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Naval Rank Flags (Spain)

Last modified: 2006-02-25 by santiago dotor
Keywords: rank |
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Spanish Navy flag officers still use the traditional rank flags — square versions of the national flag with 3, 2, or 1 blue circles to indicate rank. Album des Pavillons 1990, details them very well. The shade of blue is the same for all these symbols on Spanish ensigns:

and for rank flags:
  • crossed anchors for the Minister of the Navy (obsolete),
  • horizontal anchor for Capitán General = 'commander-in-chief', horizontal anchor and 5-point star for the Admiral at the General Staff of the Armed Forces, and
  • the 3, 2 or 1 dots for the Admiral, Vice-Admiral and Rear-Admiral in charge of the Navy,
and FOTW dark blue (B+) fits well. It is azul marino in Spanish (navy blue). The Naval Museum (Madrid) website shows some flags on the museum's walls.

José Carlos Alegría, 1 January 2000

In Album des Pavillons 1995 the (...) blue shade looks more or less like the United States blue.

Ivan Sache, 1 January 2000

The US Navy usually equates capitán de navío with captain, capitán de fragata with commander, and capitán de corbeta with lieutenant commander.

Joseph McMillan, 1 January 2000

Use of flags for admirals "not in command"

Luis Miguel Arias has found two pieces of legislation, namely the Royal Decree of 14th December 1927 (Colección Legislativa de la Armada no. 400) and the Decree of 26th January 1932 (id. no. 26) which affect the use of the Spanish rank flags for admirals "not in command" (red discs). The 1927 decree mentions that no navy makes such distinction and thus abolishes this set of rank flags, stating that admirals not in command shall use the same rank flags as those in command (blue discs). The 1932 (Republican era i.e. new flags) decree modified the 1927 one so that admirals not in command would only fly their particular flag (red discs) if the admiral in command was present.

Santiago Dotor, 30 July 2002

I don't quite understand the last part — if it deals with naval practice, isn't it so that only the flag of the highest ranking official (whether military or administartive) is displayed only, and those of other digintaries who are pressent, even if they would have right to a flag if alone, are not shown in such occasion. If so, in what occasions the red disk flags would be displayed — maybe when not-in-command admiral outranks the one in command?

Željko Heimer, 30 July 2002

I believe this refers to admirals on different ships, one of them subordinate to the other one's command. But this is just my guess...

Santiago Dotor, 31 July 2002

I wonder if the difference between Spanish Admirals, in command or not in command, was the same as the difference between British Commodores First Class and Second Class? A Commodore of the First Class was a Captain who had been given brevet rank. He flew a broad pennant, red St George's cross on white, and wore one broad Admiral's stripe on his uniform, without any narrow stripe. A Commodore of the Second Class had a local rank. He retained a Captain's stripes on his uniform, and had a red disc added to the upper hoist of his broad pennant.

David Prothero, 31 July 2002