Awards for military merit have a long history in Prussia.  In 1793 medals for „Merit for the state“ began being awarded. These medals for military as well as for civil merit went through some changes since they were established. Only the type of ribbon showed the difference between the military and civil character of the medal.

Due to the fact, that there is still a lot of mistakes in the common literature I will only write about the military type in its first class; awarded on a black ribbon with two white strips.

The biggest change during this medals history was the upgrade from an actual medal to a cross. This change was performed on September 30, 1814. One reason was a cost reduction from 13 Talern to less than 1 Taler. 

While the second class, of the from now on named (Militär-Ehrenzeichen) Military Honor Medal, remained the same in shape, the first class was coined on October 08, 1814, by the Berlin Jeweler Gebrüder Wagner. The design of this Cross. (Type 1) was done by King Friedrich Wilhelm on September 30, 1814. The avers shows the crowned kings initial "FW.", the reverse: "Verdienst um den Staat (Merit for the state)". Before January 1815 the new medal wasn’t available for awarding. The gross of this new award was given to soldiers of the allied armies because the iron cross was newly issued on March 10, 1813. In 1828 all crosses of the first type were awarded for military and civil reasons (keep in mind that only the ribbon made the difference between a civil (Allgemeines Ehrenzeichen) and a military award (Militär-Ehrenzeichen)). The Generalordenskommission ("the general orders issuing ministry") ordered on October 25, 1828, 200 new crosses from the Berlin orders jeweler Hossauer for the old price. Since they weren’t ordered in 12lötigem (750/1000), instead of in 15lötigem (937,5/1000) silver, Hossauer declined their making because he thought they would be to soft for this kind medal. Therefore the Berlin jeweler Friedrich Wilhelm Hanff started coining this medal in 15lötigem silver in the end of November 1828 (Type 2). 
Since the Military Honor Medal 1st Class was only awarded between 1814 and 1917 the 2nd type could have only functioned as a substitute piece lost by their bearers. Therefore the biggest number of these crosses were awarded as Civil Honor Medal 1st Class on its white ribbon with orange stripes, approx. 2000 pieces.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Military Honor Medal 1st class, type 1 with suspension loop type 2

On January 01, 1830, the 1st class of the Civil Honor Medal was transformed into the Red-Eagle-Order 4th class. With the upcoming war 1848/49 the Military Honor Medal 1st class was awarded in a new from (Type 3). These new pieces looked, except for the porcelain medallion, identically like the second type of the Red-Eagle-Order 4th class from 1846, in shape and dimensions. Instead of the porcelain medallion the cross bearded the three line inscription: “Verdienst um den Staat“ (“Merit for the State”).

This new form only existed from 1848 to 1864, regarding the fact that it was only awarded in 1848/49 in a very scarce number.

Military Honor Medal 1st class, type 4 without makers mark hollow made from 1864

Ordered by the King on February 27, 1864, the parallel design development to the Civil Honor Medal was ended. From now on the Military Honor Medal shows the two line inscription: „Kriegsverdienst“ (“Military Merit”) (Type 4). This type comes with the makers mark “AW”, punched in the medallion cylinder, without any marks and with the scratch mark “W”.

Military Honor Medal 1st class, type 4 with makers mark "AW" for 1866

Award statistics:

Timeframes Type Number awarded
1814-17 1 11
1848-49 3 12
1860 3 2
1863 3 1
1864 4 191
1866 4 415
1867 4 29
1902 4 52 to Russians in China
1895-1906 4 201 for the
colonial wars


The following medal bar was worn by a Schutztruppler for his time in South-West-Africa:



Bernhard von Schenk received his medal for the 1866 wars:


© A. Schulze Ising, XII/99