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Denmark Post Flag

Last modified: 2013-07-26 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: denmark | post flag | posthorn | horn | crown |
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[Danish Post] image by Jan Oskar Engene 15 January 2001

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Description of the Flag

This flag was introduced by Royal resolution of 21 November 1898. The emblem was changed to a new one in 1939 and the version of the flag charged with that new emblem is still in use. Christian Fogd Pedersen notes that the post ensign is only used by vessels actually carrying mail. When they are not, they do not have the right to fly the ensign. He also notes that the flag is used on land by postal authorities. One interesting fact mentioned by Pedersen is that only larger mail carrying vessels use the swallow-tailed post flag. Smaller boats use a rectangular ensign with the emblem in the canton.
Jan Oskar Engene 15 January 2001

Flaggenbuch notes 'Cable ships of the Post and Telegraph Administration and the postal ships over 20 BRT. In the latter case, civil ensign with this emblem.'
Ivan Sache, 11 June 2001

The ferry-captains (and first officers in some cases) I spoke with, told me that the flag they are allowed to fly because of the Royal Privilege for the Danish mail service, is flown on the ferries for being the mail-boats. (Some of the smaller ferries are actually known as, e.g. the mail-boat to Birkholm, but place allowing they also carry passengers.) It's not limited to boats that actually have mail on board, and they couldn't switch it if they wanted to, for lack of a different Danish flag on board. It's correct that smaller vessels use a stutflag as base for their mail-flag. This is not, by choice of the boats/captains, but of the Mail-service. "We fly what the Mail gives us."; "Yes, it ought to be a splitflag but we have a 'square' flag because the splitflags aren't made small enough for our boat.' (Since yacht-flags are in fact made that small, I assume it's the Mail that doesn't make the split-flags small enough, but I didn't realize this in time to ask.) The emblem is stitched on to the flag (rather than painted in some way), but it's still hoist-equal. It is really yellow, which means Politikens Flagbog should have coloured in the emblem, instead of leaving it white.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 27 August 2001

In this photo (relevant detail archived here) has the emblem almost filling up the upper hoist corner.
Jan Mertens, 7 January 2009

Emblem detail

[Danish Post Detail] image by Jan Oskar Engene, 15 January 2001

I have now checked the question of the colour of the emblem directly with the Post Danmark. The answer I was given is clear: No change. The emblem is still yellow (golden) as it has been since the post flag/ensign was introduced. I was informed that the question of the error in the flag plate at has been raised with the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that a correction can be made. I have made an image of the post flag here using the emblem as it appears in the current logo of the Post Danmark. I also made an image of the emblem itself. so that it can be studied in more detail.
Jan Oskar Engene, 15 January 2001

History of the Flag

[1793 Danish Post]       [1846 Danish Post]       [1940 Danish Post]  image located by Emil Dreyer
1793 1846 1940

[Click on any image for a larger version; coloured images drawn by Željko Heimer.]

In a lecture at the 15th ICV in Zurich, I reported, "A distinctive mail ensign for post ships was introduced in Denmark on 25th October 1793. An original flag of that era is on display in the Danish Post Museum (flag at left). It has the particularity that the golden (now yellow) posthorn in the centre of the white cross is placed upside down, the horn is pointing towards the hoist. A mail pennant had been introduced in 1793 as well, showing the same device. The Danish Post Museum also keeps a flag showing the official Danish Post flag pattern introduced on 26th June 1846, which consisted of the golden king's monogram with a golden posthorn or trumpet on a white square in the centre of the swallow-tailed Dannebrog (centre flag above). The trumpet looks towards the staff. This particular flag in the museum shows the monogram of Christian VIII, who ruled from 1839 to 1848.

When Frederick VII succeeded his father in 1848, flags with his father's monogram were successively replaced by ensigns showing in the upper red corner a golden crown with a golden trumpet below. I have been unable to locate any evidence as to the exact date when the design of the post flag was changed. By Order of 21st November 1898, coming into effect as of 1st January 1899, a new post flag was defined. The trumpet below the crown in the red corner was dropped and a posthorn was introduced instead. The text was accompanied by a magnificent colour illustration of the post emblem (i.e. crown and horn), where the horn is depicted with its mouthpiece sinister, as it used to be until now. There is no illustration of the flag as a whole, alas. We can rightly assume though that on the flag the horn kept its traditional position, i.e. showing to the hoist. So also the official Navy flag books of Great Britain show this flag: Admiralty 1907 and 1915 editions, the US Navy 1914 edition and the German navy editions 1905 and 1926. Interestingly, the Danish Navy flag book of 1947 I have does not show any post flag. By Order of 26 January 1938 ships not belonging to the Post Office or weighing less than 20 tons had to war a rectangular mail flag (i.e. not swallow-tailed). In 1927 the Telegraph Office had been abolished, but its emblem, two crossed arrows below the royal crown, was not incorporated into the mail flag until 1940. Since then Danish mail vessels use a flag with the new combined posthorn and arrow emblem in yellow on the upper red corner of the war ensign (image at right, above)." During the conference I also said: "Note that according to official design the horn has to look to the staff, whereas some flag books, even the famous one by Danish author Preben Kannik, erroneously show the horn looking towards the fly."

Official Danish sources show the postflag with the horn pointing towards the staff, i.e. with its mouthpiece to the fly. The picture of such a flag (annex), at the stern of a "Hurtig" postal route ship, shows the official variant of the flag. As usual, flags vary in details from official patterns (in many cases laid down without accompanying illustration) to unofficially tolerated patterns, and even just wrong designs. In many cases too, flag books, taken by the reader (and in some cases by the flag manufacturer) as a reference, show erroneous designs. This is the case with the book by Preben Kannik/Pedersen (otherwise a marvellous source of information with highest quality illustrations) and also with the Danish cigarette card album "Flag Serie" by the "A/S Kaffeesurrogatfabriken Danmark", of approx. 1934, and whose author was Ottfried Neubecker. Both items shows the horn blowing towards the fly, which is contrary to the official text. Znamierowski (2000), who collected info from these sources, is wrong too.

Emil Dreyer, 19 June 2003

Incorrect reported version

[incorrect Danish Post] image by Jaume Ollé 11 June 2001

I've found some notes about this flag. It was included in Flaggenbuch 1905 (and 1925) in which only the badge was shown but it was reproduced by others with the badge in the center instead of in the canton. Correct flag was adopted 1898 and remained unchanged until 1939 (when it was slightly retouched).
Jaume Ollé, 11 June 2001

Ensign of the Cable Ships of the Post and Telegraph Authorities

[Ensign of the Cable Ships of the Post and Telegraph Authorities] 56:107, image by Željko Heimer

Flaggenbuch (1939) shows a golden post-horn and the royal crown above in the canton of the state ensign. Introduced in 1848, and replaced for the new design in 1940.
Željko Heimer, 31 May 2004

[Ensign of the Cable Ships of the Post and Telegraph Authorities] 56:107, image by Željko Heimer

Flaggenbuch (1939) explains in the caption to the figure that large ships carrying mail are entitled to the merchant flag defaced with the badge. The FOTW explains how this was not a very regulated practice and that it seems it was not quite clear who is entitled to the split-flag and who the rectangular one. Question, was the current, post 1940 version also used in rectangular form, and is it so used still nowadays?
Željko Heimer, 31 May 2004