UNIT MARKER FLAGS • 1866 REGULATIONS
Most nineteenth-century European armies had a system of battalion and company marker flags or guidons for their infantry regiments. They were used to dress the line when the regiment was drawn up in formation, either on parade or in line of battle. Generally these flags were small and often they were attached to staffs that fit into the muzzle of a musket.
The marker flag system introduced in 1866 for the infantry and pioneer battalions of the Russian Army was exceptionally elaborate. At that time, infantry regiments consisted of four battalions, each with four line companies and one rifle company. Two regiments formed a brigade and two brigades formed a division. The 1866 system provided each battalion and company in the division with a distinctive marker flag.
The battalion marker flag was swallowtailed with horizontal stripes of white, orange and black. The battalion number in black Roman numerals was placed on the orange stripe. Company marker flags were in the regimental base color, e.g. red for the first regiment of the first brigade of the division, with a central horizontal stripe denoting the battalion, e.g. red for the first battalion. Over the horizontal stripe was placed a vertical stripe in the company color, e.g. white for the third company. Thus a red flag with a red horizontal stripe and a white vertical stripe identified the third company of the first regiment of the first brigade of the division. It should be noted that the line and rifle companies of the infantry regiment were numbered 1 through 12 and 1 through 4 respectively. Thus the 1st battalion consisted of line companies 1 through 4 and the 1st rifle company, the 2nd battalion consisted of line companies 5 through 8 and the 2nd rifle company, and so on.
Infantry training battalions, rifle battalions and pioneer battalions used the same system, their base and battalion colors being yellow, crimson and brown respectively. No numeral appeared on their battalion flags.
The marker flags were made of bunting and measured about 16 inches on the fly by 9 1/4 inches on the staff, which was in the battalion color. At first they were carried with the staff inserted into the muzzle of a musket, but later they were carried on their own, a socket being provided on the bayonet scabbard of the bearer. With some modifications, the 1866 system remained in use until the fall of the tsarist regime and the dissolution of its army.
Credit: These drawings are based on images and information from VEXILLOGRAPHIA, the outstanding website devoted to the historical and current flags of Russia and related countries.
Images Added August 2015
Rifle Battalion • Pioneer Battalion
FIRST INFANTRY REGIMENT OF THE FIRST BRIGADE
FIRST BATTALION SECOND BATTALION
1st Rifle Company
2nd Rifle Company
THIRD BATTALION FOURTH BATTALION
3rd Rifle Company
4th Rifle Company
INFANTRY TRAINING BATTALION