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Abzeichen für Fliegerschützen

Air Gunner’s Badge

The Bavarian Air Gunner’s Badge was authorized on January 27, 1918 by the King of Bavaria Ludwig III after Wilhelm II as the King of Prussia and the Emperor of the German Empire instituted similar Prussian decoration on the same date. According to the terms of unification with Prussia, Bavaria was the only state within the German Empire that was allowed to maintain and institute its own awards that corresponded to Prussian criteria. That was exactly the case of qualification and commemorative flight badges.

The badge was awarded to officers, NCOs and enlisted men who demonstrated practical skills in operating machine guns on the ground and in the aerial combat. Aspirants were expected to have profound knowledge of aircraft engines and their operation; understanding of theory of flight, aerial navigation, tactics and combat, charts reading and bombing.

The Bavarian Pilot’s Badge was nearly similar to a Prussian model. It had a shape of a vertical oval with an outside perimeter surrounded by a wide wreath. Its left side had laurel leaves symbolizing victory and its right side had oak leaves standing for strength and hardiness. Both were joined together with a ribbon bow at the bottom thus signifying combination of those two qualities. However, unlike Prussian badge, Bavarian Abzeichen für Fliegerschützen was topped by a seamless crown of the Royal Wittelsbach house. The centre of the badge carried an image of an eagle with raised wings perching on a machine gun cross-hair against a background of divergent stylized sun rays. Depending on a manufacturer, badges differed in minor details as well as in size and measured 73-74х45-46 mm.

Issued badges were most often stamped of silver Buntmetall, while privately purchased hollow two-piece or single massive badges of superior quality were made of silver. The Bavarian Air Gunner’s Badge was worn on or below the left breast pocket and was attached to a tunic with a vertical pin soldered to its reverse.

Contradictory to the common Weimar-era sentiments, Abzeichen für Fliegerschützen in its original design, i.e. with the outlawed Royal crown was awarded even after the Great War, thus allowing former air gunners to obtain just reward and collect their long desired decoration. According to the Army Regulations (Armee-Verordnungsblatt) No.70 of August 14, 1919 that supplemented previous statutes of all the three active flyer badges, former flight personnel, including air gunners were authorized to continue to wear those awards as a sign of the extraordinary meritorious service they rendered to their Homeland during the Great War. Army Regulations of December 30, 1920 stipulated that the Bavarian Air Gunner’s Badge would be issued up to January 31, 1921 upon presentation of a documented proof. The badges were produced by the original manufacturers until the end of the WWII and were available for private purchase by former aviators.

Air gunner badge