The history of Prussian awards for combat-related action for NCO’s and soldiers is rather complex.

Of course, during the Napoleonic Wars, the 1870/71 war against France, and during the World War (1914-1918), the Iron Cross 1st Class and 2nd Class were the primary awards for combat-related action for NCO’s and soldiers.  During other conflicts however, when the Iron Cross was not awarded, the Prussian Military Merit Medal, and later the Military Honor Awards (1st and 2nd Class) were utilized.

To add to the complexity, the Golden Military Merit Cross (Goldene Militär-Verdienstkreuz) was also awarded from 1864 through 1918, and was the highest award by Prussia to NCO’s during the World War (1914-1918).

From 1793 through 1814 there were two (2) coinages of the Military Merit Medal (Militär-Verdienstmedaille) awarded in both gold and silver.  From 1814 through 1847 the Military Honor Award 1st Class (Militär-Ehrenzeichen I. Klasse) was awarded as a cross, and the Military Honor Award 2nd Class (Militär-Ehrenzeichen II. Klasse) was awarded as a medal.  From 1848 through 1864 there was yet another coinage of the Military Honor Award 1st Class (Militär-Ehrenzeichen I. Klasse) cross, and from 1847 through 1864 there  was yet another coinage of the Military Honor Award 2nd Class (Militär-Ehrenzeichen II. Klasse) medal.

We will focus however on the two (2) types of Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class (Preußen Militär-Ehrenzeichen II. Klasse) that were awarded after February 27, 1864.

The Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class was a round silver medal 40mm in diameter.  On the obverse was the inscription: “KRIEGS/ VERDIENST” surrounded by a laurel wreath bound with a bow at the bottom.  On the reverse was the crowned cipher “W R” (Wilhelm I).  According to Hessenthal und Schreiber, the medal weighed 22 grams.  However, this author has an example of the later-type medal that weighs 23 grams.  For combatants, the medal was worn suspended from a 35 mm wide black ribbon with two (2) 7.5 mm-wide white side-stripes, each 2mm from the edge of the ribbon.  For non-combatants, the medals was worn suspended from a 35 mm-wide white ribbon with two (2) 7.5 mm-wide black side-stripes, each 2mm from the edge of the ribbon.  Note that these ribbons were the of the same color and design as those utilized for the Iron Cross 2nd Class.

The Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class was first awarded during the 1864 German-Danish War (Deutsch-Dänischer Krieg) and 1866 Austro-Prussian War (Österreichisch-preussischer Krieg) conflicts.  The pieces awarded during those conflicts had a piece of semi-flat-section stock which was formed into a loop and soldered to the top rim of the medal to form a suspension eyelet.

 

 

 

Figure 1: Obverse of the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. This is an example of the earlier-type (1864 to ~1890) that was awarded. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

 

Figure 2: Reverse of the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. This is an example of the earlier-type (1864 to ~1890) that was awarded. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

The later pieces (awarded after approximately 1890) had a suspension eyelet consisting of round-section stock which was formed into a loop and soldered to the top rim of the medal.  As seen in Figure 1 and in Figure 2, the 1864 to ~1890 medal suspension loops were rather thin and were therefore prone to deformation and breakage.  This may be a reason why the suspension loop was changed on the post-1890 awarded medals.  These later pieces were awarded during the various Colonial conflicts (i.e. DSWA) and China-Expedition.

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Obverse of the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. This is an example of the later-type that was awarded after ~1890. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

 

Figure 4: Reverse of the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. This is an example of the later-type that was awarded after ~1890. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5: An example of the combatant’s ribbon for the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

 

Figure 6:  An example of a post-1890 Military Honor Award 2nd Class being worn on a large medal bar which belonged to an Unteroffizier Trabert.  Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 7: Reverse of the large medal bar which belonged to Unteroffizier Trabert. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

 

Various period copies of this award are known to exist struck from different dies.  These copies may be found struck in silver and in bronze which was silver-plated.  These copies may also have various forms of suspension such as a traditional eyelet soldered to the top of the medal through which passes a ribbon ring in the same plane as the medal’s planchet.  These copies were available for private-purchase through various firms and were not officially awarded.

 

 

 

 

Figure 8: Photograph of a Royal Bavarian 1st Jägerbataillon (Königlich Bayerisches 1. Jägerbataillon “König”) NCO wearing a Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class 2nd from left on his large medal bar. As mentioned in a previous blog, this NCO may have been Otto Karl Klopp who was an “Unteroffizier des 4. Ostasiatischen IR”. Image from the author’s archive.

 

 

As researched by Sascha Wöschler of Karlsruhe, per research data compiled by the late OMSA member Eric Ludvigsen, there were approximately 9,400 awards made of the earlier type of medal (awarded 1864 to ~1890), and there were approximately 6,800 awards made of the later type of medal (awarded after ~1890).  There were thus a total of 16,157 awards made.  The earlier type medals are seldom encountered, as per statute, they were returnable upon the death of the recipient.

This award is therefore relatively uncommon when compared to the millions of Prussian Iron Cross awards made during the World War (1914-1918).  This plain-looking award is thus often unjustifiably under-appreciated by most collectors.

 

Thank you for your interest in this article. Comments are welcome.

-Lorin

 

Literature:

  1. Hessenthal, Waldemar Hesse Edlen von und Schreiber, Georg. Die tragbaren Ehrenzeichen des Deutschen Reiches. Verlag Uniformen-Markt Otto Dietrich. Berlin, 1940.
  2. Heyden, Hermann von. Ehren-Zeichen (Kriegs-Denkzeichen, Verdienst- und Dienstalters-Zeichen) der erloschenen und blühen- den Staaten Deutschlands und Österreich-Ungarns. Kommissions-Verlag von Brückner & Renner, Herzogl. Hofbuchhandlung. Meiningen, 1897.

 

On-Line References:

  1. https://woeschler-orden.de/katalog/preussen/preussen-militaer-ehrenzeichen-ii-klasse-4-modell-zweitstueck

 

© 2018. All Rights Reserved.  The content displayed in this article (including all photographs) is the intellectual property of the author.  You may not reuse, republish, or reprint such content without the written consent of the author.

 

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20 Comments
  1. Hi,

    This medal also exists with the wording as KriegER Verdienst (not KriegS Verdienst). When was the variation introduced please?

    Michael Passmore

    • Hello Michael,

      Thank you for your inquiry. This is an excellent question. To clarify, this particular award (Militär-Ehrenzeichen) does not actually exist with the “Krieger/Verdienst” inscription.
      There are other similar-looking awards with the “Krieger/Verdienst” inscription however. There is the Prussian, Krieger-Verdienstmedaille which was awarded from 1835 through 1918 and existed in various coinages. These medals were 25mm in diameter and were awarded to non-Prussian troops. There is also the Imperial German, Krieger-Verdienstmedaille, 1st Class (39mm diameter) and 2nd Class (25mm diameter) which was awarded to native colonial troops.
      There are a number of coinage variations of the Imperial German Krieger-Verdienstmedaille which exist, some with the “Krieger/Verdienst” official inscription, and some un-official coinages with the inscription “Kriegs/Verdienst”. To make the matter even more confusing, the Prussian, Krieger-Verdiensmedaille and the Imperial German, Krieger-Verdienstmedaille 2nd Class are identical in appearance, but were classified differently as separate awards. My response is of course only a simplification of this rather complex topic. I hope that it furthers understanding a bit.

      Best regards,

      Lorin

  2. Hi Lorin,

    have you ever heard about this medal comes with a flat, round loop (acording to the loops seen with Austrian bravery medals of Napoleonic wars)? Can that be an earlier vary before 1864? Another subtype? I know the ring could have been renewed in former times etc.. But it does not look so with the medal I think about – it has a flat eyelet, diameter ca 2mm. Thanks to all collectors might give a usefully info.

    Regards

    • Hello Mark,

      Thank you for your very interesting question. Unfortunately, I am not personally familiar with the various coinages struck prior to 1864. There were many variations. Most of the pre-1864 medals that I have seen photographs of have a round cross-section ribbon loop. You are right about period replacements/repairs. I have seen a Napoleonic-era Bavarian Silver Militär-Verdienst-Medaille that had the suspension loop changed to the Austrian-type flat loop that you mention. Can you provide a photograph of the particular piece in question? Perhaps there is another collector who is an expert in Prussian medals who knows the answer and can comment.

      Best regards,

      Lorin

  3. Good afternoon, dear colleagues! I am writing to you from Russia. In the summer of 2020, I dug up the Kriegs verdienst medal of the sample after 1890. It was found on the site of a disappeared village in the Ryazan province. Most likely it was a block, since there I also raised the Russian medal for bravery in 1916, and my friend found the Austrian cross for the Balkan mobilization. I found very little information on Russian sites and it was wrong. Today I came across this site and found out that my find is much more interesting than I thought. Most of the Russian awards are personalized and I really hope that I can find something else in that place to establish the name of this person. Is it possible that this medal was awarded to a Russian as an ally in the Chinese company?

    Regards

    • Hello Timofey,

      Thank you for your inquiry. Since you also found an Austrian Cross for Balkan Mobilization at the location, I would surmise that what you found might be a Prussian, Krieger-Verdienstmedaille which was 25mm in diameter. These medals were awarded to non-Prussian troops, and specifically, they were often awarded to Austrian troops. Is the medal that you found 25mm in diameter? What is the specific inscription? If you could provide a photo, it could help determine the specific award.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Russia,

      Lorin

  4. Hello Lorin!
    Thanks for the quick response! The medal was found very close to my native village, so I am very interested in any information about its owner. Diameter 39 mm, weight 22.7 grams. if the medal did not belong to a Russian, then I can assume that these were trophies of war, for the village was in such a wilderness where a foreigner’s foot was unlikely to have gone.
    Regards

    • Hello Timofey,

      I can confirm that 100 russian members of the 85th infantry regiment Wyborg (on occasion of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904/05) received the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class.

      The german emperor Wilhelm II. was regiment holder of the 85th infantry regiment Wyborg:

      https://military.wikia.org/wiki/85th_Vyborg_Infantry_Regiment

      Perhaps one of the 100 Russian soldiers lived in your home village?? So maybe no spoils of war?!

      Kind regards

  5. reverse

    • Hello again Timofey,

      Thank you for the photographs and the size and weight information regarding the medal. It is indeed a post-1890 Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class. It was awarded during the colonial conflicts in China and in German Southwest Africa to Prussian or Imperial German colonial soldiers. It was probably brought back to your area as a “war souvenir” at some point. It is in very nice condition (especially if it was buried in the ground).

      Congratulations regarding finding this item. If only it could talk, I bet it could tell an interesting story!

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Russia,

      Lorin

  6. Hello again Lorin!
    Thanks for the science! Now we have knee-deep snowdrifts outside our window, and I won’t be able to return to that place until mid-spring. But I research it much better, for I am sure that there should be more awards. if you are interested, I can share the results in the future. I collect awards from the Russian Civil War, and since Germany took part in it, I have a small collection of German items from the WW1, so I am very interested in such finds and any information about them.

    With best wishes from Russia.

    • Hello again Timofey,

      We have snow on the ground here also. Hopefully it will be warm again soon. Yes, I would like to see whatever else you find at the site and would like to see your other German awards from WWI. The site sounds very interesting. I wonder why the various awards were there.

      With friendly greetings from the USA to Russia,

      Lorin

  7. I did not find any differences in the details of the stamp of the medals of the type before 1890 and later, and I believe that the returned medals of the first type were simply subjected to the procedure of re-soldering the ear and were awarded again. Therefore, their number is limited, only those that were not surrendered during the life of the cavalier survived. Thus, the number (number of actual pieces) of medals issued after 1890 may include the number of medals issued before 1890. Well, as for the medal found in the Ryazan region in Russia, it could be awarded to a prisoner of war, or, alternatively, maybe this medal was awarded before the First World War to the soldiers of Austria-Hungary in the regiment, the chief of which was Emperor Wilhelm. Just a guess.

    • Hello Den,

      Thank you for your comments. I do not believe that these medals were returnable however. As with the Iron Cross, they became the permanent property of the NCO/soldier who received them. The family could then keep the medal after the NCO/soldier died. Perhaps there is someone who can provide a copy of the statutes regarding this.

      Best regards,

      Lorin

      • Yes, many awards in Germany were subject to surrender after the death of the owner or when awarded a higher combat award. we have a saying about German punctuality as a model of behavior, although I have come across German Saxon and Baden pads of the First World War with deviations from these norms. and photos. but they also came across with compliance.
        and I didn’t understand what documents to look for – that the award was subject to return or that there were some proceedings with those who didn’t pass.
        The second one is unlikely to be found. although, for example, with the introduction of the Hindenburg Cross, the medals of torn banners and other verein from the stocks disappeared mostly, but there were exceptions. so I guess most of the rules were followed.

  8. Wilhelm II was the chief (Inhaber) Infantry Regiment No. 34 (k. u. k. Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 34). Hungarian regiment from Kassa. he was a member of the 6th corps and fought on the Russian front. But I do not know whether his soldiers took part in the suppression of the uprising in China in 1901.

  9. https://ordensmuseum.de/Ordensjournal/Ordensjournal17Mar10RechEK1870.pdf

    This article contains data on the return of German awards to the treasury after the death of the recipient

    • Hello Den,

      Thank you very much for the link to this article. You are absolutely correct regarding the return of Prussian awards including the Militär-Ehrenzeichen being required by statute. There were exceptions sometimes made upon application to the General-Ordens-Commission. I do believe that families of deceased recipients could also pay for the awards in order to retain them. It is interesting to see that the EK was by statute to also be returned upon the death of the recipient until the 10.10.1914 announcement.

      Best regards,

      Lorin

  10. I think my post of 13th March went under….

    I can confirm that 100 russian members of the 85th infantry regiment Wyborg (on occasion of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904/05) received the Prussian Military Honor Award 2nd Class.

    The german emperor Wilhelm II. was regiment holder of the 85th infantry regiment Wyborg:

    https://military.wikia.org/wiki/85th_Vyborg_Infantry_Regiment

    Perhaps one of the 100 Russian soldiers lived in the home village of Timofey?? So maybe no spoils of war?!

    So nothing with Hungarian…. 😉

    Kind regards

  11. an option is possible with the stay of Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners of war there in the First World War

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