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Historical rank flags (Sweden)

Last modified: 2017-11-11 by zoltán horváth
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Swedish Naval Rank Flags, 1875-1905

Can anyone describe Swedish naval rank flags for this period? Were they of the same pattern as the Norwegian rank flags of the time, i.e. based on the Swedish war ensign with union mark in the first quarter and rank insignia (crossed batons, 3 stars, two stars, one star) in the third quarter? Also, were the commodore's broad pennant and the senior officer's pennant the same as the current ones but with the union mark?

I know that from 1815 to 1858 the navies of Sweden and Norway used common rank flags. For the period 1858-75, did Sweden, like Norway, use its war ensign, flown from different masts according to rank, as the admirals' flag?
Tom Gregg, 12 August 2000


To answer this, I have looked up two regulations for the Norwegian navy, Salutreglement med Tillaeg om Flage of Kommandotegn, Christiania, 1875 and Reglement for saluter fra rigets faestninger, Kristiania, 1901, both of which contain brief information on Swedish rank flags. I have supplemented this information with that found in the 1896 flag chart of Swedish admiral Jacob Hägg. Based on the information found in these sources, it seems the Swedish system of rank flags in the period 1875 to the dissolution of the union, was largely similar to the Norwegian rank flag system:

Admiral

[Admiral's flag until 1905] by Jan Oskar Engene

Vice Admiral

[Vice Admiral's flag until 1905] by Jan Oskar Engene

Rear Admiral

[Rear Admiral's flag until 1905] by Jan Oskar Engene

As for the admirals, the rank flag system was the same as for Norway: The war ensign with 3, 2, or 1 star (white) in the lower hoist side blue field. Union mark in canton. The dark blue colour is intentional, as typical of the 1870's and 1890's.

Commodore, or commander of an 'escadre'

[Commodore's pennant until 1905] by Jan Oskar Engene

The broad pennant of the commodore, or the commander of an 'escadre' as the caption is in Hägg's flag chart, was slightly different from that used today. It was blue over yellow with the union mark in canton, but the pennant consisted of a swallow-tailed field with the upper and lower edges running parallel.

Commander of a detachment or of a senior officer

[Senior officer's pennant until 1905] by Jan Oskar Engene

There is also a pennant, triangular, blue over white with the union mark at the hoist side. This is similar to the pennant for a Commander of a detachment in the Norwegian navy, though this pennant is only illustrated in the 1875 regulations - no explanatory caption or text. However, Hägg captions this as the pennant of a Commander of a detachment or of the senior officer.

Command flag for a petty officer

[Command flag for a petty officer] by Jan Oskar Engene

An all-blue pennant (triangular) is also shown in the 1875 regulations, but again no caption or explanation is given. Admiral Hägg, however, explains that this pennant was by petty officers when in command of a vessel.

Chief of the Department of the Navy (Minister of the Navy)

[Chief of the Department of the Navy] by Jan Oskar Engene

In the regulations of 1875, the Swedish naval ensign with union mark in canton and crossed white batons in the lower blue panel close to the hoist is labelled "Chief of the Department of the Navy".

Head of Maritime Services

[Head of Maritime Services] by Jan Oskar Engene

There is a different flag for "Chefen för Förvaltningen av Sjöärendena", which would be something like 'Head of Maritime Services' in English, with a white anchor, slightly tilted to the right, in the lower panel closest to the hoist.
Jan Oskar Engene, 14 August 2000