of the Whites in the Russian Civil War
Did they even take flags into battle during the Russian Civil War?
Williamson has many eye-witness accounts:
artillery opened the attack and the colours were unfurled. The men were
drawn up in battle array to the sound of music; bugles rang out, and
the standards floated above the breeze. Swords flashed and a cheer went
up, and the men moved forward in a cloud of dust."
"... we could just make
them out pouring forward, waving flags and sweeping towards the Red
positions in a swarm."
"... in a carriage drawn by two fast
trotting ponies, side by side with the Russian [artillery] commander,
whose flag – of colossal proportions! – floated
from a pole on the box
"... then the Cossacks were sweeping
past, swinging round the rear of the Red cavalry, and the Reds began to
throw in their hands before the two formations were properly locked
together. Flags were thrown down and weapons followed."
Mamontov has a slightly different take, because he served as a courier
for a while:
regiment and divisional HQ had its insignia, and in the basically flat
steppes of the northern Caucasus, they could be distinguished from far
away. That greatly aided the work of the dispatch riders. It was only
necessary to glance around to find the unit you were searching for."
These, and plenty of others, confirm that flags were commonplace in the
As with most things, the Whites carried over Imperial traditions in a
large way. It is therefore quite useful to understand the old Imperial
practice for flags
when looking at the Civil War period.
When Imperial units were "reformed" they had a traditional flag to use,
in many cases the originals were smuggled out of Soviet territory.
However many of the most
elite units of the White armies were new formations, with no traditions
to fall back on. Solutions varied.
The Kornilov Horse were
old flag of a Black Sea regiment, in recognition of the fact that most
of its men were Black Sea Cossacks.
In 1920 Wrangel presented parade
new flags to the key coloured regiments of his army. They resemble the
old Nikolais in pattern, but differ
by having a different slogan, the unit's cipher instead of the
Tsar's and Nicholas the Wonderworker as the saint.
It seems out in
Siberia that Kolchak may
done the same, presenting units like the Votinski and Izhevski with
elaborate banners, and some banners associated with Siberian units have
Imperial patterns but
a home-made look.
These remained parade flags though. Many were taken out of the
country to prevent them falling into Bolshevik hands. As the White
collapsed others were destroyed or buried to prevent their capture.
Divisional and Higher Flags
Orange and black striped flags had originally been used by Army
commanders, and this was also revived.
flew the old Imperial Army commander flag.
Apparently Wrangel while a
commander had a small divisional flag in St George colours that
followed him into action. He retained this when he moved to command
the Caucasian Army.
We know that the Kornilov Division had an HQ flag, though sadly not its
Some patterns can be seen from those flags either remaining
from the Civil War, photographed or described fully.
Staff Flags on the Imperial Patterns
The diamond pattern in a rectangle would have been easy to
make in the difficult conditions of the Civil War:
The 9th Don Cossack
Regiment had a flag with a red diamond
blue rectangle and the black monogram 9 Д К П, which is straight out of
the old Imperial regulations for a regimental
Cossack Command Flags on the Imperial Patterns
The Kuban 1st
Labinsk Cossack Regiment had a diamond in rectangle, but not to
Tsarist colours, being black diamond inside red, with white lettering.
The 6th Siberian Regiment had a dark red diamond on white, with the
letters 6 С П.
The Drozdovsky infantry used a yellow monogram Д inside a raspberry
diamond on white.
The 2nd Drozdovsky Cavalry appears to have used a similar diamond, but where the diamond
did not reach the
borders of the white flag.
Cossacks were traditionalists and mostly retained their
Imperial regiments, so it would make sense they kept Imperial era flags.
The 1st Siberian Cossack
Regiment had a square red flag
cross and the white lettering 1й Сиб. каз. полкъ, which is again pretty
much straight out of Imperial regulations for a regimental commander's
11th Orenburg Cossack Regiment had a white saltire on blue, which was
the Imperial pattern, but as a rectangle with white border and the name
written out in abbreviated form in the spaces.
The Kornilov Horse took a square red flag and added a black
stripe and Kornilov's name, which is a variant on the square red flag
which was regulation for a Kuban regiment (shown on the page for the
Many units flew the white, blue and red of the Russian flag with unit
names and slogans added. This is probably the safest option when
guessing flags for wargames units. Cossack units might do the same
thing, but on their Host's flag instead
of the national one: there are examples of Don units doing this.
St George Flags
A tricolour can be seen in Moscow with writing for the 3rd
Trans-Katun' [something] Regiment and an anti-Communist slogan.
of the 13th Belozerski Regiment in Kharkov in 1919 shows a tricolour
with its name written on the front in large black letters in the top
(and signs of further writing in the red and blue parts too, though its
mention of a tricolour with Отечество (Fatherland) on
during the Kuban Ice March.
The Markovs likewise seem to have used a
Russian tricolour on occasion, with a black canton with white saltire
the top corner.
The Libau Regiment in Iudenich's NW Army used a tricolour with the
addition of the unit's cipher inside a white cross.
The 1st Cavalry Regiment, General Alekseev, of the Volunteer Army had a
flag half tricolour-half their cipher (an elaborate A). This is
probably their HQ flag.
The orange and black stripes of St George were also a
for flags when the unit had an association.
The St George medal holder unit of V.O. Kappel in the early days at KOMUCH
had an orange-black flag.
St Andrews Flags
23rd St George Gundorovski Infantry Regiment of the Don
a banner of orange and black stripes with standard Tsarist picture of
inside white cross on one side (shown on the page for the unit)
One side of the flag of the St George Battalion of the Kornilov
Regiment was an eagle
and slogan in gold on a striped St George flag. (The other side was
white Maltese cross on red, with slogans in gold.)
The Imperial navy had flown a St Andrews flag (diagonal blue cross on white) and this
several times in White units.
The Drozdovsky 3rd Infantry Regiment in
particular used the diagonal blue cross on white, as they were originally formed around Black Sea naval troops.
The Markov 1st Regiment
used a white diagonal cross on black and the 3rd Markov Regiment the
same but with a thin white border to difference it.
Particularly with units formerly of the guard.
units had flags with a yellow background colour.
Budėnniy mentions Don "officer" units with eagles on black
in The Path of Valour.
This was the form of many Imperial Russian medals, and had
design on many Imperial flags, especially with St George in the middle
of the cross.
The Markov 2nd Regiment had a white outline
Maltese cross on
Skull and Bones
This was associated with "Shock" units.
The Kornilovs had such a flag
from the start of the war through to the Crimea, and it may have
remained the 1st Kornilov Regiment's battle flag.
Battalion and Company Flags
The Kornilov Regiment of the AFSR appears to have used battalion flags
on bayonets. In the Army Museum in Moscow one can be seen behind the
manequin in the Kornilov uniform. (Small flags also appear behind the
Markov and Drozdovsky models, but as they hang vertically they may be
It would seem likely that any old Imperial unit would use the
Imperial system for battalion flags, likely switching to white-blue-red
from the Tsarist
white-orange-black though. The re-enactors to the right (Lieven's
Regiment, NW Army) seem to think so. This is what they use:
We are not aware of any evidence about White company level flags,
though at least one captured Soviet one is on display in the Orkneys
of all places! Many White battalions were only company sized in any
case, so company flags would not have been necessary.
Seen with the Drozdovski re-enactors at www.anticom.ru is this flag:
It seems likely that reformed Cossack Regiments would have used their
old sotnia system – if they went to the bother of reviving old
would seem odd to then change such details. The reformed "composite"
imperial regiments in the AFSR and Russian Army had squadrons trying to
keep their old traditions, and using the previous regimental colours
would be a fairly obvious way of doing this.
Horse Regiment carried sotnia banners in the old Kuban
style, but with a difference of a black diagonal (shown on the page for
Shkuro's Wolves appear to have carried sotnia banners (one is shown on
the page for the unit).
White Guard #8 shows a set of sotnia style flags for the units of the
Don "Steppe March" although some seem rather dodgy. As ad
hoc units they had no historical banners, but the carry
over of themes is fairly obvious.
We know they flew them, as Williamson and Mamontov note them, but they
were likely made to personal
We know the 2nd Drozdovsky Battery (Mamontov's) flew a black-red-black
guidon (shown on the page for the unit).
It is alleged the 1st Markov Battery flew what was effectively their
shoulderboard cipher – gold curlicue M and crossed cannons on black.
We can assume that the flags that have survived the Civil War have a
tendency to be the most symbolic and precious. Many are probably only
ceremonial and few come from a level below regiment. Therefore
seems reasonable that the ordinary battle banners were less ornate on
average, than those remaining in museums.
Working from what we do have surviving the Civil War, we see few were
entirely novel in their style, and many units used the old style flags
or amended them only slightly.
Those that were most different tended to belong to new units, rather
than units seeing themselves as reformations of old units. Even then
the themes tend to be old Imperial ones: national colours, St Andrews
cross, St George stripes and
badges, Imperial eagles, rounded and
square Maltese crosses (the form of the Tsarist medals) and religious
pictures (especially the Christ's head as appeared on the Nikolais).
Many new units carried their shoulderboard cipher across to
One unusual, but common, feature is that flags did not carry the same
pattern on the front and reverse. Even the base colour might be
> White flags