Great Military Merit Medal, 1917-1920

Figure 1: Great Military Merit Medal, Type VI, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Introduction:

The Great Military Merit Medal (Gross Militärverdienstmedaille), 1917-1920 is not at first glance a very important looking decoration. However it was the highest award for merit for officers other than the imperial orders. Thus the award which was only awarded 16 times was a decoration of substantial significance. What follows is a discussion of this significant award.

Decoration Numismatics:

Date Issued: April 28, 1917 – 1920

Reason Issued:  To recognize the highest achievement in time of war or to reward outstanding service in piece.  This service was greater than that recognized by the Silver Military Merit Medal but not warranting the award of a high order.  It was intended for high-ranking officers (Regimental Commanders and above) and other notable persons in the society.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in one class and two types.

  • Great Military Merit Medal on war ribbon
  • Great Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords

Interesting Facts:

  • This award was only given to officers
  • It was not issued until December 6, 1917
  • On December 6, 1917 the statutes were changed to allow officers to wear all grades of these decorations at one time
  • The only officer of the lower ranks to receive this award was Oberstleutnant Hermann Pokorny
  • Receipt of the award was as a result of receiving a special commendation from the Emperor

Hallmarks:

  • Vienna Assay Office mark (a capital A in a circle
  • Silver assay mark
  • Engraved SILBER on edge of decoration
  • Engraved BRONZE on edge of decoration

Design: A round medal with a raised rim and an attached crowns and wreath at the top

Figure 2: Great Military Merit Medal, obverse, Type I-V. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Obverse: Inside a fine line of laurel leaves is a bust of King Karl in high relief facing to the viewers right in a Field Marshals uniform and wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece.  Below his shoulder is the name of the maker, KAUTSCH (Heinrich Kautsch).  Around the bust is inscribed: CAROLVS. D. G. IMP. AVST . REX. BOH . ETC. ET. REX. APOST. HVNG.  The attached crowns represent the Austrian imperial crown on the viewers left and the Hungarian royal crown on the right. The crowns are placed upon a wreath composed of laurel on the viewers left and oak on the right which is tied at the bottom with a ribbon.  The crown is struck as a part of the medal.

Figure 3: Great Military Merit Medal, revers, Type I&V. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Reverse: Inside a beaded line which follows the contour of the medal and within a wreath of laurel on the left and oak on the right, which is tied at the bottom with a bow, is inscribed, SIGNVM LAVDIS (A token of esteem)The reverse of the wreath is fully detailed. 

Weight:  

  • Bronze gilt = 26 grams
  • Silver gilt = 30-32 grams
  • Bronze = unknown

Size:  The decoration without crown is 37-38 mm in diameter.  The crown is 30 mm in width and 18 mm high including the suspension eye. Thus the overall height of the medal is 55-56 mm.

Type of Material:

  • Silver
  • Gilt silver with a matt gold finish
  • Gilt bronze with a matt gold finish
  • Bronze

Variations:  There are six variations of this decoration

  • Type I (1917):  As described above in silver
  • Type II (1917) : As described above in matt finished gilt silver
  • Type III (1918) :  As described above in matt finished gilt bronze
  • Type IV (1918):  As described above except the crown and wreath are engraved only on the obverse
  • Type V (1918) As Type IV except the medal is bronze and crown and wreath are engraved only on the obverse
  • Type VI: As described in Type I except the bust of the emperor is larger

Figure 4: Great Military Merit Medal, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 5: Great Military Merit Medal, Type VI, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 6: Great Military Merit Medal, revers. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 7: Great Military Merit Medal, Type VI revers. Image from the author’s archive .

 

 

Designer: Heinrich Kautsch

Manufacturer: Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)

Number Issued: 16

Recipients:

  • Albrecht Duke of Wurttemberg, Field Marshall, August 19, 1917
  • Felix Count von Bothmer, General, Germany, July, 28,1917
  • Alois Furst Durchlaucht Schonburg-Hartenstein, Generaloberst, (with swords), November 14, 1917
  • Enver Pasha, Ottoman Commander in Chief, August 14, 1917
  • Joseph von Habsburg, Archduke, Generaloberst, (with swords), August 5, 1917
  • Paul von Beneckendorf und von Hindenburg, Field Marshall, Germany, August 5, 1917
  • Alfred Krauss, General of Infantry, (with swords) November 5, 1917
  • Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin, Field Marshall, April, 18, 1917
  • Alexander von Linsingen, General, Germany, December 7, 1917
  • Erich Ludendorff, General, Germany, March 26, 1918
  • Hermann Pokorny,Oberstleutnant, (with swords) October, 24, 1918 
  • Franz Freiherr Rohr von Denta, Field Marshall, (with swords), March 26, 1918
  • Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, August 19, 1917
  • Artur Arz von Straussenburg, Generaloberst, (with swords) October 28, 1917
  • Friedrich Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Prussia, August 19, 1917
  • Remus von Woyrsch, Field Marshal, Germany, December 13, 1917

Case: Unknown

Figure9: War Ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Ribbon: A 40 mm Red and White laddered ribbon

  • A small rectangular ribbon for this decoration sometimes issued with small attachments to indicate specific awards was introduced in October 27, 1917.

Attachments:

 

Figure 10: War Ribbon with swords. Image from the author’s archive.

  • Bronze gilt crossed swords were authorized to be worn on this decoration
  • Gold trapezoid clasps 9 mm in width were authorized to designate repeat awards of the Great Signum Laudis medals, when the clasp was granted for the medal with swords the swords were worn on the top clasp. Medals are known to exist with 3 bars. The bars were manufactured by Josef Zimbler of Vienna and are engraved on the back with his logo.
    • Second award = a bar 50 mm in length (top edge) and 9 mm wide
    • Third award  = two bars: first bar is 50 mm in length at the top edge and the second bar is 40 mm in length  (top edge) with the top bar being 9 mm and the second bar being 8 mm wide (Bars are spaced 20 mm apart)
    • Forth  award  = three bars: first bar is 50 mm in length at the top edge, the second bar is 40 mm in length  (top edge) and the third bar is 30 mm in length with the first bar being 9 mm wide and the other two being 8 mm wide (Bars are spaced 20 mm apart)

Note: Occasionally the bars are engraved although this was unofficial.

Figure 11; Great Military Merit Medal with swords and second award bar. Image form the author’s archive.

Figure 12; Great Military Merit Medal with swords and third award bar. Image form the author’s archive.

Figure 13; Great Military Merit Medal with third award bar. Image form the author’s archive.

 

Miniature: known to exist

Figure 14: Field Marshall Joseph von Habsburg wearing the Great Military Merit Medal with Swords. Image form the author’s archive.

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will describe the Olmutz Military Medal

Rick

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