Military Merit Cross, Second Class, Part I

Introduction:

In this blog I am going to discuss the Military Merit Cross, Second 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, Military Merit Cross, Second Issue and Military Merit Cross, First Class. Reading these blogs may help to place this discussion in context.

Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration and swords. Image from the author'z archive

Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords. Image from the author’s archive

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 Austro-Hungarian 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 award 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 being added as the first class. In this blog I will describe the second class in some detail. The first class has been described in a previous blog and the third class will be discussed in a subsequent blog.

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

  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration second class and swords second class (Issued December, 13 1916-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration second class and third class (silver) swords (Issued December, 13 1916-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration third class and swords third class (Authorized on December 13, 1916 (never issued)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords and a second award of the war decoration second class (Authorized March 14, 1918)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with second award of the war decoration second class (Authorized March 14, 1918)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration second class (Issued September 23, 1914-1918)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration third class (Issued from September 23, 1914-1918 (issued once)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class (Issued from September 23, 1914-1918 (issued once)

Although the decoration in the second class was authorized in eight variations as noted above it was only issued in seven. 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 never occurred because the second class cross was only issued in wartime.  The one exception to this is that there was one recipient of the cross for non-war related service (Karl Adler von Strasser). However this recipient did not possess the Military Merit Cross third class with War Decoration and swords and thus the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration third class and swords third class was never issued.

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

Interesting Facts:

  • The enamel in this issue cross is a darker shade of red then in those issued before 1914
  • The wreath on these crosses is rounder and more well defined then those issued prior to 1914
  • This decoration could only be conferred on officers
  • Upon the recipient’s death the family was allowed to keep the decoration
  • The kleiner badges of this decoration which were authorized on April 23, 1918 and were privately purchased by the recipients of the decoration and not issued by the Austro-Hungarian government.
  • The first recipient of the Military Merit Cross second class was Lieutenant General Ignaz Trollman Freiherr von Lovenberg who received the second class with war decoration on November 29, 1914.

Hallmarks:

Hallmarks found on the second class badges are:

  • The makers mark of Rudolf Marschall (the Marschall name is often found on the lower cross arm on the original badges (Figure 1)
  • The makers mark of Rudolf Souval
  • 1872-1922 800 Fine silver small article hallmark
  • 1890-1921 Vienna Assay Office mark
Figure 1: Rudolf Marschall Makers mark as found on he lower arm of the Military Merit Cross second class. Image from the Author's archive.

Figure 1: Rudolf Marschall makers mark as found on he lower arm of the Military Merit Cross second class. Image from the Author’s archive.

 

Design:

A red and white enameled clawed cross

Military Merit Cross Second class with war decoration second class, and swords second class (December, 13 1916-1918) (Figure 2): A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a grooved suspension ring passing through it. The arms of the cross have a 2.5 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 an 18 mm 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 6 mm wide green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross and gold upward pointing swords passing through the center medallion and over the wreath.

Figure 2: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords second class. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 2: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords second class. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Military Merit Cross Second class with war decoration second class, and swords third class (December, 13 1916-1918 (Figure 3): The same as the cross described in figure 2 except the crosses which are awarded for war merit and which recognize the award of the third class for bravery have a 6 mm wide green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross and silver upward pointing swords passing through the center medallion and over the wreath.

Note: Silver swords denote swords of a lower class of the decoration than the class of the cross on which they are mounted.

 

Figure 3: Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration second class and swords third class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 3: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration second class and swords third class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords and a second award of the war decoration second class (Authorized February 8, 1918) (Figure 4): A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a suspension ring passing through it. Mounted to the top of the suspension ring is an 18 mm in diameter green enameled laurel wreath. Otherwise the cross is as described in figure 2.

Figure 4: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords and a second award of the war decoration. Image attributed to Vaclav Mericka, Orden Und Ehrenzeichen, Anton Schroll & Co

Figure 4: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords and a second award of the war decoration. Image attributed to Vaclav Mericka, Orden Und Ehrenzeichen, Anton Schroll & Co.

Military Merit Cross Second Class with second award of the war decoration second class (Authorized February 8, 1918) Figure 5: A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a suspension ring passing through it. Mounted to the top of the suspension ring is an 18 mm in diameter green enameled laurel wreath. Otherwise the cross is as described in figure 2.

Figure 5: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and a second award of the war decoration. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 5: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and a second award of the war decoration. Image from the author’s archive.

Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration (September 23, 1914-1918) (Figure 6) : A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a suspension ring passing through it. The arms of the cross have a 2.5 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 an 18 mm 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 6 mm wide green enameled laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross.

Figure 6: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 6: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration third class (September 23, 1914-1918) (Figure 7): A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a suspension ring passing through it. The arms of the cross have a 2.5 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 an 18 mm white enameled center medallion.  On the center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in gilt silver. The second class crosses which denote the award of the cross in the third class for military merit have a gilt wreath tightly raped around the center medallion. Only one officer was eligible for this award: Karl Adler von Strasser who is not known to have worn it. See blog post titled “One Man, two unique decorations” for more details.

Figure 7: Military Merit Cross, second class with third class war decoration. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 7: Military Merit Cross Second Class with third class war decoration. Image from the author’s archive.

Military Merit Cross Second Class Figure 8: A clawed cross the arms of which are slightly curved and taper towards the center medallion. The upper arm has a flat stylizes wedge shaped eye with a suspension ring passing through it.  The arms of the cross have a 2.5 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 an 18 mm white enameled center medallion. On the center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in gilt silver. This cross was only issued once to Karl Adler von Strasser. See blog post titled “One Man, two unique decorations” for more details.

Figure 8: Military Merit Cross Second Class. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 8: Military Merit Cross Second Class. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: 

  • Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration and swords (December 13, 1916-1918) Figure 9:  badges have a plain white enameled reverse with the attached wreath in the same material as the obverse and the reverse of the swords in metal.
Figure 9: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 9: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration (September 23, 1914-1918) Figure 10: badges have a plain white enameled reverse with the attached wreath in the same material as the obverse.

Figure 10: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 10: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Military  Merit Cross second (September 23, 1914-1918) Figure 11: badges have a plain white enameled reverse

 

Figure 11: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 11: Reverse of the Military Merit Cross Second Class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Weight:

  • Military Merit Cross second class with second award of the war decoration and swords = 39.8 grams
  • Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration and swords = 35 grams
  • Military Merit Cross second class with second award of the war decoration = 38.8 grams
  • Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration = 34 grams
  • Military Merit Cross second class with war decoration third class= 34 grams
  • Military Merit Cross second class = 29.4 grams

Size: 

  • Military Merit Cross second class badges = 39 mm in diameter with a 19 mm center medallion
  • Military Merit Cross second class with second award of the war decoration = 70 mm in height and 41 mm in width with a 19 mm center medallion

Type of Material:

Silver and enamel

Manufacturer:

  • Rudolf Marshall
  • Rudolf Souval

Number Issued:

Second Class = Unknown to the author

Award Documents:

An award document was issued along with the Military Merit Cross, second class

 

Figure 12: Military Merit Cross Second Class with War Decoration and Swords Certificate, issued to Generalmajor Johann Ritter von Romer on August 30, 1918 . Image from the author's archive.

Figure 12: Military Merit Cross Second Class with War Decoration and Swords Certificate, issued to Generalmajor Johann Ritter von Romer on August 30, 1918 . Image from the author’s archive.

 

Case (Figure 13):

Cases varied but commonly were rectangular with one end rounded and composed of red simulated leather or leather covered with gold inscription MILITAR-VERDIENST-KREUZ II KLASSE and if appropriate Kriegs Dekoration or Kriegs Dekoration und Schwertern 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. There were also special presentation cases with personalized inscriptions. These were privately manufactured.

Figure 13: Military Merit Cross Second Class case. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 13: Military Merit Cross Second Class case. Image from the author’s archive.

Miniature:  

Miniatures of this award exist

 

Figure 14: Feldmarschalleutnant Johann Graf von Hernerstein wearing the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords. Image from the authors archive)

Figure 14: Feldmarschalleutnant Johann Graf von Hernerstein wearing the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration and swords. Image from the authors archive)

 

Figure 15: Vizeadmiral Karl Kailer von Kaltenfels wearing the Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 15: Vizeadmiral Karl Kailer von Kaltenfels wearing the Military Merit Cross Second 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, second class and to discussing them with you.

More to come
Rick Lussier

 

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