The Colonial Badge, widely known as the Elephant’s Order was instituted in October, 1921 (some sources mention April 18, 1922) by the State ministry of reconstruction (Reichsministerium für Wiederaufbau) of the Weimar Republic. German subjects and foreign citizens who were acting or serving in the former German colonies during the Great War were eligible for a decoration. It’s worth mentioning here that those stationed in the Empire during that period were not allowed to receive the badge. Due to the limitations of the post-war German constitution, Elefantenorden enjoyed status of a commemorative badge (Erinnerungsabzeichen) but not of an official award (Ehrenzeichen). That was the main reason of its absence in the Army Table of ranks though Kolonialabzeichen entered Navy Tables, mostly due to the role Kaiserliche Marine played in adopting a colonial policy of the German Empire.
As all the other countless commemorative badges of the Weimar Republic, the Elephant’s Order was privately purchased by recipients upon presentation of the award document issued by the government body. It initial price upon institution was fixed at 27,20 Reichsmarks, but deep depression Germany faced in the beginning of 1920s amended amount to be paid drastically.
Applicants for purchasing and wearing of a badge had to make an application to the State ministry of reconstruction accompanied by a documentary proof of their service record obtained from the former colonial authorities. The procedure was different for the personnel who served at the Kiautschou Bay concession, a German leased territory in Imperial China from 1898 until 1914. Those applicants had to address Kiautschou unit (Kiautschoustelle) under the Head of the Naval Command (Chef der Marineleitung) that was a part of the Defense Ministry, or Ministry of the Reichswehr (Reichswehrministerium). Approval by different authorities was the reason of slight difference in colourful award documents.
Since 1924, after dissolution of the State ministry of reconstruction, and until December 31, 1935 the badge was awarded by the Imperial ministry of foreign affairs (Reichsaußenministerium). Since 1936, Führer and Imperial Chancellor Adolf Hitler was the only authority entitled to confer Kolonialabzeichen, so decorations from 1936 to 1945 were quite scanty. Moreover, submission of applications terminated on June 30, 1939.
Design of the Elefantenorden was elaborated by the Berlin-based artist, sculptor and engraver (Karl Richard Möbius, 20.05.1876-1953). The badge had a circular shape and its central part had an elephant walking eastwards against a background showing palm tree. The lower part was decorated with a wide oak wreath with acorns. Wide upper rim bore inscriptions “South Sea (standing for the Pacific Ocean and Oceania) ∙ Africa ∙ Kiautschou” (“Südsee ∙ Afrika ∙ Kiautschou”) in capital letters separated with small six-pointed stars referring to the larger areas where former German colonies were situated. An upper part of the badge was crowned with a small-scale ribbon bow.
Elephant’s Order was worn on the lower left part of the tunic attached by vertical pin and catching hook of various types soldered to its reverse. The backside also bore an inscription “Ges[etzlich] Geschützt Nr.33992” (“Legally protected No.33992”) referring to the registration number of the badge within German patent office archives.
Kolonialabzeichen that measured 34x39 mm approximately was stamped either from silver-coated brass (“Buntmetall”) or zinc, aluminium, or so-called Kriegsmetall, a low-quality zinc-based grey colour substitute. Solid and hollow backed badges are known to exist. Pin-backed miniatures and miniatures to be worn suspended on a chain were manufactured as well.
Decorations with the Elefantenorden started in July 1922 and 8,000 award documents approximately were issued by the end of November 1928. Altogether 8,500 badges are said to be sold until the end of the WWII.