German tank flag signals

This document is from the war diary of the H.Q. of 7 Armoured Division, December 1941. It’s the first time I have seen this, and it is unusual in that it is in colour. Very few documents are. Signalling in a tank battle was of course a challenge with the means of communication available in 1941, and so even though German tanks were equipped with radio sets, these were not always reliable due to atmospheric conditions, they could be jammed (something the Empire forces attempted through the use of some specially equipped Vickers Wellingtons during CRUSADER), and networks could be overloaded. Flags were therefore a low-tech fallback, but of course suffered from their own issues – difficult to use in failing light, impossible in the dark, and affected by ground conditions, e.g. when lots of dust was thrown up.

Usual health warning applies: this is a wartime document based on intelligence assessments. It may well be wrong, and the Germans only had flags in their tanks so they could engage in a Maibaumtanz.

German Flags

3 thoughts on “German tank flag signals

  1. Hello, I think that it is feasible to use flags with flags by Germans and Italians (they did not have radios in all their tanks). Since the English used them during the operation COMPAS according to their operational tactics style maritime operations, the Germans although it is true that they had radios is also true that for security reasons not used in coordinated movements. You have to keep in mind that in the desert surprise and listening were an important tactical factor.

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  2. Using flags was more common than most people think. While it is true that German and British tanks had radios, the vast majority were only receivers. The few transmitters were usually in the coy/sqdn commander’s tank, the 2IC’s tank, and the coy/sqdn HQ. The receivers powered the tank intercom system, so every tank commander will be wearing a headset and have a microphone to use for internal communication.

    Platoon commanders used the flags to control their platoons in movement and fire, as shown above.

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