Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

GMB Saxon infantry flags

Posted by Martin on September 28, 2009

GMB 1811-issue flags for the Prinz Maximilian regiment (B&W image)

GMB 1811-issue flags for the Prinz Maximilian regiment (B&W image)

I’ve had my samples of the new 28mm Saxon line infantry flags from GMB since July and my orignal plan was to couple a review of them with some detailed historical background information. Two things threw a spanner in the works. The first was the inevitable intrusion of real life in the form of the Summer holidays; the second was a realization that the history of these flags from 1811 onwards is complex and obscure.

So I’m only going to tackle the easy, undisputed bit of the history of these flags in this posting: in 1807, King Friedrich Augustus ordered new flags for his line infantry regiments. It wasn’t however, until 16th July 1811 that he was able to formally present these new colours to the line infantry regiments in a ceremony at Muhlberg. Following re-organization of the army, each of the eight regiments of line infantry comprised two battalions of musketeers and two companies of grenadiers. A flag was presented to each of the 16 battalions of musketeers. The first battalion of each regiment received an Leibfahne (white background); the second battalion of each regiment received an Ordinarfahne (background in regimental facing colour).

If it wasn’t for the 1812 campaign in Russia, then the story of these flags would have probably remained quite simple. However, by the time the remnants of the Saxon army limped home, according to most sources, ten of the 16 flags had been lost. Piecing together which ones, where they were lost, what happened to them and, crucially, whether and how they were replaced in time for the 1813 campaign is where the complexities lie.

Now Peter F. and I are (with the help of several kind correspondents) slowly researching these questions and we hope to soon have access to several of the most reputable sources on the subject. In the meantime, Grahame’s first batch of flags cover those issued in 1811, so it seems suitable to press on with a short review of them here.

Above you can see a picture (converted to black and white to avoid naughty people exploiting Grahame’s hard work) of Pack SA5 which includes both the Leibfahne and the Ordinarfahne for the Prinz Maximilian regiment. The other packs cover 1811-issue flags the other seven line infantry regiments and there’s a gap in the numbering sequence which I presume is for the Lieb Grenadiers. In due course, I think Grahame hopes to make more flags to cover those issued to regiments that lost theirs in Russia.

The regimental facing colours were red, blue, green and yellow and interpretation of the precise shade is open to some conjecture in each case. For example, Grahame has chosen a darker mustardy yellow for the Prinz Maximilian regiment whereas, given the choice, I would have opted for a paler shade. That’s based on having sight of plates from Hottenroth’s 1910 book Geschichte der sächsischen Fahnen und Standarten (more of which on another occasion). But that’s a minor quibble and a personal preference.

There is, though, one historical error common to all the flags in this batch: the reverse and obverse of the flags are swapped the wrong way round. To be fair to Grahame, this is something he knows about and I know he’s been doing some soul searching about whether he should correct it. On the one hand, he’s as much a seeker of historical accuracy as Peter F.; on the other hand, he was a little worried about having to deal with customers who believe widely available English language sources that have perpetuated this error. I’m sure Grahame will read this and let me know which route he intends to follow. Plus, chances are that few people who look at your Saxon battalions won’t be knowledgeable enough to spot the mistake. Just don’t invite Peter F, Grahame or me to inspect your troops 🙂

Even German sources vary about some of the smaller precise details of the flags and the only way to be sure would be to be able to inspect the originals (where they still exist). So Grahame has had to make choices about which sources to follow – a tough decision because these are peculiarly detailed flags with many file details and variations. All of which also calls for a high level of draftsmanship and that’s where Grahame really excels. As usual with his products, the amount of detail that he packs into an area less than 30mm by 30mm is astounding.

So, overall then, Grahame’s produced a set of flags that uphold GMB’s reputation for making the best 28mm Napoleonic wargames flags on the market. And, barring minor issues, he’s achieved this while having to wrestle not only with the complexity of the design of these flags but the obscurity of historically accurate data.

7 Responses to “GMB Saxon infantry flags”

  1. Andrew Brentnall said


    You are right, Grahame does do an amazing job, these are beautiful. I have isolated the entire Hottenroth chapters on Saxon flags of this era, and will photocopy them for you. I am sure your German is better than mine, but I haven’t found anything more detailed on the subject than this. He describes the regiments which lost flags in Russia, “unverschuldet” as

    1st Battalion Konig
    2nd Battalion Niesemeuschel
    1st and 2nd Btns von Low
    2nd Battalion von Rechten
    1st and 2nd Btns Prinz Anton
    1st Battalion Prinz Maximilian

    2nd Battalion Prinz August lost its flag at Wolfowicz, and was allowed an identical replacement.

    The eight battalions listed above received those held in the Arsenal of Regiments Cerrini, Oebelschwitz, Burgsdorff and Anherrn (this latter is difficult to decipher, for me anyway, in the old gothic script). You will see this is slightly different to Howard Giles’ list. It is also clearly stated that the eight battalions received new flags (not four between them), so I assume including Leibfahnen. Hottenroth goes on to list the circumstances in which they were lost.

    On the reversal issue, I think there is probably a practical solution for the wargamer. Cut the flag along the lines next to the section which adheres to the pole. Place the thin strip which covers the pole onto a thin piece of paper, and then place the two sides next to it, in reversed order (as the flags do not have a fringe, this results in an entirely correct flag, as the individual sides are correct in every detail. This can then be either photocopied, or stuck onto the thin paper (or as some have suggested elsewhere, around a thin metal sheet) and used as normal.



    • Grahame Black said

      No need to start cutting flags up. I’ve completed the alterations – and a few improvements !
      I’m pretty sure that with the new documents supplied by Andrew and the gent on the miniatures page we’ve ‘nailed’ them !

      I’ve also put together some of the 1813 packs – with the replacement flags. Just the two ‘blue’ rgts and the Garde to do.

      If any of you have some of the first prints with the errors – please contact me to arrange an exchange ( old for new ) Thankfully, only a few of them have gone out.

      Thanks again

      GMB Designs

      • This is great news.

        Now if only my Saxons would catch up with me! I’m back in New Zealand but my UK hobby purchases (including just the one or two Calpe figures) are taking the slow boat and wont get to me until the end of November … if I’m lucky!!!! D’oh.

        von Peter himself

  2. Andrew Brentnall said

    Further to my last I have posted you the info, so grateful for a confirmation when received. On the above, the fourth disbanded regiment is “Dyherr” not Anherrn” – drat that gothic script. I am also of the belief that these flags are most likely not the original electoral flags of these regiments, but the new royal types which were ordered and completed but not issued prior to the disbandments – this would be a similar case to the Carabinier garde flag, and explain why a Royal pattern for regiment Oebelschwitz is one of the survivors in Dresden.



    • Martin said

      Yes, I think that last disbanded regiment is the “von Dyherrn” and your view about re-use of the flags of the four disbanded regiments fits with Peter F’s theory. I do find this archaic practice of naming regiments after their commanding officer very awkward.

      Thanks again for sending the material. I’ll be sure to let you know when it arrives safely. We’re also on the lookout for a publication entitled “Trophaen der Feldzuge 1812-1813-1814 im Kasaner Dom” by Heckel, which apparently details the captured flags and standards the Russians put on display in Kazan Cathedral in St Petersberg. This one seems to be even more obscure than Hottenroth!

  3. As I’ll be modelling Saxons of 1813 vintage I hope that the 1813 flag issue will soon be resolved and the relevant flags created! 8O)

    Keep up the good work gentlemen. The idle amongst us rely upon you!! 8O)

    von Peter himself, recently disembarked from a week onboard a ship … and the world is still gently rocking!!

  4. Andrew Brentnall said


    I do not have Hottenroth’s text with me – but my recollection is that some of his material actually refers to the flags and standards held in the Kazan Cathedral, so perhaps he used your pamphlet as a source? I think it was published a year before Hottenroth’s book.



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