Red Cross Decoration, Part I: The Red Cross Merit Star

Figure 1: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 1: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration. Image from the author’s archive.

Date Issued:  The Red Cross Decoration (Ehrenzeichen vom Roten Kreuz) was authorized on August 22, 1914 on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1864 ratification of the Geneva Convention and was issued until 1923.

Reason Issued:  This decoration was issued for meritorious service in support of the Red Cross, in time of war.  The insignia with war decoration was an award for actions in support of the humane efforts of the Red Cross.  The insignia without war decoration were issued for significant donations to the Red Cross in support of the war effort. The class of the decoration received was determined for those with war decoration by the rank of the recipient and for those without war decoration by the amount of the donation.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was originally issued in three classes with a forth class: the Officer Merit Cross, added in 1915.

  • Red Cross Merit Star with and without war decoration
  • Red Cross Decoration First Class with and without war decoration
  • Red Cross Officer Cross with war decoration (July 22, 1915-1918)
  • Red Cross Decoration Second Class with and without war decoration

Interesting Facts:

  • The awards without war decoration were given to recognize a donation to the Red Cross in support of the war effort. In the case of the Red Cross Merit Star the required donation was 1,500 Krona per year
  • The Red Cross Merit Star and first Class Decoration could only be issued by the Emperor
  • Emperor Franz Joseph was the Proprietor of the Red Cross and thus of the decoration
  • Nominations for the Red Cross Merit Star had to be made by the Patron, Acting Patron of the Red Cross or the Administrator of the Red Cross.
  • Award Diplomas for the Merit Star were signed by the Emperor

Hallmarks found on the Red Cross Merit Star: 

  • The Vinc Mayor and Sons hallmark
  • The 1872-1922, 900 fine silver hallmark
  • The hallmark of the Vienna Assay Office
  • The Rothe & Neffe hallmark
  • The 1872– 1922, 800 fine silver hallmark
  • The hallmark of G.A. Scheid

Design: A silver and enamel Latin cross

Figure 1: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 1: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration. Image from the author’s archive.

Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration obverse (Figure 1): A vaulted silver Latin cross with chased edges.  Inside the edge of the cross is a wide band of opaque white enamel.  Inside the white portion of the cross is the body of the cross, which is enameled transparent red.  A fine chased line of silver separates the white and red portions of the cross.  In the center of the cross is a silver edged circle of transparent red enamel 20 mm in diameter on which is inscribed in silver letters PATRIAE AC HVMANITATI (Patriotism and Humanity).  Inside the circle is a silver edged transparent red enameled Geneva cross on a white opaque enameled background.  Between the arms of the cross are bundles of silver rays.  Each bundle is composed of seven diamond cut rays with the center rays being longer than the rest.  Passing over the arms of the cross and under the rays is a green enameled wreath composed of laurel on the viewers right and oak on the left.  The wreath is tied at the bottom with a silver bow and has red enameled berries.

Figure 2: Red Cross Merit Star. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 2: Red Cross Merit Star. Image from the author’s archive.

Red Cross Merit Star obverse (Figure 2): A vaulted silver Latin cross with chased edges.  Inside the edge of the cross is a wide band of opaque white enamel.  Inside the white portion of the cross is the body of the cross which is enameled transparent red.  A fine chased line of silver separates the white and red portions of the cross.  In the center of the cross is a silver edged circle of transparent red enamel 20 mm in diameter in which is inscribed in silver letters PATRIAE AC HVMANITATI (Patriotism and Humanity).  Inside the circle is a transparent silver edged red enameled Geneva cross on a white opaque enameled background.  Between the arms of the cross are bundles of silver rays.  Each bundle is composed of seven diamond cut rays. The center rays are longer than the others.

Figure 3: Red Cross Merit Star, reverse. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 3: Red Cross Merit Star, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Red Cross Merit  Star reverse (Figure 3) :  A plain silver Latin cross.  In the center of the cross is a silver edged circle of transparent red enamel with a white enameled center medallion within which are the dates 1864 and 1914, in silver, one above the other. On the upper arm of the cross is a suspension pin and on the lower arm is the clasp into which it fits. The cross with war decoration has an applied wreath the reverse of which is plain.

Weight:

  • Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration = 53 grams
  • Red Cross Merit Star = 49 grams

Size:

  • Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration = 69 mm in height and 56 mm in width
  • Red Cross Merit Star = 69 -70.2 mm in height and 56 -57 mm in width

Type of Material: Silver and enamel

Manufacturer:

  • Vinc Mayor and sons
  • G.A. Scheid
  • C.F. Rothe and Neffe

Number Issued:

  • Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration = 64 of which 7 were awarded to women and 9 to foreigners
  • Red Cross Merit Star = 8, 1 of which was awarded to a women and 4 to foreigners (3 of those who received the merit star later received it with the war decoration).
Figure 4: Red Cross Merit Star case. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 4: Red Cross Merit Star case. Image from the author’s archive.

Case (Figure 4): The Merit Star case is rhomboid shaped and is covered by red leather or red cloth: Cases most often are red leather on the top and sepia on the bottom. They are fitted inside with a plush simulated velvet interior which may be either black or white. The interior of the lid is white satin and often has the maker’s logo. They are engraved on the top with a metal crown and gold lettering (Patriae/ ac /Humanitati/ 1864-1914). Translation: Patriotism and humanity 1864-1914.

Figure 5: Red Cross ribbon with Merit Star with war decoration attachment. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 5: Red Cross ribbon with Merit Star with war decoration attachment. Image from the author’s archive.

Ribbon (Figure 5): The merit star being a pin back decoration did not have a ribbon. However A small rectangular ribbon for this decoration was introduced on October 27, 1917 with an attachment to indicate the specific award of the merit star.

Figure 6: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration miniature. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 6: Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration miniature. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 7: Red Cross Merit Star miniature. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 7: Red Cross Merit Star miniature. Image from the author’s archive.

Miniature (Figures 6&7): There are a wide range of miniatures of this decoration.

Known Recipients of the Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration

  • General of Cavalry, Archduke Franz Salvator
  • Fieldzugmeister Alexander Ritter von Krobatin, Royal and Imperial Minister of War
  • General of Infantry Friedrich Freiherr von Georgi, Royal and Imperial Minister of Defense
  • General of Cavalry, Archduke Eugen, Commander of the 5th Army
  • Bailli Fra Johann Rudolf Count von Hardegg auf Glatz and in Marchland Prince-Grand Prior and Bohemian and Austrian Sovereign of the Order of Malta
  • Rudolf Count Abensperg und Traun, Commissar of the Austrian aid societies and clubs
  • Dr. Karl Freiherr Heinold und Udynski , Royal and Imperial Minister of the Interior
  • Johann Sandor von Csikszentmihaly, Royal Minister of the Interior
  • General of Infantry, Archduke Joseph Ferdinand
  • General of Infantry Hermann Kovess von Koveshaza
  • General of Cavalry Franz Rohr
  • General of Cavalry Eduard von Bohm-Ermolli
  • General of Cavalry Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin
  • General of Cavalry Viktor Dankl
  • General of Infantry Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna
  • Queen Marie Therese of Bavaria
  • Major General Archduke Karl Franz Josef
  • Archduchess Zita
  • Admiral Archduke Karl Stephan, Protector of the Royal and Imperial war relief effort
  • Feldzeugmeister, Archduke Leopold Salvator, Protector of the Widows and Orphans Fund for the armed forces
  • Admiral Anton Haus, commander of the navy
  • Dr. Zdenko Freiherr von Forster , Imperial and Royal Railway Minister
  • Johann Baron Harkanyi von Taktahrkany, Royal Minister of Trade
  • Colonel General Franz Freiherr Conrad von Hotzendorf, Chief of the General Staff
  • Stephan Baron Burian von Rajecz, Imperial and Royal Foreign Minister
  • Karl Graf Sturgkh, Imperial and Royal Prime Minister
  • Dr. Ernst Koerber, Minister of Finance
  • Stephan Graf Tisza, Royal Prime Minister
  • General of Infantry Samuel Freiherr von Hazai, Royal National Minister of Defense
  • Hussein Hilmi, Imperial Ottoman Ambassador in Vienna
  • W.Ev.Geschow, Bulgarian Prime Minister and President of the Bulgarian Red Cross
  • Dr. Karl Ritter von Leth, Royal and Imperial Minister of Finance
  • General Field Marshall, Prince Leopold of Bavaria
  • Generaloberst, Archduke Josef
  • Duke Ernst August von Cumberland, Duke of Braunschweig and Luneburg
  • Duchess Thyra von Cumberland, Duchess of Braunschweig and Luneburg
  • Cardinal Dr. Friedrich Gustav Piffl Archbishop of Vienna
  • Franziska Princess of Montenuovo, First Vice President of the Austrian Red Cross Society
  • General of Infantry Oskar Zednik Edler von Zeldegg
  • Prince Waldemar von Denmark
  • General of Infantry Artur Baron Arz von Straussenburg, Chief of the General Staff
  • General of Infantry Rudolf Stoger-Steiner Edler von Steinstatten, Royal and Imperial Minister of War
  • Generaloberst Karl Tersztyansky von Nadas
  • Generaloberst Karl Freiherr von Kirchbach auf Lauterbach
  • Archduchess Maria Josepha
  • Archduchess Maria Theresia
  • Prince Johann Georg von Saxony
  • Markus Matz Count von Spiegelfeld, President of the Prisoner of War Information Office
  • Leo Freiherr von Skrbensky, Cardinal, Archbishop of Olmitz
  • Dr. Nikolaus Count Szechenyi von Sarvar Felso-Videk, Bishop of Nagy-Varad
  • General of Division Dschemal Pascha, Imperial Ottoman Minister of the Navy
  • Ida Princess Lobkowitz, President of the Women’s Auxiliary of Bohemia
  • Dr. Ernst Ritter von Feuchtenegg, Royal and Imperial Prime Minister
  • Friedrich Count Toggenburg, Royal and Imperial Minister of the Interior
  • Dr. Karl Freiherr von Banahns, Royal and Imperial Railway Minister
  • Lieutenant General Karl Czapp von Birkenstetten, Royal and Imperial Minister of Defense
  • Bishop Emmerich Bjelik, Apostolic Field Vicker
  • General of Infantry Alexander Freiherr von Szurmay
  • Dr. Viktor Mataja, Royal and Imperial Minister for Social Welfare
  • Generaloberst Hermann Kusmanek von Burg-Neustddten
  • Archduchess Marie Valerie
  • Field Marshal Archduke Freidrich
  • Major General Alios Prince Schonburg-Hartenstein
  • General of Cavalry Kurt von Pful, President of the German Red Cross

Recipients of the Red Cross Merit Star

  • Archduchess Marie Valerie (later awarded the war decoration)
  • General of Infantry Archduke Freidrich (later awarded the war decoration)
  • Major General Alios, Prince Schonburg-Hartenstein
  • Andreas Count Csekonics de Zsombolya et Janova, Royal Hungarian Commissar for the Auxiliary Aid Society
  • General of Cavalry Kurt von Pful, President of the German Red Cross (later awarded the war decoration)
  • Frederik Courtland Penfield, U.S. Ambassador to Austria-Hungary
  • Rear Admiral Word, Commander of a U.S. Red Cross ship
  • Dr. H. van Dyke, Envoy of the USA in the Haag

Award Certificates: Award certificates were issued with the Red Cross Merit Stars

Figure 8: Franz Salvatore. Image from the author's archive.

Figure 8: Franz Salvatore. Image from the author’s archive.

Franz Salvatore, Franz Joseph’s son in law and the overseer of the Austrian Red Cross wearing the Red Cross Merit Star with war decoration (Figure 8)

I hope you enjoyed this description. In the near future I will describe the Red Cross Decoration, first class.

Rick

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