So let’s start sharing information on the Orders, Medals and Decorations of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
For the next several blogs I will be sharing information about Austro-Hungarian awards that I hope you will find interesting in their own right but which I am also using to illustrate the kind of discussions we can have as we proceed. As an example of such an issue let’s explore the complexity of the Military Merit Crosses that were authorized during WWI and also identify which of those that were authorized were in fact issued. This is worth knowing in part so we may know where the awards we collect fit into the panoply of the Austro-Hungarian award system and also because from time to time non-issued awards are offered for sale as officially issued.
The Military Merit Cross (Militärverdienstkreuz) was authorized during WWI in three classes which comprised 21 variations with and without war decoration and with and without swords (The addition of swords was approved on December 13, 1916). Sixteen of the possible 21 variations of this award were issued while the remaining five, although authorized were not issued. Lets explore which are which.
Note: Pictures are being provided in this blog only for the awards that were issued. The crosses that were not issued will be briefly described but not illustrated.
Military Merit Cross, First Class
There were six variations of the Military Merit Cross first class authorized during WWI. Of the six authorized first class decorations, three were issued and three were not. See figures 1-3 to view the issued first class crosses.
Note: The first class swords as seen in figure 1. are gilt while the swords of a lower class as seen in figure 2. are silver. The silver swords of a lower class can represent either second or third class swords thus it is not possible by viewing the award to know whether its recipient had been previously awarded swords on the third class or second class merit cross.
Not issued 1: The Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class and swords of a lower class which was Authorized on December 13, 1916. This first class cross is the first of the five Military Merit Crosses that were never issued.
Not issued 2: The Military Merit Cross First Class with war decoration of a lower class which was authorized on September 23, 1914 was never issued. This is the second of the five Military Merit Crosses that was not issued.
Not issued 3: The Military Merit Cross First Class which was authorized on September 23, 1914 was never issued. This is the third of the five Military Merit Crosses not issued.
Military Merit Cross, Second Class
There were eight variations of the Military Merit Cross, Second Class that were authorized during WWI. Of those eight authorized second class decorations, seven were issued and one was not. See figures 4-10 to view the issued first class crosses. Also note that two of the second class crosses (Figures 9 and 10) were issued only once.
The second class swords as seen in figure 4 and 6 are gilt while the third class swords as seen in figure 5 are silver.
The war decoration for the Military Merit Cross, second class with war decoration of a lower class as seen in figure 9. is represented by a gilt laurel wreath wrapped tightly around the center medallion of the cross rather than the green enameled laurel wreath passing through the arms of the cross which represents the war decoration second class.
The second award of the war decoration second class is indicated by the attachment of a green enameled laurel wreath above the suspension eye of the second class cross (see Figures 6 and 7)
The crosses illustrated in figures 9 and 10 were only issued once and in each case to the same person Lieutenant General Karl Adler von Strasser. I will be discussing this unusual situation in an upcoming blog.
Not issued 4: Military Merit Cross Second Class with war decoration third class and swords third class which was authorized on December, 13 1916 is the forth of the five Military Merit Crosses that were never issued.
Military Merit Cross, Third Class
There were seven variations of the Military Merit Cross, Third Class that were authorized during WWI. Of those seven authorized third class decorations, six were issued and one was not. See figures 11-16 to view the issued third class merit crosses.
The swords for the third class cross are affixed to the ribbon rather than passing through the body of the cross as in the first and second class. See Figure 13.
The war decoration is in the form of a laurel wreath which is usually composed of gilt metal and passes through the arms of the cross. See Figures 11-16
Trapezoid multiple award bars are found on the ribbon of the Militarily Merit Cross, Third Class. Each bar represents an additional award of the third class cross. Two bars representing three awards of the cross were the most issued (see Figures 11 and 14). When the multiple award bar was awarded with swords for bravery the swords were placed on the multiple award bar (see Figure 12) and on the top-most bar if more than one bar was present (see Figure 11).
Not issued 5: The Military Merit Cross Third Class (without war decoration) which had been awarded since October 22, 1849 was the fifth Military Merit Cross that was not issued during WWI. However third class military merit Crosses awarded without war decoration prior to the war could be worn on the uniform along with first or second class military merit Crosses with war decoration issued during the war.
I am really looking forward to discussing the merit crosses with you, and to seeing your questions and/or comments.
More to come