Order Decorations and Medals are always mentioned in conjunction with bravery. Everybody knows that the truth looks quite different. Most decorations were founded to honor people in Arts & Science as well as long and outstanding service - just civil matters. Nevertheless, those awards actually given for bravery are always most interesting. History is - as bad as it is - war driven, and generated medals and decorations with "war" decorations for bravery.

Besides the best known Prussian order of the Pour le Mérite that exclusively went to officers there is of course the Military Honor Cross for the Prussian NCOs - the so called Pour le Mérite for NCOs. Also, almost every German state had an equivalent for its officers as well as for its NCOs.

While the decorations for officers were always made real pretty, in gold and enamel, NCOs got only a plain silver medal and for outstanding deeds a golden bravery medal, which represented just because of its weight of pure gold some value. 

There are bravery medals for almost all German states, for example the Württemberg bravery medal in silver and gold, the Saxony Military St. Henry medal in silver and gold or the Bavarian bravery medal, also in silver and gold. Most of these have a long standing history and were founded way back in history. The Franco-Prussian-War was in most cases the initiator for their foundation.

One could think that at least the golden medals were protected from those typical changes in material, mostly happening during the I World War. Well, they weren't immune. Because of their much higher value compared to orders decorations, one would wonder, that they didn't change from gold to silver quite some years earlier.

Looking at an extreme wealthy kingdom like Bavaria shows, that those changes were made without mercy. The last model of the Bavarian bravery medal was changed from pure gold to silver gilt in 1916. Prussia of course known for their thriftiness did make the Military Honor Crosses quite some time before 1916 in silver gilt. Like most of the others gilt decorations, also the medals were marked in a certain way to show its lesser material value. 

Therefore it isn't that easy for "talented" medal dealers to just gild the lower grades of a medal, that is coined with the same tools and is identical to the real golden specimens.

The Saxony Military St. Henry medal for example has a circular punch mark on its rim (bronze gilt), and can be identified easily. Something equal was implemented for the Bavarian bravery medal. Those pieces show the following punch mark on their rim:


(the C stands for the half-moon Silver symbol)



© I/01 Andreas M. Schulze Isi