Military Merit Cross, First Class

Introduction

In this blog I am going to discuss the Military Merit Cross, first class in some detail. Readers may wish to review the previous blogs I have published on the Military Merit Cross prior to reading this one. The previous blog titles are: Five Military Merit Crosses that Never Were; One Man, Two Unique Decorations; Military Merit Cross, First Issue 1849; and Military Merit Cross, Second Issue. Reading these blogs may help to place this discussion in context.

Figure 1: Military Merit Cross with war decoration and swords, first class

Figure 1: Military Merit Cross with war decoration and swords, first class. Image from author’s archive.

Decoration description and numismatics:

Date Issued:  The Military Merit Cross (Militärverdienstkreuz) was first issued on October 22, 1849. On January 12, 1860 the decoration was modified with the addition of a war decoration. Then on September 23, 1914 it was once again modified when it was converted from a one class decoration to a three class decoration. The decoration in three classes continued to be issued until the fall of the Austrian Empire in 1918.

Reason Issued:  To recognize officers of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces who have accomplished especially meritorious services during time of war by high intelligence, courage and resoluteness, or in time of piece, by outstanding zeal.

Note: Although the cross was originally intended for officers in the Austro-Hungarian armed forces it was, during the period when it was issued in three classes that it was also awarded to officers and military leaders of the Central Powers allies.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in three classes with war decoration, and with and without swords. When the decoration was modified into a three class decoration the original decoration which had been issued from October 22, 1849 was converted to the third class and a commanders’ cross was added as a second class with a pin back breast cross was added as the first class. In this blog I will describe the first class in some detail while the second class and third class will be discussed in subsequent blogs.

From its inception in 1914 until the end of WWI the Military Merit Cross Fist Class was authorized by statute in six variations. They were:

  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration first class and swords first class (Figure 1) (Issued December, 13 1916-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class ( Figure 2) (Issued December, 13 1916-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class and swords of a lower class (Authorized on December 13, 1916 but never issued)
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration first class (Figure 3)  (Issued September 23, 1914-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class (Authorized on September 23, 1914-1918 but never issued)
  • Military Merit Cross First Class (Authorized on September 23, 1914 but never issued)

Although the decoration in the first class was authorized in six variations as noted above it was only issued in three. The reason for this is that when the first class was authorized it was anticipated that it would continue to be issued in peacetime and thus variations were authorized for peacetime service. However such service did not occur.  Thus the:

Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class and swords of a lower class which was authorized December 13, 1916 was never issued because its award would have necessitated a recipient who had previously been awarded the Military Merit Cross of a lower class with war decoration and swords and who subsequently earned the Military Merit Cross, first class for none-war related service. This of course never occurred.

Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class which was authorized December 13, 1916 but was never issued because its award would have necessitated a recipient who had previously been awarded the Military Merit Cross of a lower class with war decoration having subsequently earned the Military Merit Cross, first class for none-war related service. This never occurred.

Military Merit Cross First Class which was authorized December 13, 1916 was never issued because its award would have necessitated a recipient who had been awarded Military Merit Cross, first class for none-war related service which never occurred.

Note: Insignia for which an image has been provided in this blog were issued decorations; those for which no picture is provided were authorized but never issued.

Interesting Facts:

  • The first class cross was awarded with jewels. Jeweled versions of this decoration are not a higher award but were purchased and presented by the Emperor as a personal sign of his appreciation for the services rendered by the recipient who had been awarded the first class of the Military Merit Cross. The intention was to honor individuals who were close associates of the Emperor at the time of Jubilees and on other ceremonial occasions.
  • This decoration could only be conferred on officers
  • The recipient’s family was allowed to keep the decoration
  • The 1st class cross was awarded only to officers commanding Army Corps or larger military units
  • The kleiner badges of this decoration which were authorized on April 23, 1918 were privately purchased by the recipients of the decoration and not issued by the Austro-Hungarian government.
  • Archduke Eugen was one of two persons to receive this award twice in diamonds. He received the third class in 1908 and the first class with war decoration and swords in 1917. The other person to be so honored was Archduke Friedrich who received the third class in 1898 and the first class with war decoration in 1915.

Hallmarks: Hallmarks found on the first class badges are: (Often found on the hinge)

  • The makers logo of Rudolf Marschall
  • The mark of CF Rothe
  • The Mark of Alexander E. Kochert (on jeweled versions)
  • 1872-1922 800 fine silver hallmark
  • 1890-1921 Vienna Assay Office mark

Design: A red and white enameled clawed cross

  • Military Merit Cross, first class with war decoration first class and swords first class (December, 13 1916-1918) (Figure 1): A clawed cross, the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The arms of the cross have a 3.5 mm garnet-red enameled border. Inside of the border is a white enameled field. The 27 mm center medallion also has a garnet-red enameled border inside of which is a white enameled center medallion.  On the center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in gilt silver. The crosses awarded for bravery have a green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross and gold upward pointing swords passing through the center medallion and above the wreath
Figure 1: Military Merit Cross with war decoration and swords, first class. Image from author's archive

Figure 1: Military Merit Cross with war decoration and swords, first class. Image from author’s archive

  • Military Merit Cross, first class with war decoration first class, and swords of a lower class (December, 13 1916-1918) Figure 2: A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The arms of the cross have a 3.5 mm garnet-red enameled border. Inside of the border is a white enameled field. The 27 mm center medallion also has a garnet-red enameled border inside of which is a white enameled center medallion. On the center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in gilt silver. The crosses awarded for war service have a green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross. Those awarded to persons who had previously been decorated with the Military Merit Cross second or third class for bravery have silver upward pointing swords passing through the center medallion and above the wreath.
    Figure 2: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the author's archive.

    Figure 2: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the author’s archive.

Note: Silver swords denote swords of a lower class of the decoration than the class of the cross with war decoration. On the first class badge with war decoration it is not possible to know if the swords are 2nd or 3rd class)

  • Military Merit Cross First class with war decoration first class (September 23, 1914-1918) Figure 3: A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The arms of the cross have a 3.5 mm garnet-red enameled border. Inside of the border is a white enameled field. The center medallion also has a garnet-red enameled border inside of which is a white enameled center medallion. On the 27 mm center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in gilt silver. The crosses awarded for war service have a green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross.
Figure 3: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 3: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Reverse: 

  • Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration and swords (December, 13 1916-1918): A plain silver reverse with a sturdy horizontal pin for attaching the badge to the uniform.  The reverse of the war wreath and swords are also plain silver. The center medallion of the badge often has the logo of Rudolf Marshall.
  • Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration (September 23, 1914-1918) Figure 4: A plain silver reverse with a sturdy horizontal pin for attaching the badge to the uniform. The reverse of the war wreath are also plain silver. The center medallion of the badge often has the logo of Rudolf Marshall. The illustrated reverse is of a cross that was also a presentation piece and thus is inscribed on the reverse of the wreath which would not be found on the non-presentation crosses.
Figure 4: Military Merit Cross reverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 4: Military Merit Cross reverse. Image attributed to Osterreichs Orden published by Adeva.

Variations: 

  • Type I: A cross as described above.
  • Type II: As described above except it has an inscription on the back. These are presentation pieces. The inscriptions are privately added.
  •  Type III: As described about but jeweled. These are presentation pieces from the emperor and are presented to demonstrate his personal regard for the recipient. They are not a higher grade of the award.

Manufacturer:

First class badges in diamonds

  • Rudolf Marshall
  • Alexander E. Kochert

First class badges

  • Rudolf Marshall

Note: It has been credibly reported that the Austrian makers of orders and medals C.F Rothe & Neffe of Vienna produced the Military Merit Crosses illustrated in the Ordensbuch der Gewesenen Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie in 1918/19 by Heinrich F. Michetschläger.

Number Issued

  • 81 Military Merit Cross, first class were issued from 1914 until 1918:
  • In addition a total of five jeweled first class badges with war decoration and three with war decoration and swords were issued from 1914 to 1918. The recipients of the jeweled awards are as follows:
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration and swords, with jewels:
  1. Archduke Eugen von Habsburg-1917
  2. Generaloberst Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras-1918
  3. Feldmarschall Archduke Freidrich-1915
  • Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration, with jewels:
  1. Emperor Franz Joseph –1915
  2. Generalfeldmarschall Prince Leopold of Bavaria– 1917
  3. Generaloberst August von Macksensen-1915
  4. Mohammed V, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire-1917
  5. Generaloberst Eduard Graf Paar-1917
  • Recipients of the First Class with war decoration and swords:
  1. General of Cavalry Eduard Bohm-Ermolli-Awarded the first class with war decoration in 1915 and with swords in 1917
  2. Generaloberst Franz Freiherr Rohr von Denta –1917
  3. Generaloberst Karl Freiherr von Kirchbach auf Lauterbach-1917
  4. Generaloberst Karl Kritec-1917
  5. General of Infantry Arthur Arz von Straussenburg-1917
  6. General of Infantry Erich Ludendorff (Germany)-1917
  7. Generaloberst Wenzel von Worm-1917
  8. Generaloberst Stephan Freiherr Sarkotic von Lovcen-1918
  9. General of Infantry Alfred Krauss-1918
  • Recipients of the First Class with war decoration:
  1. General of Cavalry Friedrich August Grand Duke of Oldenburg-1915
  2. Friedrich August III King of Saxony-1915
  3. General of Cavalry Friedrich von Barenhardi-1918
  4. General of Infantry Otto von Below (Prussia)-1915
  5. Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Beneckendorf und von Hindenburg-1917
  6. Generaloberst Bernhard Duke of Sachsen-Meiningen-1915
  7. General of Infantry Hans von Beseler-1915
  8. Generaloberst Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras-1916
  9. General of Infantry Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna-1915
  10. General of Infantry Felix Count of Bothmer-1915
  11. Admiral Eduard von Capelle-1917
  12. General of Cavalry Viktor Dankle-1915
  13. Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Von Eichhorn-1918
  14. General of Infantry Wilhelm Ernst Grand Duke of Saxony-1918
  15. Generaloberst Ludwig Freiherr von Falkenhausen-1918
  16. General of Infantry Erch von Falkenhayn (Germany)-1915
  17. Ferdinand I King of Bulgaria-1915
  18. General of Cavalry Friedrich Franz IV Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin-1915
  19. Eitel Friedrich Prince of Prussia-1917
  20. Generaloberst Friedrich II Grand Duke of Baden-1915
  21. General of Artillery Max von Gallwitz-1915
  22. General of Infantry Friedrich Freiherr von Georgi-1915
  23. General of Infantry Friedrich von Gerok-1917
  24. Generalfeldmarschall Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz (Germany)-1915
  25. Generaloberst Archduke Eugen von Habsburg-1915
  26. Feldmarschall Archduke Freidrich von Habsburg-1915
  27. Emperor Franz Joseph I von Habsburg-1915
  28. General of Infantry Archduke Joseph Ferdinand von Habsburg-1915
  29. General of Cavalry Archduke Joseph von Habsburg-1916
  30. Emperor Karl I von Habsburg -1917
  31. Generaloberst Archduke Leopold Salvator von Habsburg-1916
  32. Admiral Anton Haus-1915
  33. General of Infantry Samuel Freiherr von Hazai-1915
  34. Grand Admiral Heinrich Prince of Prussia-1915
  35. General of Infantry Franz Freiherr Conrad von Hotzendorf-1914
  36. Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff-1917
  37. Generalmajor Nikolaus Jekow-1916
  38. General of Infantry Hermann von Kovess von Kovesshaza-1915
  39. Feldzuegmeister Alexander Ritter von Krobatin-1915
  40. Generalfeldmarschall Leopold Prince of Bavaria-1915
  41. Generaloberst Friedrich Leopold Prince of Prussia-1915
  42. General of Infantry Alexander von Linsingen-1915
  43. General of Infantry Ernst Ludwig Grand Duke of Hesse-1915
  44. Ludwig III, King of Bavaria-1915
  45. General of Infantry Moritz Freiherr von Lyncker (Germany)-1915
  46. Generaloberst August von Macksensen-1915
  47. Mohammed V Sultan of the Ottoman Empire-1917
  48. Admiral Georg von Muller (Germany)- 1915
  49. Generloberst Eduard Count Paar-1916
  50. Djemal Pascha (Ottoman Empire)-1918
  51. General Enver Pasha (Ottoman Empire)- 1915
  52. Generaloberst Hans von Plessen (Germany)-1915
  53. General Tevfik Pascha (Ottoman Empire)-1917
  54. Wehib Pascha (Ottoman Empire)-1918
  55. Feldzuegmeister Oskar Potiorek – 1914
  56. Generaloberst Rupprecht Crown Prince of Bavaria-1915
  57. Generaloberst Stephan Freiherr Sarkotic von Locen-1918
  58. General of Infantry Franz Freiherr von Soden-1918
  59. Admiral Guido von Usedom (Germany)-1915
  60. General of Infantry Wilhelm Crown Prince of the German Empire-1915
  61. Wilhelm II King of Wurttemburg-1915
  62. Generaloberst Remus von Woyrsch (Germany)-1914
  63. Generaloberst Albrecht Duke of Wurttemberg-1915
  64. General of Cavalry Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin-1916
  65. Generaloberst Adolf Freiherr Rhemen zu Barensfeld-1918
  66. Generaloberst Franz Rohr-1917
  67. General of Cavalry Otto Liman von Sanders (Germany)-1916
  68. Generaloberst Karl Terstyanszky von Nadas-1916
  69. Grand Admiral von Tirpitz-1915
  70. General Wahideddin Effendi (Ottoman Empire)-1917
  71. Wilhelm II German Emperor and King of Prussia-1916
  72. Nikola Todorov Zhekov , Bulgarian War Minister

Award Documents: An award document was issued along with the Military Merit Cross, first class:

  • Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration and Swords Certificate issued on September 27, 1918 to General of Infantry Alfred Krauss. (Figure 5)
Figure 5: •Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration and Swords Certificate issued on September 27, 1918 to General of Infantry Alfred Krauss. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 5: • Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration and Swords Certificate issued on September 27, 1918 to General of Infantry Alfred Krauss. Image from the author’s archive.

  • Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration Certificate issued in 1915 to Feldmarschall Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin. (Figure 6)
Figure 6: •Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration Certificate issued in 1915 to Feldmarschall Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin. Imace courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 6: • Military Merit Cross First Class with War Decoration Certificate issued in 1915 to Feldmarschall Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin. Imace courtesy of Dorotheum.

Case: Cases varied but commonly were square maroon simulated leather or leather covered with gold inscription and decoration on the exterior of the lid. The interior of the lid was white silk with a gold maker’s logo and the inside bottom of the case is white or fawn plush and is fitted to accommodate the decoration. The underside of the case is usually black or fawn colored.

Attachments: There are no attachments directly associated with the decorations. However there were attachments associated with the Military Merit Cross, first class kleiner badges which were introduced on April 23, 1918 and the rectangular chest ribbon introduced on October 27, 1917.

Kleiner badge:  Kleiner badges were introduced on April 23, 1918 to be worn when it was inconvenient to wear the full size first class star. The kleiner badge for the Military Merit Cross, first class consists of a 19 mm replica of the first class cross attached to the ribbon of the third class cross with war decoration to denote the wearer was entitled to the higher award. The 19 mm representation of the first class cross would be appropriate to the type received i.e. Cross with war decoration first class and swords first class (Figure 7), cross with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class (Figure 8), cross with war decoration (Figure 9).

Figure 7: Military Merit Cross First class with war decoration and swords Kleiner decoration. Image attributed to Reference Catalogue Orders, medals and decorations of the World, A-D, Borna Barac

Figure 7: Military Merit Cross First class with war decoration and swords Kleiner decoration. Image attributed to Reference Catalog Orders, medals and decorations of the World, A-D, Borna Barac.

Figure 8: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the authors archive

Figure 8: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 9: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image from the author's archive

Figure 9: Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image from the author’s archive.

Ribbon: Since the Military Merit Cross first class was a beast star there is no ribbon directly associated with it.  However on October 27, 1917 a small rectangular ribbon for this decoration in the same pattern as found on the second and third class decorations was issued which had small attachment to indicate the first class of the award. The representation of the first class cross was  appropriate to the type received i.e. Cross with war decoration first class and swords first class (Figure 10), cross with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class (Figure 11), cross with war decoration Figure 12).

Figure 10: Ribbon forf the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swordsfirst class. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 10: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords first class. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 11: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 11: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class and swords of a lower class. Image from the author’s archive.

.

Figure 12: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image from the authors archive

Figure 12: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross first class with war decoration first class. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 13: Generaloberst Eduard Freiherr von Bohm-Ermolli wearing the Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration and swords: Image from the author's archive)

Figure 13: Generaloberst Eduard Freiherr von Bohm-Ermolli wearing the Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration and swords: Image from the author’s archive)

 

Figure 13: Feldmarschall Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin wearing the Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration Image from the author's archive.

Figure 13: Feldmarschall Alexander Freiherr von Krobatin wearing the Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration Image from the author’s archive.

I am really looking forward to seeing your questions and/or comments on the Military Merit Cross, first class and to discussing them with you.

More to come
Rick Lussier

 

 

4 Comments
  1. Hello,

    to give a contribution to this interesting chapter on the Militärverdienstkreuz I Klasse, I would like to add a picture (obverse and reverse) of some pieces from my collection:

  2. Thank you very much for sharing the pictures you provided. If you wouldn’t mind could you send me a transcription of the inscriptions on the reverse center medallions of the items in your collection. I can tell from the pictures that the award in the top right of the reverse images is made by Vincent Mayers & Sons of Vienna. I am curious to determine who made the other crosses. As you may also know there were crosses made specifically to provide the images for the Michetschlager book. Given that you have some very rare crosses and some that were never issued I am curious to see who made them. Thank you for your interest and contribution. I look forward to additional discussion with you.

    Rick

  3. Dear Rick,

    the MVK 1st Class with War Decoration and Swords is the piece belonged to FM Conrad v. Hoetzendorf, auctioned in Munich at Hermann Historica, on May 19th, 2001, with other orders/decorations, belonged to the late Field Marshal.

    The piece is in its case, with maker’s mark of Mayer’s Söhne, Vienna, whose escutcheon is visible, as applied to the Cross’s reverse counter-medallion.
    The decoration itself, bears the correct maker’s marks of Souval, Vienna, besides the Viennese silver marks.
    I think I can suppose that the Conrad, who was already owner of the MVK 1st Class with War Decoration, when later received the “Swords”, gave to messrs. Mayer’s Söhne his earlier decoration and let it “update”: the work done, was then labeled by Mayer, who completed the decoration, with a proper case.
    Besides that, the cross is in any other detail a decoration of the official, award type.

    The other 1st Classes are all with the reverse escutcheon with the “MODELL R. MARSCHALL” inscription and Souval’s makers mark / Viennese silver marks so, all official pieces (besides the 1st Class with War Decoration) of the non-awarded types.

    Some series have been prepared, either for the Münzkabinett, or for the Ministry of War. after the hostilities, most have been destroyed, thus their rarity.

    The award document of the MVK 1st Class with War Decoration for General Krobatin, won at the Dorotheum’s sale is now in my collection.

    I’ll always be glad, if I could give any contribution to these interesting discussions.

    All the best,

    Enzo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join OMSA

Join now to start taking advantage of the member benefits including the Journal of the Orders and Medals Society, Ribbon Bank, Library, Annual Conventions, Publication Program and much more!
Join Now!

Site Login