Long Service Award for Officers who served 25 years in the Prussian army was instituted by the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm III on June 18, 1825 in conjunction with the tenth jubilee of the Battle of Waterloo, known in Prussia as Schlacht bei Belle-Alliance after the inn “La Belle Alliance” that was used by Napoleon Bonaparte as his headquarters. It was also there that the Duke of Wellington and Generalfeldmarschall Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher met after the allied victory. The Battle of Waterloo ended with a victory of the armies of the Seventh Coalition (comprising that of Prussia) over the French army under the command of Napoleon.
Since its institution and until the beginning of the Great War, Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere was issued to officers only, but according to 1915 regulations it was extended to senior NCOs (Feldwebel and above) as well as to military officials. However, as the WWI broke out, decorations with Long Service Awards were discontinued. Nevertheless, Dienstauszeichnungen were issued for quite a short period of time, from November 1918 until February 01, 1920.
System of army service counting worth to be mentioned here. Calendar time was applied for active military service in the army or navy units within Prussia in peacetime. Before the Great War, participation in any war Prussia fought against its enemies was calculated on preferential basis, i.e. one month of service was counted as two. Same rule applied to the period of service in overseas territories, e.g. in German South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). Naval personnel who sailed overseas beyond German home waters enjoyed the same calculation.
During the years of the WWI military service calculation became more sophisticated and, even though each year doubled, possibility of being decorated with the Long Service Award depended on status of particular officer, NCO or enlisted rank (regular soldier, draftee or volunteer).
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere had a shape of an equilateral cross pattée with three borders and a central circular medallion. Its obverse bore a cipher of Friedrich Wilhelm III (“FW” in capital Gothic letters and Roman “III”) topped with the royal Prussian crown. Reverse of medallion had Roman numeral “XXV.” standing for twenty five years of active military service.
The following five major types of Prussian Long Service Award for Officers differing in dimensions, weight, design details and metal may be marked out.
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere, 1825 type measuring 37x37 mm approximately and weighing 14,4 g was manufactured of gilt copper. It had polished cross arms, and the edge between upper and right arms bore hallmark of an official manufacturer, Berlin-based Johann Georg Hossauer (05.10.1794-14.01.1874) – “Hossauer”. 1825 type cross had double twisted suspension ring and flat eyelet.
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere, 1840 type differed from the above-described in size (36,5x36,5 mm approximately), weight (12 g) and shape of an eyelet that was laterally-pierced one.
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere, 1860 type measuring 37,5x37,5 mm approximately and weighing 13,5 g was also manufactured of gilt copper. However, surface of cross arms was slightly pebbled, and manufacturer’s hallmark was sometimes found on the lower edge. The most distinctive design feature was additional point after letter “W” in monarch’s cipher, i.e. “F.W.”.
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere, 1870 type measuring 39x39 mm approximately and weighing ca 18,5 g was made of gilt bronze and had pebbled surface of cross’ arms. Manufacturer’s hallmark was sometimes found on the lower edge as well.
As the war progressed, Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere, 1917 type was manufactured of gilt zinc, so-called Kriegsmetall, due to financial difficulties and shortage of metal.
During its nearly century-year-old history, Prussian Long Service Awards for Officers were produced not only by official, but by numerous private manufacturers, that led to other minor differences in design, e.g. shape of the royal Prussian crown, width of Roman numeral “III”, etc.
Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere was worn on the left part of the tunic suspended from a silk blue ribbon.