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France: Navy unit pennants

Last modified: 2018-11-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: pennant |
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Presentation of the Navy unit pennants

Originally used to signal units on land or landing corpses, the pennants, non mandatory, were purchased by the units. Today the symbols of the moral statutes of the units, the pennants are strictly regulated. Their design must be approved by the Chief of Staff of the Navy before they can be manufactured by the Navy relevant services. The decorations granted to the unit are pinned on the pennant.
The pennants of the disbanded units are kept by the Historical Service of the Navy and showed in a honour room of the Queen's Pavilion in the Castle of Vincennes, where they can be seen every Wednesday, 14:00-17:00.
[Rear Admiral Kessler. Les témoins du sacrifice. Cols Bleus, No. 2326, 11 November 1995]

Ivan Sache, 14 March 2009

The Navy has two sorts of pennants: unit pennants (mostly ships) and company pennants, the latter being used only by pupils of Naval schools. The pennants appear in two sizes: "B" pennants (40 cm x 50 cm) and "C" (30 cm x 40 cm), used by companies. Apparently, the colors are not regulated.

The obverse bears the embroidered name of the unit, anchors are optional. The reverse has a symbolic emblem. The symbolic emblem has to be approved:
- for local Naval authorities, commandements organiques (operational branches), Naval Air Force bases and units, the emblem is an escutcheon, in proportions 13:16, with a chief azure, a Naval Air Force emblem or and a mural crown or. Maritime Prefect services' escutcheons have a mural crown with five towers, and are supported by two rostres (naval rams stylized as some sort of tridents);
- for other units, the choice of the emblem is free as long as they are not too fanciful and chosen with "good taste". The only obligation is that the emblem must include either an anchor or rigging.
A pennant can have a golden fringe of 3 cm at most. The homologation number, preceded by letter "M", is reproduced on the sleeve, in the same color as the field. The finial is either a pike or an anchor (long of 10 cm at most) and its size is proportional to the size of the pennant.
A pennant cannot receive military honors, and cannot escort a flag or be escorted. The département decides which units can have pennants and which their size will be. The school directors assign pennants to their companies.


- Official texts

  • Instruction No. 77/EMM/PL/ORG relative au cérémonial dans la marine, version No. 3, 6 November 2008 (text)
  • Circulaire No. 249/DEF/CEMM relative à la symbolique militaire, 13 May 2004 (text)

- Navy websites

Corentin Chamboredon, 29 August 2015

List of Navy units with a pennant

Here is the list, no longer accurate, of unit pennants as given by Rear Admiral Kessler (Les témoins du sacrifice. Cols Bleus, No. 2326, 11 November 1995).

Fighting vessels


Le Téméraire (S 617)
Le Triomphant (S 616)
L'Inflexible (S 615)
L'Indomptable (S 613)
Perle (S 606)
Améthyste (S 605)
Émeraude (S 604)
Casabianca (S 603)
Saphir (S 602)
Rubis (S 601)

Surveillance frigates

Floréal (F 730)
Prairial (F 731)
Nivôse (F 732)
Ventôse (F 733)
Vendémiaire (F 734)
Germinal (F 735)

Landing-barge transport vessels

Foudre (L 9011)
Siroco (L 9012)
Ouragan (L 9011)
Orage (L 9012)
Aircraft carriers

Charles de Gaulle (R 91)
Jeanne d'Arc (R 97)

Corvettes (avisos)

Lieutenant de Vaisseau Le Hénaff (F 789)
Lieutenant de Vaisseau Lavallée (F 790)
Commandant l'Herminier (F 791)
Premier Maître l'Her (F 792)
Commandant Blaison (F 793)
Enseigne de Vaisseau Jacoubet (F 794)
Commandant Ducuing (F 795)
Commandant Birot (F 796)
Commandant Bouan (F 797)

P400-type patrol boats

L'Audacieuse (P 682)
La Boudeuse (P 683)
La Capricieuse (P 684)
La Fougueuse (P 685)
La Glorieuse (P 686)
La Gracieuse (P 687)
La Moqueuse (P 688)
La Railleuse (P 689)
La Rieuse (P 690)
La Tapageuse (P 691)
Anti-aircraft frigates

Duquesne (D 603)
Cassard (D 614)
Jean Bart (D 615)

Light-transport vessels

Champlain (L 9030)
Francis Garnier (L 9031)
Dumont d'Urville (L 9032)
Jacques Cartier (L 9033)
La Grandière (L 9034)

Other patrol boats

Albatros (P 681)
Flamant (P 676)
Cormoran (P 677)
Pluvier (P 678)
Grèbe (P 676)
Sterne (P 680)
Anti-submarine frigates

Tourville (D 610)
De Grasse (D 612)
Georges Leygues (D 640)
Dupleix (D 641)
Montcalm (D 642)
Jean de Vienne (D 643)
Primauguet (D 644)
La Motte-Picquet (D 645)
Latouche-Tréville (D 646)

Landing barges and vessels

Flotille amphibie
Sabre (L 9051)
Rapière (L 9061)
Hallebarde (L 9062)
La Fayette-type frigates

La Fayette (F 710)
Surcouf (F 711)
Courbet (F 712)
Aconit (F 713)
Guépratte (F 714)


Éridan (M 641)
Cassiopée (M 642)
Andromède (M 643)
Pégase (M 644)
Orion (M 645)
Croix du Sud (M 646)
L'Aigle (M 647)
Lyre (M 648)
Persée (M 649)
Sagittaire (M 650)
Verseau (M651)
Céphée (M 652)
Capricorne (M 653)

Support vessels

Resupplying tankers

Meuse (A 607)
Var (A 608)
Marne (A 630)
Somme (A 631)
Hydrographic vessels

Lapérouse (A 791)
Borda (A 792)
Laplace (A 793)
Arago (A 795)
Experimentation vessels

Monge (A 601)
Bougainville (L 9077)
D'Entrecasteaux (A 787)
Operating-forces support vessels

Loire (A 615)
Jules Verne (A 620)

On-land units

Marines and commandos

Marines and commandos base (Base des fusiliers marins et commandos)
Brest Marines Group (Groupement des fusiliers marins de Brest) (photo)
Toulon Marines Group (Groupement des fusiliers marins de Toulon)
Cherbourg Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de Cherbourg)
Lann-Bihoué Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de Lann-Bihoué) (photo)
Nîmes-Garons Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de Nîmes-Garons)
South France Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de France Sud)
Rosnay Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de Rosnay)
L'Île-Longue Marines Company (Compagnie de fusiliers marins de l'Île-Longue)
Jaubert Commando
Trépel Commando
De Montfort Commando
De Penfentenyo Commando
Hubert Commando

Navy air bases, entrepôts and centers

Landivisiau Navy Air Base (Base aéronautique navale de Landivisiau)
Lanvéoc-Poulmic Navy Air Base
Lann-Bihoué Navy Air Base
Saint-Mandrier Navy Air Base
Nîmes-Garons Navy Air Base
HyÉres Navy Air Base
Tontouta Navy Air Base
Cuers-Pierrefeu Navy Air Base
Dugny-Le Bourget Navy Air Base
Toussus-le-Noble Navy Air Base
Lann-Bihoué Navy Air Main Entrepôt (Entrepôt principal de l'aéronautique navale de Lann-Bihoué)
Cuers Navy Air Main Entrepôt
Millé Center (Centre Millé)

Navy Air Squadrons

10 S (Lynx, Alouette III)
22 S (Alouette III)
50 S (Rallye, Cap 10)
56 S (Nord 232)
57 S (Falcon 10)

Marseilles Navy Firefighters Battalion

1st Company (Endoume)
2nd Company (Louvain)
3rd Company (Saint-Pierre)
4th Company (Plombières)
5th Company (La Bigue)
6th Company (Plombières Technical Center)
7th Company (Port-de-Bouc)
8th Company (Navy Firefighters College) (photo)
9th Company (Command and Support Company)
10th Company (Marignane)
11th Company (Plombières Medical Center)

Navy Instruction Centers

Brest Navy Instruction Center (Centre d'instruction naval de Brest)
Petty Officers College, 1st Company (École de maistrance, 1e compagnie)
Petty Officers College, 2nd Company
Petty Officers College, 3rd Company
Petty Officers College, 4th Company
Petty Officers College, 5th Company
Seamen Class, 11th Company (Cours des matelots, 11e compagnie)
Seamen Class, 12th Company
Seamen Class, 13th Company
Navy Higher Military Instruction (Préparation militaire supérieure marine)
Querqueville Navy Instruction Center
Saint-Mandrier Navy Instruction Center
Submarine force on-land units

L'Île-Longue Base
Mediterranean Base
Training Center of Submarine Forces (Centre de préparation des forces sous-marines)
Missile-throwing Submarine Squadron (Escadrille des sous-marins lanceurs d'engins)
Attack Nuclear Submarine Squadron (Escadrille des sous-marins nucléaires d'attaque)
Acoustic Interpretation and Identification Center (Centre d'interprétation et de reconnaissance acoustique)
Rosnay Transmission Center (Centre de transmissions de Rosnay)

Navy Air Flotillas

4 F (Hawkeye)
11 F (Super-Étendard)
12 F (Rafale M)
17 F (Super-Étendard)
21 F (Atlantique 2)
23 F (Atlantique 2)
24 F (Falcon 50, Nord 262, Xingu)
25 F (Gardian)
28 F (Nord 262, Xingu)
31 F (Lynx)
32 F (Super-Frelon)
34 F (Lynx)
35 F (Dauphin, Alouette III)
36 F (Panther)

Navy bases

Adour Navy Base (Base navale de l'Adour)
Fort-de-France Navy Base
Nouméa Navy Base
Papeete Navy Base
Ports des Galets Navy Base

Navy Colleges

Salon-de-Provence Navy Air College (École d'aéronautique navale de Salon-de-Provence)
Navy Air College (École d'aéronautique de la Marine)
Atomic Energy Military Applications College (École des applications militaires de l'énergie atomique)
Marines College (École des fusiliers marins) (photo)
Navy Firefighters College (École des marins-pompiers)
Harbingers College (École des fourriers)
Maneuver and Navigation College (École de manœuvre et de navigation)
Takeoff Deck Staff College (École du personnel de pont d'envol)
Diving College (École de plongée)
Naval Command Colleges' Group (Groupe des écoles du commissariat de la Marine)
Embarked Helicopters Specialization College (École de spécialisation sur hélicoptères embarqués)
Flying Staff College (École du personnel volant)
Hyères Training and Instruction Center (Centre d'entraînement et d'instruction de Hyères)
Lanvéoc-Poulmic Training and Instruction Center

Recently decommissioned vessels

Garonne (A 601)
Oléron (A 610)
Second Maître Le Bihan (F 788)

Ivan Sache & Esteban Rivera, 30 August 2015

Badge of the Navy Air Force units

The badges (description) used by Navy Air Force units are regulated by Ministerial Decree No 2789 EMG/M/AERO/0 of 31 October 1946. Claiming that most badges used beforehand had no elements related to the Navy Air Force, the Minister stated that:
- the badge should be made of a shield of modern shape, in proportions 13:16;
- the chief of the badge should have an height of 3/16 of the height of the badge and bear the "penguin", that is the emblem of the Navy Air Force (an anchor with a star in its upper part, over two wings, all in gold);
- the emblem of the unit should be placed in the main field of the shield.
On 7 February 1947, the Decree was amended, prescribing the addition of a golden mural crown surmounting the shield of the Navy Air bases, considered as "fortified towns" (places), and of the name of the base on the shield.
In 1951, an official homologation procedure of the badges was set up, the approved badges being numbered "M ...", "M" standing for "Marine" (Navy). Decree No. 808 EMM/CAB of 5 December 1985 did not change anything to the prescription of the unit badges.

Differences in details of the badges are due to manufacturer's license or even gross mistake. The Fréjus-Saint-Raphaêl base was granted a badge without the crown while the 31F squad was granted a badge with the crown, quickly corrected.

Ivan Sache, 23 March 2009

Tradition pennants

The pavillon de tradition (tradition pennant) is offered to a ship by her patron town. The pennant is flown when the ship receives supplies, fuel or mail when at sea or, sometimes, when visiting the patron town. The pennant of a decommissioned ship shall be offered to her patron town. Part of the tradition stuff (unit pennant, tampion, memorial plates) the pennant is not official. As exaplmes:

- the corvette Commandant L'Herminier uses a Jolly Roger adorned with emblems commemorating battles. The Jolly Roger offered to the namesake officer in 1943 by a British officer is still kept by his former submarine, the Casabianca. When the corvette was named after L'Herminier, her tradition flag therefore also became a Jolly Roger (Le Télégramme, 20 March 2015).
- the operating-forces support vessel Jules Verne (now decommissioned) used a white flag with the face of the famous writer in the middle and lines of text. Above there is "Jules Verne" and below there are on two lines "SOUTENIR POUR VAINCRE / SUPPORT AND OVERCOME" (photo).
- the frigate Courbet uses a white flag with a red dragon holding a white sword in one of its legs, and surrounded by Navy blue stylized birds (photo).
- the patrol boat La Rieuse (now devommissioned) used a white flag with a laughing seagull holding a French sailor cap, the laughter appearing in the form of a red text (photo). This bird is a character from the French-Belgian gag-a-day comic strip Gaston Lagaffe.
- the corvette Lavallée uses a red flag charged with the coat of arms of the town of Saint-Nazaire, the shield laying on a scroll and being surrounded by an ermine spot and a leaf (photo). There is a sword behind the shield. There are two lines of text. Above there is "LAVALLÉE" and below "APERIT ET NEMO CLAUDIT" (the town's motto, It Opens but Noboby Closes).

Corentin Chamboredon, 20 April 2016

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