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Flags of the World

Page created: 15th February 2004
Last updated: 27th October 2007
[The FAME - Flag and Arms of the Modern Era]

The FAME is a site devoted to the systematic and scientific study of flags and coats of arms. Such symbols often bear strong political and other messages. Inclusion of those symbols here does not mean that the author supports or approves of the ideas they may stand for.
[NSK - Digital Archives] This site is harvested for the NSK digital archives.

Austria-Hungary - Maritime Flags


The flags used on non-military vessels of the Empire are a complex story of its own. Since 18th century the Austrian tribar was established as the naval flag, and the same flag was also used as the only flag by the civil and government vessels until 1848 when the Hungarian tricolour was established and the Hungarians insisted it be used at least in their part of the state. The Ausgleich of 1869 introduced a new double flag as the merchant ensign, but the unfortunate inconclusive wording of the treaty left opened questions of the use of that flag on inland rivers and by the government ships (like customs and other authorities). The Hungarian side insisted on the use of the red-white-green tricolour, the Austrian side was kind of indifferent to the issue and the military authorities were insistent on the unique merchant practice and kept trying to remove the war ensign from civilian use. However, the issue remained ever unresolved until the break-up of the country with the end of the World War.


See also:

National Ensign, 1786 – 1869, Naval Ensign, 1869 – 1915, Naval Jack, 1786 – 1915

[National Ensign, 1786 – 1869, Naval Ensign, 1869 – 1915, Naval Jack, 1786 – 1915] [Normal] 2:3 [National Ensign, 1786 – 1869, Naval Ensign, 1869 – 1915, Naval Jack, 1786 – 1915]
Adopted: 20th March 1786
Abandoned: 10th October 1915
Source: P. Diem: Die Symbole Österreichs, Wien, 1995.
Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.

The Austrian red-white-red tribar with a crowned Austrian coat of arms was introduced as the naval ensign for the ships of the Monarchy in 1786. This was prescribed also as the jack. It was used also by all merchant ships until 1869, when a new merchant flag was introduced and this was prescribed to be exclusive flag of the war (naval) ships. However, the flag was not dropped from use - on the Austro-Hungarian ships navigating on the Danube while in Austrian part of the Monarchy and by the government ships on the Austrian part of the Adriatic, even if numerous attempts were made by the Naval department of the State Ministry of War to break up this practice. In the 1894 the new graphic layout was prescribed confirming the stylization that was already present in practice. A new war ensign was prescribed in 1915, but was not implemented in use due to the war conditions.
This ensign was also granted for use to the members of the imperial and royal yacht squadron (k. u. k. Yachtgeschwader) with a special grant.



Merchant Ensign, 1869 – 1918

Österreichisch-ungarische Handels-Flagge

[Merchant Ensign, 1869 – 1918] (1) [Variant] 2:3 [Civil and State Ensign]
[Merchant Ensign, 1869 – 1918] (2) [Variant] 2:3 [Civil and State Ensign]
[Merchant Ensign, 1869 – 1918] (3) [Variant] 2:3 [Civil and State Ensign]
Adopted: 1st August 1869
Abandoned: 1918
Source: P. Diem: Die Symbole Österreichs, Wien, 1995.
Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.
No. 28. Kundmachung des Handelsministeriums vom 6. März 1869, über die Einführung einer neuen Flagge für die See-Handelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie. Reichsgesetzblatt für das Kaiserthum Oesterreich 1869 (13.3.1869), p. 111 (+ plate)
No. 233. Kundmachung des Finanzministeriums vom 9. December 1896, betreffend die Einführung der Flagge für die Seehandelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie bei den k. k. Finanzwachschiffen.Reichsgesetzblatt für die im Reichsrathe vertretenen Königreiche und Länder 1896 (19.12.1896), p. 751 (+ plate)
"Flags of Maritime Nations, from the Most Authentic Sources", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, 1862. pl. 5
"Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7
Friedrich Heyer von Rosenfeld: "Die See-Flaggen, National und Provincial-Fahnen sowie Cocarden aller Laender", Verlag der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Wien, 1883 pl. 2
"Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 53
Ottfried Neubecker: "Fahnen und Flaggen. Eine bunte Fibel", L. Staackmann Verlag, Leipzig, 1939. pl. 87

The 1869 Ausgleich ("agreement" or "compromise" between Austria and Hungary that created the dual system) introduced a new merchant ensign "for the merchant ships at sea and the ships of inland (riverine) navigation abroad". The flag is a horizontal tricolour composed of red-white-red Austrian and red-white-green Hungarian colours so that the bottom stripe was vertically divided into red hoist and green fly half. At the middle of the hoist half is set the crowned Austrian coat of arms, as in the war ensign, and in the middle of the fly half is set the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen.
The interpretation of the wording of the Ausgleich by Hungarians was such that they insisted that the Austro-Hungarian ships on the Danube in the part under Hungarian jurisdiction fly the Hungarian national tricolour, while the flag in the Austrian half of the Danube was at first not clearly established, and the war ensign was continued to be used, but the dual ensign was finally introduced there in 1894. Introduction of the dual ensign for the government ships on Adriatic was also slow.
The image (1) the flag layout as pictured in the 1869 official gazette, (2) is from the 1896 gazette [note the incorrect number of stripes in the Hungarian coat of arms is in he original!] and (3) is one of the numerous stylized designs used in practice.



Hungarian Ensign, 1848 – 1918

[Hungarian Ensign, 1848 – 1918] [Variant] 2:3 [Civil and State Ensign]
Adopted: 1848
Abandoned: 1918
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.

The revolutionary government of Hungary of 1848 proclaimed a new constitution introducing the modern tricolour based on the historical heraldic colours red-white-green. Even though the revolution was soon put down, the Hungarian side has continued to call upon the decision of the 1848 Constitution as basis for their right to fly the Hungarian colours on ships in the waters under their jurisdiction. The unclear wording of the Ausgleich gave them here a strong legal argument that they never gave up. The decision in this sense were readopted in the Hungarian parliament in 1873 and 1882, and at least on 1st June 1975 the tricolour was being used by the two administrations (financial and maritime) in Rijeka.
The flag with the greater coat of arms is shown by Baumgartner, though probably the flags in use had the coat of arms hand-painted and many other artistic variants existed.
The flag was used by all Austro-Hungarian ships on the Danube navigating through the part of the river under Hungarian jurisdiction, which would first of all be the ships of the Danube Steam Shipping Company (Donau-Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft, DDSG). Baumgartner cites the Austrian writer Fritz von Herzmanovsky-Orlando (1877-1954) who describes how the ensigns on one ship navigating from Germany on the Danube would be replaced four times until reaching the Black Sea: leaving Passau, Germany, a ship navigating down the river to Engelshartszell (i.e. abroad) would fly the dual merchant flag, then entering the Austrian jurisdiction the war ensign would be hoisted until at Theben/Devin. From there the Hungarian national tricolour would be flown until leaving the Hungarian jurisdiction, when the dual flag would be again hoisted.
Similarly, the ships of the Hungarian administrative and customs services would, in spite of all the insistence of the Naval department, fly the tricolour. At times when the pressure was strongest, the dual flag would be accepted and the tricolour would be flown at mainmast or similar, but as it seems each time the giving up was always only for a short period of time.
The naval authorities pointed out several times that the Hungarian tricolour is a flag that is not internationally recognized and that such ships would not have the protection of the international maritime legislation, upon which the Hungarian side kept replying that the international regulations are of no interest since the ships are flying that flag at home, and that the central authorities should take action for the international recognition of the flag anyway.



Administrative Signal – Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration, 1884

[Administrative Signal – Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration, 1884] [Proposal] 10:11~
Adopted: 1884
Abandoned: 1884
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.

In 1884 the Royal Hungarian Agriculture, Industry and Trade Ministry notified the Harbour Admiralty in Pola/Pula that the three new ships of the Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration, Deli, Bator and Klotilde shall, instead of the dual ensign, fly the "flag in Hungarian colours" as shown here.
After a relatively strong answer of the Austrian side arguing the lack of international recognition of this flag, it was followed with a conclusion that "it must have been a misunderstanding", and the Hungarian Ministry gave up their initial intention and "explained" that the flag shall be used as administrative signal (bandiera distinazione) atop the mainmast, and that on the stern the dual ensign remains in use (even if it seems that the Hungarian ensign was used until that point). This flag is not mentioned in any further notes between the ministries, so it seems that it might have not been introduced into practical use.



Administrative Signal, 1893/1894

Adopted: 1893/1894
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.

After a lengthily discussion between several involved ministries in 1893/1894 finally agreement was reached on the designs of the administrative signals of the four administrations with jurisdiction in the Adriatic - as it has been decided already in 1869. The Emperor even signed them. Until the introduction of the signals the administrations did not want to use the merchant ensign, as that would make their ships indiscernible from the civil ships. Therefore they used either the war (Austrian) ensign or the Hungarian tricolour. However, the agreed patterns were never introduced into use, the maritime authorities continued with their previous practice until the breakdown of the Monarchy, while the financial signals were introduced of different design, in 1897 by the Austrian, and around 1900 by the Hungarian financial administration.
Baumgartner shows these signs with a "perspective" layout of the coats of arms, following the originals in Akten des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs/Kriegsarchivs-Präsidialkanzlei/Marinesektion.
Analogous rectangular flags for the chiefs of the administrations were also adopted to serve as distinction flags when they are aboard the ships.


Imperial and Royal Maritime Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)

[Imperial and Royal Maritime Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)] [Proposal] 2:3 [Imperial and Royal Maritime Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)]

The Austrian maritime administration with headquarters in Trieste and Zadar was given a triangular tricolour of red-white-red with stripes converging towards the fly point. In the middle is the Austrian coat of arms topped with a heraldic crown and in the canton there is a white fouled anchor.


Imperial and Royal Financial Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)

[Imperial and Royal Financial Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)] [Proposal] 2:3 [Imperial and Royal Financial Administration (Trieste/Trst and Zara/Zadar)]

The Austrian financial administration (performing customs inspections) with headquarters in Trieste and Zadar was given a triangular green flag. In the middle is the Austrian coat of arms topped with a heraldic crown.


Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)

[Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)] [Proposal] 2:3 [Royal Hungarian Maritime Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)]

The Hungarian maritime administration with headquarters in Rijeka was given a triangular tricolour of red-white-green with stripes converging towards the fly point. In the middle is the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen and in the canton there is a white fouled anchor.


Royal Hungarian Financial Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)

[Royal Hungarian Financial Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)] [Proposal] 2:3 [Royal Hungarian Financial Administration (Fiume/Rijeka)]

The Hungarian financial administration (performing customs inspections) with headquarters in Rijeka was given a triangular green flag. In the middle is the Hungarian coat of arms topped with the Crown of St. Stephen.



Inland Ensign, proposal 1896

[Inland Ensign, proposal 1896] [Proposal] 2:3
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.

In 1896 the Austrian Ministry of Trade informed the Naval department that, according to their wish, it was resolved with an "internal direction" of the DDSG that from now on in the Austrian part of the Monarchy they would use the dual merchant ensign, and no longer the war ensign. At the same time they offered, as a compromise towards a global solution, two proposals of the unique merchant ensign for inland navigation. Baumgartner shows one of the two. Such flag would be used on all ships on inland rivers in both state halves. Soon the Hungarian Prime Minister declined any possibility for a unique flag, since that matter was unambiguously solved in Hungary since 1848 and repeatedly requested that the Foreign Ministry begin the procedure for the international recognition of the Hungarian tricolour.



Administrative Signal – Imperial and Royal Financial Administration, 1897 – 1918

Dienstabzeichen (Wimpel) der K. k. Finanzwachschiffe

[Administrative Signal – Imperial and Royal Financial Administration, 1897 – 1918] 2:3 [Administrative Signal – Imperial and Royal Financial Administration, 1897 – 1918]
Adopted: 1897
Abandoned: 1918
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12. No. 233. Kundmachung des Finanzministeriums vom 9. December 1896, betreffend die Einführung der Flagge für die Seehandelsschiffe der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie bei den k. k. Finanzwachschiffen.Reichsgesetzblatt für die im Reichsrathe vertretenen Königreiche und Länder 1896 (19.12.1896), p. 751 (+ plate)
Moritz Ruhl: "Flaggenbuch", Reichs-Marine-Amt, Berlin, 1905. pl. II-49 pl. II-49, II-49-n
"Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 56

In September 1896 the k. k. Ministry of Finances and the k. u. k. Foreign Ministry (the k. k. Ministry of Trade was in the mean time dissolved) issued that all the involved ministries have come to agreement regarding the flags of the Imperial and Royal Financial Administration. All the previous decisions that allowed the Administration to hoist the war ensign were invalidated and since 1st January 1897 the Austrian financial ships flew the dual merchant ensign, and atop the mainmast a pennant as an administrative signal. For this purpose it was not used the already adopted design of 1893 with which all the sides were concordant, but a triangular pennant of white-red-white stripes with the coat of arms and the crown.
Some sources show the red-white-red pennant with horizontal stripes (above right), but this is considered to be an erroneous depiction never actually used.



Administrative Signal – Royal Hungarian Financial Administration, ca. 1900 – 1918

Dienstabzeichen (Wimpel) der königl. ungar. Finanzwachschiffe

[Administrative Signal – Royal Hungarian Financial Administration, ca. 1900 – 1918] 2:3
Adopted: between 1898 and 1908
Abandoned: 1918
Source: Lothar Baumgartner: “Zur Problematik der ungarischen Nationalflagge nach dem Ausgleich (1867-1915)”, Militaria Austriaca, VIII. Internationaler Kongress für Vexillologie Sonderdruck, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1979, pp. 5-12.
Moritz Ruhl: "Flaggenbuch", Reichs-Marine-Amt, Berlin, 1905. pl. II-49 II-49-n (nachtrag)
"Drawings of the Flags in Use at the Present Time by Various Nations", H. M. Stationery Office, Greenwich, 1907. pl. 56

The ships of the Royal Hungarian Financial Administration in Rijeka still used on the stern the Hungarian national flag. As the administrative signal at the mainmast here was also not introduced the pattern adopted in 1893, but the one with the arched inscription “M.K.PENZÜGY ÖRSEG” (= Royal Hungarian Financial Administration). The real date of the introduction of this pennant is not known, but must have been between 1898 and 1908 (Baumgartner). The H. M. Stationery Office flag book reports inscription to be “M.K.PÈENZÜGY ÖRSÉG”.



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