Figure 1: Great Military Merit Medal, Type I obverse. Image attributed to Reference Catalogue Orders, medals and decorations of the World, A-D.

Introduction:

The Great Military Merit Medal (Groß Militärverdienstmedaille), 1916-1917 was established to recognize the highest achievement in time of war or to reward outstanding service in piece.  This service was required to be greater than that recognized by the Silver Military Merit Medal but not warranting the award of a high order.  It was intended for high-ranking officers (Regimental commanders and above) and other notable persons in the society. The award was never, in practice issued for piece time service as the award was discontinued with the fall of the empire at the conclusion of WWI.

Medal Numismatics:

Date Issued: April 1, 1916 – April 18, 1917

Reason Issued:  To recognize the highest achievement in time of war or to reward outstanding service in piece.  This service was to be greater than that recognized by the Silver Military Merit Medal but not warranting the award of a high order.  It was intended for high-ranking officers (Regimental commanders and above) and other notable persons in the society.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in one class and two types.

  • Great Military Merit Medal on war ribbon
  • Great Military Merit Medal on war ribbon with swords

Interesting Facts:

  • This award was only given to officers
  • When this decoration was awarded and if the recipient had previously been awarded a silver or bronze award, the previous awards were no longer to be worn.  The exceptions to this rule were when the silver or bronze medal had been won on a different ribbon either civil or military or when the lower grade received was the King Karl version of the award.
  • This award was issued for less than thirteen months
  • The only officers below the rank of General  to receive this award was Gottfried Banfield, the Navy Air Ace and Oberstleutnant Hermann Pokorny
  • Receipt of the award was as a result of receiving a special commendation from the Emperor
  • The medal was sometimes called the “Golden Signum Laudis
  • This decoration could be awarded to foreigners. Some of the most distinguished members of the Central Powers forces were awarded this decoration. (see list of recipients in Part II)

Hallmarks:

  • Vienna Assay Office mark on ring (a capital A in a circle)
  • The word SILBER engraved on the edge of the medal
  • The silver fineness mark
  • The word BRONZE engraved on the edge of the medal

Design: A round medal with a raised rim and an attached flexible 20 mm crown at the top.

Figure 2: Great Military Merit Medal, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse: A bust of the Emperor Franz Joseph I in old age in high relief facing to the viewers 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 *.  Outside of the inscription along the edge of the medal is a line composed of 24 laurel leaves.  The attached crown is which is attached with a hinge is usually hollow with a gold bonnet inside the crown.  The crown articulates with the medal and is moveable.  Around the lower half of the crown is a laurel wreath. 

Figure 3: Great Military Merit Medal, Type I, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: Within a beaded decoration following the contour of the medal is a wreath of laurel on the viewers left and oak on the right, which is tied at the bottom with a bow. Inside the wreath is the inscription, SIGNVM LAVDIS (A token of esteem).  The reverse of the crown and wreath are fully detailed.

Weight:  26-27 grams

Size:  The decoration without crown is 37-38 mm in diameter.  The crown is 20 mm high. Thus the overall height of the medal is 57-58 mm.

Type of Material:

  • Gilt bronze
  • Gilt silver

Variations:  There are four known variations of this decoration

  • Type I:  As described above.
  • Type II:  As described above except the crown is attached side to side and the wreath around the crown is engraved only on the obverse.

Figure 4: Great Military Merit Medal, Type II, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

  • Type III: As described in Type II except the obverse and reverse of the medal has a raised rim with a step down raised inner line. The inscription has the letter U and J instead of I and V. The raised font of the Signum Laudis text is different from that used in Type I and II decorations.

Figure 5: Great Military Merit Medal, Type III, obveres. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 6: Great Military Merit Medal, Type III, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

  • Type IV:  The same as the Type II decoration but has a dedicatory inscription on the reverse.  The Type IV presentation piece illustrated to the right was presented to Colonel General Hermann Baron Kovess von Kovesshaza and is inscribed inside the beaded line and following the contours of the rim: IHREM HOCHVEREHRIEN GLORREICHEN FUHRER DIE OFFIZIERE DES 7.ARMEE-KOMMANDOS (From the Officers of the 7th Army Headquarters with great Admiration for their glorious Leader)

Figure 7: Great Military Merit Medal, Type IV, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will complete the description of the Great Military Merit Medal (GrossMilitärverdienstmedaille), 1916-1917

Rick

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