Figure 1: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Third Class, 1890-1918, obverse. 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. This blog along with Part II to follow will conclude the discussion of the officer’s service crosses. The officer service cross III class as described in this blog had gone through an interesting evolution. It had started its existence in 1849 as the Officer Service Cross, first class then evolved into the Officer Service Cross, third class in 1890. However in all of its incarnations it was issued for 25 years’ service. In this blog I will reprise the discussion regarding this cross under its new title with emphasis on aspects of this award unique to the 1890-1918 time frame.

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

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. It continued to be awarded from 1890-1918 for the same years of service.

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
  • Military officials, doctors and accounting officers were not eligible for this award prior to 1913
  • As of April 21, 1913 Engineers and artillery engineers were eligible for this award; After 19 November 1917, military doctors were entitled to this award.

Hallmarks: The mark of Friedrich Rotha

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

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, a mother of pearl, tortoise shell or an enamel finish, or an inscription from those who presented it. Thus there are a number of variations of the reverse. Major types are depicted below.

  • Type I Reverse: A plain metal reverse with a rivet in the center to attach the obverse eagle
  • Type II Reverse: A plain metal reverse
  • Type III Reverse:  A mother of pearl reverse
  • Type IV Reverse. A mother of pearl reverse with a rivet hole in the center for attaching the eagle to the obverse of the cross
  • Type V Reverse: A mother of pearl reverse with a round silver center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type VI Reverse: A metal reverse with a beaded line following the contour of the arms of the cross within which is a fine pebbled pattern. In the center of the cross round silver center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type VII Reverse: A plain metal reverse with a dedication
  • Type VIII Reverse: A mother of pearl reverse with a dedication
  • Type IX Reverse: A white enameled reverse with metal edges
  • Type X Reverse: A cross with white enameled reverse arms with metal edges and a round bronze center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type XI Reverse: A metal reverse with a beaded line following the contour of the arms of the cross within which is a fine pebbled pattern. In the center of the cross round bronze center medallion on which is a dedication (see next page)
  • Type XII Reverse: A cross with black enamel reverse with metal edges and a round center medallion on which is a dedication (see next page)

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

 

Figure 4: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type II reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

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

Figure 6: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type IV reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 7: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type V reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 8: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type VI reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 9: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type VII reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 10: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type VIII reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

Figure 11: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type IX reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 12: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type X reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

 

Figure 13: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type XI reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Figure 14: Officer’s Military Service Decoration, Second Class, 1890-1918, Type XII reverse. Image courtesy of Dorotheum.

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 or tortoise shell reverse
  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle and a white enameled reverse or white enamel and silver
  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle and a partial silver reverse
  • Gilded bronze or brass with an attached silver eagle and a black enamel reverse

Variations: There are several variations of this decoration:

  • Type I Cross: As described above
  • Type II Cross: As described above except in war metal
  • 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: A plain metal reverse with a rivet in the center to attach the obverse eagle
  • Type II Reverse: A plain metal reverse
  • Type III Reverse: A mother of pearl reverse
  • Type IV Reverse. A mother of pearl reverse with a rivet hole in the center for attaching the eagle to the obverse of the cross
  • Type V Reverse: A mother of pearl reverse with a round silver center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type VI Reverse: A metal reverse with a beaded line following the contour of the arms of the cross within which is a fine pebbled pattern. In the center of the cross round silver center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type VII Reverse: A plain metal reverse with a dedication
  • Type VIII Reverse: A mother of pearl reverse with a dedication
  • Type IX Reverse: A white enameled reverse with metal edges
  • Type X Reverse: A cross with white enameled reverse arms with metal edges and a round bronze center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type XI Reverse: A metal reverse with a beaded line following the contour of the arms of the cross within which is a fine pebbled pattern. In the center of the cross round bronze center medallion on which is a dedication
  • Type XII Reverse: A cross with black enamel reverse with metal edges and a round center medallion on which is a dedication
  • 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
  • Type I Eagle: As described above
  • Type II Eagle: Has a Roman style eagle with the individual eagle heads on the obverse of the cross crowned

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

Rick

 

 

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