Prussian Long Service Award for enlisted ranks and NCOs on active military service was instituted in three classes 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.
Militär-Dienstauszeichnungen 1.Modell (1825) were awarded to military active duty enlisted personnel and NCOs of the Prussian army and navy for nine, fifteen and twenty one years of service upon recommendations issued by commanding officers. As a rule, Long Service Awards of the 2nd and 1st classes were normally issued to long serving NCOs, while decoration of the lowest class was also awarded to certain categories of enlisted personnel (Mannschaften). Thus, some ranks of the latter group were as follows: Gefreiter, Obergefreiter (in foot artillery), Krankenträger, Militär-Bäcker, Traingemeiner or Gemeiner, Handwerker des Trains, Ökonomiehandwerker and Spielleute, i.e. drum and fife musicians. Those soldiers could still be enlisted personnel without promotion to NCOs even after nine years of military service.
It’s worth stressing here once again that officers were not eligible for decoration with the Dienstauszeichnungen, that were reserved for enlisted ranks and NCOs only (“für Mannschaften und Unteroffiziere”). Thus, presence of Long Service Awards on some officer’s or military official’s bars indicate their holders’ promotion to officer’s position or its equivalent from lower ranks. In such cases commissioned military personnel continued to wear proudly their enlisted Long Service decorations.
Pre-WWI system of army service counting in the Kingdom of Prussia is worth to be mentioned here. Calendar time was applied for active military service in the army or navy units within Prussia in peacetime. 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). Thus, those who served somewhere in the Black continent were eligible for decoration with the Militär-Dienstauszeichnung 3.Klasse after 4,5 years of colonial service only. Naval personnel who sailed overseas beyond German home waters enjoyed the same calculation.
According to statute of that decoration, only one Long Service Award could be worn, so NCO or soldier had to replace his Dienstauszeichnung 3.Klasse with that of the 2nd class for fifteen years of military service, and finally Award of the 2nd Class with that of the highest class. Simultaneous wearing of two Militär-Dienstauszeichnungen was prohibited.
Long Service Award of 1825 issue had a shape of a stiffened metal plate measuring 40x40 mm approximately covered with a silk woven ribbon. A horizontal rectangular clasp ca. 13х43 mm with a double border and pebbled surface was attached to an obverse. That clasp bore centered cipher of Friedrich Wilhelm III, “F.W.” in capital Gothic letters and Roman numeral “III.”.
A ribbon was made of blue silk with thin vertical stripes at its edges, yellow for the Militär-Dienstauszeichnung 1.Klasse, white for the 2nd class and black for the 3rd class. Depending on a class of the decoration, clasps were manufactured of gilt silver, silver and blackened magnetic iron.
During its nearly century-year-old history, Militär-Dienstauszeichnungen were produced not only by official, but by numerous private manufacturers, that led to minor differences in design, e.g. shape of the letter “F” and of numeral “III” (broad and thin “I”), etc. Metal used for production of clasps differed as well, depending on manufacturer and year of issue. Thus, 2nd class clasps were made either of fine silver (1825-1838), or silver alloy (1836-1848) and silver plated metal (1853-1918).
Two Berlin-based companies were official manufacturers of Militär-Dienstauszeichnungen, or MDA as they are commonly known. Before 1859 Long Service Awards were produced by a Prussian court jeweler Johann Georg Hossauer (05.10.1794-14.01.1874), and since 1859 its successor “Sy&Wagner” headed by two ethnic Frenchmen, Emil August Albert Wagner (30.04.1826-?) and his business partner François Louis Jeremie Sy (1827-1881). Their company appeared to be a long-lived one, changing its name to “Vereinigte Juweliere GmbH” in 1934.
Long Service Award of 1825 issue was attached to a tunic by means of various pins and catching hooks, e.g. one horizontal pin soldered to upper or central part of the reverse, or two vertical pins fixed close to edges.
Militär-Dienstauszeichnungen für Mannschaften und Unteroffiziere were worn on the left part of the tunic below mounted medals, or slightly below heart.
Non-regulation unofficial type of Long Service Award was privately manufactured for veterans and retired NCOs: the badge was fashionably mounted on a medal bar suspending from an appropriate ribbon.
Militär-Dienstauszeichnung 1.Modell was replaced by that of the 1913 issue, instituted in three classes on July 04, 1913 by the King of Prussia Wilhelm II. Awards of the second and last type differed from 1825 type decorations in shape (round medals and cross) and softened presentation criteria, i.e. for 15, 12 and 9 years of active military service.
However, Long Service Awards of 1825 issue were worn by veterans after 1913, though retired military personnel were entitled to purchase new decorations from their own expenses and wear them on their uniform.