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Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Naval Flags

Last modified: 2007-11-17 by rob raeside
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Historical Ensigns of the Order

In "Flags in South Africa and the world", Proceedings of the XVIIth International Congress of Vexillology, there is a rich paper by Adrian Strickland, entitled: "The vexillological heritage of the Knights of Saint-John in Malta" (pp. 277-287) . I have extracted from the valuable paper a few Historical ensigns of the order:

In the time of Grand Master Rohan (1775-1797), additional ensigns were flown along with the Order's ensign:

  image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000
pennants


image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000
Round-tailed guidons bearing the Order's cross

The guidons considered as the forerunner of the present Grand Master's standard.


image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000
Naval jack

A square version of the Order's flag was used as naval jack.


image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000
Gonfanon
A gonfanon was flown on the ceremonial galley of the Grand Master.
Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000


Miscellaneous Naval Flags of the Order

In "Flags in South Africa and the world", Proceedings of the XVIIth International Congress of Vexillology, there is a rich paper by Adrian Strickland, entitled: "The vexillological heritage of the Knights of Saint-John in Malta" (pp. 277-287). I have extracted from the valuable paper a few miscellaneous naval flags of the Order:

The flagship of the Order ("Captana") used additional flags, namely:

image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000

The flag of Jerusalem (with red crosses) to signal Holy Mass was being celebrated.
Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000




image by Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000

A red flag with two white crescents and two golden stars to call all surgeons to report on flagship.
Ivan Sache, 29 February 2000


Historical Signal Flags

I came across images of part of a series of stamps issued by the Order of Malta (SMOM) concerning signals used by the Order's Navy. While only the first set of four seems to be entirely focused on flag signals, I thought I would pass all eight images in the hope that the old-fashioned (Italian?) inscriptions can be deciphered.
Here are the stamps series: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8.
Mike Oettle, 27 February 2004

Here are my fragmentary translations of the texts on the signal flag stamps. The pictures (four per stamp) are numbered clockwise, beginning with the top left one. I only translated the flag-related texts (i.e. on the last stamp only the fourth picture). Words which I don't understand I put in round brackets (), personal comments are in square brackets [].
Martin Karner, 24 March 2006

(1) Standard (al Galcese) of the tiangle sail / Sign for retreat.
(2) Galley (Sensile) standard unfolded at the (Galcese) of the main mast and a longish smoke / Sign for asking help.
(3) Flag at the small boat (?) of the main ship; departure one day later; (un tivo di cannone e trinchetto alla cola) departure one hour later.
(4) Flamed flag at the (Galcese) of the triangle sail during the "hunt" [i.e. the following] / the galleys which were in front had to (louar Remo) or to lower (?) the sails.
(1) Raised in the bows (del Fanale): sign for shooting. In haste [raised] above the helmsman: sign that the other galleys have to follow the main ship.
(2) Raised in the bows (del Fanale): sign to "make the middle mast" [prob. to hoist the sail at the middle mast]. In haste [raised] above the helmsman: sign to "make water" [prob. to speed up]
(3) At the helmsman: raised once: hoist the "Marabutto" [small sail for hard wind]. Twice: the "Marabuttino" [sail which must have been smaller than the Marabutto]. Three times: the "Mezzana" [sail at the middle mast]. Four times: the "Veletta" [=lookout; prob. somebody had to go there]. Five times: the (Treo) go/move at day (G) "Maestra" [prob. main mast] (e non facendosi, de un?). Sign to make the [unreadable]
(4) In haste above the helmsman: sign to give wine to the rowers.
(1) Raised in the bows (del Fanale): sign to hoist the "Marabutto" sail.
(2) Raised in the bows (del Fanale): sign to hoist the "Veletta" sail.
(3) In haste above the helmsman: sign to take the (Rimburchio) / After the taking of the (Rimburchio), placed again on the same place: sign to leave it.
(4) Raised in the bows (del Fanale): sign to go on land, and (maneggiato = fixed?) the triangle sail the galley (sensile al galcese) of the triangle sail. Sign that the (Gol?) wants to negotiate with the (Padrono Reale Alberata) at the "Antenna" [sort of mast] of the triangle sail. Sign to [unreadable] with (Artigueria) in its (Resto) of the (Pennatto Sagno? Di salueraschi) with the (Moschetteria)
 (1) Galley (Sensile) standard indicating to the main mast: sign to unfold the sail / Standard shown at the triangle sail: sign to unfold the (sospetta) sail.
(2) Galley (Sensile) at the (Penna) of the triangle sail, and then taken to the (Gol?) on the wind (?). [Smoke:] Sign of recognising at day: galley maintaining two smokes.
(3) Flamed flag at the (Calcese) of the main ship. Sign for the armament of the crew (sopra coperta).
(4) Flamed flag at the (Penna) of the triangle sail. Sign to land (di Fontaria). After the landing placed again: sign of re-embarkment.
(4) Two small flags, one placed at the (Bondino), the other at the (Sarchie) of the triangle flag. Sign to take the other "board"/side [to change the direction]

Source: http://www.orderofmalta.org/img/francobolli/1977/ (series 38 and 39)

Martin Karner, 24 March 2006