Military Merit Cross, Second Class Part II

Introduction:

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

In this blog I am going to complete my review the Military Merit Cross second class and then focus on the kleiner badges and the chest ribbons associated with the decoration. I will also briefly describe the variations in the third class badges to which the kleiner insignia is attached.

Review:

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.

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 being added as the first class. In this blog I will describe the second class in some detail while 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 but never issued)
  • Military Merit Cross Second Class with second award of the war decoration second class and swords 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)

Interesting Facts:

  • The enamel in this issue cross is a darker shade of red then in those issued before1914
  • 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 were privately purchased by the recipients of the decoration and not issued by the Austro-Hungarian government.

Type of Material: Silver and enamel

Variations of the third class decorations with second class kleiner insignia: 

  • Type I: 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 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 13 mm white enameled center medallion. On the center medallion in two lines is the inscription VER DIENST (For Merit) in silver. The crosses awarded for combatant service have a 3 mm wide gold gilt laurel wreath passing between the arms of the cross. Badges have a plain white enameled reverse with the attached wreath enameled or in the same metal as the obverse
  • Type II: As described above except it has an inscription on the back. These are presentation pieces. The inscriptions are privately added.
  • Type III (Figure 1: The same as Type I except the badge is suspended from a loop suspension ring and the obverse inscription VER DIENST is an integral part of the obverse center medallion and not applied.
Figure 1: Type III Third class badge on which are found kleiner decorations. Image from author's archive.

Figure 1: Type III Third class badge on which are found second class kleiner decorations. Image from author’s archive.

Hallmarks found on the third class decorations with second class kleiner insignia:  

  • Makers marks for Rothe and Neffe, Alexander E. Kochert, The brothers Resch and Vincent Mayer and sons
  • 1872-1922 800 silver small article hallmark
  • 1890-1921 Vienna Assay Office mark

Manufacturer of the third class decorations with second class kleiner insignia:

  • Rothe and Neffe
  • Alexander E. Kochert
  • The Brothers Resch
  • Vincent Mayer and sons

Attachments: There are no attachments associated with the second class decorations themselves. However there were attachments associated with the Military Merit Cross, second 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 second class badge. The kleiner badge for the Military Merit Cross, second class consists of a 19 mm replica of the second class cross attached to the ribbon of the third class cross to denote the wearer was entitled to the higher award. The 19 mm representation of the second class cross would be appropriate to the type of second class cross received i.e. Cross with war decoration second class and swords second class (Figure 2), cross with war decoration second class and third class swords (Figure 3), Cross with second class swords and a second award of the second class war decoration (Figure 4). Cross with second award of the second class war decoration (Figure 5), cross with second class war decoration (Figure 6), cross with third class war decoration (7), Cross with second class klenier (Figure 8).

 

Figure 2: Second class kleiner with war decoration and swords second class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 2: Second class kleiner with war decoration and swords second class. Image courtesy of Dorotheum

Figure 3: Second class kleiner with war decoration second class and swords third class. Image from the author's archive

Figure 3: Second class kleiner with war decoration second class and swords third class. Image from the author’s archive

 

Figure 4: Second class kleiner with second class swords and a second award of the second class war decoration. Image from the author's archive

Figure 4: Second class kleiner with second class swords and a second award of the second class war decoration. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 5: Second class kleiner with second award of the second class war decoration. Image from the author's archive

Figure 5: Second class kleiner with second award of the second class war decoration. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 6: Second class kleiner with second class war decoration. Image from the author's archive

Figure 6: Second class kleiner with second class war decoration. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 7: Second class kleiner with third class war decoration. Image from the author's archive

Figure 7: Second class kleiner with third class war decoration. Image from the author’s archive

Figure 8: Second class kleiner. Image from the author's archive

Figure 8: Second class kleiner. Image from the author’s archive

Ribbon: The Military Merit Cross second class was worn on a 40 mm wide cravat in the war ribbon pattern.  However on October 27, 1917 a small rectangular ribbon for this decoration was issued which had a small attachment to indicate the second class of the award. The representation of the second class cross was  appropriate to the type received i.e. Cross with war decoration second class and swords second class (Figure 9), cross with war decoration and swords third class (Figure 10), Cross with second class swords and a second award of the second class war decoration (Figure 11). Cross with second class war decoration and a second award of the second, class war decoration (No image), cross with war decoration Figure 12), cross with third class war decoration (No image), Cross second class klenier (No image).

Figure 9: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross Second class with war decoration and swords second class. Image from the author's archive

Figure 9: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross Second class with war decoration and swords second class. Image from the author’s archive

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

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

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

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

Figure 12: Ribbon for the Military Merit Cross Second class with war decoration second class. Image from the author's archive

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

Miniature: Miniatures of this award exist

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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