Figure 1: 1917-1920 Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords, obverse. 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 (other than that for officers). 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 II of the discussion of this significant award in which I will cover the medal numismatics including the designer, manufacturer, number issued, the case3 in which the awards were issued, the ribbon on which the awards were suspended and the attachments to the award .

Medal Numismatics:

Designer: Heinrich Kautsch

Manufacturer: Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)

Number Issued: Unknown

Figure 2: Military Merit Medal case used by Breitner, Testverek (Jeweler) Budapest. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 3: Military Merit Medal case used by Josef Zimbler. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 4: Military Merit Medal case, interior. Image from the author’s archive.

Case: This medal came in a wide verity of cases (some of which are illustrated above and others below).

  • Type I: A red cloth covered case with silver imperial arms in the center and a silver decorative border. The Inside of the lid is lined with white silk on which is in some cases is the makers logo in gold. The inside bottom of the case is black plush and fitted.
  • Type II: A red cloth covered case with gold imperial arms in the center. The Inside of the lid is lined with white silk on which is in some cases is the makers logo in gold. The inside bottom of the case is black plush and fitted.
  • Type III: A red or maroon cardboard case with an imperial logo in the center in silver or bronze to match the medal inside. The inner lid of the case is white cardboard; the inside of the bottom of the case is also white cardboard and is fitted. Makers logos are in some cases on the exterior bottom of the case
  • Type IV: Presentation cases: A maroon leather case with gold inscription and gold border on the lid. The inner lid is white silk and in some cases has the maker’s logo. The inside of the bottom of the case is black plush and is fitted.

Figure 5: Military Merit Medal case exterior variation. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 6: Military Merit Medal, presentation case exterior. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Figure 7: Military Merit Medal case, interior varitation. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 8: Military Merit Medal case, interior varitation. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Ribbon: A 40 mm red and white laddered ribbon for military recipients. The medal was also reportedly issued on a white ribbon with carmen-red edges to civilians and civil servants after April 28, 1917. The center white strip is 10 mm in width and the red edge stripes are 15 mm in width. No examples of this medal on this ribbon are known to exist.

  • A small rectangular ribbon for this decoration sometimes issued with small attachments to indicate specific awards was introduced in October 27, 1917.

Figure 9: War Ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 10: Purported civil Military Merit Medal ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 11: Ribbon bar with Military Merit Medal war ribbon with swords. Image form the author’s archive.

Attachments:

  • Bronze gilt crossed swords were authorized to be worn on both the bronze and silver decoration

Figure 11: Silver Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords, 1917-1920, obverse. Image from the author’s archives

  • Trapezoid stainless steel clasps 8 mm in width were authorized to designate repeat awards of the silver medals, when the clasp was granted for the medal with swords the swords were worn on the top clasp. Medals are known to exist with 3 bars. The bars were manufactured by Josef Zimbler of Vienna which has the makers logo engraved on the back of the bars.
  • Second award = a bar 50 mm in length (top edge) and 8 mm wide
  • Third award  = two bars: first bar is 50 mm in length at the top edge and the second bar is 40 mm in length  (top edge) with both bars being 8 mm wide (Bars are spaced 20 mm apart
  • Forth  award  = three bars: first bar is 50 mm in length at the top edge, the second bar is 40 mm in length  (top edge) and the third bar is 30 mm in length with all bars being 8 mm wide (Bars are spaced 20 mm apart)
  • Occasionally the bars are engraved although this was unofficial.

Figure 12: 1917-1920 Silver Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords and second award bar. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 13: 1917-1920 Silver Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with third award bar. Image from the author’s archive.

Miniature: Miniatures are known to exist

Figure 14: miniature chain with Military Merit Medals. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

An example the award when worn in a group

Figure 15: Bronze Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords as worn in a group. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 16: A highly decorated Military Chaplain wearing the Military Merit Medal with swords. Image from the author’s archive.

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will

Rick

2 Comments
  1. Hello Rick,

    I just recently acquired a medal bar containing a Military Merit Medal in bronze with swords. It doesn’t have the name of the maker (KAUTSCH) below the emperors shoulder. Could it be a copy that was produced when the medal bar was put together in the 1930s or 1940s? Have you encountered Military Merit Medals without the designers name?
    I attached a picture for your reference.

    Thank you,

    Michael

    • Michael

      Thank you for your inquiry. First let me say that there is always more to learn so I do not consider myself to be the final authority on your medal. I will share with you my opinion based on 50 years of collecting and research but in the end you have to decide whether the medals in your collection meet your collecting standard. That said I do not believe there were any official 1917-1920 Military Merit Medals issued nor have I ever seen a genuine example which did not bear the name of the Designer Kautsch. Were it me, this medal would not meet my standard. I would recommend that you also examine the medal closely to see if it was struck or cast. Most copies are cast and will have a slightly grainy finish. Assuming all other medals on the bar are genuine I would consider replacing the medal with one that meets all of the criteria as this medal is not hard to find nor unduly expensive. Hope this helps. Also keep in mind that I am not saying that this medal could not be genuine but only that I have never seen one nor found any research literature from the period that would lead me to believe it is an issued medal.

      Rick

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