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Naval Flags Legislation (Germany)

Marine Dienstvorschrift (MDv) 161/1

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Naval Flags Legislation

The navy regulation [Marine Dienstvorschrift] MDv 161/1 (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1977) distinguishes between six types of flags:

  1. Flaggen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (flags of the Federal Republic of Germany), including the federal flag, the federal service flag and the naval ensign.
  2. Die Standarte des Bundespräsidenten (standard of the Federal President)
  3. Kommandozeichen (command signs) including the admirals' rank flags and others
  4. Unterscheidungszeichen (distinguishing signs) including the group and seniority pennants
  5. Erkennungswimpel für Kraftboote (distinguishing pennants for motor boats)
  6. Standarten und Flaggen fremder Nationen (standards and flags of foreign nations)
1. Flags of the Federal Republic of Germany

The naval ensign is called Dienstflagge der Seestreitkräfte der Bundeswehr (service flag of the naval forces of the Bundeswehr). It is mainly used by the warships in service. The federal service flag (Bundesdienstflagge) is used by auxiliary ships of the navy, ships leased or chartered by the Bundeswehr (if ordered by the Minister of Defence), and ships not yet in service or out of service. The federal flag is used by ships leased or chartered by the Bundeswehr (unless the federal service flag is ordered by the Minister of Defence) and by training sailing-boats.

Ships using the naval ensign or the federal service flag, also use their respective ensign in a smaller variant as a jack (Gösch). The size of the different ensigns is also regulated in the MDv 161/1. The sizes for the naval ensign or the service flag are 70 × 115 cm, 80 × 135 cm, 120 × 200 cm, 150 × 250 cm, 200 × 335 cm; the jack has either 50 × 85 cm or 70 × 115 cm. The prescribed size of the flags depends on the size of the ship: submarines and fast attack crafts use the smallest available flags, frigates and destroyers the bigger variants. A special case is the Gorch Fock, the training sailing ship, which uses an even bigger variant of the naval ensign (300 × 500 cm).

2. Standard of the Federal President

This is the personal flag of the President, hoisted on ships where the President is present. On ships flowing the standard of the Federal President no command signs or distinguishing signs may be hoisted.

3. Kommandozeichen (command signs)

Command flags shall indicate the place and the rank of a person aboard a ship:

4. Unterscheidungszeichen (distinguishing signs)

Distinguishing signs are flags used to show command or seniority in cases, when ships are joined together accidentally or temporarily. These flags are used together with the masthead pennant, whereas in the case of the command signs above either the masthead pennant (showing the lowest rank) is used or one of the higher rank command signs.

5. Erkennungswimpel für Kraftboote (distinguishing pennants for motor boats)

These distinguishing pennants are used aboard motor-boats of the Bundeswehr used by admirals or generals of the Bundeswehr, who are not entitled to use their own command signs; they are also used for foreign admirals or generals, if they do not have their own command signs or if these are not available. The pennants have a size of 65x25 cm and have a rounded tip. The colour is red for the army (Heer), air force (sky) blue for the air force (Luftwaffe) and blue for the navy (Marine). The rank is indicated by the number of four-pointed golden stars: Brigadegeneral/Flotillenadmiral (brigadier general/flotilla admiral) one star; Generalmajor/Konteradmiral (major general/rear admiral) two stars; Generalleutnant/Vizeadmiral (lieutenant general/vice-admiral) three stars; General/Admiral (general/admiral) four stars.


Marcus Schmöger, 21 November 2001

Regulation MDv 161/1 (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1977) was adopted 15 August 1977. Several (pretty insignificant) amendments on 17 January 1979, 15 June 1979, 30 December 1980, 17 August 1983, 9 January 1986, 11 June 1985, 4 July 1986, 6 November 1986, 23 December 1991.

Marcus Schmöger, 8 June 2004