Figure 1: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867. Image from the author’s archive.

Introduction:

Well folks we are about to embark on the second half of our exploration of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian service crosses. With this blog I will commence a discussion of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian service crosses for troops and non-commissioned officers. In the succeeding blogs I will discuss the full range of service crosses awarded to enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers which were issued from 1849 – 1918. I will commence this discussion with the Military Service Decoration for Non-Commissioned Officers and Troops First Class, (Militärdienstzeichen I Klasse für Unteroffiziere und Mannschaften) which was issued from 1849-1867. It should be noted however that at the time the service crosses were established in 1849 the nomenclature was the reverse of what one would expect today. That is to say, that the second class was the cross for the higher number of years served while the first class was the cross given for the lesser number of years. Thus the second class of the service cross is the higher class.

Date Issued: May 18, 1849 – May 18, 1867

Reason Issued: Founded by Franz Joseph on September 19, 1849 to reward Non-commissioned officers and troops of the Austrian army and navy who had served eight years of active service faithfully and honorably.

Classes or Types: This cross was issued in one type.

Interesting Facts:

  • In 1849 the cross for 16 years’ service was designated as the second class and the cross for 8 years’ service was designated as the first class. Thus the higher the class number the greater the number of years served
  • The older crosses have a small round eye parallel to the body of the cross. Through this eye passes an elongated oval ring to suspend the cross to the ribbon. The later crosses have a ball shaped eye with a plain round ring passing through it.
  • Only the highest grade of the service cross which had been earned could be worn.
  • Time in service was counted toward receipt of this award in two ways: piece time service was counted one year for one year, during a military campaign each year of service was counted as two years.
  • Veterans eight year commemoration crosses are often mistaken for service crosses. Veteran’s crosses usually have a silver center medallion with the date as opposed to the bronze center medallion for the service cross.

Hallmarks: None known

Design: A clawed cross in the Leopold style with arms that widen toward the ends.  The cross has a loop eye at the top to which is attached an oval ring for attaching the cross to the ribbon.

Figure 2: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Obverse: A cross with a granulated surface. The edges of the arms of the cross are tapered. The arms of the cross have a 2 mm smooth edge. Inside the smooth edge is a pearled design which also follows the contour of the cross. In the center of the cross is a 16 mm disk of the same metal as the cross. On this disk is the Roman Numeral VIII.

Reverse:  The reverse of the cross is usually plain.  It may, however, have a rivet hole for attaching the obverse disk or a screw back attachment for attaching the obverse disk.

Figure 3: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867, Type I reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Figure 4: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867, Type II Reverse: As described above except the reverse has a rivet for attaching the obverse disk. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 5: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867, Type III Reverse: As described above except the reverse has a disk shaped nut for attaching the obverse disk. Image from the author’s archive.

Weight: 7.7 grams

Size: 34 mm in diameter

Type of Material: Gilded bronze or brass

Variations: There are several variations of this decoration:

  • Type I cross: as described above
  • Type II Reverse: As described above except the reverse has a rivet for attaching the obverse disk
  • Type III Reverse: As described above except the reverse has a disk shaped nut for attaching the obverse disk
  • Type IV Reverse: As described above except with a white metal reverse
  • Type II suspension: As described above except the suspender is a ball eye decorated with two groves
  • Type III Suspension: As described above except with a ball shaped eye

Designer: Unknown

Manufacturer: Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)

Number Issued: Unknown

Case: Unknown

Figure 6: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867, ribbon. Image from the author’s archive.

Ribbon: Lemon yellow with an 10 mm black stripe 3 mm from each edge.

Attachments: None

Miniature: Known to exist

 

Figure 7: Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1867, miniature. Image from the author’s archive.

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time when I will complete my description of the Non-Commissioned Officers and Troops, Service Cross, Second Class issued from 1849-1867. Until then, I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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