Prussian Dragoons Colours

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Prussian Army >> Prussian Dragoons Colours

Introduction

The terminology used to describe Prussian flags can be very confusing. It is made more confusing by the use of later terminology to describe the flags, rather than the terminology used at any specific time.

During the Seven Years' War a number of flags and banners were used by the Prussian forces. This brief article is part of a series of articles devoted to Prussian flags (see also Prussian Cuirassiers Colours and Prussian Line Infantry Colours) and is dedicated to the description of the Prussian dragoons colours and of the terminology used to describe them (see also Terminology used for flags).

Description

The main part of the flag is called the field. This refers to the cloth that would be seen if all the designs on the flag were removed. These designs themselves are called various names, but the main ones were the centre device and corner monograms. Some flags also carried secondary designs such as corner wedges (Eckkiele) and corner flames (Eckflammen). The flags were usually made from heavily brocaded silk damask, though some regiments had plain silk or light embroidery. The silk was sewn to a heavy linen centre cloth, to both support the embroidered designs and to make the flag opaque. The designs were embroidered onto the flag, not painted, and were extremely expensive and time consuming to make. The top, bottom and "fly" edges of the flags were heavily fringed.

When Frederick II ascended the Prussian throne in 1740, the cost of these flags meant that there was no complete new issue of flags for dragoons as there had been with the infantry. The dragoon flags were generally only replaced when they were lost in battle. So throughout the Seven Years' War, the original flags, issued by Frederick's father between 1713 and 1737, were carried alongside new pattern flags issued to replace flags lost in battle. The earlier pattern flags are referred to as "FWR Pattern" while those issued by Frederick are referred to as "FR Pattern".

The light embroidery/patterning on the FWR Pattern Eskadronsstandarte of the von Normann Dragoons (DR Nr 1) now held at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna

The dragoon flags were cut in a guidon style, were 50cm on the lance and the flags extended 65cm to the points of the tail. The flag measured 50cm to the cut out part of the tail. As with the cuirassier flags, the dragoon flags were usually made of brocaded silk, although a captured example from the von Normann (Nr 1) regiment, held in Vienna, is of plain silk.

The Prussians did not use the term "guidon". Because the dragoons were originally mounted infantry, traditionally they used the term for infantry flags, Fahne, to describe their flags. However, to prevent confusion with infantry flags, this site will refer to the dragoon flags as Leibstandarte and Eskadronsstandarte, as we do with the cuirassiers.

All the dragoon regiments lost flags between 1740 and 1763, with the exception of the von Oertzen Dragoons (Nr 4), who did not lose a colour after Frederick II split the old Grenadiere zu Pferde regiment in 1741. Apart from the new regiments raised by Frederick II (Nr 9, 10, 11 and 12), all regiments had a mixture of FWR and FR pattern flags in the Seven Years' War. Even the von Oertzen Dragoons (Nr 4) received one FR pattern flag when they were formed, a replacement Eskadronsstandarte issued to replace a flag lost at Mollwitz. DR Nr 11 and DR Nr 12 were part of the Prussian army which surrendered at Maxen in 1759. Both regiments lost all their flags.

When DR Nr 4 was raised from DR Nr 3 in 1741, DR Nr 4 took the Leibstandarte and DR Nr 3 was issued a new, FR Pattern Leibstandarte. When DR Nr 8 was raised from DR Nr 7 in 1744, the new Leibeskadron, formerly the 2nd Squadron of DR Nr 7, received a new, FR Pattern Leibstandarte. When DR Nr 9 and DR Nr 10 were raised from the excess squadrons of DR Nr 1 in 1743, the new regiments received a completely new issue of FR Pattern flags, including new Leibstandarten. DR Nr 11 and DR Nr 12 also received complete new issues when they joined the Prussian army in the 1740's.

Many modern sources show the Truchseß Graf zu Waldenburg dragoons (Nr 3) as having been issued a new set of flags that were coloured white with rose centre (Leibstandarte), rose with white centre (Eskadronsstandarte) and with silver embroidery. The source for these flags is the Darmstädter Fahnenbuch of 1747, which was compiled from 1742. This book showed proposed designs for flags, which were to be issued after the Silesian Wars, and which in the cavalry would match the flags to unit facing colours. However, only a few of these flags are known to have been made and issued in time for use during the Seven Years' War, e.g. those for cuirassier regiments KR Nr 2 and KR Nr 5. The rose flags seem never to have been issued and certainly were not carried during the Seven Years' War, an order for a replacement Eskadronsstandarte in 1758 specifying a white field, silver centre and gold embroidery.

The staff used for cavalry flags is called a lance. In the Prussian Army, the lance was made to resemble the tournament lances used in jousting. The flags were wrapped around the lance, just below the finial, and nailed to the lance with gold- or silver-plated nails. Also the bodies of the lances were decorated with small gold or silver flaming grenades (matching the metal colour used on the flags) that were painted on to the lance. Columns of these grenades extended from above the hand grip, which was ribbed to assist in gripping the lance, to just below the flag lower edge. There were also a steel slider bar and ring attached to the lance, that allowed the bandolier or standard belt (a belt worn by the standard bearer) to be clipped to the lance. In dragoon regiments the lance was originally coloured to match the field of the flag, so the Leibstandarte was nailed to a white lance, while the lances of the Eskadronsstandarte would be coloured to match the field. However the lances of the Regiments von Plettenberg (Nr 7) and von Langerman (Nr 8) at some stage were painted blue (sources disagree on whether this was a pale blue or a cornflower blue). This possibly occurred after the death of Frederick II, in which case they would have followed the convention of white lances (Leibstandarte) and coloured lances to match the Regimentsstandarten field (in these cases, black) during the Seven Years’ War.

The bandoliers were either of dyed leather or, possibly cloth-covered leather. They were coloured to match the unit facing colours and probably were not fringed until after Frederick's reign.

References

Acknowledgements

Dal for the initial versions of this article and User:Zahn for the edition of German terms