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Proportions of the War Ensign and Jack 1871-1935 (Germany)

Last modified: 2002-05-31 by
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The Iron Cross in the jack was 5/9ths the height until 1903 and slightly above 2/3rds (226/333, according to Flaggenbuch 1939) thereafter. (...) If I am correct, the jack and [Reichskriegsflagge] canton changed in 1903.

Norman Martin, 27 February 2001

Norman Martin's dimensional data above prompted me to have a look in Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 as well as Flaggenbuch 1939. My executive summary would be that the 1867-1903 jack (and ensign canton) was 2:3 with an iron cross 2/3rds of the hoist, the 1903-1919 jack (and ensign canton) 3:5 with an iron cross 4/5ths of the hoist. Let us see why.

Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 firstly describes the 1867 ensign, saying about its canton that it has three stripes black-white-red, with an iron cross "reaching halfway into each the black and the red stripes". So that is 2/3rds of the height (of the canton). It then describes the 1892 and 1903 changes with no figures. After that (but rather as a different flag category, rather than chronologically) it describes the jack, as a 2:3 flag, with the iron cross occupying "two thirds of the height", and says that it is displayed on the ensign occupying 3/7ths of its height. Both the 2:3 proportions and the 3/7ths jack/ensign hoist ratio make me think that that description corresponds to the 1867-1903 jack.

The flag images on the A3-sized charts in Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 are quite small (approx. 16 mm high) but allow for some measurement and comparison:

1867-1892 1892-1903 1903-1919
height of iron cross (both jack and ensign) 2/3 hoist* 2/3 hoist* 4/5 hoist * actually 0,64 rather than 0,6666...
jack (and ensign canton) proportions 2:3 2:3 3:5
ensign proportions 3:5 3:5 3:5
jack height / ensign height 3/7 3/7 3/8
width of ensign cross 1/7 hoist 1/7 hoist 1/4 hoist
inner diameter of ensign disc 3/7 hoist 3/7 hoist 3/7 hoist

After that I had a look in Flaggenbuch 1939, and particularly the Corrections included in the 1992 facsimile edition proved quite conclusive. All the dimensions given there by Neubecker for the Imperial ensign are as the 1903-1919 above, with one exception, the canton appears as 315:495 (almost exactly 7:11) rather than 3:5. The height of the iron cross is 240/315 (0,762...) which is very close to 0,8 or 4/5ths.

As for the "226/333" shown by Flaggenbuch 1939, I would not trust the 1933-1935 ensign as a valid reference for the pre-1919 jack and ensign canton. Flaggenbuch 1939 clearly shows many differences in the latter one size, offset to hoist, white fimbriation around cross on black and red stripes etc.

Also, Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 clearly shows the 1903-1919 jack and ensign canton as having a very large iron cross, whereas Martin and Dreyhaupt 2000 (Weimar Republic flags) shows the iron cross back to the pre-1903 2/3rds size.

Finally, none of the Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 illustrations of the jack and ensign show the iron cross vertically (nor horizontally) offset.

I wonder where did Norman Martin get the information about the 5/9-high iron cross. I seem to recall that that proportion affected only the diameter of white discs on state ensigns etc. I may be wrong though.

Santiago Dotor, 28 February 2001

I am sorry, but I do not agree with Santiago Dotor's executive summary. The only debate is on the size of the Iron Cross (in short EK, for eisernes Kreuz). Let me summarize my data and measurements.

First, the official measurements that I have that appear to be relevent fix the height of the EK:

Now looking at as many reliable and reasonably clear sources, I found (all measurements as fractions of height):

Ensign Jack Merchant flag with EK Comments
Meyers Konversationslexikon 1906    0.66 0.56 0.56 ensign and jack clearly intended to be 1892, even though publication date is 1906
Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 0.76 (1867 and 1892)
0.80 (1903)
0.64 (1867)
0.73 (1903)
Siegel 1912, plate 24 0.67 (1903) 0.58 (1867?) 0.58 jack not specified but apparently 1867
Schurdel 1995 0.75 (1903)
Reichsministerium des Innern 1934 0.67 (1933) 0.67 (1933) same picture for both
Znamierowski 1999, p. 90 0.63 (1867)
0.75 (1903)
Valentin and Neubecker 1928 0.60 (1867)
0.73 (1903)
0.68 (1919) 0.56

I am struck by the fact that all three which show both the jack and the merchant flag with EK show their Iron Crosses the same height. Note also that the Martin and Dreyhaupt 1999 text cites the merchant flag with EK as having an Iron Cross 5/9 the height even though its illustration measures 0.64. Of course, one cannot rely on the measurements to better than a few hundredths.

My conclusion is that the best estimates are:

Actually intuitively 0.67 would seem better for the 1867 ensign. It would certainly be nice if we could get a larger number of legal specifications.

Norman Martin, 2 March 2001

Since my last message, I found a couple more:

I am more confused than ever, especially since these are naval flags so that you would expect them to have been issued by the government.

Norman Martin, 5 March 2001

The legislation data supplied by Ralf Stelter largely clarifies the issue if we can assume that the jack agreed completely in proportions with the canton of the Kriegsflagge. In that case we have as proportios of the Iron Cross to height:

Do we have anything firm that the jack had the same dimensions as the canton of the Kriegsflagge from 1867-1921? I have a quotation from the 1919 and 1921 ordinances which fix the jack's Iron Cross height at 2/3 and that of 1933 as c.2/3.

Norman Martin, 6 March 2001

Editor's note: see Legislation on the War Jack for an answer.

Ralf Stelter asked, "For 1903 and 1919, I wrote 2/7 H, which makes 2/3 of the canton. So you meant 6/21 not 16/21?". He did write 2/7 H, but he also gave the height of the canton to be 3/8, so that the relative height of the Iron Cross becomes 2/7 divided by 3/8, in other words 16/21 or 0.76.

Norman Martin, 7 March 2001

Legislation on the War Ensign

On the question of proportions of the German Iron Cross and naval ensigns, this is what I have at hand:

  • Verordnung of 14 March 1933: 4. Reichskriegsflagge is of three equal horizontal stripes (...) In the white, offcentered "a little bit to the hoist" a white-edged black cross in the design of the Iron Cross, reaching into the black and red stripes "ca. 1/2". By these given prescriptions and proportions I can see that even the German flag book, of which Norman Martin kindly sent me photocopies, the flags are not precisely shown (black-red-yellow upper corner too long, and edged white on two sides (?), outer black line around the cross too thick...

    Ralf Stelter, 6 March 2001

    Legislation on the War Jack

    On the question of proportions of the German Iron Cross and naval jacks, this is what I have at hand:

    About the merchant flag with Iron Cross:

    Ralf Stelter, 7 March 2001

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