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Historical Flags 1936-1938 (Spain)

Flags of the Rebel or 'National' Forces

Last modified: 2005-02-12 by santiago dotor
Keywords: rebel forces | national forces | nacionales | coat of arms: quartered (castle: yellow) | coat of arms: quartered (lion: red) | coat of arms: quartered (chains: yellow) | crown: mural (yellow) |
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[Spain 1936-1938] 2:3
by Jaume Ollé and Santiago Dotor
Flag adopted 29 August 1936, abolished 2nd February 1938

See also:


At the beginning of the Civil War, on the afternoon of the 17th July 1936, the nationalist right-wing forces had not provided for a flag or coat-of-arms, since the brain of the conspirators, General Mola, had planned to do a quick coup d'état, to arrest and kill Republican officials and leftist activists, and take over the government. There were no intentions to change the legal national symbols at the time.

Things went bad quickly in the central, northern and mediterranean parts of Spain, with population fighting the rebel military garrisons, and many units in those regions staying loyal to the Government. Other regions fell into the hands of the rebels very quickly. Immediately a Civil War ensued, with the same national flag and same coat-of-arms on both parts. Many impromptu flags and political flags showed in the streets, rebel forces sometimes fought under the Republican tricolour, in other cases they took from museums and regimental archives the old bicolour flags of the royal period, political forces such as Requeté and Falange used their own colours, communists, anarchists, Basque units, all of them had their own flags.

Two sides fighting each other under the same flag demanded a measure to tell foe from friend. Thus, on 29 August 1936, General Franco, who had become the leader of the rebellion after the death of General Mola in a plane crash, issued order number 77 with but one only article: "The bicolour flag, red and yellow, is restored as the flag of Spain" (literal translation). Not a word about the coat-of-arms, which remained as it was since 27 April 1931 (date of the Republican law on flags and coat-of-arms). This coat-of-arms continued to fly on the bicolour flag of the rebel forces. There are photographs showing nationalist men-of-war wearing the bicolour flag with the Republican coat-of-arms at the stern.

The rebel cruiser Baleares also changed its republican flag for the old royal navy ensign. At the balcony of the headquarters of General Franco in Salamanca flew an old bicolour national flag with the crowned coat-of-arms used before 1931.

So we have the period of 29 August 1936 until 2 February 1938, where the Republican coat-of-arms was still official on the rebel side, that is during more than one a half year after outbreak of the Civil War! Only on February 2, 1938, did general Franco introduce a new coat-of-arms, more or less according to the heraldry of the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabel. A picture of that new coat-of-arms was published 10 days later in the official state gazette. The nationalist ministry of war issued an order of 27 July 1938, compelling the Navy to use the new coat-of-arms on their flags (though this order did not show the coat-of-arms nor did it mention any further details).

A coloured flag chart, issued in 1939, but after the war had ended (on April 1, 1939), shows the Navy ensign with the coat-of-arms. A new flag regulation was issued on October 11, 1945, and published one day later, slightly changing the coat-of-arms. This is well known.

Emil Dreyer, 6 July 2003


According to Decree no.77 of 28th August 1936 (Boletín Oficial del Estado no.14), the flag was to be once again the pre-republican red-yellow-red. Later, Decree no.143 of 13th September 1936 specified that military and naval flags were to be as before the Republic but with the "current" coat-of-arms — which implied the Republican one. So until the new coat-of-arms —with eagle and many quarterings etc.— was approved on 2nd February 1938, the Spanish [state and war] flag [and ensign] was as above.

Santiago Dotor, 27 May 1999

According to other sources it seems that the "current coat-of-arms" wasn't designed yet, and the flag was used for two years without any coat-of-arms. On 2 February 1938 the coat-of-arms was adopted and added to the flag.

Jaume Ollé, 5 June 1999

Flag Variants

While it is not certain what was meant in the text as to which coat-of-arms was the current one, we know for sure that the red-yellow-red without coat-of-arms was often used in 1936-1938 (I saw it frequently in news pictures) and that some [units], in particular the Academia de Sargentos Provisionales, the 35th Batallion of Cazadores (Rifles) of Africa and the Batallion of Pontooneers used the pattern described by Santiago Dotor (i.e. used the republican coat-of-arms on the red-yellow-red); in the last case apparently by replacing the purple stripe on their Batallion standard with a red one. Source: Calvo and Grávalos 1983, pp.206-209.

Norman M. Martin, 7 June 1999

That is interesting — it means that a flag with equal stripes red-yellow-red was used. I wonder how often this was...

António Martins, 8 June 1999

Not unfrequently. And not only that — when the 1938 coat-of-arms was approved, many flags were refurbished by embroidering eagle, arrows and yoke etc. around the Republican coat-of-arms. That is the origin (or at least one of them) of the eagle coat-of-arms with only four quarterings instead of the full scheme, as reported here.

Santiago Dotor, 9 June 1999