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Sweden and Norway 1844 Changes

Last modified: 2013-07-30 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: sweden and norway | naval rank flags | scandinavian cross | herring salad |
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National War Ensign, Union Rank Flags – 1844

In 1844, King Oscar I decided to introduce separate war ensigns for Norway and Sweden. Both were based on the national flags of the respective countries (Parliament of Norway adopted a new national civil ensign in 1821, the same flag that flies as the national flag of Norway today), to which was added a new mark of union in the canton and swallowtail and tongue. The union mark consisted of a combination of the national colours of the two countries. In its own right the union mark served as the common naval jack and as the flag of the joint diplomatic and consular missions.

A problem now appeared about what to do with the rank and command flags, as these had previously been based on the common war ensign. Now there were two separate war ensigns. As the navies were expected to undertake joint operations, it was decided to have identical rank and command flags. The new rank and command flags were announced in the saluting instructions dated 3 December 1844, but published in 1845.

The senior admiral of a fleet had a flag in proportions 4:5 with the field divided diagonally into dark blue and red fields, the union mark in top hoist and two crossed yellow command staffs beneath. This flag was only to be used in case there were two admirals in the same fleet. No matter rank, admirals flew a flag as that of a senior admiral but without the command staffs.

Commodores, as commanders of an squadron, had a half-oval shaped pennant with the union mark at the hoist, the rest being divided red over dark blue. Commanders of detachments had a pennant made up of the union mark and two short tails, the upper one red, the lower one dark blue.

The commissioning pennant was now to be in the national colours (horizontally stripes of red-white-blue-white-red) with a stretched version of the union mark at the hoist. As usual, the commissioning pennant ended in a swallowtail. The Swedish navy had a commissioning pennant in the Swedish national colours blue and yellow. I have used the images in Beutlich as the model for the drawings, with an eye to the colour plate in the 1844/1845 instructions.


  • Salut-Reglement for Rigets Orlogsfartöier og Faestninger, Christiania, 1845
  • Beutlich, F: "Flag og kommandotegn", in C. Sparre (ed): Norges sjöforsvar 1814-1914, Kristiania, 1914
  • Sundt, Trygve: "Norske orlogsflag og kommandotegn siden 1814", Norsk tidsskrift for sjövesen, Vol. 50, 1932, pp. 518-529
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 February 1997

Union Mark and Jack

[Norwegian-Swedish Jack, 1844-1905] image by Željko Heimer

History of the Flag

Between 1814 and 1905, Sweden and Norway were a united kingdom. The jack was a common flag of the two countries. The flag features the union mark, consisting of a cross bearing the colours of both Sweden and Norway.

Ole Andersen

The union badge was introduced in Swedish and Norwegian flags in 1844 (when Oscar I acceded to the throne) in order to secure an equal status to both of his realms in personal union, and especially to soothe the feelings of Norwegians, who considered the previous union flag disparaging to Norway. It was well received in 1844, but a generation later it was again felt to be disgraceful by the growing majority who wanted to do away with the union. They succeeded in 1899 with the introduction of the "pure" civil flag, and military flags followed when the union was dissolved in 1905.

The pattern of the union badge suggested a common dish on "smorgasbords" of both countries, a colourful herring salad decorated radically with bits of egg whites and yolks, beets, and green stuff. Very good - try it! Witty tongues soon found the appropriate term. Norwegian: sildesalat, Swedish: sillsallat.
Lars Roede, 18 July 2002

The herring salad, i.e. per saltire composed flags of Sweden and Norway, each preserving the relative ratio of stripes appropriate for each national flag. The overall ratio 4:5 I concluded from images at FOTW.
Željko Heimer, 14 July 2002

The Royal resolution that established the union marked flags and ensign did not give written specifications for design details other than "that the upper quarter closest to the hoist in the flag, shall consist by a for both Realms common Union Mark, which is made up of an evenly composed combination of the to each Realm's flag belonging colours, in the way further indicated in the approved drawing,...".

In the 1844 official artwork the Norwegian war ensign has its usual 16:27 look with a square union marked canton, the white-blue-red in the specified 1-2-1 relationship and the other elements matching specifications quite well. The union mark itself is proportioned 4-1-2-1-4 for the Norwegian parts, though later sources usually say it should be 6-1-2-1-6.

The 1844 artwork of the Swedish war ensign shows a square canton, resulting in a most peculiar looking flag. The artwork for the Swedish war ensign is in the same overall ratio as for the Norwegian one, that is 16:27. Just replace the red with blue and fill in yellow in the white and blue parts and then you have a Swedish flag fitted into the Norwegian specifications. In other words, the official drawing gave us a swallow tailed war ensign that is 6-4-6 along the hoist side and 6-4-17 along the free end. The result is what looks like a quite amputated Swedish flag. No wonder the Swedes preferred the traditional rectangular canton and overall longer flag.
Jan Oskar Engene, 30 June 2003

Use of the union mark as a flag

The union mark was used as a flag in it self too, both as a naval jack and as a flag at the joint Swedish-Norwegian embassies and consulates at the time.
Elias Granqvist, 26 April 2001

Nickname of the Flag

The union mark in the canton of the Swedish-Norwegian flags between 1844-1905 was jokingly called "The Herring Salad" (Sillsallaten), a salad made of pickled herring, beetroot, and potatoes, a classical Swedish dish that in colours reminds of the union mark.
Stefan Klein, 26 April 2001

Scandinavian Union Pilot Flags

[Scandinavian Union Pilot Flag]
image located by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 27 January 2012
Source: “Flags of Maritime Nations”, version 1899, published by Bureau of Equipment of the Department of the Navy; plate no.67

Just about every Norwegian with any interest in history knows about the so-called “sidesalat” (herring salad) square union mark used in the canton of the Norwegian and Swedish flags between 1844 and 1898 (in some cases until 1905). The union mark was also used as a jack in naval vessels. Here at the museum we have a painting of a Norwegian sailing ship from the latter half of the 19th century. Supposedly it is off Galvaston, Texas, because the painting's frame is from that city. In the background is a lightship with a large English sign on the hull. The ship is wearing the Norwegian merchant ensign on the mizzen gaff, but there is no American flag anywhere on the ship. On the other hand, it is wearing four other flags on one hoist on the mizzen, of which the highest is the pilot flag. I assume that the artist (unknown, since the painting is not signed) wanted to show the ship on its way into US territorial waters. It has, however, a square flag at the peak of the foremast, and that flag is the “herringsalad” union mark surrounded by a relatively broad white border. Do any of your consultants know what flag this might be? The normal Norwegian jack at this time was the plain square union mark.
Knut Djupedal, 25 January 2012

I have never heard of this particular flag, but it (and the position from which it is being flown) reminds me that many countries used have have their own “pilot flags” with the vast majority of these being either the national flag or the national colours surrounded by a white border, and wonder I if this was the Norwegian/Swedish version?
Christopher Southworth, 25 January 2012

Flags having a white border are often pilot flags. I don't know, whether there had been one from 1814 - 1905. But if it was really Galveston, there should be an US-American pilot flag, shouldn't it?
Klaus-Michael Schneider, 26 January 2012

Chris and Klaus-Michael's conjectures are correct. Proof can be found at Google Books "Flags of Maritime Nations" United States Navy Dept., Bureau of Engraving (1899), Section 9, page 67. There the union mark bordered by white is shown twice- as pilot flag of Norway and again as pilot flag as of Sweden.
Ned Smith, 26 January 2012

Finally I found images of both, showing “Heringssalat” with a white border. The pattern of both variants is the same but the ratio is different. The Swedish version is broader than the Norwegian one.
Klaus-Michael Schneider; 27 Jan 2012

Senior Admiral

[Flag of Senior Admiral] image by Željko Heimer

Per saltire red and blue with the herring salad in canton and two yellow batons in saltire set just below it. In the design of the batons, I tried to follow Swedish pattern. Ratio assumed as above.
Željko Heimer, 18 July 2002

Admiral, 1844-1858

[Flag of Admiral 1844-1858] image by Željko Heimer

Per saltire red and blue with the herring salad in canton.
Željko Heimer, 18 July 2002

Commodore commanding a squadron

[Flag of Commodore 1844-1858]
image by Željko Heimer

Pennant consisting of the herring salad at hoist and oval fly divided lengthwise red over blue.
Željko Heimer, 15 July 2002

Commander of a Detachment

[Flag of Commander 1844] image by Željko Heimer

Masthead pennant blue over yellow, swallow tailed (indentation reaching 1/3 of length) with red square canton containing white saltire and next to it a blue square conatining yellow saltire.
Željko Heimer, 28 July 2002

Commissioning Pennant

[Commissioning Pennant 1844]
by Željko Heimer

Pennant of Norwegian national colours with the herring salad at hoist.
Željko Heimer, 15 July 2002

In the flag regulations of 1875 [sut75] the pennant is shown with trapezoidal cut out.
Željko Heimer, 18 July 2002