Last modified: 2020-08-02 by ivan sache
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Decree "On service on the vessels of the fleet" was signed on 15 August
1851 by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1873), President of the Republic
(1848-1852), and published in Bulletin des Lois de la République française, No. 451 (see Bulletin des Lois de la République française, Serie 10, No. 410 to 476, pp. 587-842. 1852
The reporter of the Decree, Prosper de Chasseloup-Laubat (1805-1873), Minister of the Navy and the Colonies from 10 April to 26 October 1851, states in the Preamble that the Decree was elaborated to supersede the Order of the same title, promulgated on 31 October 1827 by King Charles X. The minister evokes "major changes in naval art since 1827; the introduction of steam navigation, the use of new and powerful weapons, improvement of subsistence, a more regular accounting, and useful information obtained by meeting foreign navies and meditation on the last wars, which have necessarily modify the terms of service".
In 1846, during the reign of Louis-Philippe, King of the French
(1830-1848), Admiral Ange René Armand de Mackau (1788-1855), Minister of
the Navy and the Colonies (1842-1847), inquired at the military ports
the information required for the revision of the Order; a commission
presided by Vice Admiral Charles Baudin (1784-1854) was appointed in
December 1847 to draft a new legal text, to be dissolved in the
aftermath of the fall of Louis-Philippe in February 1848.
Rear Admiral Joseph Romain-Desfossés (1798-1864), Minister of the Navy and of the Colonies (1849-1851) appointed a new commission, composed of Vice Admiral Frédéric Regnault de la Susse (1788-1860), Commanders Page and Penaud, Naval Engineer (1st class) Pironneau, Naval Controller (1st class) Pénaud, Captains d'Herbinghem, Dubernard and Pothuan, Naval Surgeon (1st class) Sénard, and Sub-lieutenant Camille Clément de la Roncière-le-Noury (reporter). His successor, Chasseloup-Laubat, corrected the draft proposed by the commission, incorporating the recommendations made by the Admiralty Council.
The Decree keeps the organization of the original Order, being composed
of 17 Titles (18 in the Order) divided in Sections and Chapters
including 727 Articles (722 in the Order) and 32 models of registers,
letters, reports, tables, logbooks etc...
The Second Republic ended on 2 December 1852, only 18 months after the promulgation of the Decree. However, most of the flags prescribed continued to be used during the Second Empire, as evidenced by Legras' Album des Pavillons (1858) [leg58].
Ivan Sache, 2 April 2019
Title II prescribing naval flags is modeled on Title II from the Royal Order. The main change is the prescription of a national ensign to be flown by the State vessels, replacing the Royal flag once flown by the King's vessels. The Decree introduces the flags of the President and of the Minister of Navy. The flag of the Admiral of France is no longer prescribed; white flags are replaced by tricolor flags and fleurs-de-lis are no longer present on any flag. Squadron command emblems are no longer prescribed. A flag is prescribed for the Major General's boat.
Title II. Ensigns and other distinguishing command emblems.
1. The distinguishing emblem of a State vessel is the national ensign flown at the gaff of the foremast and the masthead pennant flown at the main-mast, when no other specific command emblem shall be flown.
2. On harbor, the ensigns at bow and at stern shall be hoisted every day at the same time.
1. The vessel boarded by the President of the Republic flies at the mainmast a square flag with the national colors, in the center of which his initials are embroidered in gold.
2. Any distinguishing emblem flown on the vessel shall be then lowered.
1. The vessel boarded by the Minister of the Navy flies at the mainmast the national square flag.
2. Any distinguishing emblem flown on the vessel shall be then lowered.
1. The distinguishing command emblems of naval flag officers shall be a square flag with the national colors.
2. An Admiral and a Vice Admiral commissioned as an Admiral shall fly this flag at the mainmast.
A Vice Admiral shall fly it at the foremast.
A Rear Admiral shall fly it at the mizzenmast.
3. On two-masted vessels the Vice Admiral's command flag shall be hoisted on the mainmast.
4. The distinguishing emblem of the Head of a Division shall be a guidon with the national colors flown either at the masthead or the foremast.
1. When several flag officers of the same rank meet, all of them shall place on their flag a number indicating their position on the Directory's list for the relevant rank.
2. The senior flag officer should not bear a number on his flag.
1. The distinguishing emblems of temporary command for a Commander or a Captain, when the highest commander on harbor or in a meeting, shall be, for the first one, a guidon, and for the latter one, a pennant, with the national colors.
2. These distinguishing emblems shall always be flown at the mainmast.
3. A Lieutenant, when the highest commander in the same circumstances, shall fly at the foremast a pennant with the national colors.
4. These distinguishing emblems shall be flown every time two or more vessels meet.
1. When several Heads of Division meet, the senior commander shall keep his guidon at the main-mast, whilst the other commanders fly their pennant at the foremast.
3. When the Head of a Division meets a Captain not head of a division but with seniority, the Head of Division shall move his guidon to the foremast.
During meetings of flag officers or other of the same rank, these officers shall signal to each other their seniority number according to the Directory after they have signaled to each other the number of the vessels they board.
1. A vessel boarded by an Admiral or a Vice Admiral commissioned with an Admiral's command shall bear in night time, as its distinguishing emblem, a lantern in maintop.
A vessel boarded by a Vice Admiral shall bear a light at the foretop.
A vessel boarded by a Rear Admiral shall bear a light at the mizzentop.
2. The stern lights are arranged according to the tactics' general prescriptions.
Vessels stationed in French harbors shall fly a blue-tailed white pennant at the foremast.
1. All merchant ships shall fly the national ensign at stern.
2. Those chartered for the State service and commanded by naval officers shall fly the masthead pennant with the national colors at the mainmast.
3. In French and foreign harbors the senior captain of the merchant ships can fly a masthead pennant with the national colors at the foremast.
4. The masthead pennant should not be flown by merchant ships in any other circumstance.
5. The merchant captains can fly, moreover, the distinguishing emblem officially mentioned on their muster roll.
The boat boarded by the President of the Republic shall fly the flag specified in Article 14 at bow and the national ensign at stern.
The boat boarded by the Minister of the Navy shall fly the national ensign at bow and at stern.
1. The boats boarded by flag officers and heads of division shall fly the following distinguishing emblems at bow:
- an Admiral, a square national flag;
- a Vice Admiral, a square national flag charged in canton with three white stars forming a triangle;
- a Rear Admiral, a similar flag charged with two white stars;
- the Head of a Division, a national swallow-tailed flag.
2. The boat boarded by a Commander with a higher command shall fly a national guidon at bow.
3. The Commander in Chief, independently of the distinguishing emblem flown at bow, shall fly an unfurled flag at stern. This flag shall be furled when entering the harbor.
1. A Commander commanding a single vessel shall fly the unfurled national ensign at the stern of his boat.
2. A Captain with command shall fly the same ensign half-furled.
3. A Lieutenant with command shall fly the same ensign furled.
4. The other boats of the war vessels shall fly the national masthead pennant at bow.
Any boarded head of service who is not an officer shall fly a national flag, unfurled, half-furled or furled, depending on his assimilated rank, at stern. The flag is charged with two white anchors in the blue part.
In foreign harbors and in contacts with foreign vessels, any boat shall fly the national ensign, unless the higher commander orders something else.
1. The Port Admiral's boat shall fly at bow the square national flag charged with two blue anchors in saltire in the white stripe and three white stars placed horizontally in canton. It shall flay the national ensign at stern.
2. The Major General's boat shall fly at bow the national flag charged with two blue anchors in the white part and two white stars placed horizontally in canton. It should not fly any flag at stern.
3. The ports' higher officers, when on service, shall fly on their boat at stern the national flag unfurled or half-furled, depending on their rank. The flag is charged with two blue anchors in the white part.
The distinguishing emblems flown on boats are mandatory only for ceremonies and official visits.
The flags and other distinguishing emblems granted to naval officers on service cannot be hoisted for the sake of rank or office assimilation by any other officer or member of a Ministry other than the Ministry of the Navy, unless specifically ordered by the Minister of the Navy.
Ivan Sache, 2 April 2019
Title XVII prescribes honors to be rendered to the national ensign, the President of the Republic, and general officers in the least details (Articles 673 to 722).
1.When, on prescribed hours, the stern ensign is hoisted or lowered, the guard, in a row, shall face the vessel's rear and present arms, the drums shall be beaten "to the flags" and the guards shall fire their arms.
2. When the ensign is hoisted or lowered, people standing on the deck shall stop, face the vessel's rear and take off their cap.
3. Hoisting or lowering the ensign shall be performed slowly.
1. When the President of the Republic arrives on harbor, the war vessels at mooring shall be dressed up. They shall fire a 21 gun salute as soon as the ensign is spotted.
5. As soon as the President boards, his flag shall be hoisted atop the mainmast. It shall be cheered by a part of the crew lined on the yardarms with seven "Vive le Président !" and the other vessels shall cheer it the same way.
4. [...] When [an Admiral] let hoist his command flag for the first time, the flag shall be paid a 21 gun salute by the vessel he boards and cheered with seven "Vive la République !" by a part of the crew lined on the yardarms on all vessels on harbor.
. 2. [...] When a Vice Admiral let hoist his command flag for the first time, the flag shall be paid a 15 gun salute by the vessel he boards and cheered with four "Vive la République !" by a part of the crew lined on the yardarms on all vessels.
1.[...] When a Vice Admiral commander in chief let hoist his command flag for the first time, the flag shall be paid a 11 gun salute by the vessel he boards and cheered with three "Vive la République !" by a part of the crew lined on the yardarms on all vessels on harbor.
5. [...] A Vice Admiral with subordinate command shall be paid, when hosting his command flag, a nine gun salute by the vessel flying the flag and cheered with three "Vive la République !" by a part of the crew lined on the yardarms on all vessels on harbor.
1. A Rear Admiral commander in chief shall be paid, when hosting his command flag for the first time or officially visiting for the first time one of the vessels composing his squadron or division, the same honors as a Vice Admiral commander in chief in the same circumstances, with only a nine gun salute and two "Vive la République !".
2. A Rear Admiral with subordinate command shall be paid, when hosting his command flag for the first time or officially visiting for the first time one of the vessels composing his squadron or division, the same honors as a Vice Admiral with subordinate command in the same circumstances, with only a seven gun salute and two "Vive la République !".
1. When a foreign power shall be saluted, either in entering or leaving a port under its rule, or when a foreign power's national solemnity has to be celebrated, the vessel, dressed up or not, shall fly the power's flag atop the mainmast.
2. When a foreign flag has to be hoisted during a personal salute, the flag shall be hoisted at the foremast; however, when paying back a salute, the flag shall be hoisted at the mast to which the French ensign was hoisted on the vessel that first paid a salute.
3. If a distinguishing command emblem is flown at the mainmast or foremast, the foreign flags shall be hoisted to the mast lacking the distinguishing emblem.
2. On harbor or at sea, the day of the funeral [of an Admiral or a Vice Admiral commissioned as an Admiral], from 8 AM to the sundown, the bow flag, the stern flag and the command flag shall be flown at half-mast. The stern and bowsprit flags and the masthead pennants of all the vessels shall be flown at half-mast in the same time.
Ivan Sache, 2 April 2019