Date Issued: April 1, 1916 – 1922

Reason Issued:  To reward NCOs, Gagisten without rank or class (Military officials who had no place in the hierarchy of military rank), enlisted military personnel and civilians for important services rendered in support of the war effort, life saving and important salvage work. Thus the recipients were usually military personnel and officials in technical specialties. Awards were also issued to those NCOs and military officials including Gagisten after September 26, 1917 who had been born on or before 1865 and 1866 and who had volunteered to serve for the duration of the war and who had served to date with distinction. In 1918 the crosses were authorized for those NCOs and military officials including Gagisten who had been born before 1867 and who had volunteered to serve for the duration of the war and who had served to date with distinction. Foreign military personnel could also be granted the award for meritorious service in support of the war effort.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in two classes with three grades in each:

  • Iron Merit Cross with Crown on the war ribbon with swords (After December 13, 1916)
  • Iron Merit Cross with Crown on the war ribbon
  • Iron Merit Cross with Crown on the civil ribbon
  • Iron Merit Cross on the war ribbon with swords (After December 13, 1916)
  • Iron Merit Cross on the war ribbon
  • Iron Merit Cross on the civil ribbon

Interesting Facts:

  • These crosses were created to provide the Austrians with an award analogous to the Prussian Iron Cross.
  • The first issue of the crosses were awarded personally by the emperor
  • It was assumed that the Iron Merit Crosses would only be issued for the duration of the war.
  • The iron crosses were not part of the gold and silver merit cross panoply but were utilized as if they were the lower tier of the gold and silver awards.
  • Award of the Iron Merit Cross to officers, officials of equivalent rank and cadets was not allowed.
  • Persons in the NCO ranks and equivalent military and civilian officials were eligible to receive the Iron Merit Cross while previous recipients of the Iron Merit Cross were eligible to receive the Iron Merit Cross with Crown
  • In practice these crosses seem to have most commonly awarded to noncommissioned officers and officials for technical expertise. Thus the award is often seen among those worn by noncommissioned officers in the artillery, medical Corp or other technical or support services.
  • This cross essentially replaced the 1873 War Medal as an Austrian award
  • Crosses of the same grade on war and civil ribbon were authorized for wear at the same time
  • Persons receiving the cross with crown were no longer eligible for the cross without crown

Hallmarks: None

Figure 1: Iron Merit Cross with crown, obverse. Image from the author’s archive

Obverse:

  • Iron Merit Cross with crown (See figure 1 above) : A Rupert type cross with flared arms.  The arms of the cross are 7 mm wide at the base and widen to 13 mm at the tip. The overall diameter of the cross is 35 mm.  In the center of the cross is an 18-19 mm, round medallion.  The medallion has a raised rim.   Inside this ring is inscribed VIRIBUS UNITIS (with united strength, the motto of Franz Joseph’s reign) the letters are separated by small ellipses.  At the top of the circle is a pair of clasped hands (this represents the loyalty of the people). Inside this first ring is a second raised border.  The border is 12 mm in diameter. The area inside this inner ring is pebbled and contains the raised initials FJ (Franz Joseph).  The upper arm of the cross has two banderoles of metal through which passes a metal pin that is used to attach the cross to the crown. The crown at the top of the cross is the imperial crown. The crown is detailed.  Through the orb at the top of the crown passes a ring for suspending the cross from the ribbon.

Figure 2: Iron Merit Cross, obverse. Image from the author’s archive

  • Iron Merit Cross: A Rupert type cross with flared arms.  The arms of the cross are 7 mm wide at the base and widen to 13 mm at the tip. The overall diameter of the cross is 35 mm.  In the center of the cross is an 18-19 mm, round medallion.  The medallion has a raised rim.   Inside this rim is inscribed VIRIBUS UNITIS (with united strength, the motto of Franz Joseph’s reign) the letters are separated by small ellipses.  At the top of the circle is a pair of clasped hands (this represents the loyalty of the people. Inside this first ring is a second raised border.  The border is 12 mm in diameter. The area inside this inner ring is pebbled and contains the raised initials FJ (Franz Joseph).  The upper arm of the cross has a spherical eye through which passes a ring for attaching the cross to the ribbon.

Figure 3: Iron Merit Cross with crown, reverse. Image from the author’s archive

Reverse: 

  • Iron Merit Cross with crown: The reverse of the cross arms are plain.  The center medallion is 18-19 mm in diameter and bordered with laurel leaves.  The center of the medallion is 12 mm in diameter.  It has a raised rim inside of which is the date 1916. The reverse of the banderoles and the crown are similar to the obverse side of the cross.

Figure 4: Iron Merit Cross, reverse. Image from the author’s archive

  • Iron Merit Cross: The reverse of the cross is plain.  The center medallion is 18-19 mm in diameter and is bordered with laurel leaves.  The center of the medallion is 12 mm in diameter.  It has a raised rim inside of which is the date 1916.

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time when I will complete my description of the Iron Merit Cross I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.