Troop flag

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Roman standards (A. Racinet)
French standard eagle (Aigle de drapeau) on a troop flag model 1854 of the 15th Infantry Regiment
Fahnenspitze - Prussia - eagle with crown

A troop flag is a standard used by military units as a mark. A distinction must be made here between flags and standards of mounted or motorized troops. In contrast to the flag , a flag or standard is a piece of cloth that is firmly attached to a flag pole. A flag cannot be hoisted or brought down.


Even from the days of antiquity who knows military history , the ensign , which was symbolic of a certain military unit and was carried on campaigns and in battle. In ancient Rome , the individual legions carried an eagle on a pole with commemorative plaques and decorations attached to it. In the Middle Ages , flags with colors and coats of arms became an important distinguishing feature in battle, as friend and foe could not yet be distinguished due to the lack of uniform clothing ( uniform ). In battle , the flags were always accompanied by the youngest officer , the ensign . He had to ensure that the symbol of unity did not fall into enemy hands.

In modern times , the troop flag had finally found its place as a symbol of recognition for military units. It is important that it was by no means a general state or national symbol , but only served as a recognition and field symbol for a specific unit. Because of its important role as a center of battle and as a guide for the soldiers in their unit, the flag gained a tremendous nimbus. Losing them in battle was considered the greatest disgrace a unit could face. Often a price or medal was awarded for capturing enemy flags: In the British Army, for example, capturing a (French) regimental eagle was rewarded with a medal for the participating unit that showed an eagle in chains. For soldiers directly involved, there were often other awards and promotions, as the resistance was always particularly dogged and ended in bloody hand-to-hand combat. Conquered flags were often presented in triumphal procession in the respective homeland. Sometimes they were z. B. dragged through the streets of the capital so that the common people could abuse them. Since the falling of the flag was not only considered a sign of defeat of a unit, but also highly dishonorable, the flags of killed standard-bearers were resumed, although this made the soldiers themselves the preferred target. With the massive emergence of firearms at the latest, it was life-threatening to carry a flag. Already in the Civil War began to do more and more to do away with flags in combat. Nevertheless, until after 1914 , European armies marched into World War I with their troop flags at their head , but in the modern war of attrition and position the flag had lost its real role. Behind the front, it remained a symbol of recognition and identity for its units.

Troop flags in Germany

Holy Roman Empire

In the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , there was as yet no uniform army flag. Each unit carried its own individual flags or banners . It was only with the advent of the uniform that flags were standardized.

Prussia and the German Empire

Prussian standard before 1807

In 1713, Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia was the first German monarch to set uniform dimensions and designs for the flags and standards of his troops. This basic pattern was to prevail in all German armed forces , with the exception of Austria, by 1945 .

The flags were square, the standards a little longer than wide and had a triangular cutout on the side facing away from the stick. Both had the Prussian eagle in their midst in a laurel wreath with a crown . In the corners were the seals of the respective rulers, also in a laurel wreath with a crown. In addition, different colors were specified for the basic cloths for the individual branches of the army. The edge was bordered with gold-colored borders.

A troop flag was also introduced in Austria in 1741, but it was different from the Prussian flag. These were a little longer than wide and had the Austro-Hungarian double-headed eagle in the middle of the yellow flag on the front and back , and the white flag (for the older regiments) had the Austro-Hungarian double-headed eagle on the front in the middle on the reverse the Holy Mary was depicted in a star wreath. The border consisted of a yellow-red-white-green border .

After the establishment of the German Empire in 1871, the troop flags of the previous armies of the federal states were carried on. In 1899, Kaiser Wilhelm II donated new flags to replace the z. Some old flags from the 18th and 19th centuries that have become unusable. The design of the new flags, which were given to the regiments in the following years before they took part in the imperial maneuver, were designed specifically for the corp. They corresponded to the old Prussian pattern from 1713.

National Socialism

Troop flag for the infantry

During the time of National Socialism , the troop flags and standards of the German Empire still used by many troop units were abolished. After the swastika flag was established as the only valid national flag with the Reichsflaggengesetz of September 15, 1935, a decree of March 16, 1936 ordered the reintroduction of troop flags. Most of these flags were officially delivered in 1936 and 1937; it can be assumed that by the beginning of the war in 1939 all existing units had been equipped with appropriate flags. Except for the symbolism, these flags also corresponded to the old Prussian pattern.

The Waffen SS received its own troop flags, the SS standard was adopted as a troop symbol for the SS tribal units. For foreign SS units z. In some cases, flags were introduced that were based either on the flag tradition of the countries of origin or on the standard SS flags.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the individual troop and regimental flags in Germany were replaced by the uniform imperial war flag . The flags of the individual units were withdrawn and kept in a safe place. The background was: the enemy had managed to capture some flags of the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS.

The army flags of the NVA

The NVA received its first troop flags when it was founded on March 1, 1956. In contrast to the Bundeswehr, there was no discussion of the continuation of the tradition of troop flags. To distinguish it from the flags of National Socialism, a significantly different form of the troop flag was chosen.

The flags of the NVA were designed uniformly. They consisted of a cloth with the colors black-red-gold and the coat of arms of the NVA in a length-to-width ratio of 4: 3. The coat of arms of the NVA consisted of the state coat of arms of the GDR , framed in a red circle with the inscription For the protection of workers and peasants power and a laurel wreath. The tactical designation of the unit, facility or unit was embroidered on a black background above the national coat of arms. The edge was bordered with gold-colored braids, and the cloth was attached to a wooden flagstick painted black. The upper end of the stick formed a 33 cm high all-metal tip. Other components of the troop flag were the secular ribbon, the flag shoe and the string band. The troop flag was made from silk until the 1970s, after which it was made from lighter polyamide fiber . The flag loops were about 1 meter long and 20 cm wide.

The troop flags of the Bundeswehr

The troop flags of the Austrian Armed Forces

Austrian standard (general side with federal eagle)

The army resulted in its creation called. Ensigns , which are similar to those of the old Austrian army. The basic color is white, on the front is the federal coat of arms in the middle , on the back is the coat of arms of the federal state in which the unit is stationed. The border is now red.

The standards of the Guard Battalion are an exception and, in the style of the Austro-Hungarian standard, are provided with a double-headed eagle on one side and a portrait of the Virgin Mary on the other. The basic color is slightly yellowish, the border is in the colors of the monarchy.

According to Austrian tradition, the standard is donated by the respective federal state.

Museum reception

The Vienna Army History Museum manages one of the largest collections of troop flags in the world. In the permanent exhibition, original pieces from all epochs are accessible to the public, with the emphasis on the Imperial Army or the later Common Army , Imperial and Royal Landwehr , Imperial and Royal Landwehr and the Navy . Special pieces: the Turkish standard ( Sancak-i Şerif ) captured off Vienna in 1683 , flags from the mourning decoration of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1736), the standard of the dragoon regiment "Eugene Prince of Savoy" (1711), the Austrian infantry flag pattern 1743 , the flag of the royal Prussian 17th field regiment from the time of King Frederick II and the prototype of an imperial and royal infantry regiment flag from 1915.

Web links

Commons : Former French regimental flags  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Martin Lezius : flags and standards of the old Prussian army ; Franckh'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1935
  2. MfNV - command 29/56 - Award of troops flags - from April 19, 1956
  3. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Graz, Vienna 2000, pp. 16, 20, 22, 26, 31.