Instituted on October 23, 1914 by the Duke of Brunswick Ernest Augustus (Ernst August von Hannover (III), Herzog von Braunschweig, 17.11.1887 – 30.01.1953) initially in one class only as a decoration for military personnel regardless of rank for merits in action.
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On November 17, 1915 War Merits Cross for non-combatants (Kriegsverdienstkreuz am Nichtkämpferband) was introduced differing from the version for frontline soldiers by a ribbon color scheme.
War Merit Cross had a shape of a cross pattée – an equilateral 30x30 mm Teutonic cross with its arms widening towards ends thus being similar to the Prussian Iron Cross.
An obverse had two letters “EA” standing for Ernst August in the middle, ducal crown on the upper arm, and “
Its reverse bore horizontal inscription “For merit in war” running in three rows: “Für” on the upper arm, “Verdienst im” – in the middle and “Kriege” – on the lower arm.
Surface of the cross was pebbled while some decorations had a plain one.
War Merit Cross was initially made of bronze with black finish but as the war progressed various alloys (so-called “Kriegsmetall”) were used as well. Another distinctive feature of late-war crosses is an orientation of loop for ribbon suspension: initially it was brazed perpendicularly to the plane of award while later in a single plain.
Pin-back 30x30 mm War Merit Cross was manufactured for private purchase as well. It had a vertical pin and catching hook on a reverse.
The highest class of War Merit Cross was instituted on March 20, 1918 and was regarded since as War Merit Cross, 1st Class. “Initial” War Merit Cross was renamed War Merit Cross, 2nd Class thereby. Recipient of a War Merit Cross, 2nd Class had to show numerous acts of merit on the battlefield to be eligible for the first class of that award.
An obverse of the War Merit Cross, 1st Class was the same as the design described above.
War Merit Cross, 1st Class was worn on the left breast pocket of a tunic and was attached by a vertical pin and a catching hook or a screw.
First class Crosses were made of bronze with black finish or sometimes of steel. Dimensions of a pin-back award varied from 40x40 to 42x42 depending on a manufacturer.
War Merit Cross was available for private purchase in the Weimar Republic as well as in the Third Reich and was produced by more than dozen manufacturers.
Approximately 2,000 awards were made of the 1st Class and 8,000 of the 2nd Class.
Frontline service clasp for a War Merit Cross, 2nd Class was instituted on March 20, 1918. It was issued to awardees of the said Cross after two years of combat service. Hospital treatment not exceeding two months as well as furlough were counted as a frontline military service. Honor clasps could also have been awarded to Brunswick military personnel issued with a written acknowledgement of an exemplary service.
The badge (30x20 mm) had a shape of a circular wreath made of oak leaves and topped with a ducal crown. An image of a horse riding westwards was situated in the middle of a wreath. Central element was joined to the inner rim of a wreath in several points – snout, tail and hoofs. Crossed swords were placed at the bottom of a wreath.
Frontline service clasp for War Merit Cross, 2nd Class was privately purchased upon presentation of an award certificate.
Clasp made of silvered bronze was attached to the ribbon by two flat prongs brazed to the reverse of the croup.