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Greece: Army flags

Last modified: 2014-12-20 by ivan sache
Keywords: colours |
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War flags (Colours)


[Army colour]

Army colour - Image by Miles Li, 29 November 2009

The Greek Army has two distinct sets of flags, colours and unit flags. The colours are the "war" flags. This is a translation of the Greek term, although perhaps the word "colours" is better to describe them. They are the flags carried into battle - or supposed to be carried into battle - by the Greek armed forces.
In peacetime colours are used for ceremonial purpose only. When soldiers are sworn in, there is a ceremony and the regiment's war flags are paraded.

Yannis Natsinas, 2 August 1999

All regiments of the Hellenic Army have traditionally used as their colours a golden-fringed square blue flag with a large white cross, with St. George on horseback slaying the dragon at the centre. Golden cord and tassels, golden cross-on-orb finial, black pole entwined by a silver cord.
These flags were introduced in 1864 and have been in use since then.

Miles Li & Nozomi Karyasu, 15 December 2009


[Navy colour]

Navy colour - Image by Miles Li, 29 November 2009

The Hellenic Navy uses a golden-fringed version of the Naval Ensign/National Flag as its colour/parade flag. Golden cord and tassels, silver cross-on-orb finial, black pole entwined by a blue cord. Proportions 9:11.

Miles Li, 29 November 2009

Air Force

[Air Force colour]

Air Force colour - Image by Miles Li, 30 November 2009

Since the fall of the Monarchy the Hellenic Air Force has no longer flown a distinctive ensign, but since 2000 all squadrons of the Air Force have been authorized to use as their colours a golden-fringed square blue flag with a large white cross, with Archangel Michael holding a flaming sword and a shield at the centre. Golden cord and tassels, golden cross-on-orb finial, black pole entwined by a silver cord.

Miles Li, 29 November 2009

Unit flags

Each unit above the brigade level has its own emblem/sleeve badge. This is in the form of a shield although the top part (the chief to use the heraldic term) is taken up by a motto, which is, of course, not heraldically correct. The motto should be on a scroll.
There are such shields for the Ministry of Defence, Joint Chiefs of Staff (ΓΕΕΘΑ), Army General Staff (ΓΕΣ) etc.. Those emblems can also be taken as emblems of the whole armed forces or emblem of the army.
These emblems can also be displayed in the form of a flag. Such flags are horizontally striped. There are three stripes and I think the middle one is almost invariably fimbriated. I don't think there are any particular rules about or reasons behind the choice of colours - they seem decorative to me. The flags incorporate the emblems of ΓΕΣ, ΓΕΝ (Navy general staff), ΓΕΑ (Air Force general staff) and ΓΕΕΘΑ.

Those flags are used as wall decorations or in the form of desk flags. I have never seen them flown in HQs etc. (of course, the war flag is not flown either - instead HQs and barracks fly the Greek national flag and there are flag raising and flag lowering ceremonies). I suppose the Ministry of Defence or the General Staff HQs may fly those flags but I've never been there.
Where I was in the Army, we never even saw such a flag, although we knew our division's "emblem", wore it on the left sleeve of our dress uniforms and were supposed to know its description and meaning - especially the motto which was usually some historical quote, especially from Classical Greek texts.

For the record, I have served in the 50th Infantry Brigade. Its emblem was a fuchsia pink shield with a golden sphinx. The motto is "The Beginnnig of Victory is Courage", which is supposed to be a quote from Pittakos, a classical Greek writer of the VIIth century BC.
Later I was with the 15th Division (which I believe is now defunct). Its emblem was a blue shield with a white griffin. The motto was "Even this number is sufficient", a saying attributed to Leonidas, King of Spartans, when asked how he expected to defeat the Persians with only 300 warriors.
The 16th Division had a yellow emblem with a black double-headed eagle and part of a castle walling and its motto was "We shall all die of our own free will". It is an extract from a letter by Constantine Palaiologos, last Emperor of Byzance to Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottomans. The latter had asked Constantine to surrender Constantinople to him and Constantine had said that rather than surrender the city's defenders would prefer that they all died of their own free will.

Yannis Natsinas, 2 August 1999

Vexillinfo [vxf] #5/82 reports that:
- The Armed Forces flag is horizontally divided dark blue-red fimbriated white-light blue with the Armed Forces emblem in the center and the motto "To win forever".
- The Army flag is horizontally divided red-green fimbriated white-red with the Army emblem in the center and the motto "The freedom is for the valiants".
- The Army staff flag is horizontally divided red-green-red
- The Navy flag is white bordered blue with the Navy emblem in the center and the motto "The greatness is for the sea dominators".
- The Air Force flag is horizontally divided light blue-yellow fimbriated red-light blue with the Air Force emblem in the center and the motto "Lord of skies forever".

Jaume Ollé, 1 August 1999

The website of the Greek Armed Forces (page no longer online, archive) shows 66 flags, probably all the unit flags of the Greek Army. By clicking on the link below each flag, you can reach another page with a large image of the flag.
All flags have the same general design: Three horizontal coloured stripes, with a fimbriation between them, an emblem in the middle and a golden fringe.

The flags of the following units are shown on the FOTW website:

Ivan Sache, 18 February 2002