Military Merit Medal, 1911-1917, Part I

Figure 1: Silver Military Merit Medal on civil ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Introduction:

The Military Merit Medal (Militärverdienstmedaille), 1911-1917 is not at first glance a very important looking decoration. However to the Austrian officer corps and to the empire it was a decoration of substantial significance. This can be recognized when one considers that in the order of precedence of Austrian awards it preceded the Gold Bravery Medal and that until the second year of World War I all awards were personally presented by the Emperor. In fact this decoration was roughly the equivalent to the American Distinguished Service Medal in regard to the esteem with which its recipients were held within the empire. What follows is part 1 of the  discussion of this significant award in which I will review the medal numismatics including date of issue, reason for the award of this decoration, classes and types, interesting facts, hallmarks, design weight, size, type of material and variations.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued: March 26, 1911 – 1918

Reason Issued:  To recognize extraordinary service in time of war or outstanding service in peace time by officers and military officials of an equivalent rank.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in two classes and three types.

  • Silver Military Merit Medal on civil ribbon (March 26, 1911 – April 18, 1917)
  • Silver Military Merit Medal on war ribbon (March 26, 1911 – April 18, 1917)
  • Silver Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords (after December 13, 1916)
  • Bronze Military Merit Medal on civil ribbon (March 12, 1890– 1918)
  • Bronze Military Merit Medal on war ribbon (March 12, 1890– 1918)
  • Bronze Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords (after December 13, 1916)

Interesting Facts:

  • This award was only given to officers
  • Receipt of the award was as a result of receiving a commendation from the Emperor
  • The bronze medal on war and civil ribbon could only be awarded once
  • The military and civil variations of the medals if awarded could be worn at the same time with the medals on war ribbon having precedence
  • The bronze medal was to be returned when the silver medal was received assuming they were on the same ribbon. This requirement was later rescinded.

Hallmarks:

  • Vienna Assay Office mark on the ring of the silver decorations
  • The word SILBER engraved on the edge of the silver decorations
  • The silver fineness mark on the silver decorations
  • The word BRONZE engraved on the edge of the Bronze and silver gilt bronze medals
  • The Base metal asterisk

Design: A round medal with a raised rim and an attached hinged crown at the top.

Figure 2: Bronze Military Merit Medal on war ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

Figure 3: Silver Military Merit Medal obverse on war ribbon. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Obverse: A bust of the old Emperor Franz Joseph I in high relief facing right.  In his hair is a wreath of laurel.  Around the bust is inscribed: FRANCISCVS . IOS . I. D. G. IMP. AVST. REX. BOH. ETC. ET. REX. APOST. HVNG .  The beginning and end of the inscription is at the bottom of the medal and is separated by a star. Outside of the inscription along the edge of the medal is a wreath composed of 62 laurel leaves.  The attached crown is usually hollow with a metal bonnet inside.  The crown articulates with the medal and is moveable.

Figure 4: Bronze Military Merit Medal, Reverse on war ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: Within a wreath composed of 37 laurel leaves (left) and 25 oak leaves on the right and which is tied at the bottom with a bow is inscribed, SIGNVM LAVDIS (A token of esteem). The reverse of the crown is fully detailed.

Weight:

  • Gilt Silver Medal = 19–22 grams
  • Bronze Gilt Medal = 18-19 grams

Size:  The decoration without crown is 30-32 mm in diameter.  The crown is 20 mm high and 19 mm wide. Thus the overall height of the medal is 50-52 mm.

Type of Material: 

  • Silver
  • Silver gilt bronze
  • Bronze gilt

Figure 5: Bronze Military Merit Medal, Reverse with inscription on war ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Variations:  There are eight known variations of the silver medal and seven variations of the bronze medal

  • Silver Medal Type I: as described
  • Silver Medal Type II: has a diameter of 31-32 mm and with an obverse portrait of the Emperor that is flatter and less well defined.
  • Silver Medal Type III: as Type I except the reveres inscription is SIGNUM LAUDIS
  • Silver Medal Type IV: as described except that the number of laurel leaves on the obverse of the medal is 62 (Made by Anton Scharf)
  • Silver Medal Type V: As described above but with the name A Neudeck on the reverse
  • Silver Medal Type VI: As described except there is no medalist name on the reverse
  • Silver Medal Type VII: These are privately made examples that were engraved on the back
  • Silver Medal Type VIII: These are privately made examples that were engraved on the rim
  • Bronze Medal Type I: as described
  • Bronze Medal Type II: as Type I except the reveres inscription is SIGNUM LAUDIS
  • Bronze Medal Type III: as described in Type I except that the number of laurel leaves on the obverse of the medal is 62 (Made by Anton Scharf)
  • Bronze Medal Type IV: As described in Type I except with the name A Neudeck on the reverse
  • Bronze Medal Type V: As described in Type I except there is no medalist name on the reverse
  • Bronze Medal Type VI: are examples that were privately engraved on the back
  • Bronze Type VII: are examples that were privately engraved on the rim of the medal

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will complete the description of the Military Merit Medal (Militärverdienstmedaille), 1911-1917

Rick

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