. k. Finanzwachschiffe)

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

In September 1896 the k. k. Ministry of Finances and the k. u. k. Foreign Ministry (the k. k. Ministry of Trade was in the meantime dissolved) issued that all the involved ministries have come to agreement regarding the flags of the Imperial and Royal Financial Administration. All the previous decisions that allowed the Administration to hoist the war ensign were invalidated and since 1st January 1897 the Austrian financial ships flew the dual merchant ensign, and atop the mainmast a pennant as an administrative signal. For this purpose it was not used the already adopted design of 1893 with which all the sides were concordant, but a triangular pennant of white-red-white stripes with the coat of arms and the crown. (No 233; Baumgartner, 1979; Ruhl, 1905)

Some sources show the red-white-red pennant with horizontal stripes (above, lower image), but could that be considered an erroneous depiction never actually used? (e.g. HM Stationery office, 1907)
Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007


Administrative Signal - Royal Hungarian Financial Administration, ca. 1900 - 1918 (Dienstabzeichen (Wimpel) der königl. ungar. Finanzwachschiffe)

image by Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007

The ships of the Royal Hungarian Financial Administration in Rijeka still used on the stern the Hungarian national flag. As the administrative signal at the mainmast here was also not introduced the pattern adopted in 1893, but the one with the arched inscription "M.K.PENZÜGY ÖRSEG" (= Royal Hungarian Financial Administration). The real date of the introduction of this pennant is not known, but must have been between 1898 and 1908 (Baumgartner, 1979; Ruhl, 1905). The H. M. Stationery Office 1907 flag book reports (incorrectly) inscription to be "M.K.PÈENZÜGY ÖRSÉG".
Željko Heimer, 27 October 2007


Sources:

- Lothar Baumgartner: "Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)", Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.
- No. 233. Kundmachung des Finanzministeriums vom 9. December 1896, betreffend die Einführung der Flagge für die Seehandelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie bei den k. k. Finanzwachschiffen.Reichsgesetzblatt für die im Reichsrathe vertretenen Königreiche und Länder 1896 (19.12.1896), p. 751 (+ plate)
- Moritz Ruhl: "Flaggenbuch", Reichs-Marine-Amt, Berlin, 1905. pl. II-49 pl. II-49, II-49-n
- "Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 56