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South Africa Naval Flags

Last modified: 2013-04-05 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
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 image by Martin Grieve, 24 Aug 2005 See also:

South African Naval Ensign (1994 - )

The new South African Naval Ensign is the same as that used previously except the new SA national flag is in the canton and the badge of the Navy no longer appears in the fly. It was the third version of the SA Naval Ensign which comprised the former SA flag in the canton with a green Scandinavian cross on a white background in the proportion 1:2 in use between 1952-1959. Thereafter between 1959 and 1981 a white fimbriation was added around the national flag to separate it from the cross. In 1981 the Naval emblem was added to the lower fly and the proportions changed to 2:3 (as in the case of the National flag). This version was used until 1994 when the new flag was added and once again the naval emblem was dropped from the fly - the proportions remain 2:3.
Bruce Berry, 06 March 1996

With the adoption of the new South African national flag on 27 April 1994, the use of the previous naval ensign containing the old national flag was no longer appropriate. Hence a new South African naval ensign was approved by the Chief of the South African National Defence Force on 29 September 1994. This design differs from its immediate predecessor in that new national flag appears in the canton and the navy emblem no longer appears in the lower fly. The new ensign is thus:
"a rectangular white flag, in the proportions of two to three; with thereon a dark green cross; and having in the upper hoist canton the national flag of the Republic of South Africa, with a white fimbriation".

It also needs to be noted that the shade of green has been standardised so that the green cross and the green "pall" of the national flag are now both the same shade - PMS 349 - whereas previously the cross was the darker "tartan green".

image by Martin Grieve, 24 Aug 2005

As with the other arms of the Defence Force, the navy has also recently adopted a new emblem to replace that based on the Cape Castle outline. As the emblem is no longer on the ensign, the pattern of the ensign is no affected by the change in emblem.

The new naval ensign was carried for the first time at a Defence Force parade held in Pietersburg on 11 November 1994 and hoisted on the Ensign Staff of naval vessels at noon on the same day. Between 27 April and noon on 11 November 1994, the South African National Flag served as a temporary ensign.
Bruce Berry, 23 Apr, 2004

A new emblem appears on the SA Navy website. When was this "anchor" emblem introduced? Is the emblem a part of any flag?
Kristian Söderberg, 28 Jan 2006

The emblem was introduced in in 2002/3 along with new emblems for all the other arms of the South African National Defence Force.

The new emblems appear on all the flags of the various Arms, i.e. Army, Air Force, Military Health Service, but not on the Naval Ensign. The introduction of the old emblem on the Naval Ensign in 1981 caused much unhappiness in the Navy, so that when the new national flag was introduced in 1994 and replaced the old national flag on the flags of all the Arms of the Service, the Naval Board decided to keep the Naval ensign clean, i.e. not to put the emblem back in the lower fly canton as was the case with the 1981 ensign. This decision stood when the new emblems were introduced in 2003. The Naval Ensign is therefore the only one of the SANDF's ensigns which does not carry an emblem. The new Navy emblem is used mainly as a letterhead and for similar purposes.
Andre Burgers, 28 Jan 2006


South African Naval Ensign (1981 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 23 Apr 2004

On 05 March 1981, a new ensign was adopted. This flag changed the proportions of the naval ensign to 2:3. The green cross on white with a fimbriated national flag in the canton was retained; however, the naval badge, the crest of the South African Coat of Arms on a blue ground plan of the Castle of Good Hope, was placed in the lower fly quarter. This flag was flown until 1994.

From 27 April 1994 until 11 November 1994, the South African Navy used the national flag as the naval ensign. The Republic of South Africa changed its naval ensign on 29 September 1994. The ensign removed the naval badge and replaced the old national flag with the current national flag. It was officially taken into use on 11 November 1994.

There is a South African Naval Colour that consists of the naval ensign charged with the crest from the coat of arms in the lower quarter."
Sources: SAVA Journal 2/93, "Flags of the Union Defence Forces and of the South African Defence Force, 1912-1993 [hhs93] ;" SAVA Newsletter, 11/94; SAVA Newsletter, 17/96."
Paige Herring, 16 Mar 1998

On 05 March 1981, the Chief of the South African Defence Force approved a new design for the South African naval ensign, namely:
"a rectangular white flag, in the proportions of two to three; with thereon a dark green cross; and having in the upper hoist canton the national flag of the Republic of South Africa, with a white fimbriation; and in the lower fly the emblem of the South African navy, to wit:

On a dark blue ground plan of the Castle of Good Hope of the same shade as the blue stripe in the National Flag, a gold lion passant guardant standing upon a wreath of six links, alternately white and red; and resting the dexter forepaw on four vertical staves, alternatively gold and dark blue and tied together with a gold ribbon".

  image by Martin Grieve, 23 Apr 2004

This ensign was hoisted with appropriate honours as "Colours" on 31 May 1981 and was also carried at a parade held in Durban on the same day and continued in use until the change in the national flag on 27 April 1994.
Bruce Berry, 23 Apr, 2004


South African Naval Ensign (1952 - 1981)

  image by Martin Grieve, 26 Apr 2004

The third naval ensign reverted back to the British tradition. This version, adopted 14 November 1952, was 'a dark green cross on a white background with the Union National Flag in the upper canton next to the hoist.' Because the design specified that the national flag should be of 2:3 proportion, the flag (1:2 proportion) had a distinctive Scandinavian cross look. The third South African naval ensign flew until 1959, when a white fimbriation was added to separate the national flag from the green cross.
Paige Herring, 16 Mar 1998

On 14 November 1952 notice was given under Government Notice No. 2633 in the Government Gazette that with effect from 25 March 1952, the South African navy had adopted as its ensign:
"a dark green cross on a white background with the Union of National Flag in the upper canton next to the hoist".

This notice cancelled Government Notice No. 1550 of 26 July 1946, in terms of which the first South African naval ensign had been adopted.

The third design for the South African naval ensign marked a return to the traditional of the British white ensign with overall proportions of one to two. The width of the dark green cross was one-quarter of the width of the flag and the horizontal arm lay along the centre of the flag. The vertical arm of the cross was placed such that the canton next to the hoist had the proportion of two to three (for the national flag). In its original form, this design of the naval ensign had the national flag placed directly against the vertical and horizontal arms of the
dark green cross. However in 1959, in terms of South African Defence Force Order No. 63, it was stated that the national flag should be separated from the dark green cross by a narrow white stripe (fimbriation) as shown below.

The choice of dark green for the cross in 1952 has influenced all subsequent naval ensigns used in South Africa. HH Smith (1993) reports that green may have been chosen rather than the red as found on the British white ensign and other naval flags since green was the vertical stripe at the hoist of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek flag.

There was a further proposed amendment to this design in 1967 to add to the lower fly the crest from the South African Coat of Arms, namely:
"On a wreath of colours (white and red), a lion passant guardant Gules, supporting with the dexter forepaw four staves erect, alternatively Argent and Azure and banded Or".

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

Although the South African State Herald was furnished with an approved art card for this amended design, this ensign was never taken into use. Instead, the design formed the basis of the Naval Colour which was designed in August 1968 and presented to the Navy by Mr PW Botha, then Minister of Defence on 12 April 1969.

The naval ensign, with fimbriation, was used until a new ensign was adopted on 31 May 1981.

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004


South African Naval Ensign (1951 - 1952)

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

A new design for the South African naval ensign was recommended by Commodore FJ Dean OBE, then the Director-General of Naval Forces on 15 May 1951, namely: "the national flag of the Union of South Africa with an upper hoist canton consisting of three equally wide horizontal stripes from top to bottom or orange, white and blue. The white stripe of the canton charged with a lion passant guardant Gules, supporting with the dexter paw four staves erect, alternatively Argent and Azure and banded Or, from the crest of the Coat of Arms of the Union of South Africa" (see image below).

  image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

This ensign was approved on 31 May 1951 but HH Smith (1993) reports that it appears not to have found favour in naval circles and as such it was never flown. This design was also criticised by Dr C Pama - a leading figure in heraldry and vexillology in South Africa - who suggested that the canton should be omitted and the red lion replace the three small flags in the centre of the South African flag instead.

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

At the same time as this second design of the South African naval ensign had been proposed, a personal flag to be flown at sea by the Minister of Defence was announced. This flag was of the same design as the naval ensign but with a fouled anchor in the fly. According to HH Smith, printed references refer to the anchor as being orange, but he received a letter from the Chief of the Navy referring to a black anchor. Although the Chief of the Navy stated that this flag was never used, it is referred to in an article by Capt. MF Stern on the flags of South Africa published in the spring 1963 issue of The Flag Bulletin that the Minister of Defence did indeed fly this ensign in late 1951.
Bruce Berry, 28 Apr 2004


South African Naval Ensign (1946 - 1951)

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

Following World War II, the South African military discarded the British White Ensign and began to use a solid white ensign with the South African flag in the canton. Adopted in 1946, the flag was in 1:2 proportion. As a result, the national flag, as well as the flags in the center, had to have a 1:2 proportion (Union Nationality and Flags Act of 1927). This ensign was changed due to the fact that it was difficult to identify.
Paige Herring, 16 Mar 1998

Prior to 01 September 1946, ships of the South African navy flew the British white ensign and the South African national flag as a jack. The first specifically South African naval ensign was "a plain white flag with the national Flag in the upper dexter canton". No proportions were gazetted but the ensign followed the British tradition of being one to two, giving the South African flag in the canton incorrect proportions. It was soon apparent that the new ensign was not a good flag from a practical point of view. In particular it was difficult to identify at sea in conditions of bad visibility and it was not popular with naval personnel who referred to it as the "witdoek" (literally 'white cloth'). As a result there was a recommendation to change the design in 1951.
(Source: SAVA Journal 2/93: Flags of the Union Defence Forces and of the South African Defence Force, 1912-1993 by Prof. HH Smith) [hhs93].
Bruce Berry, 28 Apr 2004

From the sources indicted below it would seem that we have the wrong year for the adoption of the South African Naval Force Ensign.

11th March 1947. South African Department of External Affairs informed the British Admiralty that South African Naval Force ships wear the South African White Ensign.
No date of introduction given.

South Africa Government Gazette 26th July 1947. No.1550. It is hereby notified for general information that the Union Government has decided that with effect 1st September 1947 the South African Naval Force will adopt as their ensign a plain white flag with the National Flag in the upper dexter canton. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/19753].
David Prothero, 18 Mar 2005

Here follows an extract from 'The South African Flag Book' to be published soon. The information comes from SAVA Journal SJ: 2/93 and the contents entitled:
'Flags of the Union Defence Forces and of the South African Defence Force 1912-1993' by the late Professor Hugh H. Smith. He did his research directly at the South African National Defence Force and National Archives.

"The first South African Naval Ensign (1946 - 1951) - On 17 September 1945, the then Minister of Education and Finance, the Hon. J.H. Hofmeyr, recommended to the Minister of Defence that: The British white ensign with the shield of the Union of South Africa's coat of arms in the lower left hand side should be used as the ensign of the South African Naval Services.

It is not possible to establish if the 'lower left hand side' was intended to mean the heraldic left - the lower side of the fly - or if it was intended to mean the left hand side from the point of view of a person looking at the flag, i.e. the lower hoist.

That no action was taken to implement this recommendation is clear from the fact that, at a staff conference held on 8 November 1945, it was decided that the then Chief of the General Staff - General Sir Pierre van Ryneveld - should recommend a new naval ensign to the Prime Minister - Field Marshal Jan Smuts. The new ensign was to be:
a white flag with the national flag of the Union of South Africa in the upper dexter canton.

At a staff conference held on 6 December 1945 it was announced that the above recommendation had been accepted; and on 26 July 1946 Government Notice No 1550, published in Government Gazette 3684 notifying 'for public information' that:
"the Union Government have decided that, with effect from 1st September 1946, the South African Naval Forces will adopt as their ensign a plain white flag with the National Flag in the upper dexter canton."

No proportions were specified in the notice in the Government Gazette, but in fact as shown in Figure 6.20 of SJ: 2/93, the ensign had the proportions of one to two; and the National flag of the Union filled the whole of the upper hoist canton. This followed the proportions of the White Ensign. It meant, however, that the three flaglets in the centre of the national flag also had the proportions of one to two, instead of two to three as specified in the Nationality and Flag Act of 1927. The ensign was hoisted for the first time on 01 September 1946.

In the meantime, the position of the South African Naval Services (SANS) in the Union Defence Forces (UDF) was regularised. Up to this time the SANS was an Active Citizen Force unit. It was now added to the UDF as a Permanent Force Arm of the Service and in 1951 its name was changed to the South African Navy (SAN). The officers were offered permanent commissions in the UDF and a sufficiently large number accepted to allow this young Navy to get off to a good start."

It is possible that the SA Dept of External Affairs might have delayed informing the British Admiralty for some bureaucratic reason until 11 March 1947, but the dates of the SA Government Gazette and the year of implementation is without doubt 1946 and not 1947. Also note that the official name of the SANS was in the plural, i.e. South African Naval Services as was the UDF, i.e. Union Defence Forces. One wonders how the mistake about the dates got into the Admiralty archives?
Andries Burgers, 18 Mar 2005

The mistake was not the Admiralty's, it was David Prothero's! I copied the year of the External Affairs' letter on to the date of the Gazette when typing up my notes. "Force" instead of "Forces" was also probably my mistake. I had written only initials. My apologies if I have confused anyone.

The letter from External Affairs was probably in answer to an Admiralty request for confirmation of the change. They knew it had happened, as they had a copy of a dispatch on the subject written by the High Commissioner and sent to the Dominions Office on 14 August 1946.
David Prothero, 19 Mar 2005


Naval Jack

The following date is correct. In an off-list message Andries Burgers enquired;
"I have been unable to determine the exact date for the taking into use of the Unievlag (Union Flag) as the jack".
It was 31st May 1928. On 11th May 1928, N.H.Rankin, Officer Commanding South African Naval Service to Admiralty was "Informed by Defence Headquarters that on and after 31st May 1928 Union of South Africa will fly the South African National Flag in place of the Blue Ensign."

On 14th June 1928 their Lordships approved the new jack (NL 1898/28).
David Prothero, 19 Mar 2005

Thanks for the information about the 31st May. Cdr Rankin's signal implies that the SANS had worn the Blue Ensign (presumably the SA Blue Ensign?) before 31 May 1928 as the jack. Would this not have been rather unusual in British practice?
Andries Burgers, 19 Mar 2005

I think it was the usual practice for ships of the Dominion Navies - Australian, Canadian, Indian etc., to fly the defaced Blue Ensign as their jack, and to the best of my knowledge all (but South Africa) continued to do so whilst they flew the UK White Ensign.
Christopher Southworth, 19 Mar 2005

I would not necessarily conclude from OC SANS's signal that SANS vessels used a defaced Blue Ensign as a jack. I am inclined to think that he passed on the information in the form that it was sent to him. Would Defence HQ have known what went on in the real world? A meeting in London in September 1928 thought that SANS vessels had used the British Union Jack.

The business of Dominion jacks is quite complicated.
David Prothero, 20 Mar 2005

Could the Admiralty's reply on 14 June 1928 approving the new jack, not be regarded as confirmation that the SANS did indeed wear the Blue Ensign as a jack?
Andries Burgers, 20 Mar 2005

The file just had a note that the jack had been approved. I don't know the actual text.

The following is an extract from a minute in an Admiralty file of 1928.
"Agreement of 1911. The ships of each Dominion Naval Force will hoist at the stern the White Ensign as the symbol of the authority of the Crown, and at the jack-staff the
distinctive flag of the Dominion. The Blue Ensign with badge was not settled. Appeared in NL 15990/12. Doubt if South African ever wore the Blue Ensign as laid down in King's Regulations, part 2, Article 123. They were run as British ships, as Officer Commanding the South African Naval Service was responsible to the Commander-in-Chief."

The Union Nationality and Flags Act had authorised the Governor General to regulate maritime flags; Chapter II. 7. (3). "The Governor General may by regulation fix the manner in which the flags [Union Flag of South Africa and British Union Jack] may be flown on ships on the high seas or for special purposes or occasions."

A meeting was held on the 20th September 1928 in the Dominions Office in London to consider the consequences.

1. Naval Vessels.
Flying the South African Union Flag at the jack-staff followed Canadian and Australian precedent which rested on no formal authorisation other than a statement of the practice set out in article 123 of King's Regulations. Assuming that the South African Naval Services were not treated as part of the Africa Squadron; para.3 of the article was not applicable to the South African Naval Service because para.1 was applicable only to Canada and Australia, and para.2 was not applicable, as South Africa had never taken the formal steps required by the Colonial Naval Defence Force Act 1865, section 3; viz an Order in Council. As it was a temporary measure pending consideration by an expert committee article 123 would not be amended to include the South African practice.

2. Government vessels other than naval.
It had been ascertained that government vessels, other than naval, flew and continued to fly the Blue Ensign with the Union badge.

3. Merchant Vessels not registered in South Africa.
No formal instruction had been given by the Union Government but the Union-Castle Line [which had the mail contract between UK and South Africa] had adopted the practice, as a matter of courtesy, of flying the new flag at the fore when entering Union ports. This corresponded to the practice when entering foreign ports, but was not done in Australia or New Zealand.

On land the Union Jack was flown with the Union Flag of South Africa, but this could not be done on British merchant ships which were not allowed the Union Jack. A telegram of 23 July 1928, from the Imperial Secretary South Africa to the Dominions Office had pointed out that the Union Jack could not be flown on the yardarm opposite to the South African Union Flag, which created the impression that the South African Union Flag was being accorded a privileged position on merchant ships to the exclusion of the Union Jack.

It was to be suggested to Union-Castle that the Red Ensign should be flown astern when the South African Union was flown at the fore.

4. Merchant vessels register in the Union.
It appeared that no instruction had been issued and it was assumed that the South African Red Ensign was flown.

On 02 February 1928 the Mercantile Marine Department of the Board of Trade had written to the Admiralty in reply to their letter NL 3554/27 of 11 January regarding the flag to be flown by ships registered in South African ports.

"Question whether provisions of South Africa Act are void for repugnance with Merchant Shipping Act is a difficult one, but Board understands that according to strictly legal considerations some provisions of the South Africa Act will be void on that ground."
The letter went on to say that there were considerations other than the strictly legal one. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 1/8968]
David Prothero, 21 Mar 2005

The following may be of interest as an addendum to this debate as to which flag the SA Naval Service ships had used as a jack before the adoption of the National Flag for that purpose on 31 May 1928. The June 1928 edition of 'The Nongqai' (the official defence force/police/ prisons service journal at that time) stated that "As from Union Day 1928 (31 May), His Majesty's South African ships fly the National Flag of South Africa at the jackstaff in place of the Union Flag, thus conforming with the practice of Canada and Australia".
Arthur Radburn, 26 Feb, 2013


Naval Colour

[South Africa Naval Colour] image by Paige Herring, 16 March 1998

There is a South African Naval Colour that consists of the naval ensign charged with the crest from the coat of arms in the lower quarter.
Paige Herring, 16 March 1998


Rank Flags of the South African Navy

According to HH Smith in Flags of the Union Defence Forces and of the South African Defence Force, 1912-1993 (SAVA Journal 2/93) [hhs93], there is no record prior to 1952 of the existence of any system of rank flags in the South African Navy. In a document dated 10 March 1952, the then Naval and Marine Chief of Staff provided for the introduction of a series of rank flags and pennants.

The Rank flags first adopted by the South African Navy in 1952 followed the British Royal Navy tradition and were as follows:

Cabinet Minister (1952 - 1994)

This flag, which is not strictly speaking a rank flag, was instituted to be worn when a Minister of the South African Government embarked on a South African naval vessel. It had a dark green field with the unembellished former coat of arms in full colour in the hoist half. There is also evidence that this flag was also made with the coat of arms being placed in the centre of the flag.

Prior to the introduction of the Executive State President in 1983, when the Prime Minister embarked on a naval vessel it flew the Cabinet Minister's flag. When the State President embarked, the former Presidential flag took precedence. Following the introduction of the new South African flag in 1994, the national flag is used by the State President and there is no longer a distinguishing Cabinet Minister's flag.
Bruce Berry, 30 Jan 2006

Naval and Marine Chief of Staff (1952 - 1955)

image by Martin Grieve, 30 Jan 2006

This flag was made in the proportions of 3:5 with a swallow tail in the fly; and it had a white field with thereon a dark green cross one-fourth the depth of the flag in width. The dark green cross was so placed on the flag that the cantons next to the hoist were in proportion of 2:3. In the upper hoist canton was a modified former national flag of South Africa, with the three small flags in the centre of the white stripe being replaced by the crest of the coat of arms. In the lower fly was the emblem of the South African Marine Corps, namely a springbok leaping towards the hoist surmounting a plain inclined anchor, all in orange.

This flag was worn day and night at the main mast starboard yard-arm whenever the Naval and Marine Chief of Staff was on board a South African naval vessel. When this flag was worn an admiral's flag or commodore's broad pennant of masthead pennant was struck on that ship.

In 1955, it was found that the Corps of Marines could no longer fill a useful role in the defence organization of South Africa and the Corps was disbanded and consequently this flag ceased to be used.
Bruce Berry, 30 Jan 2006

Officer Commanding : Coastal Command (1952 - 1955)

image by Martin Grieve, 31 Jan 2006


This pennant, in proportions 1:1, was the same design as the appointment flag of the Naval and Marine Chief of Staff but without the emblem of the South Africa Corps of Marines.

This pennant was flown to indicate the presence of the Officer Commanding : Coastal Command, at any shore establishment within his command. This appointment, and the flag, also ceased to exist following the disbanding of the Corps of Marines in 1955.
Bruce Berry, 31 Jan 2006

Chief of Naval Staff (later Chief of the Navy) (1952 - 1972)

image by Martin Grieve, 31 Jan 2006

The flag was in the proportions of 3:5 and had a swallow-tail fly. It was also of the same design as the flag for the Naval and Marine Chief of Staff but without the emblem of the Corps of Marines in the fly; and there was a white fimbriation between the modified South African national flag in the canton and the arms of the dark green cross.

On 01 December 1965 the title Chief of Naval Staff was changed to Chief of the Navy. The appointment flag remained unchanged until a new system of rank flags was introduced on 28 August 1972.
Bruce Berry, 31 Jan 2006


Admiral

Admiral (1972 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

On 28 August 1972 a new series of rank flags was introduced, including the post of Admiral. The Admiral's flag, in proportion 2:3, was a dark green cross on a white field.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Admiral (1994 - )

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

The design of the Admiral's flag remained unchanged following the adoption of the new South African national flag in April 1994 except that the dark "tartan" green was replaced by a lighter "national" flag green, the shade being the same as the green stripe on the national flag and also used on the new naval ensign adopted in November 1994.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006


Vice Admiral

Vice-Admiral (1952 - 1972)

image by Martin Grieve, 02 Feb 2006

The rank flags for Vice-Admirals were in proportion 3:5 with a shallow swallow-tail in the fly, and were of the same basic design as the appointment flag for the Naval Chief of Staff.

The flag of the Vice-Admiral had in the lower hoist canton a dark green ball, the diameter of which was two-fifths of the vertical width of the canton.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Vice-Admiral (1972 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

On 28 August 1972 a new series of rank flags was introduced. The Vice-Admiral's flag was in proportion 3:5 with a dark green cross on a white field. In the centre of the upper hoist canton was placed a dark green circular ball.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Vice-Admiral (1994 - )

image by Martin Grieve, 02 Feb 2006

The design of the Vice-Admiral's flag remained unchanged following the adoption of the new South African national flag in April 1994 except that the dark "tartan" green was replaced by a lighter "national" flag green, the shade being the same as the green stripe on the national flag and also used on the new naval ensign adopted in November 1994.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006


Rear Admiral

Rear-Admiral (1952 - 1972)

image by Martin Grieve, 02 Feb 2006

The rank flags for Rear-Admirals were in proportion 3:5 with a shallow swallow-tail in the fly, and were of the same basic design as the appointment flag for the Naval Chief of Staff.

The flag of the Rear-Admiral had in addition to the dark green ball in the lower hoist canton, a dark green ball in the upper fly canton. This second ball was of the same diameter as the ball in the lower hoist canton; and it was placed the same distance away from the vertical arm of the dark green cross as the ball in the lower hoist canton was placed away from the hoist side of the flag.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Rear Admiral (1972 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 28 Apr 2004

On 28 August 1972 a new series of rank flags was introduced. The Rear-Admiral's flag was in proportion 3:5 with a dark green cross on a white field. In the centre of both the upper and the lower hoists canton was placed a dark green circular ball.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Rear Admiral (1994 - )

image by Martin Grieve, 02 Feb 2006

The design of the Rear-Admiral's flag remained unchanged following the adoption of the new South African national flag in April 1994 except that the dark "tartan" green was replaced by a lighter "national" flag green, the shade being the same as the green stripe on the national flag and also used on the new naval ensign adopted in November 1994.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006


Commander : Maritime Defence

Commander : Maritime Defence (1965 - 1968)

image by Martin Grieve, 03 Feb 2006

This post was established towards the end of 1965 with an appointment flag having the same design as the naval ensign, modified by removing the three small flags in the centre of the white stripe of the former national flag. The orange stripe was charged with a gold representation of the South African Air Force eagle and the blue stripe was charged with a gold representation of the crest from the South African coat of arms.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006

Commander : Maritime Defence (1968 - 1973)

image by Martin Grieve, 03 Feb 2006

In March 1968, the design of this flag was changed so that it became the same as the naval ensign, but with the addition in the upper fly canton of a gold representation of the South African Air Force eagle. This flag was used until the post was abolished on 30 September 1973.
Bruce Berry, 02 Feb 2006


Commodore

An on-line Jane's Information Group publication to which I have access through my work shows the rank structure of the South African Navy the same as in Album 2000, with the grade between rear admiral and captain entitled rear admiral (JG) [junior grade]. The insignia is a single broad stripe, the same as for the UK Royal Navy rank of Commodore.
Joe McMillan, 04 Jan 2001

Commodore (1972 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 03 Feb 2006


This flag follows the basic design as the broad pennant of a Commodore in the British Royal Navy and is a white broad pennant containing a dark green cross.
Bruce Berry, 03 Feb 2006

Commodore (1994 - )

The design of the Commodore's broad pennant flag remained unchanged following the adoption of the new South African national flag in April 1994 except that the dark "tartan" green was replaced by a lighter "national" flag green, the shade being the same as the green stripe on the national flag and also used on the new naval ensign adopted in November 1994.
Bruce Berry, 03 Feb 2006


MISCELLANEOUS NAVAL FLAGS

Masthead pennant

Masthead pennant (1952 - 1994)

image by Martin Grieve, 07 Feb 2006

The masthead pennant used by the South African Navy, which tapers to a point at the fly, is white with a dark green cross next to the hoist. The horizontal arm of the cross lies along the centre line of the pennant and the vertical arm is so placed that it is nearer to the hoist than the fly end of the cross.
Bruce Berry, 07 Feb 2006

Masthead pennant (1994 - )


 image by Martin Grieve, 07 Feb 2006

In common with the rank flags of the South African Navy, the shade of green was changed in 1994 to the same as that used on the new national flag. No other changes to the design were made.
Bruce Berry, 07 Feb 2006

Senior Officer Afloat

image by Martin Grieve, 07 Feb 2006

If this is the senior officer afloat pennant, a vertical green-white-green triband, it is the "Starboard" signal pennant prescribed for use by NATO navies to identify the senior officer present afloat (SOPA, in US terminology). Some NATO navies use only this pennant for SOPA (including US, UK and Canada) while others (such as France) use it when operating with Allied ships but have a different SOPA pennant for use when operating unilaterally. I suppose it has also been adopted by some other navies. The blue triangle shown as the US SOPA pennant in A2K has not been in use since about 1950.
Joe McMillan, 04 Jan 2001

When two or more South African naval vessels are together, this pennant (also sometimes referred to as the Starboard Pennant) is worn to indicate the vessel in which the senior officer in the group is embarked. It is thus not a rank flag but a signal flag and is worn normally only when the senior naval officer of the group is not entitled to fly a Commodore's broad pennant or an Admiral's rank flag. This rule doe not apply when South African naval vessels are in company with the
warships of other nations. In the latter case, the starboard pennant is flown by the senior South African naval officer present, in addition to any broad pennant or Admiral's rank flag which may be flying.

This pennant has a squared end and tapering horizontal sides and consists of three equal vertical stripes of green, white and green. In common with the other flags of the South African navy, the shade of green was changed following the adoption of the new national flag in 1994.
Bruce Berry, 07 Feb 2006

image by Martin Grieve, 07 Feb 2006
 


Discussion

Several of the rank flags of the South African Navy are almost identical to the rank flags of the Portuguese navy in a time when Portugal and South Africa shared long maritime borders before the independence of Angola and Mozambique and of later of Namibia. (Actually, back then South Africa *only* had maritime borders with Portugal, although some of the fluvial borders could, perhaps, be also navigable). The question is: how come? How did that happen? And don't countries usually adopt sets of relatively distinctive rank flags to avoid confusion?
Jorge Candeias, 02 Feb 2006

The command flags of the South African Navy (being more of less identical in format) are obviously based on those of the Royal Navy, with a full admiral flying
an undefaced cross and those of a junior grade of flag officer carrying 'balls of difference'. With the same being apparently true of the Portuguese set.

It seems likely, therefore, that (the green being traditional in both countries) the similarity comes from the fact that both sets of flags were based on the same model.
Christopher Southworth, 02 Feb 2006

That they were based on the same model is evident, but the question lies in the reasons why South Africa adopted a set so similar to that of a neighbour, even more considering that green was *not* traditional in South Africa. Only recently has the colour green made its way to the flag in a significant way; before was just a small rectangle hidden among quite a few other small rectangles, crosses and triangles.
Jorge Candeias, 02 Feb 2006

We have several South African members who are far better qualified than I to answer this, but I would suggest (and subject to their correction) it rather depends upon what period of time has to elapse before a colour becomes 'traditional'. Green was present in the flags of the 19th Century Boer Republics, and was the natural choice when the time came to replace the red cross of St George on the (second pattern of) SA naval ensign and therefore, on the command flags.
Christopher Southworth, 02 Feb 2006

There is no connection whatsoever between the rank flags of the SA Navy and the Portuguese Navy. Although the two navies came into contact from time to
time through port visits and joint small scale exercises, contact was otherwise minimal - the cultural and language gap being too wide and South Africa being very much part of the British sphere of influence. (There is also not a single navigable river from south of the Congo river on the west coast right up to Suez on the east coast, except a few by very small craft).

The green of the rank flags in the SA Navy was adopted as the result of the adoption of the green cross on the naval ensign. From 1922 (when the South African Navy, then known as the SA Naval Service, came into being), the British White Ensign was flown by SA naval vessels until 1946. In that year the White Ensign was replaced by a plain white ensign with the national flag (the old orange, white and blue) in the canton. This ensign was not popular in the fleet and also proved to be impractical in that it was difficult to distinguish in low visibility. To solve this problem a green cross was placed on the ensign. I have found some evidence that originally a blue cross was proposed, but the then Minister of Defence (some say his wife!) did not like the blue and proposed green instead, this being a more
traditional South African colour having been one of the colours of the old Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Vierkleur (four colour). Also, green was considered to be the colour of freedom (from the British) among Afrikaners! Because the national flag was in the proportions of 2:3 and the ensign followed the British practice of being 1:2, the vertical arm of the cross had to be offset slightly towards the hoist and as a result the ensign was often described as having a green Scandinavian cross. A further change in 1981 made the ensign also 2:3 and the cross became square as it still is today after another change in 1994 when the new national flag was adopted.

As for the pattern of the rank flags, the SA Navy today follows the same pattern as the British Royal Navy today, as do most of the other Commonwealth Navies. There is no problem with confusion. The ensign is the flag of national identification and not the rank flags. There were no flag officers in the SA Navy before 1952. The first set of naval rank flags were adopted in that year and naturally used the same green for the crosses as in the ensign. As could be seen from Bruce's second posting, the first pattern was different from that of the British, but the pattern adopted in 1972, went back to the British pattern except that the colour for the crosses and balls were green instead of red.
Andries Burgers, 02 Feb 2006