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Length of service calculation methods for military personnel of Prussia and German Empire for decoration with long service awards

While estimating length of service of Prussian army, Imperial Navy and colonial troops servicemen, personnel units of Prussia and the German Empire used three methods of calculation. The latter was necessary for determination which long service decoration particular soldier, NCO or officer was eligible for.  

1. Calendar calculation

Each day of military service counted as one day provided it was peacetime and military service was performed within land and maritime boundaries of the German Empire.

2. Preferentialcalculationinwartime

2.1. Before the Great War, each day of military service during which any war took place was counted as two days towards long service awards. This method of calculation applied to the following categories of military personnel:

a) Regular career military personnel.

b) Reserve and Landwehr military personnel, as well as draftees.

Those who saw action before the World War I, e.g. participated in suppression of the following uprisings: Boxer Rebellion, also known as Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement (1900-1901); series of uprisings of native population in the German South West Africa (1904-1905); uprisings in the German East Africa (1905-1907), were immediately qualified for decoration with the Landwehr Long Service Award, 2nd Class of the 1868 issue (Landwehr-Dienstauszeichnung 2.Klasse, 1868 Modell). Regulations provided exceptions only for those who had been already decorated with that award. Thus, reserve military personnel who already had that decoration were not issued with the clasp for the second time and got nothing additional. It’s worth stressing here that regular military personnel who participated in the afore-mentioned colonial wars were not eligible for decoration with the Landwehr Long Service Award, 2nd Class.

Interestingly, decoration with the Landwehr Long Service Award, 1st Class of the 1868 issue (Landwehr-Dienstauszeichnung 1.Klasse, 1868 Modell) that was awarded for twenty years of service required the very 20 years of service calculated on a calendar basis only, regardless of preferential calculation in wartime.

Thus, complete divergence in terms of decoration criteria with Landwehr Long Service Awards, 1st and 2nd Classes was quite obvious, but it was an established proceeding.

2.2. During the Great War each day of military service performed by regular military personnel and war volunteers counted as two days. After the WWI ended, many of them found themselves serving in Weimar-era “Peacetime Army” (Friedensheer), “Transitional Period Army” (Übergangsheer) and “Provisional Army” (Vorläufige Reichswehr). Theoretically, according to the pre-WWI regulations, every single draftee and reservist would have immediately qualified for the Landwehr Long Service Award, 2nd Class upon discharge. In that case Landwehr Long Service Awards would have been awarded in the millions. In order to avoid extremely heavy financial obligations it was decided not to bestow Landwehr Long Service Awards, 2nd Class for participation in the Great War at all. However, while length of service required for decoration with the Landwehr Long Service Awards, 2nd Class ceased being counted in 1914, calendar calculation remained urgent as it was vital for decoration with the Landwehr Long Service Awards, 1st Class that took place after the WWI, in 1919-1920.

Thus, the situation was as follows:

a) Regular officers who did not have Long Service Award for Officers (Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere), received no long service decoration despite preferential, i.e. double calculation during the Great War they fought in.

b) Regular NCOs were decorated with Long Service Awards of 1913 issue (Dienstauszeichnung 2.Modell) of 3rd, 2nd or 1st Classes depending on which of these three milestones they have passed taking into account preferential calculation during the Great War. NCOs also became eligible for decoration with Long Service Awards for Officers (Dienstauszeichnung für Offiziere) since bestowal of crosses temporarily ceased in Prussia (but not in the Kingdom of Bavaria, by the way) while the war was on.

c) The case of decoration of lower ranks was somewhat more complicated and sometimes even confusing. Thus, a young patriotic-minded Prussian subject who volunteered for the front in 1914, went through all the war, became enrolled member of Weimar-era Friedensheer, Übergangsheer and Vorläufige Reichswehr, and, finally, demobilized during the mass discharge of 1920, was awarded Long Service Awards of 1913 issue, 2nd Class for twelve years of military service, i.e. ten years in preferential calculation for the Great War, plus one year for 1919 and one more year for 1920. A 1914 career enlistee who signed long-term enlistment papers was decorated with either Long Service Awards of 1913 issue, 2nd Class if discharged in 1920, or Long Service Awards of 1913 issue, 3rd Class if discharged in 1919. In the latter case his total length of service including preferential calculation made up was “merely” eleven years and he lacked one additional year to qualify for the Award, 2nd Class. But those who were drafted in 1914, survived the war, have spent several years in the Weimar Republic military, but were not demobilized in 1920 and still served in 1920s got… absolutely no long service award.

3. Preferential calculation for overseas military service

This type of calculation, according to which each day of military service counted as two days, had been used before the Great War. It applied mainly to naval personnel of the Kaiserliche Marine, or the Imperial German Navy, who served outside the territorial waters of the German Empire, as well as to Schutztruppe (literally, Protection force) personnel who served in the overseas colonies, dependencies and territories of the German Empire African territories of the German colonial empire, primarily in Africa. However, after the World War I broke out, twofold calculation of length of military service in wartime for military personnel in question, i.e. “double double”, or good old one-day-for-four-days basis, was never applied. Each day of military service was still counted as two days. 

In this regard, it is noteworthy that Kaiserliche Marine personnel who served active military service overseas during four years only, haven’t had a chance to qualify for the decoration with the Long Service Award, 3rd Class of the 1825 issue (Militär-Dienstauszeichnung 3.Klasse, 1.Modell) that was awarded for nine years of service. Nevertheless, the situation changed radically provided sailor or Schutztruppe serviceman participated in one of suppressions of mutinies listed above. In that case he was automatically decorated with the Landwehr Long Service Award, 2nd Class of the 1868 issue (Landwehr-Dienstauszeichnung 2.Klasse, 1868 Modell) upon returning home and being discharged.

Thus, complex and quite tricky method of calculation of length of service in Prussia and the German Empire sometimes gave way to paradoxical situations. For instance, several categories of military personnel could have served for five years, from 1914 to 1919 and didn’t find themselves eligible for decoration with any long service award. Moreover, some servicemen could serve impeccably twenty-four years and get nothing. Meanwhile, in XIX century some draftees could have served two years only in the army or four years in the Navy and get Landwehr Long Service Award, 2nd Class of the 1868 issue (Landwehr-Dienstauszeichnung 2.Klasse, 1868 Modell).