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German Signal Flags

Last modified: 2016-03-13 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: signal flags | germany |
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[Photograph of German Signal Code Flag "Rot"] Image from Lori McShane, 26 December 2013
German Signal Code Flag "Rot"

See other pages:

Overview

[German Signal Code Flag "Anton"]
Anton
[German Signal Code Flag "Ärger"];
Ärger
[German Signal Code Flag "Bruno"];
Bruno
[German Signal Code Flag "Cäsar"]
Cäsar
[German Signal Code Flag "Dora"]
Dora
[German Signal Code Flag "Emil"]
Emil
[German Signal Code Flag "Fritz"]
Fritz
[German Signal Code Flag "Gustav"]
Gustav
[German Signal Code Flag "Heinz"]
Heinz
[German Signal Code Flag "Ida"]
Ida
[German Signal Code Flag "Jot"]
Jot
[German Signal Code Flag "Kurfürst"]
Kurfürst
[German Signal Code Flag "Ludwig"]
Ludwig
[German Signal Code Flag "Marie"]
Marie
[German Signal Code Flag "Nordpol"]
Nordpol
[German Signal Code Flag "Otto"]
Otto
[German Signal Code Flag "Öse"]
Öse
[German Signal Code Flag "Paula"]
Paula
[German Signal Code Flag "Quelle"]
Quelle
[German Signal Code Flag "Richard"]
Richard
[German Signal Code Flag "Siegfried"]
Siegfried
[German Signal Code Flag "Toni"]
Toni
[German Signal Code Flag "Ulrich"]
Ulrich
[German Signal Code Flag "Übel"]
Übel
[German Signal Code Flag "Viktor"]
Viktor
[German Signal Code Flag "Wilhelm"]
Wilhelm
[German Signal Code Flag "Xanthippe"]
Xanthippe
[German Signal Code Flag "Ypern"]
Ypern
[German Signal Code Flag "Zeppelin"]
Zeppelin
[German Signal Code Flag "1"]
1
[German Signal Code Flag "2"]
2
[German Signal Code Flag "3"]
3
[German Signal Code Flag "4"]
4
[German Signal Code Flag "5"]
5
[German Signal Code Flag "6"]
6
[German Signal Code Flag "7"]
7
[German Signal Code Flag "8"]
8
[German Signal Code Flag "9"]
9
[German Signal Code Flag "0"]
0
[German Signal Code Flag "Rot"]
Rot
[German Signal Code Flag "Grün"]
Grün
[German Signal Code Flag "Gegensignal"]
Gegensignal

Sources

[Regarding the photograph]
This flag was brought back from Germany by my grandfather during World War II in 1945.
Lori McShane, 26 December 2013

I recently came across one page showing the flags used by the German navy during the second world war.
Helge Jacobsen 13 August 2003

The German "Schlag nach!" ([d9e38] and later editions) is a kind of pocket encyclopaedia; the title means something like "Look it up!". I own the second edition. The year 1939 is printed for its copyright, but the war reports bound in behind all other pages give developments until 20 June 1940. It would appear that this is a war edition.

In the back of the book, though before the war reports, is a kind of a colour supplement, and its final page, titled "Signalflaggen", shows two set of signal flags. The lower one is the "Neues Internationales Signalssystem" ('New International Signal System', the ICSF of 1934), which doesn't hold any surprises as far as I can see. The upper one, however, is "Nationale Signalflaggen" ('National Signal Flags', that is: German signal flags).
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Flags

This system of signal flags consist of 42 flags: 29 alphabet flags, 10 number flags and 3 special purpose flags (all rectangular unless described to be a different shape).

In the drawings all flags are approximately 8mm high and 11mm deep, except for Gegensignal, which is 10mm deep, and the numbers, which are 4mm high and 12 mm deep. I don't know whether the number flags really were less high, or whether they were drawn smaller to fit them on the page. However, the same differing sizes are used for the ICS flags lower on the page.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

In the book there are 21 flags that differ from the "New International Signal system" depicted below it. (The set uses flags unique to both the 1867 version and the 1933 version, but not those of the 1901 version. It also uses flags not occurring in any of these.) But even those flags that are familiar do not have the same meaning:
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 August 2003

Letter Flags

A ("Anton")

[German Signal Code Flag "Anton"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A white field with a red saltire. Similar to the ICSF flag "V":
[ICS 1934 Signal Victor]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Ä ("Ärger")

[German Signal Code Flag "Ärger"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A forked blue flag, with a white hoist. Similar to the ICSF flag "A":
[ICS 1934 Signal Alpha]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

B ("Bruno")

[German Signal Code Flag "Bruno"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A white field with a red diamond throughout. Similar to the ICSF flag "F":
[ICS 1934 Signal Foxtrot]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

C ("Cäsar")

[German Signal Code Flag "Cäsar"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A white field with a red border, a quarter of the height wide all around. Similar to the Royal Handbook of Signalling 1913 flag "9", but depicted with a less wide red border:
[RHS 9 flag]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

D ("Dora")

[German Signal Code Flag "Dora"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A blue flag with a red horizontal bar through the middle (3:2:3). Similar to the NATO flag "Three", but depicted with a less wide red bar:
[NATO Numeral Flag Three]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

E ("Emil")

[German Signal Code Flag "Emil"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A bicolour of three equally wide columns yellow and red. Similar to the ICSF pennant "0", but rectangular:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 0]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

F ("Fritz")

[German Signal Code Flag "Fritz"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A triangular blue flag with a white disk. Similar to the ICSF 1867 - 1901 flag "D".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

G ("Gustav")

[German Signal Code Flag "Gustav"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A yellow monocolour. Similar to the ICSF flag "Q":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter Q]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

H ("Heinz")

[German Signal Code Flag "Heinz"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A tricolour of three equally wide columns red, white, and blue. Similar to the ICSF flag "T":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter T]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

I ("Ida")

[German Signal Code Flag "Ida"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A white flag with a blue border and a red horizontal couped bar. Similar to the ICSF flag "W":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter W]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

J ("Jot")

[German Signal Code Flag "Jot"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Ten rising diagonal stripes alternating yellow and red. Similar to the ICSF flag "Y":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter Y]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

K ("Kurfürst")

[German Signal Code Flag "Kurfürst"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A white flag with a blue orthogonal cross. Similar to the ICSF flag "X":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter X]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

L ("Ludwig")

[German Signal Code Flag "Ludwig"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour of three equally wide stripes blue and white. Similar to the ICSF flag "J":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter J]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

M ("Marie")

[German Signal Code Flag "Marie"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour quartered blue and yellow. Similar to the ICSF 1867 flag "L".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

N ("Nordpol")

[German Signal Code Flag "Nordpol"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

5 stripes of a hard to determine ratio, red, white, green, white red, approximately (3:3:4:3:3). Similar to the ICSF flag "C", but with different colours:
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter C]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

O ("Otto")

[German Signal Code Flag "Otto"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour divided vertically, white and red. Similar to the ICSF flag "H":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter H]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Ö ("Öse")

[German Signal Code Flag "Öse"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour divided per falling diagonal, red over yellow. Similar to the ICSF flag "O":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter O]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

P ("Paula")

[German Signal Code Flag "Paula"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A blue field with a white saltire. Similar to the ICSF flag "M":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter M]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Q ("Quelle")

[German Signal Code Flag "Quelle"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Duodecimed of blue and white. Similar to the ICSF flag "N", but with less blocks:
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter N]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

R ("Richard")

[German Signal Code Flag "Richard"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A blue flag with a white horizontal couped bar. Similar to the ICSF flag "P":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter P]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

S ("Siegfried")

[German Signal Code Flag "Siegfried"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A white flag with a blue horizontal couped bar. Similar to the ICSF flag "S":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter S]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

T ("Toni")

[German Signal Code Flag "Toni"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour quartered per saltire white over red. Similar to the Soviet flag "West", but with the colours reversed:
[Soviet Navy Signal F9]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

U ("Ulrich")

[German Signal Code Flag "Ulrich"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour divided vertically, yellow and blue. Similar to the ICSF flag "K":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter K]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Ü ("Übel")

[German Signal Code Flag "Übel"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour quartered red and white. Similar to the ICSF flag "U":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter U]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

V ("Viktor")

[German Signal Code Flag "Viktor"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A triangular white flag with a red disk. Similar to the ICSF 1867 - 1901 flag "C".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

W ("Wilhelm")

[German Signal Code Flag "Wilhelm"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A red flag with a yellow orthogonal cross. Similar to the ICSF flag "R":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter R]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

X ("X" or "Xanthippe")

[German Signal Code Flag "Xanthippe"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A triangular red flag with a white disk.Similar to the ICSF 1867 flag "F".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Y ("Ypern")

[German Signal Code Flag "Ypern"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A triangular blue flag with a horizontal yellow bar, approximately (5:2:5). Similar to the Royal Handbook of Signalling 1913 flag "N", but with the colours reversed:
[RHS N]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Z ("Zet" or "Zeppelin")

[German Signal Code Flag "Zeppelin"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A forked red flag. Similar to the ICSF flag "B":
[ICS 1934 Signal Letter B]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008


"Zahlenwimpel" ('Number pennants')

Each number pennant is 4:12, tapering to 1. In the drawings they are 4mm high and 12 mm deep. I don't know whether the number pennants really were less high than the other flags, or whether they were drawn smaller to fit them on the page. However, the same differing sizes are used for the ICS flags lower on the page.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

All numerical pennants are depicted with their vertical division line at one third of the length. For the crosses this corresponds with the way the crossed pennants of the international code are depicted here.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 August 2003

1

[German Signal Code Flag "1"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A bicolour of 5 columns red and white, (6,4,5,3,6). I'm temped to regard the stripe ratio as a failed approximation of (3,2,2,2,3), but I'm not sure. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "Code", but the same size as the other pennants:
[ICS 1934 Answering Pennant]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 Augustus 2003, 13 March 2008

2

[German Signal Code Flag "2"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A flag with three falling diagonal stripes, blue, white, and red. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "3", but with diagonal divisions [and colours reversed]:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 3]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

3

[German Signal Code Flag "3"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A yellow field with a blue offset cross. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "8", but yellow and blue:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 8]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

4

[German Signal Code Flag "4"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A blue field with a white offset cross. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "4", but blue:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 4]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

5

[German Signal Code Flag "5"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Seven rising diagonal stripes alternating green and yellow.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

6

[German Signal Code Flag "6"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A red field with a white hoist. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "5", but red and white, or like "Otto" but pennant-shaped:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 5] [German Signal Letter O]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

7

[German Signal Code Flag "7"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A yellow field with a red hoist. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "5", but with red:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 5]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

8

[German Signal Code Flag "8"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

Quartered black and white. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "6", but quartered:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 6]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

9

[German Signal Code Flag "9"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A green field with a white hoist. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "5", but green and white:
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 5]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

0

[German Signal Code Flag "0"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

A white field with a red offset cross. Similar to the ICSF 1934 flag "8":
[ICS 1934 Signal Number 8]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008


Special Purpose Flags

In the drawings these flags are approximately 8mm high and 11mm deep, except for Gegensignal, which is 10mm deep
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

"Rot" (Red)

[German Signal Code Flag "Rot"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A red field with a black rising diagonal.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

[This flag is shown at the top of this page.]

"Grün" (Green)

[German Signal Code Flag "Grün"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008
A bicolour divided per falling diagonal, green over white.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

"Gegensignal" (Countersignal)

[German Signal Code Flag "Gegensignal"] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 March 2008

A trapezial flag tapering to 9/16 of the hoist, with six vertical stripes alternating white and blue. Similar to the NATO flag "Turn", though less tapered and with all stripes of equal width:
[NATO Special Flag Turn]
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008

This "gegensignal" is apparently some kind of answering pennant. Not exactly so, however, as that pennant in the international code is described in Schlag nach! as "Signalbuch und Antwortwimpel".
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 16 August 2003


Time Frame

Though obviously most flags have a different meaning from the ICSF, the only exception being the Siegfried/S, quite a few flags occur in both systems. The best match between the German flags and the ICSF is for the 1867 version of the ICSF: Only the G from that standard does not occur in the German system, and the reason for that may well be that only its shape distinguishes it from the K.

The 1901 version of the ICSF saw the introduction of the vowel flags. Four of these are used in the German system as well, in three cases, A, O, and U, they're used for the umlauted versions of the vowel they represent in the ICS; the last is the Jot/Y, where English Y and German Jot have similar pronunciation, and where it wasn't uncommon in Germany to use one signal for both Ida and Jot; the German morse alphabet was another such case. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to assume that these were new flags added to a German system that already included 25 letters.

The 1934 version of the ICSF includes number pennants, and the German system has the same distinction by shape for the number flags, counter to later systems, like the Soviet and NATO numerals. It would be tempting to ascribe that aspect of the German system to the ICSF 1934, but in fact, "Numeric" pennants already occur in the British Royal Handbook of Signalling of 1913. The only flag the German system shares specifically with the ICSF 1934 appears to be Bruno/F, and in this case the German system could equally well be the origin. Apart from the shape of the numeral pennants and some flags shared between all three systems, the German and British systems appear to have only the concept of red and green flags in common.

Considering all that, I find it likely the code was developed on the basis of the ICSF 1867, but different from that system included or came to include vowels already in the 19th century. At some point after the ICSF 1901 likewise introduced a full alphabet, four of the flags from that system were used in the German system to represent four additional letters, to allow representing any written German letter. Also at some points, the concepts of numeral pennants and red and green flags were included or introduced in both British and German systems, but I don't see enough of a pattern in the German system to say with certainty which, if either, was the source of those. The proceedings of the discussions leading up to the introduction of ICSF 1901, if they exist, might give more certainty regarding the indicated order of events.

As to its later history: If it was still in use in this version at the time of publication, it's probably unlikely to have survived past the end of the war. The time frame for the entire system then would be 1867-1945, with at least one modification at some point in time after 1901.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 13 March 2008


 
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