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Rank flags (Sweden)

Last modified: 2003-04-12 by sean mckinniss
Keywords: sweden | rank | navy | command sign |
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Personal Command Sign of H.M. the King

[Personal Command Sign of H.M. the King of Sweden] by Jan Oskar Engene, 8 March 2000

The Royal Command Flag was introduced by the army Field Service Regulations of 1943. Santiago [Dotor] is nevertheless right in assuming that this banner is not used at sea (it is, strictly speaking, a banner not a flag – a distinction often lost in English speaking vexillology). It is primarily for use in the army, at ceremonial occasions as far as I understand.

Note that this banner, it is termed His Majesty's Personal Command Banner, is a one-of-a-kind sort only: There is only one copy existing, a beautiful piece of craftsmanship created by Einar Kedja, a renowned Swedish heraldic artist. The cloth is permanently attached to a pole with a crown serving as finial.

In this image the brown part on the left is intended to represent the staff to which the cloth is permanently attached.

Jan Oskar Engene 23 February and 8 March 2000

Personal Command Sign of H.M. the King: This flag, a banner of the Greater State Arms, is used on land, when His Majesty is present at military occations. Theoretically, it is also to be used if the King is acting as commander-in-chief of the armed forces (överbefälhavare), but though he has the rank of General in the army and in the air force and the rank of Admiral in the navy, this is just formality.

When His Majesty is aboard a ship of the navy, his rank sign is the Royal Flag with the Greater State Arms together with the Royal Pennant (which is blue over yellow, swallowtailed, and has the Greater State Arms on a white field closest to the hoist). The flag and the pennant are hoisted on the same staff, with the pennant above the flag.

Elias Granqvist, 9 August 2000

Command Sign of the King

[Command Sign of the King] by Jan Oskar Engene, 13 June 1996

Command Sign of the King: If a Swedish Prince or Princess is present at a military occation on land, but the King is not, the flag to be used is blue with the three crowns of Sweden upon it, i.e. a square banner of the Smaller State Arms. The same flag would be used for an acting head of state (riksföreståndare).

Elias Granqvist, 9 August 2000

Chief of the Department of Defence (Defence Minister)

[Defence Minister] by Jan Oskar Engene

A square flag, parted vertically with the Swedish three crowns in the hoist half and a blue sword on yellow in the fly half. The Defence Minister is the only member of the cabinet who has a rank flag.

Elias Granqvist, 18 May 2001

Is there some reason for the three crowns not to be at the same size? Is it because of the way they are displayed 2 and 1?

Pascal Gross, 22 May 2001

Yes, I believe so. As these rank flags are heraldic banners, an effort is made to make the charges fill the field as well as possible.

Jan Oskar Engene, 22 May 2001

The Commander-in-chief of the armed forces (överbefälhavaren (ÖB))

[Commander-in-chief of the armed forces] by Jan Oskar Engene

A square flag, parted horizontally with the Swedish three crowns in the upper half and two crossed marshal staffs on yellow in the lower half. The Commander-in-chief usually has the rank of general.

Elias Granqvist, 18 May 2001

Admiral (Amiral)

[Admiral flag of Sweden] by Marcus Wendel, 9 September 1999

Until 1972, the flag of an admiral had three stars (like the present flag of a vice admiral).

The change in number of stars was made in 1972, when there was a general change in the rank titles in the Swedish armed forces. This information was given me in a mail by Col. Hans Norlén, who is "handläggare av uniforms- och traditionsärenden", i.e. he is dealing with matters regarding uniforms and traditions, at the Swedish Armed Forces.

Elias Granqvist, 31 August 2000

At present only the king has the rank of full admiral, thus this flag is inactive.

Per Hansson, 13 January 2002

Vice Admiral (Viceamiral)

[Vice Admiral flag of Sweden] by Marcus Wendel, 9 September 1999

Until 1972, the flag of a vice admiral had two stars (like the present flag of a rear admiral).

Rear Admiral (Konteramiral)

[Rear Admiral flag of Sweden] by Marcus Wendel, 9 September 1999

Until 1972, the flag of a rear admiral had one star (like the present flag of a flottila admiral).

Flotilla Admiral (Flottiljamiral)

[Flotilla Admiral flag of Sweden] by Marcus Wendel, Ivan Sache 12 August 2000

The rank of flottiljamiral [flotilla admiral, equivalent to brigadier general] was introduced only last year [2001]. He flies the naval ensign with ONE star at the hoist = the same flag as rear admiral prior to 1972. Between 1972 and 2000 there existed the equivalent rank of kommendör 1.klass [Captain 1st rank] who flew the same burgee as kommendör/captain. Existing holders of this rank have NOT been promoted to flotilla admiral, so peculiarly we have two ranks at one and the same level right now!

Per Hansson, 13 January 2002

Commodore (UK) / Captain (US) (Kommendör)

[Commodore flag of Sweden] by Ivan Sache 2000-Jan-25

Forked broad pennant (5:8), horizontally divided (1:1)
Commodore or Captain's ensign.

Ivan Sache, 25 January 2000

Command pennant for a petty officer (Örlogsgaljadet)

[Örlogsgaljadet] by Ivan Sache 2000-Jan-25

Örlogsgaljadet: Triangular ensign (5:8), vertically divided yellow-blue (1:2)
Command pennant for a petty officer.

Ivan Sache, 25 January 2000

Ceremonial Flag Usage

At this site (PDF file), I ran across the volume of the Swedish Armed Forces ceremonial regulation that covers flag usage. Unfortunately, I can divine only bits and pieces of the Swedish, but it's clearly a very important source not only on military usage but on royal and state flag use as well.

First, in the section of state funerals, there is the following passage: "Riksbaneret och Serafimerbaneret. Riksbaneret, eskorterat av en honnörsstyrka (grenadjärkompani), skall vid Konungens begravningsprocession föras enligt särskilda anvisningar. Serafimerbanerets förande regleras i särskild ordning."

The photograph that goes with this passage is from the 1973 funeral of Gustaf VI Adolf and shows a party of officers carrying a large swallowtailed banner, no cross visible but what looks like a large crown embroidered near the top, with the tails of the flag ending in tassels. Is the "riksbaneret" another kind of royal flag besides those already covered? I assume the Serafimerbaneret is the banner of the Order of the Seraphim, right?

Secondly, the section on military unit colors (fa"lttecken) says the following:

5 § För utformningen av fandukar och standardukar skall följande gälla, om inte annat fastställts i särskild ordning.

1. Förband för vilka Konungen är hederschef skall ha vita dukar med stora riksvapnet i mitten.

2. Arméns övriga förband skall över hela duken ha landskapets, länets eller förbandets vapen eller lilla riksvapnets tre kronor. Hemvärnet skall ha hemvärnets vapenbild.

3. Flottans enheter skall ha den tretungade flaggan som fanduk.

4. Kustartilleriets förband skall ha röda dukar med kustartilleriets emblem i mitten.

5. Flygvapnets förband skall ha blå dukar med flygvapnets emblem i mitten. Fanspetsarna utformas med genombrutet blad med krönt namnchiffer för den regent under vilkens tid fanan har överlämnats. Fanspetsar för fanor vid enheter inom hemvärnet utformas med genombrutet blad med hemvärnets vapenbild.

I can make sense of some of this:

1. Units of which the king is the [honorary?] commander have a white field with the great state arms [riksvapnet] in the middle.

2. [Something like:] Other army units have banners of the arms of the landskapet, [and then I get lost, something about] the lesser state arms . . . Home Guard units have the Home Guard arms.

3. Fleet units have the three-tailed [national] flag...

4. Coast artillery units have a red field with the coast artillery emblem in the middle.

5. Air force units have a blue field with the air force emblem in the middle.

[Then a description of the finials].

Joe McMillan, 4 September 2002

On index page at that site there is still eight other publications that might have something flag related (those under "Ytterligare publikationer"). Judgeing from the cover pages, there might be flag regulations in all of them. The documents are relatively large, so I would appreciate if someone who has beter access could tell us if there is something flag related and worthy of downloading.

Zeljko Heimer, 4 September 2002

I haven't looked in the texts yet, but...

CerR FM 1 has regulations about flags and colours.

CerR FM 2 has some regulations about symbols

CerR FM 3 has regulations about marching etc. Should include rules about how to display the regimental colours at ceremonies.

CerR FM 5b shouldn't have anything in particular about flags.

CerR FM 8 could perhaps have something about how to display colours and flags outside the royal castle.

FMR, UniR FM 1999, UniR FM- Remiss, Utlandsstyrkan shouldn't have anything in particular about flags.

Elias Granqvist, 4 September 2002

But in the meantime, from other notes that I have, your translation is on the money.

1) Swedish regiments with a Royal colonel-in-chief (to use the British phrase) - basically the Guards regiments - carry a white colour / standard with the full Royal arms. The presentation of the arms differs slightly between regiment and regiment. The differences lie in the absence / presence of the insignia of the Order of the Seraphim around the arms, and / or what kind of base the arms stand on. All have corner badges, either crowns or grenades. All have battle honours, but no two regiments display them in quite the same way.

2) Other infantry and armour/cavalry regiments tend to use a colour/standard which consists basically of the principal device from the arms of the province after which they are named, on a single or parti-coloured background. The battle honours are placed on a panel in a contrasting colour at the top, or at the bottom, or both, or directly onto the sheet. The exception is the Jämtlands Fältjägarregemente, which carries a 19th century pattern colour, consisting of the provincial arms in the centre of a blue sheet with a yellow cross (central, not Scandinavian).

Artillery and A/A artillery carry a blue colour or standard with the three crowns in the centre, a provincial badge in the upper hoist corner, and the arm-of-service badge in the other three corners (except Bergslagens Artilleriregemente, which has provincial badges in both hoist corners). But ... the Wendes Artilleriregemente still uses the white standard bearing a gold thunderbolt badge, issued after the Napeoleonic Wars.

Engineer and Signals regiments carry a similar colour, but with the provincial badge imposed on the arm-of-service badge in the upper hoist corner only.

Supply (Trän) regiments have similar colours, but place the three crowns on a blue disc, with a crown on top, and with thirty-two gold rays, alternately straight and wavy, issuing from the disc. The provincial badge is in the corner.

All regiments have a blue and yellow cravat with a gold fringe knotted underneath the finial.

Source: Herlitz, Carl, 'Svenska Arméns Regementen: regimentstraditioner' (Stockholm, 1970; Militärlitteraturföreningen Nr.244) - which has the flags in colour (I just have a b&w photocopy), as well as a lot of historical information.

Ian Sumner, 9 September 2002