In this blog I am going to commence a discussion of the Bravery Medal (Tapferkeitsmedaille) that was issued in 1915 with the image of Franz Joseph on the obverse. The Bravery Medal as a decoration had existed since it was first established by Joseph II in 1789. The first decorations issued specifically for bravery were called Honor Decorations (Ehrenzeichen) until 1809 when the next decoration in the series was re-named as the Bravery Medal (Tapferkeitsmedaille). In addition to the medal issued in 1789 versions of this medal designated as Honor Medals were issued in 1792 by Franz II and 1804 by Franz I. Versions designated as Bravery Medals were issued in 1809 by Franz I and in 1839 by Ferdinand I. In 1849 when Franz Joseph came to the throne he modified the bravery medal to assure that it was consistent with the other awards that bore his image during this phase of his reign. He further modified the bravery medal in 1859 and would again in 1866 and for a final time in 1915. In this blog I am going to discuss the Bravery medal as issued from 1915-1917 during Franz Joseph’s reign. In subsequent blogs I will continue to discuss all of the versions of the bravery medal that were issued from 1789-1922.
Date Issued: February 14, 1915– April 4, 1917
Reason Issued: This medal was issued to reward bravery by non-commissioned officers and enlisted men in the face of an armed enemy
Classes or Types: This decoration which had previously been issued in three classes was now issued in four classes with the addition of the Bronze Bravery Medal which was introduced on February 14, 1915
- Gold Bravery Medal, 1866 – April 4, 1917
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class, 1866 – April 4, 1917
- Silver Bravery Medal, second class, 1866 – April 4, 1917
- Bronze Bravery Medal, February 14, 1915– April 4, 1917
- On June 5, 1849 the Emperor Franz Joseph I declared that all grades of the bravery medal could be worn at the same time.
- Officers who had won the medal as non-commissioned officers or enlisted men were allowed to continue wearing the medal when they became an office
- After August 19, 1914 pension as follows was awarded along with the medal:
- Gold Bravery Medal = 30 Kronen per month
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 15 Kronen per month
- Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 7.50 Kronen month
- From 1789 to 1918 there were 30 different versions of the bravery medal. These are versions 21, 22, 23 and 24
- This decoration in all of its variations was up to the issuance of the Karl Troop Cross in 1916 the most issued decoration in the armed forces
- The person decorated with the most bravery medals was the Non-commissioned officer Feldpilot Offizierstellvertreter Julius Arigi. He was awarded the Gold Bravery Medal four times, The Silver Bravery Medal 1st class four times and both the Silver Bravery Medal 2nd class and the Bronze Bravery Medal two times.
- There were 18 persons awarded the gold bravery medal twice and six persons awarded the Gold Bravery Medal three times. Among the three time winners were the Austro-Hungarian flyers Eugen Bonsch, Stefen Fejes and Freidrich Hefty.
- There were 17 persons awarded the Silver Bravery Medal first class three times. Among the three time winners were the Austro-Hungarian flyers Ferdinand Udvardy, Karl Urban and Franz Wognar
- There were at least two female recipients of the Bravery Medal second class. They were Officer Aspirant Helene Stepaniwna and Feldwebel-Kadettaspiarant Sophie Haleczka.
- Those receiving the Gold Bravery Medal were to be transferred from the front to protect them from further risk.
- The Gold Bravery Medal was the recommended award for saving the life of a commanding officer
- The Bronze Bravery Medal was originally composed of 50% copper and 50% cannon bronze
- The Bronze Bravery Medal was the only one of the bravery medals that could be awarded to non-commissioned officers and enlisted troops of forces allied with Austria in WWI
- The mark of the Vienna Mint is often found on the rim of the medals in the one o’clock position
- The word BRONZE is found on some gold medals
Design: A round medal with a flat ball shaped suspension at the top of the medal
Obverse: A bust of an older fully bearded Emperor Franz Joseph I, facing right, in a marshals uniform with the Order of the Golden Fleece and the grand cordon of the Order of Maria Theresia. Above the bust is inscribed: FRANZ JOSEPH I.V.G.G KAISER V. OESTERREICH. Below the bust of the emperor is the designer’s name. For the gold and silver medal, first class this is LEISEK. For the Silver Medal, second class and the bronze medal the name is TAUTENHAYN.
Reverse: Within a laurel wreath, tied at the bottom with a bow and superimposed over two crossed flags with the Austro-Hungarian coat of arms and a standard is a two-line inscription: DER / TAPFERKEIT (For Bravery).
- Gold Bravery Medal = 8 Ducats (28 grams)
- Gold Medal, Bronze Gilt, = 20.2 grams
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 17 grams
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class, bronze gilt = 17.6 grams
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class, No medalist signature = 17.6 grams
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class, war metal = unknown
- Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 17 grams
- Silver Bravery Medal, second class, war metal = unknown
- Bronze Bravery Medal = 15.4 grams
- Bronze Bravery Medal in war metal = 12.5 grams
- Gold Bravery Medal = 40 mm in diameter.
- Silver Bravery Medal, first class = 40 mm in diameter.
- Silver Bravery Medal, second class = 30 mm in diameter but thicker than the silver bravery medals, first class
- Bronze Bravery Medal = 30 mm in diameter
- Bronze Bravery Medal in war metal = 30 mm in diameter
Type of Material: Gold, Silver, Bronze (50% copper and 50% cannon bronze) and war metal
- Type I Gold and Silver medals as described above
- Type II gold medal as described above but with the spade shaped suspension eye as found on the 1866-1914 gold medal
- Type II Gold and Silver medals as described above in bronze gilt
- Bronze medal type I as described above but with a wedge shaped suspension eye
- Bronze medal type II as described above but with ball shaped suspension eye
- Type III Medals as described above in war metal with no medalist signature (may be copies)
- Gold Medal and Silver Medal first class, Friderich Leisek
- Silver Medal Second class, Josef Tautenhayn
- Bronze Bravery Medal, Josef Tautenhayn
Manufacturer: Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint Vienna)
Number Issued: The number of bravery medals issued from the commencement of World War I to the end of 1918 were:
- Gold medals = 3,700
- Silver Medal first class = 143,000
- Silver Medal second class = 384,000
- Bronze Medal = 950,000
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will complete the discussion of the Franz Joseph Bravery Medal that was issued from 1915-1917.