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

Introduction:

With this blog I am going to continue the discussion of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian officer service crosses. In this blog I will commence the discussion of the Officer’s Military Service Decoration, second class (Militärdienstzeichen II Klasse für Offiziere) which was issued from 1890-1918.

Date Issued: March 12, 1890 – 1918

Reason Issued: From 1890 until 1913 to reward officers of the Austrian army and navy who had served forty years of active service in a faithful and honorable manner. After August 7, 1913 the cross was given to reward officers of the Austrian army and navy who had served thirty-five 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.
  • 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 Tortious shell reverse were privately made. The mother of pearl or Tortious shell prevented the brass of the cross from discoloring the uniform (Austrian full dress for many officers was white)
  • In 1890 it was determined 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.
  • 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.
  • Officers who served more than forty years received a pension equal to the salary they drew upon retirement.
  • As of 19 November 1917, in addition to the officers of the army, military doctors were now entitled to the second class officer’s service decoration.

Hallmarks: None known

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

Figure 2: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, obverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

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 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.

Reverse: The reverse of the cross is usually plain. It may, however, have decorative element, a mother of pearl finish or an inscription if it is a presentation cross.

Figure 3: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type IV reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 4: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type II reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 5: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type III reverse. Image from author’s archive.

Figure 6: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Reverse, Type VII. Imagefrom the author’s archive.

Variations: There are several variations of this decoration:

  • Type I decoration: as described above
  • Type II decoration: A zinc cross with a bronze center eagle
  • Type I obverse: As described above
  • Type II obverse: As described above except that it has a roman style eagle with the individual eagle heads on the obverse of the cross crowned
  • Type I reverse: As described above with the following exception: it has a rivet in the center for attaching the eagle to the cross
  • Type II reverse: As described above with the following exception: The reverse is sheathed in mother of pearl
  • Type III reverse: As described above with the following exception: The reverse is sheathed in mother of pearl with an inscription
  • Type IV Reverse: The reverse is plain metal
  • Type V Reverse: The reverse is plain metal with an inscribed dedication
  • Type VI Reverse: The reverse is decorated with a fine inscribed line which follows the contours of the arms of the cross
  • Type VII Reverse: The reverse is decorated with a fine inscribed line which follows the contours of the arms and the center medallion of the cross
  • Type VIII Reverse: The reverse of the arms are decorated with a beaded line that follows the contour of the medal and has a finely pebbled area within the beaded design. The reverse center medallion is round and plain.

Weight: 13.7 grams

Size: 34-35 mm in diameter

Type of Material:

· Gilded silver with an attached gilt eagle

· Gilded silver with an attached gilt eagle and a mother of pearl reverse

· A zinc cross with a bronze center eagle

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

Rick

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