Last modified: 2011-06-10 by eugene ipavec
Keywords: rebel forces | national forces | nacionales | coat of arms: quartered (castle: yellow) | coat of arms: quartered (lion: red) | coat of arms: quartered (chains: yellow) | crown: mural (yellow) |
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image by Jaume Ollé and Santiago Dotor
Flag adopted 29 August 1936, abolished 2nd February 1938
At the beginning of the Civil War, on the afternoon of the 17th July 1936, the nationalist right-wing forces had not provided for a flag or coat-of-arms, since the brain of the conspirators, General Mola, had planned to do a quick coup d'état, to arrest and kill Republican officials and leftist activists, and take over the government. There were no intentions to change the legal national symbols at the time.
Things went bad quickly in the central, northern and Mediterranean parts of Spain, with population fighting the rebel military garrisons, and many units in those regions staying loyal to the Government. Other regions fell into the hands of the rebels very quickly. Immediately a Civil War ensued, with the same national flag and same coat-of-arms on both parts. Many impromptu flags and political flags showed in the streets, rebel forces sometimes fought under the Republican tricolour, in other cases they took from museums and regimental archives the old bicolour flags of the royal period, political forces such as Requeté and Falange used their own colours, communists, anarchists, Basque units, all of them had their own flags.
Two sides fighting each other under the same flag demanded a measure to tell foe from friend. Thus, on 29 August 1936, Miguel Cabanellas (who chaired the "Junta de Defensa Nacional," "National Defence Committee," the rebels' government – General Franco, who would become the leader of the rebellion after the deaths of Generals Sanjurjo and Mola in unrelated plane crashes, did not take command until 1st October 1936) issued Decree No. 77, a single, very short article reading:
"Articulo nico. Se restablece la bandera bicolor roja y gualda, como bandera de España."Not a word about the coat-of-arms, which remained as it was since 27 April 1931 (date of the Republican law on flags and coat-of-arms). This coat-of-arms continued to fly on the bicolour flag of the rebel forces. There are photographs showing nationalist men-of-war wearing the bicolour flag with the Republican coat-of-arms at the stern.
("Single article. The red and gold/yellow bicolour flag is re-established as the flag of Spain.")
The rebel cruiser Baleares also changed its republican flag for the old royal navy ensign. At the balcony of the headquarters of General Franco in Salamanca flew an old bicolour national flag with the crowned coat-of-arms used before 1931.
So we have the period of 29 August 1936 until 2 February 1938, where the Republican coat-of-arms was still official on the rebel side, that is during more than one and a half year after the outbreak of the Civil War! Only on February 2 1938 did general Franco introduce a new coat-of-arms, more or less according to the heraldry of the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabel. A picture of that new coat-of-arms was published 10 days later in the official state gazette. The Nationalist ministry of war issued an order of 27 July 1938, compelling the Navy to use the new coat-of-arms on their flags (though this order did not show the coat-of-arms nor did it mention any further details).
A coloured flag chart, issued in 1939, but after the war had ended (on April 1, 1939), shows the Navy ensign with the coat-of-arms. A new flag regulation was issued on October 11, 1945, and published one day later, slightly changing the coat-of-arms. This is well known.
Emil Dreyer, 06 Jul 2003
Sorry, but I must disagree with several points: while it is quite possible that in the early days of the war, some Nationalist units still used the Republican flag, this was only very briefly. A contemporary account which I have in my possession details Franco's take-over of the Spanish Morocco garrison on the first day of the rising. It states quite clearly that the Republican flag was at once struck and the red and yellow raised.
The proclamation of 26 August simply made official what was already general practice on the Nationalist side. In Seville, General Queipo de Llano used the red and gold from the moment he seized the city on only the second day. In Madrid, the signal for the revolt at the Cuartel de la Montan˜a (Mountain Barracks) (which Republican forces put down) was the hoisting of the red and gold flag. There seems to be little doubt that the intention of the Nationalist forces from the outset was to restore the pre-Republican flag.
Incidentally, in my collection I have a contemporary flag of the 1936 pattern. Oddly enough it is British-made. The coat of arms is, to express it very politely, rather random. I suspect that it was used by a British ship trading with Spain. No doubt in the period they carried both Republican and Nationalist flags to display as courtesy ensigns, and took care to establish which side controlled any port they were about to enter, to ensure that no unfortunate mistakes were made!
Michael Faul, 18 Jul 2003
Yes, many units changed their tricoloured flag for a bicolour one at the
start of the uprising, so as we have seen in Michael's message. Many of
those units tore apart the "morado" stripe of their colour, replacing it by
a red stripe (some times not the same red shade as the stripe on top of the
flag). The COA remained unchanged on those "new" flags. Note that most of
those had three equal stripes of red-yellow-red.
A few units just took old monarchic colours laid down in their barracks.
According to Decree no.77 of 28th August 1936 (Boletín Oficial del Estado no.14), the flag was to be once again the pre-republican red-yellow-red. Later, Decree no.143 of 13th September 1936 specified that military and naval flags were to be as before the Republic but with the "current" coat-of-arms – which implied the Republican one. So until the new coat-of-arms – with eagle and many quarterings etc. – was approved on 2nd February 1938, the Spanish [state and war] flag [and ensign] was as above.
Santiago Dotor, 27 May 1999
According to other sources it seems that the "current coat-of-arms" wasn't designed yet, and the flag was used for two years without any coat-of-arms. On 2 February 1938 the coat-of-arms was adopted and added to the flag.
Jaume Ollé, 05 Jun 1999
While it is not certain what was meant in the text as to which coat-of-arms was the current one, we know for sure that the red-yellow-red without coat-of-arms was often used in 1936-1938 (I saw it frequently in news pictures) and that some [units], in particular the Academia de Sargentos Provisionales, the 35th Batallion of Cazadores (Rifles) of Africa and the Batallion of Pontooneers used the pattern described image by Santiago Dotor (i.e. used the republican coat-of-arms on the red-yellow-red); in the last case apparently by replacing the purple stripe on their Batallion standard with a red one. Source: Calvo and Grávalos 1983, pp.206-209.
Norman M. Martin, 07 Jun 1999
That is interesting – it means that a flag with equal stripes red-yellow-red was used. I wonder how often this was...
António Martins, 08 Jun 1999
Not unfrequently. And not only that – when the 1938 coat-of-arms was approved, many flags were refurbished by embroidering eagle, arrows and yoke etc. around the Republican coat-of-arms. That is the origin (or at least one of them) of the eagle coat-of-arms with only four quarterings instead of the full scheme, as reported here.
Santiago Dotor, 09 Jun 1999
During the Spanish civil war, flags used by both sides were sometime improvise (though more often in the Nationalist side at the begining) that resulted in some unusual result. One picture I remember in particular showed the rebels having torn down a Republican flag (red-yellow-purple) from the town hall of a conquered town and being in the act of hoisting a nationalist one (equal red-yellow-red) that bore the Republican COA! This was more then probably a case of having done a simple rushed job of covering the bottom stripe of a Republican flag with a red one.
Again, not something that apply here but an interesting thing to bear in mind if ever one is looking at SCW-era Spanish flags.
Marc Pasquin, 15 Sep 2006