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France: Commanding officer's pennants, before 1933

Fanions de commandement

Last modified: 2006-12-23 by ivan sache
Keywords: commanding officer's pennant | fanion | general | major-general | infantry | artillery | cavalry | engineers |
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Introduction

The commanding officer's and service pennants that were used by the French Army are described and illustrated in Grand Larousse Illustré du XXe siècle (6 vol., 1928), under the heading fanion, as follows:

Fanion (from fanon, itself from Old High German fano, piece of fabric).
Small flag used in several purposes, but without the characteristic of national symbol given to the (national) flag.

The oldest known form of fanion (1469) is found in an Edict by King of France Louis XI (1461-1483). The Edict organizes a corps of 16,000 franc-archers, who constituted the core of the national infantry. Each of the four Captain-Generals was preceded by a soldier bearing a white commanding pennant.
Today [1928], a full set of such commanding pennants are used in the French Army. They are assigned to General Officers, and are borne behind them by an escorting non-commissioned officer. The pennants should indicate to everyone where the officer stands.
The pennant should be droven in in front of the HQ entrance when the incumbent is inside the HQ. At night, the pennant is replaced with a lantern, whose glass colours match as far as possible the pennant colours.
Another set of pennants is used for signalling specific corps or services, such as munition sections, hospitals, postal services, telegraph services and umpires [officers who evaluate maneuvers].
However, since the end of the Great War [1914-1918], in order to limit investigation or spying by the enemy, it is avoided as far as possible to show the distinctive pennants of command units [this probably refers to the excessive visibility of the French infantry during the War, especially the famous blue and madder-coloured uniforms. The French staff did not anticipate that the War would be of technologic extermination but instead advocated the use of the prestigious, colourful uniforms of the XIXth century.]

The list of pennants given above should be completed with:
- ambulance pennants, rectangular in shape, with a red cross on a white field, which should be hoisted, along with a French Tricolore, on all ambulance cars, according to the Geneva convention.
- firing pennants, rectangular in shape and plain red, which are used to forbid the access to fire zones during exercises and to signal the shots.
- signal pennants or panels, square or fan-shaped, used for the statutory optic telegaph service.
- in-line pennants, distinctive pennants assigned to the battalions constituting a regiment; they are no longer [1928] statutory.

According to Pierre Charrié [chr92], these pennants seem to have been used for the first time in Algeria during the French conquest.
Some of these pennants seem to be still in use today, at least from ceremonial purpose. During the Bastille Day parade in Paris, the Military Governor of Paris is accompanied by an orderly bearing behind him a flag very similar to the pennant of a General commander-in-chief of an army, a 0.65 x 0.5 m Tricolor flag with a Tricolor cravate.

Ivan Sache, 16 July 2002

These pennants were contained, with some slight modifications, in the 1933 regulations, which were still in force in 1939.

Ian Sumner, 21 November 2000


General Commander-in-Chief of an Army Group or Army, Commander of an Army Corps

[General Commander-in-Chief's pennant]

Pennant of a General Commander-in-Chief - Images by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of a General Commander-in-Chief is similar to the French national flag. Its size is 0.9 x 0.7 m, with a golden staff and cravate, for the Commander-in-Chief of an Army Group; 0.65 x 0.5 m, with a cravate, for the Commander-in-Chief of an Army; and 0.65 x 0.5 m, without cravate, for the Commander of an Army Corps.
The lantern is white with a blue star fimbriated red for the General Commandier-in-Chief of an Army Group, and plain white for a General Commandier-in-Chief of an Army or Commander of an Army Group.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


Major-General of an Army Group

[Major-general of an army group]

Pennant of the Major-General of an Army Group - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of the Major-General of an Army Group is similar to the French national flag with a red and white border on the three free edges of the flag, in overall size 0.75 x 0.7 m, with a cravate.
The lantern is white.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


General commanding the Artillery or the Engineers of an Army

[General commanding the Artillery or the Engineers of an army]

Pennant of the General commanding the Artillery or the Engineers of an Army - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of the General commanding the Artillery or the Engineers of an Army is diagonally divided, per bend sinister, red-blue, in size 0.65 x 0.5 m.
The lantern is red.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


Generals commanding the Infantry Divisions of an Army Corps

[General commanding the 1st Infantry Division]       [General commanding the 2nd Infantry Division]       [General commanding the 3rd Infantry Division]

Pennant of the Generals commanding the 1st (left), 2nd (middle) and 3rd (right) Infantry Divisions of an Army Corps - Images by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of the General commanding an Infantry Division of an Army Corps is in size 0.65 x 0.5 m, vertically divided red-white-red for the 1st Division, vertically divided red-white-red-white-red for the 2nd Division and vertically divided red-white-red-white-red-white-red for the 3rd Division.
The lantern is red whatever the Division.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


Generals commanding the Artillery and Cavalry Brigades of an Army Corps

[General commanding the Artillery Brigade]         [General commanding the Cavalry Brigade of an army corps]

Pennant of the Generals commanding the Artillery (left) and Cavalry (left) Brigades of an Army Corps - Images by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of the Generals commanding the Artillery and Cavalry Division of an Army Corps is in size 0.65 x 0.5 m, swallow-tailed, horizontally divided blue-red for the Artillery and red-white for the Cavalry.
The lantern is green in both cases.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


General commanding an Infantry Division not incorporated in an Army Corps

[General commanding an infantry division not incorporated in an army corps]

Pennant of a General commanding an Infantry Division not incorporated in an Army Corps - Image by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of a General commanding an Infantry Division not incorporated in an Army Corps is in size 0.65 x 0.5 m, horizontally divided red-white-red.
The lantern is red.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000


Generals commanding Cavalry Divisions

[General commanding a Group of Cavalry Divisions]         [General commanding a cavalry division]

Pennant of the Generals commanding a Group of Cavalry Divisions (left) and a Cavalry Division (right) - Images by Ivan Sache, 19 November 2000

The pennant of the Generals commanding Cavalry Divisions is in size 0.65 x 0.5 m, diagonally divided, per bend sinister, red-white for the Commander of a Group of Divisions and blue-white for the Commander of a Division.
The lantern is white for the Commander of a Group of Divisions and red for the Commander of a Division.

Ivan Sache, 21 November 2000

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