One of the illustrious multibranch veterans organizations that operated in Germany since the end of XIX century and is still active today was known as Union of German Naval Veterans Associations (Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine, BDMV) in 1922-1935.
Initially known as German Naval Union (Deutschen Marine-Bund, DMB) it was founded on June 27, 1891 in Kiel and incorporated 16 veterans’ associations with manpower of 1,000 members approximately. Active and retired naval military personnel of any rank were eligible to become members of the Union, and this rule remained unchanged until the World War II.
Korvettenkapitän a.D. [außer Dienst] (i.e. retired) Johannes Meller, chairman of the Kiel-based “Prinz Heinrich” Union (Marineverein Prinz Heinrich von Preußen) was elected as the first president of the German Naval Union.
The following objectives were declared by Deutschen Marine-Bund upon its creation:
1. To represent interests of naval military personnel independently but with a full acknowledgement of Reichskriegerbund prior significance and with a close coordination of activities;
2. To encourage and strengthen feeling of comradeship and solidarity among retired naval personnel, to promote maritime traditions and customs;
3. To render support and give help to fellow members of the Union.
German Naval Union changed its name to Association of German Naval Societies (Vereinigung Deutscher Marine-Vereine, VDM) in 1893, in 1907 VDM headquarters moved to Bremen from Kiel and in 1908 it entered an official company register.
Main objectives of the Association altered slightly by 1908 and included the following goals:
1. Propagate love to Emperor, sovereign rulers and Fatherland;
2. To strengthen ties between naval societies;
3. To maintain spirit of comradeship;
4. To guarantee activities for the benefit of all the members and provide material backing and support from the assets of the Association’s mutual aid funds.
By 1913 Association of German Naval Societies consisted of 269 various veteran’s associations out of 379 that existed in the German Empire at that very moment. Three years later, in 1916 it comprised of 348 naval veteran’s associations already.
As mentioned before in 1922-1935 that umbrella organization was known under the name of Registered Association Union of German Naval Veterans Associations (Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine, e.V. [eingetragener Verein]). As it can easily be seen from the full name it was stressed that an association had a status of a legally registered noncommercial organization. Recalled to service Rear admiral (Kontreadmiral z.D. [zur Dienstleistung]) Heinrich Trendtel (1864-1943) was its fist chairman.
Lending a hand to veterans in need, arrangement of various comradely functions as well as perpetuating the memory of sailors fallen during the Great War were the main objectives of the Union.
According to the Union’s charter embraced in 1922 its main task was “to maintain continuous gratitude to the German Fatherland and the whole German nation from members of all the naval associations whether existent in the German Empire or created recently and to assert rights of disabled naval veterans as well as of relatives of fallen comrades”.
Beyond all doubt the most impressive heritage of Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine from the Weimar-era period of its existence is the Laboe Naval Memorial, conceived by the governing body of the Union as far back as in 1925. The next year saw construction started in Laboe (Schleswig-Holstein), near Kiel. Completed in 1936, a 72-metre high memorial designed by the German architect Gustav August Munzer (09.01.1887-23.08.1973) commemorated fallen sailors of Kaiserliche Marine during the World War I.
Ambitious project that was rededicated to memorialize fallen sailors of all nantionalities during both World Wars in 1954, was financed by the Union in full thanks to donations and contributions from wealthy members as well as from public.
By 1932 Union of German Naval Veterans Associations numbered approximately 35,000 members of 600 various veterans societies.
By January 01, 1933 Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine consisted of 21 district associations (Gauverband) with chairs in the following cities:
Baden – Offenburg
Bavaria (Bayern) – Munich
Berlin-Brandenburg – Berlin
Danzig – Danzig
East Prussia (Ostpreußen) – Königsberg
Ems – Osnabrück
Hesse-Waldeck (Hessen-Waldeck) – Kassel
Lower Elbe (Niederelbe) – Wilhelmsburg I, district of Hamburg
Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) – Hanover
Mecklenburg-Lübeck – Lübeck
Niederwald – Frankfurt am Main
Nordmark – Kiel
Nordwest – Oldenburg
Pommern – Stettin
Rhine-Westphalia (Rheinland-Westfalen) – Düsseldorf
Saar-Rhineland-Palatinate (Saar-Rheinpfalz) – Friedrichsthal / Saar
Saxony (Sachsen) – Dresden
Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt) – Magdeburg
Silesia (Schlesien) – Beuthen
Thuringia (Thüringen) – Erfurt
Württemberg – Stuttgart
Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine was renamed Registered Noncommercial Organization National Socialist German Naval Union (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Marine-Bund e.V. [eingetragener Verein], NSDMB) in 1935 and was disbanded in 1945 after defeat of Germany in the World War II. The Union was reinstituted on December 20, 1952 in Wilhelmshafen as German Naval Union (Deutsche Marinebund e.V.) and united all naval veterans associations and societies in West Germany.
Here’s a complete list of chairmen of Bund Deutscher Marine-Vereine that was known under different names since its creation in June 27, 1891:
1891-1892: Korvettenkapitän a.D. Johannes Meller (1839-????)
1893-1895: Kamerad Potenberg
1896-1899: Korvettenkapitän a.D. Johannes Meller (1839-????)
1899-1901: Vizeadmiral a.D. Karl Heinrich Theodor Paschen (09.06.1835-24.02.1911)
1901-1905: Werft-Maschinenmeister a.D. Berthold Fritsch
1905-1908: Marineoberzahlmeister a.D. Friedrich Jahn
1908-1919: Kontreadmiral a.D. Adolf Thiele (1853-1941)
1919-1928: Kontreadmiral a.D. Heinrich Trendtel (1864-1943)
1928-1933: Vizeadmiral a.D. Bernhard Rösing (29.10.1869-10.01.1947)
1933: Kontreadmiral a.D. Friedrich Lützow (31.08.1881-01.11.1964)
1933: Kontreadmiral a.D. Ernst Hintzmann (23.06.1880-17.01.1951)
1941-1945: Kontreadmiral a.D. Karl Klüpfel (1878-1962)
1952-1953: Ingenieur Karl Beutz (1896-1959)
1953-1956: Fregattenkapitän a.D. Otto Kretschmer (01.05.1912-05.08.1998)
1956-1958: Vizeadmiral a.D. Hellmuth Heye (09.08.1895-10.11.1970)
1958-1967: Kontreadmiral a.D. Ernst Lucht (27.02.1896-02.11.1975)
1967-1969: Kontreadmiral a.D. Kurt Weyher (30.08.1901-17.12.1991)
1969-1983: Fregattenkapitän a.D. Friedrich Rohlfing (1910-1992)
1983-1991: Kontreadmiral a.D. Hans-Arend Feindt (29.10.1921-02.02.2002)
1991-1999: Flotillenadmiral a.D. Hansdieter Christmann (27.08.1933-06.02.2008)
1999-2005: Kapitän zur See a.D. Michael Kämpf (born 1940)
Since 2005: Oberstabsbootsmann a.D. Karl Heid (born 1939)
Having completed that necessary historical digression let’s return to the main subject of an article.
Circular membership badge of the Union of German Naval Veterans Associations was 17 mm in diameter and was made of enameled bronze or Buntmetall, a yellow colour alloy of nonferrous metals. Central part of a badge represents an image of a golden anchor against a background made of a horizontal tricolor in traditional German colours – black, white and red, each stripe being separated by a thin golden line. This composition is encircled with a wide blue ring bordered by two thin golden edgings and carrying an inscription: “Union of German Naval Veterans Associations” (“Bund Deutscher Marine Vereine”) in capital golden letters. Small equilateral golden cross is situated at the bottom of a ring.
The badge was worn on a civilian jacket and was attached by means of a long needle or a button fastener.