Well folks we are about to embark on a really interesting adventure. With this blog I am going to commence a discussion of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian service crosses. I will start with the offices crosses but before I conclude I will provide information on the full range of service crosses issued from 1849 – 1918. I will commence this discussion with the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, second class for officers (Militärdienstzeichen II Klasse für Offiziere ) which was issued from 1849-1890. The reason I am starting with the second class is 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 – March 12, 1890
Reason Issued: Founded by Franz Joseph on September 19, 1849 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.
- The crosses issued to officers in 1849 were the first such awards
- Only the highest class of the service cross which had been earned could be worn.
- In the early crosses the eagles are more gothic in design, they have a more lightly feathered body and longer necks and tails.
- Crosses with mother of pearl or tortoise shell reverse were privately made. The mother of pearl (tortoise shell) prevented the brass of the cross from discoloring the uniform (Austrian full dress for many officers was white)
- In 1849 the cross for 50 years’ service was designated as the second class and the cross for 25 years’ service was designated as the first class. Thus the higher the class the greater the number of years served
- 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: None known
Design: A clawed cross in the Leopold style with arms that widen toward the ends. The cross has a ball or loop eye at the top to which is attached an oval 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 gold gilt double-headed gothic style imperial eagle. Above the eagle heads is the imperial crown. In the heraldic 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. On the upper arm of the cross is a small eye with an elongated suspension ring.
Reverse: The reverse of the cross is usually plain. It may, however, have a rivet and 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: 8.5 grams
Size: 34-35 mm in diameter
Type of Material:
- Gilded bronze or brass with an attached gilt eagle
- Gilded bronze or brass with an attached gilt eagle and a mother of pearl reverse
Variations: There are several variations of this decoration:
- Type I Obverse (issued from 1849-1867): as described
- Type II Obverse (issued from 1867-1890): as described except the eagle is in the squatter renaissance (Roman) style and the individual eagle heads on the obverse of the cross are crowned. Also the suspension eye is ball shaped and the ring is smaller than the type I cross and round.
- Type I Reverse: As described above with a plain metal reverse
- Type II Reverse: As described above except the 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
- Type V Reverse: As described above except with an inscription on the reverse
- Type VI Reverse: As described above but with a disk attachment for the eagle as in Type IV and the reverse having the same granulated and pearled appearance as the obverse.
- Type II suspension: A loop shaped eye
Manufacturer: Hauptmunzamt Wien (Imperial Mint, Vienna)
Number Issued: Unknown
- Case Type I: A red case with the Habsburg coat of arms in gold on the lid. The interior is black plush and fitted while the inner part of the lid is white and has the maker’s logo in gilt. Cases of this type were known to be made by Josef Zimbler and Vinc Mayer and Sons
- Case Type II: Decorative cases for engraved presentation awards have been noted. They have been seen in the regiment’s colors with fancy engraving and other ornamentation.
- Fitted cases for multiple decorations have also been seen in which one of the decorations is a service cross.
Ribbon: Originally 43 mm wide, lemon yellow with two 9.5 mm wide black side strips at a 1.5 mm distance from the edges: later 40 mm wide, golden yellow with 8.5 mm wide black side strips at a 3 mm distance from the edges.
Miniature: Miniatures of this decoration exist.
Hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time when I will discuss the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, first class 1849-1890, I hope you find joy in our shared interest