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Schützenabzeichen Modell 1850/1868

Marksmanship Awards 1850/1868

1. Kingdom of Prussia

The earliest distinctions for proficient musketry proven by other ranks and NCOs from Prussian infantry and rifle regiments as well as from Jäger and Pionier battalions were instituted by a Supreme Cabinet Order (Allerhöchste Kabinetts-Order, AKO) from April 25, 1850. Those awards came in three classes only and were sewn on both sleeves. They had a shape of horizontal stripes (Litzen) of the state colour: white 7 mm wide cloth base with central thin 1,5 mm wide black stripe. If transferred to Landwehr or Gendarmerie soldier retained his marksmanship awards.

Marksmanship Plate 1 

18 years later, Supreme Cabinet Orders signed on May 22 and June 18, 1868 extended number of marksmanship classes to twelve and stipulated combined usage of original thin and newly introduced broad stripes to designate each level of proficiency. New stripes for higher classes were 13 mm wide and had 2,25 mm wide central stripe.

Marksmanship additionalMarksmanship Plate 2

Soldiers who wore tunics with Brandenburg cuffs wore corresponding number of stripes sewn on their flaps, but those with Swedish cuffs or cuffs adorned with decorative miniature tabs (Litzen) wore them sewn directly to the sleeve just above the upper edge of flap due to lack of spare space. That discrepancy was abolished by a decree of January 08, 1885 that introduced a general manner of wearing marksmanship awards, and since then all the stripes were to be sewn above flaps. That regulation remained unchanged until replacement of stripes by Imperial aiguillettes on January 27, 1894.

The final changes to design of M1868 marksmanship awards were made in 1889 when a decree of June 28, 1889 ordered broad stripes for the higher classes to be made of silver braid instead of ordinary cloth. Horizontal stripes worn by marksmen differed in length, probably depending on wearer’s preferences and budget – short ones are known as well as quite long that were sewn around the cuff.

A plate below demonstrates all regulated manners of wearing Schützenabzeichen (here 5th class) on different types of tunic cuffs depending on historic period.

Marksmanship Plate 3

When worn on Litewkas marksmanship awards were to be sewn to the left sleeve only directly above the wristband.

Prussian NCOs and other ranks who had won marksmanship award in the Infantry Musketry School (Infanterie Schießschule) were issued with a special distinction that had a shape of a broad white horizontal tab with two thin black stripes. They also had their standard cuff buttons removed and replaced with ones bearing heraldic Prussian eagles.

A plate below shows eight different heraldic cuff buttons worn by military personnel from various German states attending Infantry Musketry School.

Marksmanship Plate 4

Army contingents of most states within the newly formed German Empire (Anhalt, Baden, Oldenburg, Reuss, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen) adopted Prussian traditions and instituted above described distinctions for proficient musketry. However seven German states decided to issue their own marksmanship awards that slightly differed from the Prussian ones.  

2. Kingdom of Bavaria

Prussian-style marksmanship awards in twelve classes were adopted in 1873 but had a colour of a central thin stripe changed from Prussian black to Bavarian national blue. In other respects they were absolutely similar. According to a decree of February 16, 1873 marksmanship awards were to be sewn to the lower portion of sleeves above Brandenburg cuffs. Another decree issued on May 05, 1890 introduced silver braid to be used as a replacement of previously used broad white and blue stripes denoting higher classes of musketry proficiency. Bavarian NCOs and other ranks graduated from the Infantry Musketry School had their standard cuff buttons removed and replaced with ones bearing heraldic Bavarian lions. Marksmanship awards were worn in 1873-1894 until aiguillettes in the state white and blue colours and Bavarian medallion were instituted by a decree of March 30, 1894.

3. Kingdom of Saxony

The marksmanship award in three classes issued until the end of the 1870s was unique to Saxony and had a shape of aiguillette in colour of a tunic with interwoven green threads. Range finder attached to a cord was a part of an award. Additional decorative tassels denoted class of musketry skills: two pieces for the highest 3rd class and one for the 2nd class. No tassels were attached to the cord of the 1st class that was the lowest one.

A special distinction for Saxon NCOs and other ranks who demonstrated exceptional skills while attending Prussian Infantry Musketry School was introduced in 1867. Buttons featuring coat of arms of Saxony had to be worn on both cuffs but two smooth cuff buttons were to be retained.

Above described aiguillettes were replaced by Prussian-style marksmanship awards in twelve classes at the end of the 1870s. The only exception was the central thin stripe that showed green Saxon colour. A decree of September 11, 1894 introduced Imperial aiguillettes but with an exclusive medallion on rosette that bore monogram of the relevant Saxon king.

4. Kingdom of Württemberg

Marksmanship awards of Württemberg Army Corps differed from Prussian stripes in a colour of central thin stripe that was made in state colours, i.e. red and black. A decree issued on March 02, 1894 introduced aiguillettes in Imperial colours instead of obsolete stripes. 

5. Grand Duchy of Hesse

Hessian contingent adopted Prussian marksmanship awards but again in state colours and thus cuff stripes had central thin poppy red stripe. Manner of wearing those stripes by NCOs and other ranks from 1.Großherzoglich Hessisches Infanterie (Leibgarde) Regiment Nr.115 was unique as soldiers sewed them not above the tabs as in Prussia, but behind them. On July 16, 1885 Prussian regulations were finally adopted and stripes were always to be worn above flaps. Silver braid denoting higher classes of musketry proficiency (above the 4th class) replaced broad stripes on September 29, 1889 according to a decree issued by Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (12.09.1837-13.03.1892). Imperial aiguillettes were introduced in Hessian contingent in February 1894.

6. Grand Duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Marksmanship awards worn by military personnel from both Grand Duchies differed from Prussian ones in a colour of central thin stripe that represented state colours and was made of three horizontal threads, blue, yellow and red. Those stripes were replaced by Imperial aiguillettes in 1894. 

7. Duchy of Brunswick

Brunswick soldiers wore marksmanship awards that differed from Prussian pattern not only in colour of a central stripe that was cornflower blue, but also in shape. Their Schützenabzeichen  had a curly shape fitting Polish cuffs of their unique tunic, viz. Pollrock. Pollrock tunics were replaced with standard Prussian-style Waffenrock tunics in 1886 but were still worn for a number of years.

Marksmanship awards described in this article were worn until beginning of 1894 when they were replaced by aiguillettes introduced on January 27, 1894. Collapse of the German Empire that led to creation of the Weimar Republic had an impact on military uniform that was stripped of nearly all colourful details that were criticized as an undemocratic Imperial legacy. Elegant aiguillettes suffered the same fate as shoulder boards, cockades and NCO’s braid – all these elements of uniform were abolished. Since December 22, 1920 musketry proficiency of Reichswehr personnel was indicated by less impressive Schießauszeichnungen in form of stripes.

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