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Naval Rank Flags (Germany)

kommandozeichen der marine

Last modified: 2014-05-25 by pete loeser
Keywords: rank | kommandozeichen |
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Introduction: German Military Rank Flags

The following flags which were rank flags of the German Navy through the Imperial, Weimar and Nazi periods were readopted [in 1956]: the warship pennant, admiral's, vice-admiral's, rear-admiral's, flotilla and division [and senior officer] pennants.
Norman Martin, February 1998

According to the navy regulation [Marine Dienstvorschrift] MDv 161/1 (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1977):

  • The presidential standard is hoisted on ships where the President is present. On ships flowing it no command signs or distinguishing signs may be hoisted.
  • Kommandozeichen or command flags shall indicate the place and the rank of a person aboard a ship:
  • Unterscheidungszeichen or distinguishing flags 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:
    • The Gruppenstander (group pennant) is the same as the Geschwaderstander (squadron pennant) and is used by the commanding officer of a temporary naval unit.
    • The Dienstaltersttander (seniority pennant) is the same as the Divisionsstander (division pennant) and is used in harbour by the most senior officer of the ships present there, if none of the ships use a command sign of higher rank than the masthead pennant.
  • Erkennungswimpel für Kraftboote or distinguishing pennants for motor boats 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.

Sources:

Marcus Schmöger, 21 November 2001

I quite understand the use of these distinguishing pennants for motor boats for army and air force, as well as for foreign general officers, but not quite its use for Marine admirals. In other words, in what circumstances would a German admiral use his distinguishing pennant (Erkennungswimpel) instead of the command flag (Kommandozeichen) - only "...if these are not available" i.e. when there is not an adequate stock of rank flags on board?
Santiago Dotor, 22 November 2001

The admirals' flags are not rank flags, but command signs, i.e. they are not used because the person using them is of admiral rank, but because he is the commanding officer of a ship or a naval unit, being of admiral rank. They are only used in the area of his personal command. So if he visits a different naval unit, he is not entitled to use the admiral's flag.
The distinguishing pennants for motor boats are something totally different, as I understand it. Actually, the only source for these pennants is the MDv 161/1 (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1977), that does not describe the use too thoroughly. As I understand it, these pennants indicate the rank (and not the position as a commanding officer). And they are not used aboard true warships or auxiliary ships of the navy, but aboard motor boats, i.e. for instance harbour launches or even boats of the army (engineer units). If these boats belonged to the naval unit under the command of that admiral, they would use his admiral's flag (command sign), though.
Marcus Schmöger, 23 November 2001


Flag of the Federal Chancellor and of the Minister of Defence

According to the navy regulation [Marine Dienstvorschrift] MDv 161/1 (Bundesministerium der Verteidigung 1977), the federal service flag is used as command flag (to indicate the place and the rank of a person aboard a ship) for the Bundesminister der Verteidigung (Minister of Defence) or the Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor) — that means basically in peacetime the Minister, in wartime the Chancellor.
Marcus Schmöger, 21 November 2001


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