Karl Bravery Medal 1917-1922, Part I

Figure 1: Karl Gold Bravery Medal, obverse. Image from the author’s archive

Introduction:

In this blog I am commencing a discussion of the Bravery Medal (Tapferkeitsmedaille) that was issued in 1917 with the image of Emperor Karl on the obverse. In the next blog I publish I will complete my discussion of this decoration. Thus this is part I of a two part discussion on this decoration. The Bravery Medal as a decoration had existed since it was first established by Joseph II in 1789. The first decorations issued specifically for bravery were called an Honor Decorations (Ehrenzeichen) until 1809 when the next decoration in the series was re-named as the Bravery Medal (Tapferkeitsmedaille). In addition to the medal issued in 1789 versions of this medal designated as Honor Medals were issued in 1792 by Franz II and 1804 by Franz I. Versions designated as Bravery Medals were issued prior to 1917 in 1809 by Franz I and in 1839 by Ferdinand I. In 1849 it was reissued by Franz Joseph to assure that it was consistent with the other awards that bore his image during this phase of his reign. He further modified the bravery medal in 1859 and would again in 1866 and for a final time in 1915. Subsequent to his death the medal was once again modified to conform to the requirements of the new emperor. In this blog I am going to discuss the enlisted bravery medal as issued from 1917-1922 during Karl’s reign. In subsequent blogs I will discuss the Part II of the description of this decoration and the final version of the bravery medal, the officer bravery medal, that was the last type of this historic award which had been issued from 1789-1922.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued:  April 4, 1917– December 1922

Reason Issued:  All medals were issued to reward bravery by non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in the face of an armed enemy.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in four classes

  • Gold Bravery Medal
  • Silver Bravery Medal, first class
  • Silver Bravery Medal, second class
  • Bronze Bravery Medal

Interesting Facts:

  • All classes of the bravery medal could be worn at the same time.
  • Officers who had won the medal as non-commissioned officers or enlisted men were allowed to continue wearing the medal when they became an officer.
  • After August 19, 1914 a pension as follows was awarded along with the medal:
    • Gold Bravery Medal = 30 Kronen per month
    • Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 15 Kronen per month
    • Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 7.50 Kronen month
  • The Non-commissioned officer most decorated  with this award was Feldpilot Offizierstellvertreter Julius Arigi. He was awarded the Golden Bravery Medal four times, The Silver Bravery Medal 1st class four times and both the Silver Bravery Medal 2nd class and the Bronze Bravery Medal two times.
  • There were 18 persons awarded the Gold Bravery Medal twice and six persons awarded the Gold Bravery Medal three times. Among the three time winners were the Austro-Hungarian flyers Eugen Bonsch, Stefen Fejes and Freidrich Hefty.
  • There were 17 persons awarded the Silver Bravery Medal first class three times. Among the three time winners were the Austro-Hungarian flyers Ferdinand Udvardy, Karl Urban and Franz Wognar
  • There were at least two female recipients of the Bravery Medal, second class. They were Officer Aspirant Helene Stepaniwna and Feldwebel-Kadettaspiarant Sophie Haleczka.
  • Recipients of the Gold Bravery Medal were to be transferred from the front to protect them.
  • The Gold Bravery Medal was the recommended award for saving the life of a commanding officer
  • The Bronze Bravery Medal was originally composed of 50% copper and 50% cannon bronze
  • Beginning in 1918 these medals were issued in war metal. It was intended that they be replace after the war with medals in the proper metals
  • Foreign enlisted personnel were eligible to receive the bronze medal
  • Medals could be retained by the wife of the recipient upon his death. Non married recipients medals were to be returned
  • It was not necessary to win a lower bravery medal to receive a higher award of the bravery medal
  • From 1789 to 1918 there were 30 different versions of the bravery medal. This is versions 25-28
  • This decoration in all of its variations was up to the issuance of the Karl Troop Cross in 1916 the most issued decoration in the armed forces

Hallmarks: 

  • The mark of the city Vienna Mint is often found on the rim of the medals in the one o’clock position
  • The word BRONZE is found on the rim of some late war issue gold and silver medals issued by the War Ministery
  • The word ZINK is found on the rim of some late war issue silver medals
  • HMA UNECHT (Minted by the Vienna Mint in base metal) is found on some gold and silver medals
  • NEM VALODI (Minted in Hungary in base metal) is found on some gold and silver medals
  • The 800 fine small article silver hallmark (the head a hound and the number 3 and letter A)

Design: A round medal with a spherical ball shaped  eye for the gold medal and silver medal 1st class and a wedge shaped eye for the silver medal 2nd class and the bronze medal.

Figure 1: Karl Gold Bravery Medal, obverse. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 2: Karl Silver Bravery Medal, first class, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse: A bust of the Emperor Karl facing right in a marshals uniform with the Order of the Golden Fleece and the grand cordon of the Order of Maria Theresia. Above the bust is inscribed: CAROLVS D.G .IMP AVST.REX BOH . ETC ET REX APOST HVNG.  Below the shoulder of the bust of the emperor is the designer’s name KAUTSCH (Heinrich Kautsch).  For some privately manufactured gold medals the designers name is Petzl (F. Petzl).

Figure 3: Karl Gold Bravery Medal, reverse. Image from the author’s archive

Reverse:  A Laurel Wreath tied at the bottom with a flying ribbon, the bottom of which rests on a group of four crossed flags and two standards with zig-sag lines to indicate the colors black, yellow, and red, white, green. Partially hidden by the leaves of the wreath there appears on the right foremost flag, half of the Austrian, and on the corresponding flag on the left, half the Hungarian large coat of arms of the Dual Monarchy. In the center of the field is the word “FORTITVDINI” (Bravery).

Weight:

  • Gold Bravery Medal = 8 Ducats (28 grams)
  • Gold Medal, Bronze Gilt, = 17.8 grams
  • Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 17 grams
  • Silver Bravery Medal, first class, bronze gilt  = 17 grams
  • Silver Bravery Medal, first class, war metal = unknown
  • Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 17 grams
  • Silver Bravery Medal, second class, war metal  = unknown
  • Bronze Bravery Medal = 15.4 grams
  • Bronze Bravery Medal in war metal = 12.5 grams

Size: 

  • Gold Bravery Medal = 40 mm in diameter
  • Gold Bravery Metal, bronze gilt, 40 mm in diameter
  • Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 40 mm in diameter.
  • Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 30 mm in diameter
  • Bronze Bravery Medal = 30 mm in diameter

Type of Material: .986 fine Gold until 1917, Gilt bronze after 1917,silver, silver gilt, bronze and war metal

Variations:

  • Type I Gold Medal:  As described above
  • Type II Gold Medal:  As described above except in bronze gilt.
  • Type III Gold Medal:  A medal the same as Types I and II except the makers name on the obverse is Petzl
  • Type I Silver Medal, first class: A medal as described above
  • Type II Silver Medal, first class: A medal as described above except it has a flat spade shaped eye.
  • Type III Silver Medal, first class: A medal the same as Type I except it is bronze gilt.
  • Type IV Silver Medal, first class:  The same as type III except it has a wire loop eye.
  • Type I Silver Medal, second class:  A medal as described above
  • Type II Silver Medal, second class: A medal as described above except it has a small wedge shaped eye.
  • Type III Silver Medal, second class: A medal the same as type I and II except it is bronze gilt.
  • Type IV Silver Medal, second class: A medal the same as Type II except it is made of war metal.

Designer:

  • Heinrich Kautsch
  • F. Petzel

Manufacturer:

  • The Vienna Hauptmunzamt (Imperial Vienna Mint)
  • The  Hungarian mint to Kremnitz

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will complete my description of the Karl Bravery Medal, 1917-1922. Until then I wish you well.

Rick

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