Prussian Line Infantry Colours
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 Dragoons Colours and Prussian Cuirassiers Colours) and is dedicated to the description of the Prussian line infantry colours and of the terminology used to describe them (see also Terminology used for flags). The article will also look at the distribution of these colours within each regiment.
For infantry flags, the staff to which the flag was attached is traditionally called a pike. The colour of the pike varied from regiment to regiment.
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 (Eckkeile), upright wavy crosses (Flammenkreuze) and corner flames (Eckflammen).
The infantry flags were called a Fahne. Generally they were approximately 140cm square of free cloth (i.e. not counting the cloth on the pike) and were made of heavy silk. One exception is that the flags of the Grenadier-Garde were slightly larger, at 150cm square, being based on the size used before 1742. The designs were painted onto the flags, not embroidered. Eckkeile, Eckflammen and Flammenkreuze were sewn into the cloth of the flag, not painted onto the cloth. The exception were the flags of the Garde Regiment (Nr 15). This regiment had drap d'argent (silver silk) tapes sewn onto a white silk back cloth, to form the field. The primary distinctions were then embroidered on the flag.
The infantry regiments carried two types of flag. Each regiment had one Leibfahne, sometimes called the "Colonel's Flag". This was the flag of the senior company in the regiment, the Leibkompanie. The Inhaber (literally "proprietor", though equivalent to the colonels commandant of regiments today) of the regiment was the nominal commander of that company.
All the other companies of the regiment carried Kompaniefahnen. Kompaniefahnen usually had their field coloured the same as the centre device of the Leibfahne and a white background to the centre device, though there were exceptions. Sometimes the Kompaniefahnen are referred to as Regimentsfahnen or Bataillonsfahnen, but on this site we will use Kompaniefahnen to avoid confusion.
In common with most European countries, the Leibfahne used white as the main colour, though Eckkeile, Eckflammen and Flammenkreuze, if any, would be coloured. The background to the centre device was coloured and, unusually, this colour was not related to the colour of the unit's facings. While sometimes the colour matched the facings, this was mere coincidence.
"Royal Household" regiments had a tradition of having both the Leibfahne and Kompaniefahnen coloured white. Frederick II changed the tradition slightly, by having his Garde regiment issued silver flags, with the Leibfahne having a silver background to the centre device and the Kompaniefahnen having a light blue background. There is some debate over the details of the Grenadier-Garde regiment flags, but both Leibfahne and Kompaniefahnen had white fields. For their performance at the battle of Soor (September 30 1745), the infantry regiment von Forcade de Biaix (Nr 23) was awarded a new set of flags with both the Leibfahne and Kompaniefahnen having white fields.
When Frederick II ascended the Prussian throne in 1740, he ordered new designs to be issued to the infantry regiments, though generally the flags were in the same colours as carried previously. These started to be presented from 1742 and all regiments had their new designs by the Seven Years War. In honour of his father's memory, the flags of the Grenadier-Garde kept the corner monograms, size and basic design carried during the reign of Frederick William I, but with the eagle and scroll as carried on Frederick II's design.
Distribution of colours within regiments
During the Seven Years' War, every Prussian musketeer or fusilier battalion carried 5 Fahnen. Since most regiments counted 2 battalions, that means 10 colours in the regiment (1 Leibfahne and 9 Kompaniefahnen). Exceptions were:
- Infantry Regiment No. 3 Anhalt-Dessau which counted 3 battalions and 15 musketeer companies (+ 3 wing grenadier companies). Therefore this particular regiment carried 15 colours (1 Leibfahne and 14 Kompaniefahnen).
- Infanterie Regiment No. 6 Grenadier Garde which counted 1 battalion with 5 line grenadier companies (+ one wing grenadier company). Therefore this particular regiment carried 5 colours (1 Leibfahne and 4 Kompaniefahnen).
- Infanterie Regiment No. 15 Garde which counted 3 battalions (I.Leibgarde and II. and III.Garde) with 15 line grenadier companies (+ 3 wing grenadier companies). Therefore this particular regiment carried also 15 colours.
The converged grenadier battalions composed of wing grenadier companies from two different regiments carried no colours.
In summary, every regular infantry company (except the wing grenadier companies) carried a colour. The Leibfahne was carried by the Leibkompanie.
N.B.: The Kompaniechef (owner) of the Leibkompanie was always the Regimentschef or Inhaber (owner) of the regiment. In wartime the Leibkompanie was commanded by the company commander (most of the time a lieutenant). Similarly, the regiment was commanded by the regimental commander (most of the time a lieutenant-colonel). For example king Frederick II. was the Kompaniechef of the Leibkompanie of Infantry Regiment No. 15 as well as the Inhaber of the regiment. The Inhaber of the other regiments (colonels and generals) served normally as commanders of brigades, wings in battle formation, independent corps or in other functions. Despite their other duties they always kept the economic charge of their companies.
Lehmann, Gustav: Die brandenburgisch-preußischen Fahnen und Standarten im Artilleriemusuem der Peter-Paul-Festung zu St. Petersburg, in: Hohenzollern-Jahrbuch, Forschungen und Abbildungen zur Geschichte der Hohenzollern in Brandenburg-Preußen (1902) 6. Jg, pp. 115-146
User:Zahn for the initial version of this article
Dal for the expanded version of this article and User:Zahn for the edition of German terms