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Austro-Hungarian Military Rank Flags

Officers of the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army

Last modified: 2014-04-11 by rob raeside
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Rank Flags

In 1914, there were four general officer ranks: Field-Marshal ("Feldmarschall"), General, Lieutenant-General ("Feldmarschalleutnant") and Major-General ("Generalmajor"). Full generals added the name of their parent arm of service to their rank title: "General der Infantrie," "General der Kavallerie," and the old title "Feldzeugmeister"--Master General of Ordnance--for artillery generals.
Tom Gregg, 20 July 2002

The same regulations as applied to naval flags also determined a new set of "Service flags" (Dienst-Flaggen für Generale des k. und k. Heeres), adding the stars (and coats of arms, in the highest rank case) to the 1880 design of the General's Distinction Flag (and previous Admiral's flag). Unlike the previous square variant of this basic design, the Service flags were prescribed in a ratio of 8:9.

Field Marshall (Feldmarschall)

[Feldmarschall's flag] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The Feldmarschall's Flag (Feldmarschall) was the red-white-red triband with the crowned coat of arms and the black-yellow-black jack in the canton and defaced with three middle coats of arms of the Empire, one on each end of the white stripe and one in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

A photograph of this flag was posted on eBay in 2008 - image (stretched to orthogonal proportions) posted here. Information provided by poster:

"FLAG c 1895 AUSTRIA Field-Marshal 's STANDARD 90' x 74'
Rank flag representing the an Austrian Field Marshal (commanding general ) / "Feldmarschall". The crowned shield of Austria on a red / white / red (Austrian national colors) background surrounded with three Imperial eagles. There is a canton in black / yellow / black (Habsburg family colors). The reinforced side is wrapped around rope and has identification painted on. I can't make out the printing, but the date "V (May) 1895" is clear. Measures 90" x 74" . It is made of a sturdy wool fabric and is definitely a service flag having strong reinforcements for displaying or flying."
located by Bill Garrison, 4 August 2008

Master General of Ordnance (Feldzeugmeister) and Cavalry General (General der Kavallerie)

[Feldzeugmeister's flag] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The flag for Feldzeugmeister's or Cavalry General (Feldzeugmeister oder General der Cavallerie - this being two ranks of equal level, the first for engineers corps (ordnance) used in fact for artillery generals, the later for cavalry, of course) was the red-white-red triband with the crowned coat of arms and the black-yellow-black jack in the canton and defaced with three yellow eight-pointed stars, one on each end of the white stripe and one in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

Lieutenant General (Feldmarschall-Lieutenant) flag

[Feldzeugmeister's flag] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The flag for Feldzeugmeister's or Cavalry General (Feldzeugmeister oder General der Cavallerie - this being two ranks of equal level, the first for engineers corps (ordnance) used in fact for artillery generals, the later for cavalry, of course) was the red-white-red triband with the crowned coat of arms and the black-yellow-black jack in the canton and defaced with three yellow eight-pointed stars, one on each end of the white stripe and one in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

Major General  (Generalmajor)

[Feldzeugmeister's flag] image by Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

The flag for Feldzeugmeister's or Cavalry General (Feldzeugmeister oder General der Cavallerie - this being two ranks of equal level, the first for engineers corps (ordnance) used in fact for artillery generals, the later for cavalry, of course) was the red-white-red triband with the crowned coat of arms and the black-yellow-black jack in the canton and defaced with three yellow eight-pointed stars, one on each end of the white stripe and one in the middle of the lower red stripe.
Željko Heimer, 7 October 2007

Colonel General (Generaloberst)

According to the Rank Insignia site there was, at least in 1918 an additional rank "Generaloberst" just below "Feldmarschall".  This is not described by Siegel (1912) - however, it may be that it was added to the rank system after 1912 when Siegel was writing.
Željko Heimer, 15 October 2001

In 1915, the new rank of Colonel-General ("Generaloberst") was introduced. A Colonel-General ranked below a Field-Marshal and above a full general. This brought the Austro-Hungarian Army's rank structure for generals into line with the German Army practice.
Tom Gregg, 20 July 2002

In 1914, only the Emperor held the rank of Field-Marshal (though by 1918 several other generals had been promoted to this rank). The rank flag with eagles instead of stars was used by full generals in command of field armies, whereas a full general in command of a corps or in some other subordinate appointment would use the flag with three stars. During the war, the flag with eagles was probably used by the top three ranks, who would typically have commanded armies,
army groups and fronts. As far as I know, specific flags for the ranks of Field-Marshal and Colonel-General were never introduced.
Tom Gregg, 20 July 2002


Sources:

- Josef von Lehnert: "Beiträge zur Geschichte der k. k. Flagge. Vortrag, gehalten im militär-wissenschaftlichen Verein zu Wien am 13. März 1885", Organ der militär-wissenschaftlichen Vereine, nr. 31, Mayer, Wien 1886 pp. 4-5
- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische
Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 p. 29
- "Flags of Maritime Nations, from the Most Authentic Sources", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Navigation, Washington, 1862. pl. 5
- 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. 1
- "Flags of Maritime Nations", U.S. Department of the Navy, Bureau of Equipment, Washington, 1899. pl. 7


Service rank flags

The service flags were now established in an entirely new pattern, consisting of the red-white-red stripe along the hoist and a white rectangular field containing differentiating emblems.

Feldmarschall

[Admiral standard] image by Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

The emblems for Feldmarschall were in saltire crossed Marshall's staff and a sword over a laurel wreath.
Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

Generaloberst (Colonel General)

[Generaloberst] image by Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

The emblems for Generaloberst a laurel wreath with three six-pointed red stars, 1 and 2.
Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

Infantry General, Cavalry General and Feldzeugmeister

[Infantry General, a Cavalry General and a Feldzeugmeister] image by Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

The emblems in the flag for an Infantry General, a Cavalry General and a Feldzeugmeister were three red six-pointed stars one above two.
Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

Feldmarschalleutnant

[Feldmarschalleutnant ] image by Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

The emblems in the flag for Feldmarschalleutnant were two red six-pointed stars one above other.
Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

Major General

[Major General] image by Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007

The emblem in the flag for Major General was a single red six-pointed star in the middle of the fly white rectangular field.
Željko Heimer, 8 October 2007


1916/1917 proposals

The newly adopted flags in 1915 were not immediately introduced, and the person responsible for the process of introduction of the new flags in the Naval Section of the Ministry of War was given to Rear-Admiral von Khuepach. As an experienced naval officer, von Khuepach proposed a number of appropriate changes and additions to the 1915 flag set. He proposed four different flags for use in the military according to the use. Unfortunately, the design details (graphics) are unknown. [Khuepach; Baumgartner, 1977]

k. k. Flagge (Austria Army Flag)
The keiserlich königlich Flagge was to be hoisted by the Austrian army (k. k. Landwehr) garrisons. The design was to be same as the previous naval ensign, i.e. the red-white-red triband with the Austrian coat of arms by the hoist.

k. u. k. Flagge (Joint Army Flag)
The keiserlich und königlich Flagge was to be the ceremonial version for garrisons, the triband with the two coats of arms, apparently like the naval ensign adopted in 1915 but with the Hungarian coat of arms proper, not only bars as in the naval ensign (and possibly with green part - like the 1869 merchant ensign?).

k. u. Flagge (Hungarian Army Flag)
The königlich ungarisch Flagge was to be hoisted by the Hungarian army - home defence (Kiraly Magyar Honvedseg) garrisons. The design was (probably) the Hungarian tricolour with the Hungarian coat of arms.

k. u. k. Kriegsflagge (Austruian-Hungarian Naval Ensign)
The keiserlich und königlich Kriegsflagge was to be the actual 1915 naval ensign to be hoisted on the stern of the naval ships and from the coastal fortresses.

The already serious war shortages and soon to follow break up of the Dual Monarchy prevented these flags ever being introduced for use.
[Not to speculate - the introduction of such Hungarian flags into Honvedseg would have been politically very difficult, to say the least, into Croatian part of the army - as was impossible on several previous occasions when Austrian and Hungarian flags and coats of arms were being forced upon Croatia in 19th and 20th century - resulting with small uprisings and riots and every time reverting to the Croatian symbols. Also the Croatian part of army, unlike the rest of the Hondvedseg, had Croatian as the official language. But this is all what would have been if...]

Sources:
- Arthur von Khuepach: "Interessantes aus der österreichisch-ungarischen Kriegsmarine", Marine-Rundschau, nr. 46, Mönch, Bonn, 1941.
- Lothar Baumgartner: Die Entwicklung der österreichischen Marineflagge, Militaria Austriaca, Gesellschaft für Österreichische Heereskunde, Wien, 1977 p. 34
Željko Heimer, 12 October 2012


Seniority Pennant

[Austria-Hungary Fieldmarshall] 4:9 image by Željko Heimer, 9 October 2000

Pennant in the same colours and design as the Ensign since 1786, forked and with a shortened middle stripe, ratio 4:9: Seniority Standard since 1880, probably. 
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg

Also used as Commodore flag.


Dates of Adoption of Military Rank Flags

Initially I assumed all these flags were adopted after 1867, but as far as I can see today, I have no special reason for concluding that date. The year 1828 could also be one possibility when a similar starless flag was adopted for the Admiral (of any rank) but I don't actually see why it couldn't have been used before.
Željko Heimer, 15 October 2001

The information I have on Austro-Hungarian rank flags is virtually all from Baumgartner's Die Entwicklung der Österreichischen Marineflagge [bmg77]: He gives the adoption date of 1894 (source: Flaggen-Normale der k.u.k Kriegsmarine 1896 (supp.1902)--in use to 1918). 

The flag change of October 1915 created flags of different design for:

  1. Feldmarschall
  2. Generaloberst
  3. General der Infanterie, Kavallerie, Feldzeugmeister
  4. Feldmarschalleutnant
  5. Generalmajor

However although the 1915 changes were published in the following year, it appears that they probably never actually came into use - or at least, never came into general use (with the exception of the new standards for the Imperial family).

Baumgartner quotes Lehnert (1886) regarding the change in command after 1853-54 as being dated 1880, but claims that it actually was published by the State Publishing House in 1874. This change involved: 

  1. The former "Grossadmiralflagge was renamed the "Kommandoflagge für Admirale" (I think this means: for all admiral ranks - in any event no other flag for Grossadmiral, Vize-Admiral or Konter-Admiral)
  2. The former "Admiralsflagge" became the "Distinktionsflagge für Generale der k.k.Heeres" (again I think this means all generals and not only full generals, but I could be wrong)
  3. No change in the Commodore's flag
  4. A new seniority pennant. 

The next change was in 1894 and provided for special flags for various ranks of admirals and generals but does not mention "Grossadmiral". In referring to the 1874(1880?)-1894 flags Baumgartner refers to the three ranks of admiral so that perhaps there were no Grossadmirals between 1874 and 1915.
Norman Martin, 16 October 2001