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Austro-Hungarian Empire - Yacht Club Flags

Last modified: 2004-05-08 by
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General information on the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader (Imperial and Royal Yacht Squadron)


k.u.k. Yacht Squadron (k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader), an elite yacht club based at Pola (Pula, Croatia), established by naval officers in 1891 ( and functioning until the end of the WWI). The k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader was re-established at Attersee in Upper Austria in 1991 as a member of ECYU. The most important book sources about the k.u.k Yachtgeschwader can be found at http://www.faro.at/naubli/nau_k_l.htm and at http://www.faro.at/naubli/nau_a_d.htm and they are the following:
- "Die Gesetze der International Yacht Racing Union", k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader 1909 
- "Liste der Ehrenmitglieder, Stifter und Mitglieder des k.u.k. Yachtgeschwaders", k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader 1912 
- "Statuten des unter dem Allerhöchsten Protektorate seiner k. und k. Apostolischen Majestät des Kaiser und Königs Franz Joseph I. stehenden K.u.k. Yachtgeschwader", k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader 1911
- "Uniformierung für Flaggenoffiziere, Ehrenmitglieder, Stifter, Mitglieder, sowie für Kapitäne, Maschn", k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader 1912
- Bilzer, Franz Ferdinand, "Das k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader" 1990

I only have a copy of the membership list from 1903 ("Liste der Ehrenmitglieder, Stifter und Mitglieder des k.u.k. Yachtgeschwaders, Berichtigt bis Ende Jänner 1903", Buchdruckerei J. Krmpotić & Co. in Pola, 1903, 43 pp.). It is very interesting and shows that the k.u.k. Yachgeschwader was mostly an international aristocratic association (there are numerous Erzherzogs, Princes, Counts and Barons among the members; the Kommodore of the club was Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand) with some Austro-Hungarian naval officers and an admixture of high government officials and plutocrats from different countries (e.g. 4 Rothschilds, 2 of them from Paris and 2 from Vienna, and 2 Vanderbilts from New York).
Surprisingly, Austro-Hungarian naval officers were not very numerous: there were only 15 of them among the 120 Stifter und Mitglieder I. Klasse (5 of them admirals: Conte Oskar Cassini, Egon Graf Chorinsky, Franz Freiherr von Minutillo, Rudolf Graf Montecuccoli-Polinago and Hermann Freiherr von Spaun), and 16 among the 57 Mitglieder II. Klasse, which means that in 1903 the percentage of naval officers in the club was about 17,5%. Nevertheless, the "Komitee" of the club consisted of 10 naval officers (3 admirals among them: Cassini, Chorinsky and Minutillo) and 3 civilians only (perhaps one of the reasons for that was the fact that the association was permanently based at Pola, a naval base, and naval officers were the only true professionals in the club). On the other hand, there were no active naval officers among the 5 Flaggenofficiere of the association (Kommodore: Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand; Vize-Kommodore für Österreich: Alfred Graf Harrach; Vize-Kommodore für Ungarn: Philipp Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha; Kontre-Kommodore für Österreich: Karl Graf Buquoy von Longueval; Kontre-Kommodore für Ungarn: Geza Graf Andrassy). What is interesting, however, the title page of the brochure bears the emblem of the Austro-Hungarian Navy (the Imperial crown above a fouled anchor), which is another suggestion that the squadron was considered part of the Austro-Hungarian Navy (of course nominally and in a honorary way).

Tomasz Wyżyński, 14 March 2004


k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader (Imperial and Royal Yacht Squadron): Heckflagge (ensign)

[Austria-Hungary War Ensign] by Zeljko Heimer

The k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader is interesting vexillologically since it was granted the right to fly the Kriegsflagge (naval ensign) on the vessels of their members instead of the dual merchant ensign.
Zeljko Heimer, 14 March 2004

I know that the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader members were entitled to use the Austro-Hungarian War Ensign (Kriegsflagge) on their private boats, but the exact scope of this privilege is not completely clear to me.
Tomasz Wyżyński, 14 March 2004

Tomasz and I discussed in details various usage forms. Surely the copy of the statutes might shed some light on it, but according to my limited knowledge to the yachting flagging practice, I believe that this summarizes all the questions we rised with some of my answers:
- vessels (ships and boats) were entitled to fly the Kriegsflagge (naval ensign) based on their port of registration - i.e. foreign ships could not do that even if their owner were members of the club and in the ships were in Austro-Hungarian waters
- it remains open what ensign would be flown if there was no k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader member on board of such ship entitled to Kriegsflagge
Zeljko Heimer, 14 March 2004


Overview on the rank flags

Nearly the last illustration from Znamierowski [zna99] on page 251 shows part of flagchart from "Nachtrag III zum Flaggenbuch" Berlin 1913, showing flags of yacht club officers in Austria-Hungary in 1913. In addition to the naval ensign (erroneously translated "merchant flag") there are nine rank flags, one for the commodore (highest rank in YC), and two sets of four for lower ranks and members' flag, each for either Austria or Hungary. The difference is in the crown and the coat-of-arms used - for Austria the Austrian imperial crown and the black double eagle, and for Hungary the St. Stephen's crown and the Hungarian coat-of-arms.
It is my guess that the two sets have been in use regarding the ports of registrations of the vessels, those in Istria, Dalmatia and Austrian held parts of Italy were using Austrian version, while the vessels from Rijeka/Fiume and northern Croatian coast used Hungarian version. I do not know how many such flags were in use, possibly more in Italian parts of the empire (Venice, Trieste) and maybe in Pula - being important military port where certainly was quite a number of high ranking Austrian naval officers living, which were naturally (probably) highest ranking YC officers' too. Regarding Hungarian ensigns, apart from Rijeka, and maybe Kraljevica (Porto Re) I doubt that there was important port that would have YC members. But this whole paragraph is, of course, a speculation.
Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000

The yachting flags would be flown at main mast or some other convenient place (as jack on smaller boats) according to the highest member present on board, no matter what flag the owner was entitled to (i.e. if owner was entitled to a higher flag and his skipper to a lesser, when the owner is away, the lesser flag would have to be hoisted, I guess).
Zeljko Heimer, 14 March 2004


Commodore (Kommodorestander)


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Vice-commodore (Vizekommodore) - Austria


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Rear commodore (Kontrekommodore) - Austria


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Honorary members, founders and 1st class members (Ehrenmitglieder, Stifter und Mitglieder I. Klasse) - Austria


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


2nd class members (Mitglieder II. Klasse) - Austria


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Vice-commodore (Vizekommodore) - Hungary


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Rear commodore (Kontrekommodore) - Hungary


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Honorary members, founders and 1st class members (Ehrenmitglieder, Stifter und Mitglieder I. Klasse) - Hungary


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


2nd class members (Mitglieder II. Klasse) - Hungary


by Zeljko Heimer , 1 April 2000


Unresolved questions

- many members were at the same time high military officers - would they have hoisted their k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader flags at military vessels (I think not) and would they have hoisted their military (e.g. admiral's) flags on their/others' private ships when on board (I think quite likely)?

- the Navy had several smaller boats and yachts that were used documentedly in the yachting regates and other yacht club festivities. These were commissioned vessels usually used by highest admirals monitoring the races and similar. Would they use military flags (of course, I guess), but would they also have k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader flags hoisted at the time when the admirals were obviously performing the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader functions?

- what about the foreign members owning ships registered abroad. They would have no right to fly the naval ensign on those ships, I am certain, but would they have been entitled to fly the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader flags (I guess so)? They were usually members of two or more prestigious clubs. Would they use more than one flag, or would they choose one set according to where on Earth they would be? I suppose that there were other privileges of the membership that would encourage someone to join (for a very high fee!), but the membership flags, but they would be clear indication of such privileges.

- regarding the close link of the club with the Navy, would the members be entitled to honorary military ranks (possibly only in ceremonial sense, to wear uniforms at balls etc.)? I think not.

- the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader was divided into two parts, the Austrian and the Hungarian, as the flags clearly indicate. Were the members registered in the two "houses" (for lack of the better name), so they would use the "national" variant of their "house", or was the choice left to the member as he pleases in certain occasion, or was it connected with the port of registration (but then what when the member is guest on somebody else's boat)? The club had ships and boats registered in Pola/Pula and other Istrian cities, probably also in Fiume/Rijeka, but also on inland lakes and rivers, both in Austrian and Hungarian part of the Empire.

- it is not clear to me nor to Tomasz whether the yachting flags were used also by the other yacht clubs in the Empire, or whether they had other sets. Such clubs would be Motor-Jachtclub von Österreich and the Kaiserl. Königl. Union-Yacht-Club. As far as I inderstand, these other clubs must have used the dual merchant ensign, so their yacht could be easily differentiated frm the k.u.k. Yachtgeschwader yachts according to this element only.
Zeljko Heimer
, 14 March 2004

I don´t have enough sources from these countries, but probably the rank flags were common for all the clubs. This situation was/is the same in the United States.
Jose C. Alegria , 1 April 2000

- another intersting link is at http://www.spielberg.at/gemeinde/geschichte/brioni.rtf describing 
yachts used at regatas in Brioni (I admit I have not read it carefully though, so I do not know how much flag content it has, possibly very minor). However it shows how yachts were navigated in regatas by other members, not the owners, and that would pose the questions above regarding the flagging practice.
Zeljko Heimer
, 14 March 2004

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