For Those in Peril on the Sea: 150 Years of the Hanseatic Cross

Skærmbillede 2018-05-23 kl. 18.45.24

The flag of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service was adopted on 23 May 1868. This NGO, one of Germany’s oldest, has been saving lives for 153 years. The Hanseatic Cross which is in the organisation’s flag and on its ships and boats combines Prussian and Hanseatic symbolism. 

Along Germany’s North Sea and Baltic Sea coastline, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service presently organizes 180 employees and 800 volunteers. 24 hours a day and in all weather conditions, they man 54 stations and 60 search and rescue vessels. “We go out when others come in” is the motto of this important NGO.

The German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (in German, Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger, DGzRS) was established when several smaller organisations were amalgamated in 1865. Three years later, the North German Confederation – the Prussian-led predecessor of the second German Empire – decided on a flag for DGzRS vessels: a red Hanseatic Cross in a white field with a thin black border.

The Hanseatic Cross (in German, Hansekreuz) is similar to the Iron Cross used by the Prussian and the German military since the Napoleonic Wars, but it is red and white, the traditional colours of the Hanseatic League. Both the flag of the DGzRS and the national flag of the North German Federation (1866-1871) and the German Empire (1871-1918) combine the red and white of the Hanseatic cities and the black and white of the Kingdom of Prussia.

Since 1865 more than 84,000 persons have been rescued by the crews of the DGzRS. In 2015 the organisation celebrated its 150th birthday. Three years on, today marks the 150-year anniversary of the organisation’s iconic flag with the red-white Hansekreuz.

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