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Norway - Historical rank flags

Last modified: 2006-09-23 by phil nelson
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The First Independence Flags – 1814

In 1814, under the leadership of Regent Prince Christian Frederick, Norway enjoyed a brief period of full independence before entering into a personal union with Sweden. [Christian Frederik was regent in Norway from 18th of January. He was elected King of Norway on 18th of May 1814.] The Royal Norwegian Navy was formed of the part of the common Danish-Norwegian fleet that Norway took with it as the union with Denmark was dissolved.

One of the first things the Regent did was to give Norway a new flag. By proclamation of 27 February 1814, the prince decided that the flag was to be a rectangular red field with a white cross and the lion of Norway in yellow in the top hoist corner. The war flag had swallowtails in addition. In other words, the new flags were the Dannebrog with the arms of Norway added. In the design proposals submitted to the prince, the lion faced the hoist, but the prince turned it around so that it faced the fly. The first war ensign (it was also used on land, so it may also be labeled war flag) was used to March 1815 when a new war ensign was introduced (see below).

The first commissioning pennant At independence no decision was taken on rank and command flags. There were only 39 officers all together in the new Norwegian navy. None of them were admirals, and only one was a commodore (promoted to rear-admiral later on in 1814). So there was not a great need for rank and command flags. However, on 18 March 1814 the regent wrote to the head of the navy wharf in Kristiansand to give instructions on the commissioning pennant. Again, the old Danish model was used, adding simply two narrow stripes of yellow to a part of the cross near the hoist.

Jan Oskar Engene, 9 Feburary 1997


· Handbok for menige. "Blaboka", Horten, 1965
· Norsk soldatbok, Oslo, 1928
· Soldatens bok, Kristiania, 1914
· Beutlich, F: "Flag og kommandotegn", in C. Sparre (ed): Norges sjöforsvar 1814-1914, Kristiania, 1914
· Munksgaard, Jan Henrik: "Militaere kommando- og rangflagg i Norden. Norge", Nordisk flagkontakt, No. 19, 1994, pp. 12-24

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National Rank Flags – 1875-1905

New saluting instructions of 8 April 1875 made some changes to the rank and command flags of the Norwegian navy.

A flag for the commander in chief of the navy was introduced. He was to have two crossed white command staffs in the red field under the union mark (bottom hoist).

Admirals were no longer to use the plain war ensign. Instead stars were added to denote their rank. An admiral was to have three white stars (1 over 2) in the bottom hoist red field, a vice-admiral two stars (side by side), and a rear-admiral a single star. The pennant previously used by commanders of detachments (introduced in 1858) was now to be used by commodores as commanders of squadrons. Commanders of detachments were now to use a pennant with the union mark at the hoist with the rest of the field divided horizontally red-white-blue-white-red. The plain red pennant of non-commissioned officers was retained.

Amendments of 1898

The pennant introduced in 1875 for commanders of detachments was replaced with a pennant identical to the one for use by commanders of detachments in the 1858 instructions. That is a red-white-blue-white-red horizontally striped pennant with union mark in the upper hoist corner, not covering all of the hoist as in the 1875 pennant).

Instructions of 1901

The salutation instructions of 21 October 1901 introduced two additional flags.

The Minister of Defence was to fly the war ensign with the Norwegian arms in white in the bottom hoist red field.

The commanding general (or commander in chief of the army) was to fly a square red flag with the Norwegian lion in gold over two crossed command staffs also in gold. The lion faced the fly. This flag was used to 1905, when it was dropped because it was too similar to the then adopted royal standard.

Commodores as commanders of squadrons were now to use the broad pennant wih the union mark in top hoist.



· Beutlich, F: "Flag og kommandotegn", in C. Sparre (ed): Norges sjöforsvar 1814-1914, Kristiania, 1914
· Reglement for saluter fra rigets faestninger, Kristiania, 1901
· Salutreglement med Tillaeg om Flage of Kommandotegn, Christiania, 1875

Jan Oskar Engene, 12 February 1997

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