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Sweden and Norway 1844 Changes

Last modified: 2004-11-27 by
Keywords: sweden and norway | naval rank flags | scandinavian cross | herring salad |
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National War Ensign, Union Rank Flags – 1844

In 1844, King Oscar I decided to introduce separate war ensigns for Norway and Sweden. Both were based on the national flags of the respective countries (Parliament of Norway adopted a new national civil ensign in 1821, the same flag that flies as the national flag of Norway today), to which was added a new mark of union in the canton and swallowtail and tongue. The union mark consisted of a combination of the national colours of the two countries. In its own right the union mark served as the common naval jack and as the flag of the joint diplomatic and consular missions.

A problem now appeared about what to do with the rank and command flags, as these had previously been based on the common war ensign. Now there were two separate war ensigns. As the navies were expected to undertake joint operations, it was decided to have identical rank and command flags. The new rank and command flags were announced in the saluting instructions dated 3 December 1844, but published in 1845.

The senior admiral of a fleet had a flag in proportions 4:5 with the field divided diagonally into dark blue and red fields, the union mark in top hoist and two crossed yellow command staffs beneath. This flag was only to be used in case there were two admirals in the same fleet. No matter rank, admirals flew a flag as that of a senior admiral but without the command staffs.

Commodores, as commanders of an squadron, had a half-oval shaped pennant with the union mark at the hoist, the rest being divided red over dark blue. Commanders of detachments had a pennant made up of the union mark and two short tails, the upper one red, the lower one dark blue.

The commissioning pennant was now to be in the national colours (horizontally stripes of red-white-blue-white-red) with a stretched version of the union mark at the hoist. As usual, the commissioning pennant ended in a swallowtail. The Swedish navy had a commissioning pennant in the Swedish national colours blue and yellow. I have used the images in Beutlich as the model for the drawings, with an eye to the colour plate in the 1844/1845 instructions.


· Salut-Reglement for Rigets Orlogsfartöier og Faestninger, Christiania, 1845
· Beutlich, F: "Flag og kommandotegn", in C. Sparre (ed): Norges sjöforsvar 1814-1914, Kristiania, 1914
· Sundt, Trygve: "Norske orlogsflag og kommandotegn siden 1814", Norsk tidsskrift for sjövesen, Vol. 50, 1932, pp. 518-529
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 February 1997

Union Mark and Jack

[Norwegian-Swedish Jack, 1844-1905] by Zeljko Heimer

History of the Flag

Between 1814 and 1905, Sweden and Norway were a united kingdom. The jack was a common flag of the two countries. The flag features the union mark, consisting of a cross bearing the colours of both Sweden and Norway.

Ole Andersen

The union badge was introduced in Swedish and Norwegian flags in 1844 (when Oscar I acceded to the throne) in order to secure an equal status to both of his realms in personal union, and especially to soothe the feelings of Norwegians, who considered the previous union flag disparaging to Norway. It was well received in 1844, but a generation later it was again felt to be disgraceful by the growing majority who wanted to do away with the union. They succeeded in 1899 with the introduction of the "pure" civil flag, and military flags followed when the union was dissolved in 1905.

The pattern of the union badge suggested a common dish on "smorgasbords" of both countries, a colourful herring salad decorated radically with bits of egg whites and yolks, beets, and green stuff. Very good - try it! Witty tongues soon found the appropriate term. Norwegian: sildesalat, Swedish: sillsallat.
Lars Roede, 18 July 2002

The herring salad, i.e. per saltire composed flags of Sweden and Norway, each preserving the relative ratio of stripes appropriate for each national flag. The overall ratio 4:5 I concluded from images at FOTW.
Zeljko Heimer, 14 July 2002

The Royal resolution that established the union marked flags and ensign did not give written specifications for design details other than "that the upper quarter closest to the hoist in the flag, shall consist by a for both Realms common Union Mark, which is made up of an evenly composed combination of the to each Realm's flag belonging colours, in the way further indicated in the approved drawing,...".

In the 1844 official artwork the Norwegian war ensign has its usual 16:27 look with a square union marked canton, the white-blue-red in the specified 1-2-1 relationship and the other elements matching specifications quite well. The union mark itself is proportioned 4-1-2-1-4 for the Norwegian parts, though later sources usually say it should be 6-1-2-1-6.

The 1844 artwork of the Swedish war ensign shows a square canton, resulting in a most peculiar looking flag. The artwork for the Swedish war ensign is in the same overall ratio as for the Norwegian one, that is 16:27. Just replace the red with blue and fill in yellow in the white and blue parts and then you have a Swedish flag fitted into the Norwegian specifications. In other words, the official drawing gave us a swallow tailed war ensign that is 6-4-6 along the hoist side and 6-4-17 along the free end. The result is what looks like a quite amputated Swedish flag. No wonder the Swedes preferred the traditional rectangular canton and overall longer flag.
Jan Oskar Engene, 30 June 2003

Use of the union mark as a flag

The union mark was used as a flag in it self too, both as a naval jack and as a flag at the joint Swedish-Norwegian embassies and consulates at the time.
Elias Granqvist, 26 April 2001

Nickname of the Flag

The union mark in the canton of the Swedish-Norwegian flags between 1844-1905 was jokingly called "The Herring Salad" (Sillsallaten), a salad made of pickled herring, beetroot, and potatoes, a classical Swedish dish that in colours reminds of the union mark.
Stefan Klein, 26 April 2001

Senior Admiral

[Flag of Senior Admiral] by Zeljko Heimer

Per saltire red and blue with the herring salad in canton and two yellow batons in saltire set just below it. In the design of the batons, I tried to follow Swedish pattern. Ratio assumed as above.
Zeljko Heimer, 18 July 2002

Admiral, 1844-1858

[Flag of Admiral 1844-1858] by Zeljko Heimer

Per saltire red and blue with the herring salad in canton.

Zeljko Heimer, 18 July 2002

Commodore commanding a squadron

[Flag of Commodore 1844-1858] by Zeljko Heimer

Pennant consisting of the herring salad at hoist and oval fly divided lengthwise red over blue.
Zeljko Heimer, 15 July 2002

Commander of a Detachment

[Flag of Commander 1844] by Zeljko Heimer

Masthead pennant blue over yellow, swallow tailed (indentation reaching 1/3 of length) with red square canton containing white saltire and next to it a blue square conatining yellow saltire.
Zeljko Heimer, 28 July 2002

Commissioning Pennant

[Commissioning Pennant 1844]
by Zeljko Heimer

Pennant of Norwegian national colours with the herring salad at hoist.
Zeljko Heimer, 15 July 2002

In the flag regulations of 1875 [sut75] the pennant is shown with trapezoidal cut out.
Zeljko Heimer, 18 July 2002