Figure 1: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, obverse. Image from author’s archive.

Introduction:

Well folks we are continuing a really interesting adventure. With this blog I am going to continue the discussion of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian service crosses. Before I am finished with this task I will provide information on the full range of service crosses issued from 1849 – 1918. In this blog I will continue the discussion with a description of the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, first class (Militärdienstzeichen I Klasse für Offiziere ) which was issued from 1849-1890 at which point it became the Officers Service Cross Third Class. At this point let me remind you that in 1849 when this cross was established the classes were the reverse of what one would normally expect, that is to say, that the second class cross was issued for 50 years’ service and the first class cross was issued for 25 years’ service. I have already discussed the second class service cross in a previous blog and will now discuss the First Class Cross which later became the third class cross which was issued for 25 years’ service in this blog.

Date Issued: Although this cross was issued from May 18, 1849 – 1918 it was only issued as a first class cross from May 18, 1849- March 12, 1890. Thereafter it was designated as the third class cross.

Reason Issued:  Founded by Franz Joseph on September 19, 1849 to reward officers of the Austrian army and navy who had served twenty five years of active service in a faithful and honorable manner.

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

Interesting Facts:

  • This cross was designated the Officers Service Cross first class from 1849 until 1890. In 1890 when the new design of the 50 year service cross was introduced and the 40 year service cross was established,  this cross was designated as the Officers Service Cross third Class. Regardless of its designation it was always given for 25 years’ service
  • In the early crosses the eagles are more gothic in design, they have a more lightly feathered body and longer necks and tails.
  • The newer crosses have eagles in the renaissance (roman) pattern with detailed feathers.
  • 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.
  • Crosses with mother of pearl or tortoise shell reverse were privately made.  The mother of pearl or tortoise shell prevented the brass of the cross from discoloring the uniform (Austrian full dress for many officers was white)
  • 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.
  • This cross was awarded in diamonds to Archduke Frederick Von Habsburg

 

Hallmarks: The mark of Friedrich Rotha

Figure 2: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type I, obverse. Image from author’s archive.

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

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 20 mm tall and 10 mm wide silver double-headed imperial eagle. Above the eagle heads is the imperial crown. In the right talon is a sword and in the left an orb. On the breast of the eagle is the Habsburg coat of arms. Below the coat of arms is the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Figure 3: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type I reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 4: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type III reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 5: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type II reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 6: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type IV reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 7: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type VI reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 8: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type IV reverse. Image from author’s archive.

Figure 9: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1849-1890, Type V reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Reverse:  The reverse of the cross is usually plain.  It may, however, have a rivet hole for attaching the obverse eagle, a screw back attachment for attaching the eagle, Mother of pearl finish or an inscription from those who presented it.

Weight: 12.5 grams

Size: 33-35 mm in diameter.

Type of Material:

  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle.
  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle and a mother of pearl reverse
  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle and a white enameled reverse

Variations: There are several variations of this decoration:

Figure 10: Obverse eagle Type I in the Gothic Style. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 11: Obverse eagle Type II in the Roman Style. Image from the author’s archive.

  • Type I obverse (issued from 1849-1867): as described
  • Type II obverse (issued from 1867-1890): as described except the eagle is in the renaissance (roman) style and the individual eagle heads on the obverse of the cross are crowned
  • Type I reverse: Plain metal
  • Type II reverse: As described above with the following exception: Reverse is sheathed in mother of pearl
  • Type III reverse: As described above except the reverse has a rivet for attaching the obverse eagle
  • Type IV reverse: As described above except the reverse has a disk shaped nut for attaching the obverse eagle and the reveres of the cross is the same as the obverse. This is an early type cross
  • Type V reverse: As described above except with an inscription on the revers (This inscription may be found on a Type I, Type II reverse)
  • Type VI Reverse: As described above but with a gold bordered white enameled reverse.
  • Type I suspension: As described above
  • 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

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time when I will complete my description of the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, first class 1849-1890, I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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