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Regulations for wearing of awards in the Weimar Republic

1. Peacetime Army (Friedensheer) (19.01.1919 – 06.03.1919)

Numerous but advantageously unsuccessful efforts of the early postwar German government to break off forcibly strong links with the Imperial legacy of the past resulted in imposing ban on wearing shoulder boards by officers, typical collar and cuff braid by NCOs, Imperial cockades by military personnel. Nevertheless the higher powers hadn’t infringed on the right of former frontline fighters to wear their combat awards and other decorations earned during military careers. Such prohibition would inevitably lead to extinction of fragile support still demonstrated by armed men who were the only hope of the Weimar government in its attempts to safeguard vague constitutional system and order. Authorities also took into account that combat-ready experienced soldiers, NCOs and officers hadn’t shared “democratic” ideas, regarded them as defeatist ones and merely have chosen the lesser of two evils in the face of the looming communist danger.

Therefore “Temporary Provisions for Uniforms of the Peacetime Army” (Vorläufige Bestimmungen über Beckleidung und Anzug im Friedensheer) issued on January 19, 1919 stipulated that medals and decorations earned during the war, service decorations and prestigious lifesaving medals could be worn on the military uniform on and off duty. Peacetime decorations were not permissible on the uniform when on duty.

2. Provisional Reichswehr (Vorläufige Reichswehr) (06.03.1919 – 31.12.1920)

Provisional Reichswehr was created according to the law that was signed on March 06, 1919 and came into effect on March 12, 1919 (Gesetz über die Bildung einer vorläufige Reichswehr). All the regulations concerning wearing of awards and decorations on military uniform as stipulated in “Temporary Provisions for Uniforms of the Peacetime Army” remained unchanged.

3. Reichsheer (01.01.1921 – 16.03.1935)

According to German military traditions certain medals and decorations awarded in wartime were worn with all forms of dress except sports dress. This regulation applied to the highest Prussian military award, i.e. “Pour le mérite” and all decorations that were not worn on ribbons but pinned on my means of hooks or screws. Breast stars of higher order classes were usually only worn with dress uniform in combination with full decorations and medals. No decorations were worn with overcoats except for sashes on ceremonial occasions.

Medal ribbons were worn attached next to each other thus forming horizontal narrow 12 mm high ribbon bar. In accordance with statute of decorations attached devices, e.g. crossed swords, crowns, etc. were fixed to corresponding ribbons. It’s worth mentioning here weird non-regulation tradition of Saxon soldiers who were the only Germans attaching a miniature of an Iron Cross 1st Class to ribbon of a Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class.  

Military personnel from Bavaria, Baden, Wurttemberg and Hohenzollern provinces utilized extremely popular there so-called “South German style” of winding ribbon bars that represented labour intensive double winding of each bar. Thereupon devices were sometimes not attached to ribbons thus leaving exquisite bars to general viewing.

On full-sized bars medals and orders were suspended on their folded approximately 4 cm-wide ribbons attached to a tunic by hidden hooks. As in the case of ribbon bars “South German style” applied to medals’ ribbons that were again winded in traditional exquisite manner.

Mounting precedence regulations dictated war decorations to be worn first followed by domestic peacetime awards, foreign decorations finishing medal bar.

Military personnel from independent kingdoms, Bavaria and Saxony (and Wurttemberg to the lesser extent) wore their own awards first followed by Prussian ones (in most cases Iron Crosses 2nd Class).

1920 Regulations

The decree on “Dress and Equipment of the Reichsheer” finally established the uniform of the German Army was signed on December, 22 1920 and announced on July 13, 1921 but was never published until November 11, 1934. Nevertheless comprehensive regulations were gradually issued by the Reichswehr Ministry and reached army units.

1920 Regulations allowed wartime orders, medals and decorations, lifesaving medals, Wound Badges, service decorations and flying badges to be worn on military uniform as previously. Peacetime decorations still could not be worn on duty.

1921 Regulations

Regulations for wearing on decorations on military uniform were arranged and made more precise in 1921. Those rules were contained in the “Uniform regulations” section of the Army Directive No.122 (Heeresdruckvorschrift 122, Abschnitt “Anzugbestimmungen”) issued in 1921.

According to a decree of July 08, 1924 published in the Military Orders Digest No.286 (Heeres Verordnungsblatt 1924, Nr.286) those rules were renamed Section D of the Army Directive No.122 (Heeresdruckvorschrift 122, Abschnitt D).

Decorations or their respective ribbons could be worn only on tunics according to the following regulations:

1. On duty. Wartime orders, medals and decorations; lifesaving medals; service medals; Wound Badges; branch qualification badges.

2. Off duty. Same as above accompanied with peacetime decorations.

3. Neck decorations. Neck decorations were allowed to be worn with all forms of dress. While on duty, only wartime orders. While off duty wartime orders first, peacetime decorations at holder’s own option below. In case of greatcoat its top two buttons remained unfastened and the lapels were opened to facilitate display of neck award. In case of tunic its top button could similarly remain open to save decoration from damage.

4. Order stars and decorations without ribbons. Those awards were attached to the tunic beginning from the middle of the left breast pocket. Wartime decorations at the top, peacetime decorations below.

5. Orders and medals worn on ribbons. Decorations were worn suspended on their respective ribbons mounted in a horizontal medal bar with its lower edge at the same level with the second tunic buttonhole from the top. Ribbon bars were attached to the tunic horizontally with their lower edge about 2 cm higher the second tunic buttonhole from the top, thus corresponding to the eyelets for the horizontal pin of medals bar.

Instead of medal ribbons, the ribbons of the Prussian Iron Cross 2nd Class, certain war decorations and lifesaving medals could be worn in the traditional style, i.e. passed through the second buttonhole of the tunic.

It’s worth mentioning here that above described regulations didn’t authorize wearing of ribbons passed through the buttonhole of the left breast pocket of the tunic. Therefore period photos showing such a method of wearing ribbons folded like inverted V should be considered as a  violation of regulations.

1929 Regulations

Contents of the Section D of the Army Directive No.122 of 1921 was supplemented in 1929. Additional regulations came into effect according to the decree of March 01, 1929 after publication in the Military Orders Digest No.92 (Heeres Verordnungsblatt 1929, Nr.92).

The only notable amendment was authorization of wearing of the German Sports Badge (Deutsches Sportabzeichen) on military uniform.

In accordance with the decree of February 01, 1934 published in the Military Orders Digest No.47 (Heeres Verordnungsblatt 1934, Nr.47) Section D of the Army Directive No.122 was renamed Section B.