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Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd

Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse

Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse was introduced on March 21, 1919 by an Order Nr.Ia3205 of the Chief of Staff of the VII Army Corps (Generalkommando des VII.Armeekorps) as a distinctive badge of honor in the shape of a lanyard for military personnel from volunteer units the above mentioned formation comprised of. Since January 18, 1919 the latter was commanded by Generalleutnant Freiherr Oskar von Watter (02.09.2861-23.08.1939) with headquarters in Münster. For that simple reason all the volunteer units of the VII Army Corps were named “Freikorps Watter” for convenience. Integrally it composed of the following Freikorps: Freikorps Münsterland, Freikorps Andree, Freikorps Severin, Freikorps Garbke, Freikorps Düsseldorf, Westfälisches Freikorps Niederrhein, Freikorps Lichtschlag, Freikorps Pfeffer, Freikorps Schulz, Freikorps Pfefferkorn, Freikorps Hacketau and Westfälisches Jägerfreikorps. Its worth mentioning here that the last two units entered VII.Armeekorps as Brigade Niederrhein. Five cavalry rifles battalions (Kavallerie-Schützen-Bataillone) from the Garde-Schützen-Division were attached to the VII Army Corps as well, with their military personnel coming from the following disbanded units of the Imperial army: Kavallerie-Schützen-Kommando 14; Kürassier-Regiment “von Driesen” (Westfälisches) Nr.4; 1.Westfälisches Husaren-Regiment Nr.8 (named Husaren-Regiment “Kaiser Nikolaus II. von Russland” (1.Westfälisches) Nr.8 up to May 12, 1917); 2.Westfälisches Husaren-Regiment Nr.11 and Westfälisches Ulanen-Regiment Nr.5.

Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd for everyday wearing on the left shoulder of the service uniform was issued to Freikorps military personnel with at least three months of frontline experience provided excellent performance and good conduct were demonstrated (“mindestens dreimonatige Frontdienstleistung und besonders ausgezeichnete Leistungen und gutes Verhalten”).

Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse 2With some units from the VII Army Corps having been transferred to the Reichswehr-Brigade 7 Münster of the Vorläufige Reichswehr in June 1919, Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse was issued to Brigade military personnel for three months of impeccable service. It’s worth mentioning here that in October 1919 Reichswehr-Brigade 7 Münster merged with Reichswehr-Brigade 31 Düsseldorf.

Further expansion of those eligible for decoration with the Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd took place on September 30, 1919 as the Military District VI (Wehrkreis VI) headed by Generalleutnant Freiherr Oskar von Watter was formed with its headquarters in Münster. Since then, Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse was presented to military personnel of all the Freikorps, civilian and urban self-protection formations as well as of the Provisional Reichswehr units that were stationed and operated in the territory of the Wehrkreis VI during three months. Starting from April 01, 1920, Generalmajor (since 18.12.1920 Generalleutnant) Victor Sigismund Rudolf von Horn (09.07.1866-04.02.1934) was appointed commander of the Military District VI.

Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd was presented to distinguished servicemen together with a typographic award document (Besitzzeugnis). Five types of the latter may be singled out.

1. Early type award document, issued in May-June 1919. Fancy letterhead was entirely filled in on a typewriter and bore original signature of the VII Army Corps commander Freiherr Oskar von Watter.

2. Second type of the VII Army Corps award document. Only name, rank and unit of an awardee as well as date and month of issuance were filled in either by hand or on a typewriter, while the whole text including year, i.e. “1919”, was already printed in typography. Award documents of this type bore facsimile of Freiherr Oskar von Watter. 

3. Besitzzeugnis issued by headquarters of the Reichswehr-Brigade 7.

4. Award document issued by the Wehrkreis VI headquarters. Only name, rank and unit of an awardee as well as date and month of issuance were filled in either by hand or on a typewriter, while the whole text including year, i.e. “1919”, was already printed in typography. Award documents of this type bore facsimile either of Freiherr Oskar von Watter or Victor Sigismund Rudolf von Horn.

5. Slightly different award document issued by the Wehrkreis VI headquarters bearing a round stamp of the Military District and mention of a certain Order No.3336 of August 14, 1920 in the text.

Statute of the lanyard was changed on October 07, 1919 by a Decree of the Military District VI that allowed all the servicemen who had been previously decorated with an aiguillette to wear it with a silver cord provided they honorably served with any Freikorps, civilian and urban self-protection formations as well as of the Provisional Reichswehr units that were stationed and operated in the territory of the Wehrkreis VI for at least nine months.

An interesting fragment from the memoirs of a certain Freikorps veteran who served with one of the volunteer units from the VII Army Corps was cited at the German forum “Feldgrau” in 2013. “Hauptmann Büttner moved up closer and addressed an appeal to us: “My comrades from the second company! Herewith by an order of Freiherr von Watter, commander of the VII Army Corps, I’m authorized to decorate you with a “Green aiguillette” bearing Westphalian coat of arms as a special distinction for loyal service and good conduct. I’m particularly pleased to know that our second company includes soldiers honored with decoration with this badge, and I place my hope that you will wear it with pride and dignity”. Before attaching lanyards to our uniform he shook every soldier by the hand. Later on I received the badge with silver distinction and afterwards with the gilt one”. While decoration of a volunteer with the green aiguillette and then with that with a silver cord was absolutely natural, mentioning of a “gilt distinction” remains unexplainable. It is not unlikely that the author of memoirs managed to buy a non-regulation lanyard, but that is a pure conjecture.

Decoration with the lanyard was punctually entered into soldiers’ personal documents. Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse was apparently awarded up until January 01, 1921, the date the Provisional Reichswehr was reorganized into the Reichswehr. Since then, the lanyard was prohibited to be worn on uniform.

Just like shooting lanyards of the Imperial German Army, Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd was manufactured of twined ca. 63 cm long dark green cord 3-4 mm thick. It had a narrow loop at its lower end to attach an aiguillette to the button of the left shoulder strap or shoulder cord. Its upper end had a woven rosette in the shape of a trefoil to which an emblem depicting a rearing horse facing left was attached with two long flat prongs. Heraldic Westphalian animal (“Westfalenroß”) measuring 2,5x3 cm approximately was made of silvered Buntmetall, i.e. non-ferrous alloy of yellow metals (brass or bronze). A narrow loop sewn on to the rosette was used to attach an aiguillette to the tunic. Two dark green stylized acorns as additional decorative elements were fixed to a lanyard with twisted cords.

Several variants of wearing of Grüne Fangschnur mit dem westfälischen Pferd, depending on a type of a tunic, presence of breast badges and medal bars as well as on personal preferences are known to exist.

According to the statute of the aiguillette it must have been worn exactly as an Imperial shooting lanyard (Auszeichnung für gutes Schießen, or Schützenschnur): rosette loop attached to the second button of the tunic, while another loop attached under the shoulder strap or the shoulder cord, if the uniform of the Provisional Reichswehr was worn, near the seam of the sleeve. However, as far as Feldbluse Modell 1915/1916 and Feldrock Modell 1907/1910 had their front buttons hidden under the decorative placket, another variant was widely used. Thus, rosette loop was fixed to the shoulder strap button, the cord was strung under the left arm, and another loop was attached under the shoulder strap near the seam of the sleeve. Incidentally, that variant allowed soldier to sport breast badges, medal bar or ribbon bar freely as cord and acorns didn’t block up decorations and prevented them from getting entangled in aiguillette. When tunic or jacket with breast pockets was worn, rosette loop was attached to the breast pocket button, and another loop was fixed to the shoulder button.

The author thanks an expert on German Imperial uniform Andreas Bauer (Germany) for valuable consultation on Freikorps structure as well as a scan of the photo from his collection, renowned Russian military historian and expert on Freikorps decorations Konstantin Nikolaev for corrections and Latvian collector Sergejs Kustovs for sharing a photograph of the Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse from his personal collection.  

Green Aiguillette with Westphalian Horse 1