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Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/1871

Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns

Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns was instituted on May 20, 1871 by the German Kaiser and King of Prussia Wilhelm I and was awarded to Prussian military personnel and non-combatants including women as well as to allied forces for the war against France (July 19, 1870 – May 10, 1871). The statute of the medal stipulated that it was awarded to crew and maintenance staff of the Imperial corvette SMS Augusta during the service between December 11, 1870 and March 02, 1871.

The Prussian Cabinet Order from December 04, 1871 placed Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns 19th in precedence out of 23 awards.

It’s worth mentioning that this medal remained a decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia only and not of the German Empire. 

Commemorative Medal for military personnel (Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/71 für Kämpfer) was made of bronze smelted from captured French bronze cannons with total weight 280 centners approximately. Circular medal was 29 mm in diameter and had a loop for ribbon suspension. Its obverse has a crowned letter “W” and a horizontal inscription “For victorious army” (“Dem Siegreichen Heere”) below. It is circumscribed “God was with us, to Him the Glory” (“Gott war mit uns, Ihm sei die Ehre”), a small six-pointed star is situated at the very bottom. Reverse has an equilateral Teutonic cross with radiant shining between its arms. Its central medallion bears two dates standing for beginning and end of the war: “1870 1871” within a laurel wreath tied at its bottom by a ribbon. 63 years later this design was used to create the very first award of the Third Reich – Cross of Honor (Ehrenkreuz des Weltkrieges 1914/1918).

The edge of the medal for combatants is inscribed “From Captured Cannon” (“Aus erobertem Geschuetz”) in capital letters. Two variants of this legend positioning relative to the obverse are known to exist.

Ribbon of the medal for combatants was a little over 30 mm wide – 30,1 to 30,9 mm depending on the weaver – and had a fine silk weave with an intricate weft design. It was black with central 6 mm wide red stripe and two white 5 mm wide stripes closer to edges. The ribbon was similar to that of the Iron Cross for military personnel but with an additional central red stripe.

Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns for combatants was awarded to officers, NCOs, other ranks and military doctors who participated in various campaigns during the war.

This medal was available for private purchase by veterans, in this case its surface was appreciably gilt.

Commemorative Medal for non-combatants (Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/71 für Nichtkämpfer) was 29 mm in diameter and was made of steel or silvered bronze.

Its obverse has a crowned letter “W” and a horizontal inscription “For Loyalty in War” (“Für Pflichttreue im Kriege”) below. It is circumscribed “God was with us, to Him the Glory” (“Gott war mit uns, Ihm sei die Ehre”), a small six-pointed star is situated at the very bottom. Reverse has an equilateral Teutonic cross with radiant shining between its arms. Its central medallion bears two dates standing for beginning and end of the war: “1870 1871” within an oak wreath tied at its bottom by a ribbon. Commemorative Medal for non-combatants has no legend on the edge.

Its ribbon was white with central 6 mm wide red stripe and two black 5 mm wide stripes closer to edges. The ribbon was similar to that of the Iron Cross for non-combatants but with an additional central red stripe.

Commemorative Medal for non-combatants on combatants’ ribbon (Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/71 für Nichtkämpfer am Kämpferband) was awarded to military personnel who haven’t seen action during the war.

Commemorative Medal for non-combatants on non-combatants’ ribbon (Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/71 für Nichtkämpfer am Nichtkämpferband) was awarded to various German civilians who worked in France – medical personnel (doctors, nurses and medical orderlies) as well as officials and employees from private railway companies who crossed the border with France before March 02, 1871.

Additional decree signed by Wilhelm I on May 22, 1871 extended criteria for the award of Commemorative Medal for non-combatants. According to that order the following categories of non-combatants were eligible for award: members of Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Johanniterorden who provided medical assistance on behalf of religious orders; clergymen; stretcher bearers; attendants; girls and women who worked in military hospitals that were deployed in the French territory; all other persons who worked voluntarily in military hospitals for at least four weeks.

Type of ribbon was specifically mentioned in Soldier’s book (Soldbuch) and award certificate.

Minor varieties of both types of medal are known depending on manufacturer. It concerns mainly design of the crown on obverse and small star at the bottom of an obverse (five-pointed instead of a six-pointed one).

Miniatures of this medal were manufactured as well.

Photographic evidence shows that Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns was worn either obverse or reverse outwards.

After the death of a recipient the medal remained in the family of a veteran.

Battle clasps (Gefechtsspangen zur Kriegsdenkmünze für die Feldzüge 1870/71)

Battle clasps for Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns were introduced on August 18, 1905 by a decree of the German Kaiser and King of Prussia Wilhelm II in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the German victory in the war with France. Only frontline veterans were authorized to add clasps to medal’s ribbon, combat clasps could not be awarded with the non-combatant steel version of the medal nor with the non-combatant ribbon. It’s worth mentioning here that veterans were not eligible for clasps automatically as those bars were regarded as a separate entitlement.

Those authorized were allowed to purchase one or more clasps at approximately 35 pfennigs to almost RM1 each depending on the salesman’s price. Due to various reasons not all veterans eligible for clasps had a chance to purchase them, as some soldiers already passed away while others were unable to proceed with paperwork because of disability or health problems.

There are 25 battle clasps instituted officially with all the campaign names executed in capital letters: AMIENS, A.MONT VALERIEN, AN DER LISAINE (alternative spelling – A.D.LISAINE), AN DER HALLUE, BEAUMONT, BEAUNE LA ROLANDE, BEAUGENCY-CRAVANT, BAPAUME, BELFORT, COLOMBEY-NOUILLY, GRAVELOTTE-ST.PRIVAT, LOIGNY-POUPRY, LE MANS, METZ, NOISSEVILLE, ORLEANS (alternative spelling – ORLÉANS), PARIS, SPICHERN (alternative spelling – SPICHEREN), SEDAN, STRASSBURG, ST.QUENTIN (alternative spelling – ST. QUENTIN), VIONVILLE-MARS LA TOUR, VILLIERS, WÖRTH, WEISSENBURG.

Size, type of script, height and width of letters differed depending on a manufacturer nearly 20 of which are knwon. Surface of reverse was pebbled in all cases unlike flat or smooth background that can be encountered with Weimar-era production of various veterans organizations and contemporary copies.

Each clasp has different manufacturing styles:  flat single ribbon width, wide lettering; flat single ribbon width, narrow lettering; flat 1,5 ribbon width, wide lettering; flat 1,5 ribbon width, narrow lettering; thick single ribbon width, hollow back, “fat” wide lettering; flat single ribbon width, tall and wide lettering and nearly 25% taller than the official clasps.

Battle clasps were 6 mm high and 32 or 39 mm wide and were made of gilt bronze or gilt brass.

There were two official different attachment methods: prongs of various styles or slip-on. The rarest method is by sewing clasp to the ribbon through four small hole drilled at each corner of a clasp.

Several clasps were allowed to be worn simultaneously. According to a decree clasps were to be worn with the first authorized at the top and the last on bottom. Nevertheless this regulation was widely ignored and the veteran himself chose the order of precedence.

Unofficial battle clasps

Battle clasps were manufactured unofficially before 1892. The following unofficial battle clasps for Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns are known to exist: AMIENS, AM OGNON, AN DER LISAINE, BEAUMONT, CHAMPIGNY, CHATILLON LE DUC, CHERNIRUNG VON METZ, COULMIERS, COLOMBEY, DAIX U. TALANT, GRAVELOTTE, LA BOURGONCE, LE BOURGET, LE MANS, METZ, MONT BÉLIARD, NOUILLY, NUITS, ORLEANS, PARIS, PASQUES, PONTARLIER, SEDAN, ST. QUENTIN, STRASSBURG, TOUL, VESOUL, VILLERSEXEL, VIONVILLE, WOERTH, 1870, 1870-1871, 1870-71, 1871.

Battle clasps issued by veterans organizations

Battle clasps for Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns were manufactured during Weimar Republic era by various veterans organizations and they were worn on various veterans commemorative medals.

Distinctive features of those clasps are the following:

- Flat or nearly flat surface of reverse;

- Long flat prongs not touching each other being folded;

- Different metal used for manufacturing of clasps;

- “+” symbol before and after campaign name.

The following clasps are known: +AMIENS+, +A.MONT VALERIEN+, MONT VALERIEN, MONT VALÉRIEN, +AN DER HALLUE+, +AN DER LISAINE+, +A.D.LISAINE+, +BAPAUME+, +BEAUGENCY-CRAVANT+, +COLOMBEY NOUILLY+, COLOMBEY NOUILLY, GRAVELOTTE ST. PRIVAT, +LE MANS+, +LOIGNY-POUPRY+, +METZ+, +ORLEANS+, St.QUENTIN, St. QUENTIN, +ST.QUENTIN+, +ST. QUENTIN+, +SEDAN+, +SPICHERN+, +SPICHEREN+, +VILLIERS+, +VIONVILLE-MARS LA TOUR +, +VIONVILLE - MARS LA TOUR+, +WEISSENBURG+, +WÖRTH+.

These clasps were never produced neither officially nor unofficially and are contemporary forgeries: BEAUGENCY CRAVANT, GRAVELOTTE-St.PRIVAT, GRAVELOTTE-St. PRIVAT, LOIGNY POUPRY, WEISSENBERG, WEIßENBURG, WÜRTH.

“CHAMPAIGNE” battle clasp or its “+CHAMPAIGNE+” variety was never manufactured for the Commemorative Medal for 1870-1871 Military Campaigns.

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1870 1871 Military Campaigns 1

 

1870 1871 Military Campaigns 2