Figure 1: War Cross for Civil Merit, first class, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Introduction:

The War Cross for Civil Merit was founded by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1915 in four classes to reward civilians who had performed especially meritorious civil service involving outstanding zeal and sacrifice. It was issued from 1915-1918.

Date Issued: August 16, 1915 – October 6, 1918

Reason Issued:  To reward those civilians who have, in connection with the war, performed especially meritorious civil service involving outstanding zeal and sacrifice.

Classes or Types:  This decoration was issued in four classes:

  • War Cross for Civil Merit, first class
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, second class
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, third class
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, forth class

Interesting Facts:

  • The class of the award issued was dependent on the significance of the service rendered to the empire and the social rank of the recipient.
  • Crosses could be awarded to women
  • This is the last award authorized by Emperor Franz Joseph.
  • Colonel General Karl Georg Reichsgraf von Huyn was the only officer to receive this award while on active duty
  • The cross was one of eight awards that were issued in jeweled versions: The others were Order of the Golden Fleece, The Military Order of Maria Theresia, The Order of St. Stephan, the Order of Leopold, The Austrian Imperial Order of the Iron Crown, (although the statutes of this order authorize the wearing of jeweled insignia with the permission of the emperor there are no known authorized examples of this insignia), the Military Merit Cross and the Elisabeth Order. In each case they were issued to indicate the special regard of the emperor.

Hallmarks: Crosses are usually hallmarked on the back. They are marked on the pin, wreath and back of the cross. The following marks have been found on these crosses.

  • The Vienna 1890-1921 assay office stamp, found on the first and third class crosses
  • The April 1, 1872 – May 1, 1922, 900 fine silver hallmark, on the first, second and third class crosses.
  • The Vienna Werkstaetten mark, found on the first, second and third class crosses.
  • The capital letter B (Buchruch) is found on the third class crosses.
  • The Vienna 1866-1890 assay office stamp, found on the second class crosses
  • The 1872-1890 tax release stamp, found on the second and third class crosses
  • The mark of Rozet & Fishmeister, found on second class crosses
  • SGA, the mark of George Adam Scheid, Budapest
  • Base metal asterisk on the pin of the War Cross for Civil Merit, forth class
  • The F. Rothe Mark
  • The mark of Alexander E. Kochert (on the two jeweled versions of the cross)

Design: A pin back Greek clawed cross the arms of which widen towards the ends and the tips of which are double curved so that the cross ends have three points. The cross is embellished with a wreath that passes over the vertical arms and under the horizontal arms of the cross.

Figure 1: War Cross for Civil Merit, first class, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Obverse:

  • For the first class the obverse arms of the cross are enameled white. The border of the cross is gilt silver and is 3 mm in width. 1 mm Inside of the enameled portion of the cross arm is a .5 mm gold band which follows the contour of the arms of the cross. The center of the cross has the applied monogram FJI, in gilt, around which is a 3 mm wide oval band 28 mm X 24 mm in size. The band is enameled white with a gilt inscription MERITO CIVILI TEMPORE BELLI MCMXV (Civilian Merit in time of war 1915). Passing over the upper and lower arms and under the horizontal arms is a 6 mm wide gilt oak leaf wreath.
  • For the second class the obverse arms of the cross are enameled white. The border of the cross is gilt silver and is 2 mm in width. 1 mm Inside of the enameled portion of the cross arm is a .25 mm gold band which follows the contour of the arm of the cross. The center of the cross has the applied monogram FJI, in gilt, around which is a 2 mm wide oval band 18 mm X 16 mm in size. The band is enameled white with a gilt inscription MERITO CIVILI TEMPORE BELLI MCMXV (Civilian Merit in time of war 1915). Passing over the upper and lower arms and under the horizontal arms is a 4 mm wide gilt oak leafwreath.
  • For the third class the obverse arms of the cross are enameled white. The border of the cross is silver and is 2 mm in width. 1 mm Inside of the enameled portion of the cross arm is a .25 mm silver band which follows the contour of the arm of the cross. The center of the cross has the applied monogram FJI, in silver, around which is a 2 mm wide oval band 18 mm X 16 mm in size. The band is enameled white with a silver inscription MERITO CIVILI TEMPORE BELLI MCMXV (Civilian Merit in time of war 1915). Passing over the upper and lower arms and under the horizontal arms is a 4 mm wide silver oak leaf wreath.
  • For the forth class the obverse arms of the cross are frosted gold. The border of the cross is bright gold and is 3 mm in width. The inside portion of the cross arm is inset and follows the contour of the arm of the cross. The center of the cross has the applied monogram FJI, in gilt, around which is a 2 mm wide oval band 18 mm X 16 mm in size. The band is gilt with the inscription MERITO CIVILI TEMPORE BELLI MCMXV (Civilian Merit in time of war 1915). Passing over the upper and lower arms and under the horizontal arms is a 4 mm wide gilt oak leaf wreath.

Figure 2: War Cross for Civil Merit, first class, reverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Reverse: The reverse of the cross is plain.  This includes the reverse of the wreath.  In the center of the cross are two small compressed nuts.  They are used to attach the FJI monogram to the cross.

Weight:

  • War Cross for Civil Merit, first class = 62 grams
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, second class = 28 grams
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, third class = 28 grams
  • War Cross for Civil Merit, forth class = 26 grams

Size:

  • First Class = 64 mm in diameter
  • Second Class = 44 mm in diameter
  • Third Class = 44 mm in diameter
  • Forth Class = 44 mm in diameter

Figure 3: War Cross for Civil Merit, forth class, obverse. Image from the author’s archive.

Type of Material:

  • First Class = Gilt silver and enamel
  • Second Class = Gilt silver and enamel
  • Third Class = Silver and enamel
  • Forth Class = Gilt bronze.
  • All classes in war metal

Variations:

  • Type I: as described above
  • Type II: A first class cross in diamonds which was issued on February 14, 1918 by Emperor Karl; as described above, but with diamonds.
  • Type III: Examples were made at the end of the war in base metal and in these cases the wreaths were attached but did not pass over and under the arms

Designer: Josef Hoffmann

Manufacturer:

  • First Class in diamonds = Alexander Kochert of Vienna
  • First Class = Wiener Werkstatte, Alexander Kochert of Vienna, A. Buchruch in Budapest,
  • Second class = Wiener Werkstatte, Rozet & Fischmeister, A, Bachruch in Budapest, C.F Rothe & Neffe, Vienna , Rudolf Souval, and Alexander E Kochert
  • Third Class = Wiener Werkstatte, Rozet & Fischmeister, A. Bachruch in Budapest
  • Forth class = Wiener Werkstatte, Rozet & Fischmeister, A. Bachruch in Budapest

Number Issued:

  • First Class in diamonds = 2 insignia were made and 1 was issued to Kajetan Merey von Kapos-Mere the Plenipotentiary and ambassador to the peace talks in 1917 which took place at Brest-Litowsk. (Awarded February 14,1918)
  • First Class = 234 of which 41 were awarded to women. Only one of these awards was given to an active serving officer in the armed forces: Colonel General Karl Georg Reichsgraf von Huyn (May 1917)
  • Second Class = 3,700
  • Third Class = 5,400
  • Forth Class = 4,000

 

Hope you enjoyed this blog. Next time I will provide in Part II of the discussion of the War Cross for Civil Merit the cases, miniatures, award documents and recipients. Until then good luck in your collecting efforts.

Rick

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