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Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945) - Rank Flags (Part 1)

Last modified: 2005-02-19 by dov gutterman
Keywords: croatia | hrvatska | poglavnik | vojskovodja |
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Poglavnik's Personal Standard

by Željko Heimer

detail of hoist upper corner ("curl")
by Željko Heimer, 4 October 1999

I just received most kindly from Emil Dreier some materials on the flags of WW II Croatia. Among other things there is the copy from official gazette that can certainly remove all questions regarding this flag. Both my image sent previously, and the one sent by Mark, as well as some other images shown in vex- publications, have some minor errors according to the prescriptions in official gazette. Instead of listing what is wrong and what is right, I better give the definition as given there, and then if necesserily take a look at certain elements remaining "unclear".

The source is "Zakonska odredba o drzavnom grbu, drzavnoj zastavi, Poglavnikovoj zastavi, drzavnom pecatu, pecatima drzavnih i samoupravnih ureda" (Legal regulations on the state coat of arms, the state flag, the flag of Poglavnik, the state seal and the seals of state and self-governing offices), 28 April 1941, issued in "Narodne novine" (Official gazette) nr. 15/CV, 30 April 1941 and signed by Poglavnik Dr. Ante Pavelic. The regulations became valid on the day of issue in the official gazette.

The article 3 define the flag of Poglavnik ("leader"). My translation follows:

"The flag of Poglavnik, that is hoisted in his office, on his quarters if he is present, and which is carried beside him in all ceremonial occasions, is the flag of 25 square fields, interchangeably white and red (blood colour), ordered in five rows so that in upper first row the first field is white. In that row, in the first white field near hoist is the curl ["curly ornament"] described in article 1 made in silver on white area, and in the middle of the curl is big [capital] dark blue letter U. Around these 25 fields there is a thin golden border, and around this outer border consisting of squares diagonally divided by white stripe. The upper triangle gained by this is red (blood colour), while lower is blue. Three of such squares come to one square of the chequy filed of the flag."

For understanding this, we need part of article 1 describing the "curl":

"... sign star-like in shape made of tripple-wattle curl of the same red colour, in which there is big [capital] letter U of dark blue."

The same red colour, is the colour of croatian flag defined as blood red throughout the regulations in paranthesis. However, it is clear from art. 3 that in the flag of Poglavnik this "curl" is made of silver (probably it was really made of real siver threads), and not red.

Article 5 of the same regulations define that the images accomapnying it are intergal part of it. And indeed this issue of the official gazette have the images. The questions not clear from the regulations can be sorted out from the image. The width of the golden border is not defined, but obviously it was not intended to - it is "as thin as possible to be still visible". I would guess it was made as thick as the thread was. The size of "white bend sinistre" in the outer border squares in hard to define. They seem not to be all the same all around the border, which is, I believe, the effect of unperfect printing technique of the time. There also seems that here or there, there are white "fibrilations" between touching red and blue triangles, which are not supposed to be there in real flag (nor have I ever seen them in photographs of the flag), and they must be another printing effect. What is most misterious are the corner cheques, two of which seem bigger, while other two do not. since the descriprion does not mention any difference, I would guess that this is yet another effect, and that they should all be of the same size. There might also be that they seem bigger due to the effect produced by the golden outline which do not "cover" them as it cover other squares in the border. The size of white bend is hard to estimate numerically, but it is apprximately as on my image (and certainly, red and blue triangles have common edge, not only a point).

From the b/w copy of the official gazzete it is possible to speculate that the white chqeues on the image are actually silver, though the text do not mention that and explicitly say that they are white (on contrary mentioning that the "curl" is silver on white "area"). The same thing can be concluded from Neubecker (page 103a, of which I have also b/w copy, but according to Ivan Sache's comments accompaning it they cheques are there silver too). In fact, one can clearly see difference of the first cheque field colour (silver) and the white background of the "curl").
Željko Heimer, 4 October 1999

I stumbeled today on some photos of the car flags used in the Independent State of Croatia in 1941. I scanned from daily newspaper "Jutarnji list" (8 January 2005) reprinted from a book in preparation by Slavko Goldstein "1941.". Coloured photo showes the reception of a foreign high delegation on Borongaj military airfield in Zagreb, 1941. There is in the front Poglavnik's car with his personal standard attached on the right fender.   The B/W photo showes the ceremonial parade in Zagreb 1941 (probably on some other occasions), with the same flag on the car.  
Željko Heimer, 8 January 2005

Flag According to N. Thomas & K. Mikulan's Book

by Mark Sensen , 30 September 1999

Today I received some flag books I ordered from an Internet book shop. One I received was: N. Thomas & K. Mikulan, "Axis Forces in Yugoslavia 1941-5" (Men-at-arms series, no. 282), Osprey Publishing, 1995.
I browsed it, and on a colour plate (hand drawing) I discovered a flag which I looked up on Željko's FAME pages. It was the Poglavnik's personal standard. But the border was a little different:
A: all squares are of equal size (on Željko's site the ones in the corners are a little bit bigger)
B: all squares have the red at the top and the blue at the bottom (on Zelkjo's site the squares at the fly and bottom are the other way around)
C: the white stripe in the squares are wider, it looks as if the border between red and white continues as the border between white and blue in the neighbouring square.

I'm not claiming this is the right desgin (it wasn't a photo, but a drawing by hand), but maybe it contains something usefull.
Mark Sensen, 30 September 1999

The "Curl" According to Neubecker

by Ivan Sache, 5 October 1999

Neubecker has two different (mirorred) pattern of the curl for the Poglavnik's standard and the national flag! What Željko Heimer have giffed is what Neubecker uses for the national flag. what Neubecker uses for the Poglavnik's standard is a mirrored version of your curl. (here are a sketch of both versions, fide Neubecker.)the difference is difficult to explain and seems minor, but is evident when you look carefully at Neubecker's plate - I assume there is a mistake in Neubecker, but this does not tell you which curl is correct.
Ivan Sache, 5 October 1999

It is true what you say about Neubecker, and it is the same in the images from the official gazette, though it seems that this difference is nowhere prescribed (the text doesn not mention it - it explicitly say that the curl should be the same apart from colour!). Looking further into some other places where this simbol apears that were at hand (stamps, money, box of matches and some other places) it seems that the curl was made any way it suited them - and made no difference.
In the photographs of the real flag, it is hard to say what was "the way the curl went", the details are usually so small.
In a meterial of unknown source (which include all of those many 1944 rank flags) that was among the papers of Neubecker for his prepaired (and never issued) 1944 issue of the great flagbook, that I was kindly given by Dr. Emil Dreyer, the curls are all in the same direction, and that is exactly oposite of the one I posted previously (and oposite of the national flag according to official gazette).
However, as I said, I would guess that the diection of the curl was ignored and of no significance. Though for the my images , we may as well follow the pattern used in the official gazette, and have the "proper" image
Željko Heimer, 17 October 1999

Minister of Armed Forces

by Željko Heimer

The flag (stieg - standard) of the Minister of Armed Forces is white square with blue cross (width of the cross 1/8 of the flag hoist), and over that is set the state coat of arms (height 6/11 hoist). The state coat of arms is composed of a white and red chequy shield above which is set the Ustasha symbol - the letter U in triple wattle.
Željko Heimer


by Željko Heimer

The flag for other ministers members of the Government is similar to the flag of the Minister of Armed Forces, but instead of the cross, it is bordered with a blue border (width 1/10 of hoist).
Željko Heimer

Vojskovodja (Marchal)

by Željko Heimer

by Željko Heimer

In my correspondence with Krunoslav Mikular, he sent me info on a Croatian WWII flag I have not found mentioned in any vex sources known to me - the flag of Vojskovodja.
Vojskovodja was the highest rank of the Independent State of Croatia regular army (Domobrani = "home guard"), equaled with the rank of Marshal. The only person that bore it was Slavko Kvaternik, from April 1941 to January 1943, when he was retired. Kvaternik was, in the same time the "Ministar Hrvatskog Domobranstva" (comparable with defence ministry). The Ministry was renamed in January 1943 to "Ministarstvo Oruz<anih snaga", and took the command over the Ustasa forces (Ustas<ka vojnica), as well, which was until then separate body. since then the term "Domobranstvo" designated only the Army ("land forces") and not the entire armed forces. (information thanks to Krunoslav Mikulan).
The flag of Vojskovodja is shown in "Domobranski priruc<nik" ("Military gudiebook") issued in 1942. The image is black and white, with stripes hatched with heraldical lines for red and blue, while the elements encirceling the coat of arms are not hatched. Comparing the practice used on Poglavnik's flag as well as on the Air Force ensign, I have assumed that these elements are embroideried in slik and outline black, but that might be wrong.
The flag is square Croatian tricolour with the Croatian coat of arms (chequy shield, "first-white" square), outlined with border, off-set somewhat lower then the flag center, set over two sword in saltire, topped with air forces badge (spread eagle) wich in turn is topped with "U" wattle from the state coat of arms, in which "U" is replaced with initials "NDH" (for "Nezavisna Drz<ava Hrvatska", official name of the state. This symbol (i.e. all what was found on tricolour) was the badge of "Domobranstvo".
Interesting, the eagle in the badge is slightly different from the eagle set in the Air Force ensign. It is turned towards hoist in this flag, and it have one more "feather" in the lower parts of wings. Nevertheless, both images on which are based my drawings are from the same source, which may be indication that really two different bades were used. Though I am not quite convinced, and would assume that the differences are due to the "artistic freedom" of the illustrator of the guidebook.
As I have said, the vexillologic sources are silent about this flag, and that may be due to one particular fact - most of the sources are derived from Neubecker collection, which have been prepaired (for these flags) in 1941, when the flag might have not yet been in use, and in 1944 (huge set of rank flags, never confirmed by Croatian sources, AFAIK) when this flag would be outdated. So, it may be that this flag was overlooked only due to "misfortunate" use period.
Željko Heimer, 30 December 1999

The rank flag of the Vojskovodja (marchal) of Croatian Domobranstvo (regular army) Slavko Kvaternik is square Croatian tricolour, with a silver symbol of Domobranstvo in the middle. The symbol is composed of the shield of Croatian coat of arms in front of the two swords in saltire, topped by an eagle and triple wattle with inscription NDH.
Željko Heimer

Commander of the Armed Forces

by Željko Heimer

The flag of the Commander of Armed Forces is white square with blue cross (width of the cross 1/8 of the width of the flag) with the state coat of arms (height 4/11 of flag width) in the canton.
Željko Heimer


by Željko Heimer

The flag of an admiral is white square with blue cross (width 1/8 of hoist).
Željko Heimer


by Željko Heimer

The flag of a vice-admiral is equal to the admiral's flag, defaced with a blue trefoil in the first quarter. The trefoil (trolist), also called the cross of Zvonimir (Croatian king Zvonimir-Demetrius, ruled 1075-1089) is a marking of the armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia (also used during Austria-Hungary in Domobranstvo). On admirals' and generals' flags it is used to denote rank. The admirals' flags follow the model (in use by most of navies at the time) where more markings denote lesser rank. The flags of generals use another model (used mostly by armies in Europe during World War II, also) where more markings on the flag denote higher rank.
Željko Heimer

Rear Admiral

by Željko Heimer

The flag of a rear admiral is equal to the admiral's flag, defaced with a trefoil in first and third quarter each.
Željko Heimer