British tank pennants

When, and if, British tanks flew a colored pennant from the antenna (as did many British Shermans in North Africa), did the pennant color (red, yellow, or blue) correspond to the regiment the tank belonged to?

We flew a Regimental guidon in Bosnia which was Blue and Red for Household Cavalry, and a yellow pennant for C Sqn… so probably Sqn orientated instead of Regimental ?

Should have specified WWll. I did some more Googling and it seems the pennant was color-coded to the regiment. In particular, I’m modeling a Sherman of Three Rivers Regiment (Canadian). Big yellow ( 2nd Regiment) circle ( C Squadron) on the turret. Based on what I’ve read, any pennant should also be yellow. Any other theories or facts?

I’ve misplaced some info that I downloaded off the interweb, but IIRC, there is some info in Taylor’s “War Paint” series about this subject.

Going off memory for the moment, though, the colored pennants were used mainly as a “day recognition” code system. The arrangement of colors and their order top to bottom identified specific units, but these pennant recognition codes were changed regularly.

So, while on some particular date in some particular photo, for example, you could say that such and thus pennants identified that tank as belonging to a specific unit, that same tank photographed on a different date might display entirely different colors and order.

I do believe there were some standard command-level pennants, though, and those were combined with the recognition code pennants. Thus, a troop, squadron or regimental commander’s tank might always display the same command level pennant, that same tank’s day-recognition code pennants would be changed according to the signals instructions published in the current applicable operations order.

Finally, still going off memory, I believe the pennant recognition code system was only used in North Africa, Tunisia and Italy. I don’t think it was (much, if at all) used in NWE.

Thanks. My interest involves North Africa, and Sicily. Some sources I’ve recently read mentions the daily pennant codes, and others state it was for unit and seniority identification, so maybe both methods were relevant at different times. I just wanted to add a pennant to the antenna for a bit of “color”, but would rather have the color both relevant and correct. So, theoretically, I could use the regiment’s color and be possibly correct in both cases!

1 Like

FWIW, I think the use of the pennants in North Africa was so common that you’re quite “safe” from an accuracy standpoint to replicate them. Again, their number and colors varied frequently, so I can’t imagine that anyone could state with certainty that any particular combination of colors is right or wrong (except perhaps for some few operations and units where the pennant codes have been recorded for history).

I don’t think that I’ve ever read anything credible, though, about them being used to indicate regimental seniority, only ever for unit ID for tactical purposes. Regimental seniority is already indicated with the other markings (squadron marking colors), and there’s no particular need for some other unit to be able to recognize that at a distance.

I suppose there might have been examples of pennant codes that could be deciphered to determine the troop number within some particular squadron or squadron within a regiment. In that sense, one could characterize the codes as indicating “seniority” (but only in the sense of A coming before B, or 1 before 2…).

They were routinely changed to keep the enemy from identifying Commonwealth units during combat, and I think the frequency was also sometimes based on operations and not 24-hour time periods. That is, for such and thus operation (which might last a number of days or even weeks), the pennant codes would remain the same for the duration.

Seniority of regiments did change as they were sometimes reassigned between brigades, but in those cases, the squadron marking would be repainted to reflect the new regimental seniority within the new brigade of assignment.

However, the need for tactical unit ID at long ranges was a constant requirement as was the need to keep the enemy from discovering the various units’ IDs.

I’ve read of swallow-tail pennants in two colors with a number or insignia to indicate squadron, or troop, leaders. Or a second pennant flying beneath another on the same antenna. It’s all very vague, in some cases contradictory, and confusing! Guess ya hadda be there!

1 Like

No doubt the pennant ID system evolved and changed over time. The British unit marking system changed quite a lot over the course of the war.