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Austro-Hungarian Empire: Masthead pennants

Last modified: 2014-04-12 by rob raeside
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Masthead Pennant, 1730

[Masthead Pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

As per other Hapsburg maritime and naval flags, the story of masthead pennants begins with the See-Articuli of 1730 where a "Wimpel" or a "Flamme" is prescribed to be hoisted from the main mast of the Habsburg ships in shape of black-yellow long triangular bicolour [Lehnert].
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

Masthead Pennant, 1749

[Masthead Pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 3 October 2007

With the reform of the flag by Maria Theresa in 1749 this pennant was redefined with the addition of a square panel next to the hoist containing the black imperial eagle. [Baumgartner, 1977] It may well be presumed that size details for these early pennants were not prescribed, but in accordance to the customs of the period, they must have been very long in practice.
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

Masthead Pennant, 1786

[Masthead Pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

The Josephinian reform of 1786 replaces the dynastic black-yellow colours with the Austrian red-white-red and the masthead pennant is changed accordingly, introduced on the same time as the new naval ensign (adopted on 20 March 1786, Siegel notes the dates of introduction was 1 January 1787 in Adriatic and 26 March 1787 for the Austrian Netherlands). [Lehnert; Baumgartner, 1977; Rosenfeld]
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

Masthead Pennant, 1846

[Masthead Pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

This (as previous pennants also) was prescribed both for naval and merchant ships. The permission for the merchant ships to fly this pennant was revoked in 1804. Since that time (as was practice in all marines around the world, gradually at the period), the masthead pennant becomes a signal denoting a warship.

In 1842 the Emperor Ferdinand I granted the right to the Austrian Lloyd shipping company to bear a special postal flag as the jack and also a special masthead pennant indicating the privilege these ships have in carrying postal service. Since 1849 this was also granted to the Danube Steam Shipping Company (DDSG). The use of the flag by the Lloyd was discontinued in 1866, while the DDSG retained the practice at least until the end of the century, but only in the Austrian part of the Dual Empire and abroad (i.e. not in the Hungarian waters). The post pennant was yellow-black triangular bicolour in overall ratio 1:100. [Lehnert; Le Gras]
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

"1894 Muster" Masthead Pennant, 1846

[Masthead Pennant] image by Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

The "1894 Muster" also provides for a more detailed prescription of the masthead pennant introduced in 1786, although retaining the basic pattern - namely it was now prescribed to be 100 times as long as wide (i.e. ratio 1:100). Of course, by now it is only prescribed for naval ships. [Baumgartner, 1977; USNavy, 1899; Ruhl; HMStationery office, 1907]
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007

"1915 Muster" Masthead Pennant, 1846

The "1915 Muster" that introduced many small changes to include the Hungarian emblem, however, retained the 1894 pattern for this pennant entirely. [Baumgartner, 1977]

The use of the masthead pennants was, of course, dropped with the downfall of Austria-Hungary in 1918. The new Austria prescribed similar, but much shorter (due to the technology requirements), pennants (in 1926, 1936 and 1976) designating the presence of the higher military officials on its patrol boats.
Željko Heimer, 5 October 2007


- 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 p. 4
- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 p. 30
- 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
- Le Gras: "Album des pavillons, guidons et flammes de toutes les puissances maritimes", Dépôt des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, Paris, 1858. p. 8
- "Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7
- Moritz Ruhl: "Flaggenbuch", Reichs-Marine-Amt, Berlin, 1905. pl. II-49 pl. II-48
- "Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 53