Figure 1: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1890-1918. Image from the author’s archive.

Introduction:

With this blog I am going to continue my discussion of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian officer service crosses. Let me remind you that while we are discussing the officers crosses at this time that before I conclude I will provide information on the full range of service crosses issued from 1849 – 1918. In this bog I will commence this discussion of the officer service crosses issued from 1890-1918 with the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, first class (Militärdienstzeichen I Klasse für Offiziere ).

Date Issued: March 12, 1890 – 1918

Reason Issued: To reward officers of the Austrian army and navy who had served fifty years of active service in a faithful and honorable manner.

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

Interesting Facts:

  • Only the highest grade of the service cross which had been earned could be worn.
  • Crosses with diamonds could be issued to persons of special distinction. One such recipient was Generaloberst Freidrich Graf von Beck-Rzikowsky
  • 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)
  • In 1890 it was decided to reverse the title of the military service crosses. Thus the crosses for the most years served became the first class and the other classes were arrayed below it in descending order.
  • Crosses at the end of World War I were made of zinc with bronze centers
  • From April 21, 1913 Engineer officers were eligible for this award
  • From November 19, 1917 Military Physicians were eligible for this award
  • Officers who served more than forty years received a pension equal to their salary upon retirement.
  • 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.

Hallmarks:

  • The 1872-1922 800 fine silver hallmark

Design: A clawed cross in the Leopold style with arms that widen toward the ends. The cross has a stylized wedge shaped eye at the top to which the crown suspension is attached. The crown suspension which featured long flowing banderols has a hole drilled through the orb at its top through which passes a ring for attaching the badge to the ribbon and round extension at the bottom for attaching the cross to the crown.

Figure 2: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1890-1918 obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse: A cross with a finely granulated surface and raised edges. The edges of the arms of the cross are tapered.  The arms of the cross have a 2 mm raised smooth edge.  The inner portion of the raised edge is of black enamel, which also follows the contour of the cross.  In the center of the cross is a gilt 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.  Above the cross is a 20 X 30 mm crown.  The crown is gilt.

Figure 3: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, First Class, 1890-1918 Reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: The reverse of the cross is usually plain except for a finely beaded design that follows the contour of the cross 2 mm from its edge. There are, however, a number of variations to the reverse including  a Mother of Pearl finish or a dedication  from those who presented it. The reverse of the crown is fully detailed.

Weight: 18.7 grams

Size: The cross is 34-35 mm in diameter with a 20 mm high crown attachment.

Type of Material:

  • Gold
  • Gold with jewels
  • Gilt silver with an attached gilt eagle.
  • Gilt bronze with an attached gilt eagle
  • Zinc war metal with an attached bronze eagle
  • Gilt Silver and mother of pearl or Tortoise shell
  • Gilt bronze and mother of pearl or Tortoise shell
  • Gilt silver with an attached gilt eagle and diamonds or brilliants

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time when I will complete my description of the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, first class 1890-1918, I hope you find joy in our shared interest

Rick

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