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Bewährungsabzeichen der 3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld

Merits Badge of the 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld

Merits Badge (a.k.a. Cross) of the 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld was instituted in two classes by the commander of that Volunteer unit (Freikorps) Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Friedrich (Wilfried) Julius Hans Höffer von Loewenfeld (25.09.1879-05.07.1946) by the special order No.12 of June 19, 1920 (Paragraph 3). Thus, the badge was instituted after the Freikorps was nominally disbanded on May 07, 1920. Interesting to know that “official date” of institution of the decoration differed from an actual one, and May 31, 1920 was considered as such. Decision was made to time introduction of the badge to the Battle of Jutland (Seeschlacht vor dem Skagerrak, or Skagerrakschlacht), the largest naval battle of the Great War fought between the German and British Navies in the North Sea near the coast of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. May 31, 1920 was also the date Wilfried von Loewenfeld inspected a farewell parade of his former Freikorps.

Anti-Bolshevik volunteer unit “3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld” was raised by the then Korvettenkapitän Wilfried von Loewenfeld in Kiel at the end of November 1918. What has been started as a modest unit of 400 former Kaiserliche Marine naval personnel at the beginning of the spring 1919, expanded to the mighty 6,000-strong combat-ready Brigade consisting of two regiments and independent battalion. Freikorps fought Bolshevik mutineers in Berlin, suppressed political strike of railroaders, took part in  defeat of the First Silesian Uprising, protected borders of the German state from attacks of insurgents. After the failed Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch, during which the Loewenfeld together with parts of Reichswehr and other conservative nationalist factions supported plotters, Brigade was transferred to the Ruhr region to fight Bolsheviks and restore order. It was 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld that liberated the city of Essen from the Ruhr Red Army detachments. Freikorps was subsequently redeployed to Sennelager where it was finally disbanded on May 07, 1920. 2,500 former fighters were conscripted into the Reichsmarine, 70 – into the police, and 60 – into the Provisional Reichswehr (Vorläufige Reichswehr). 

During the Third Reich era dozens of ex-Freikorps officers from the 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld were promoted to prominent positions and high ranks within Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, Wehrmacht and SS. It’s worth mentioning here that one of the “official heroes” of the Third Reich, Leo Schlageter, was also a member of the Loewenfeld’s unit.

Come 1934, authorities of the town of Dorsten erected a monument commemorating fallen fighters of two Freikorps units commanded by Lichtschlag and von Loewenfeld. Initiative came from editor of the newspaper “Dorstener Volkszeitung” and SA officer Alfons van Bevern and was taken up by local NSDAP officials. Inscription on that memorial read: “To the Lichtschlag and Loewenfeld Volunteer Corps, February 1919 – March 1920. To our liberators from the Spartacist oppression. Into the second year of the Third Reich together with Adolf Hitler, 1934. Everything was in darkness, but came into light now, you stroke the first blow with the hammer!” (“Dem   Freikorps   Lichtschlag/Loewenfeld, Februar 1919 – März 1920. Unseren Befreiern aus Spartakistengewalt. Mit Adolf Hitler im zweiten Jahr des Dritten Reiches 1934. Euch war’s verhüllt, nun ist’s am Tag, Ihr schlugt den ersten Hammerschlag!”). Inscription on the monument was belonged to the local educationalist Dr.Joseph Wiedenhöfer. Bricks worth 10 Pfennig each were sold during fundraising functions organized by local SA, and altogether ca.15,000 pieces were used to erect the memorial. Interesting to know that Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg refused to make donation and informed Dorsten officials of his decision through the Staatssekretär in a letter dated May 18, 1934.

Inauguration of the Freikorps-Ehrenmal was held on June 24, 1934 and was witnessed by Hauptmann Otto Lichtschlag (1885-1961) wearing SS uniform, Generalmajor Hans Kloebe as an official representative of Vice-admiral Wilfried von Loewenfeld, former personnel of both units, as well as members of SA, SS, FAD, Reichswehr, Reichsmarine, Police and local NSDAP functionaries. 

The ten-ton memorial was removed and thrown into the river by revengeful British soldiers who occupied Dorsten at the end of the WWII. However, it was retrieved afterwards and used as a monument to German POWs.

Merits Badge of the 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld, 1st class was issued to all former Freikorps military personnel who served impeccably within its ranks for at least six months, while those who served more than three months were eligible for decoration with the 2nd class of the Bewährungsabzeichen.

Design of the badge was elaborated by Leutnant Collins, the former officer of the Loewenfeld Freikrops, and approved by a special commission made up of prominent Brigade veterans.

The badge combined shape of the Prussian Iron Cross and 3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld insignia. Anobversehadpebbledsurfaceandplainbordering. Round wreath made of laurel branch on the left and oak branch on the right and twisted around by three ribbon stripes at each side was superimposed on the central part of the cross. An anchor with cable was placed over the wreath. Date of the “official” institution of the badge was minted on upper and lower arms of the cross: the former was inscribed “31.Mai” in capital letters, while the latter “1920”. Left arm had lowercase letter “v.” (standing for “von”) placed closer to the centre of the cross, and right arm had capital letter “L.” (standing for “Loewenfeld”).

Badges of both classes had plain reverse that bore maker’s mark executed in capital letters in four horizontal lines: “Nr.317 / Ges[etz]. Geschützt / P.Küst Berlin C.19 / Seydelstr[aße].19.A”. However, rare pieces bearing that inscription running vertically are known to exist as well.

Badge of the 1st class was worn on the left side of the tunic being attached by vertical pin and catching hook soldered to its reverse. Some veterans changed attachment method by replacing pin and hook with two screws and nuts and intermediate round plate inserted between them.

The badge 2nd class was worn suspended from a ribbon of Loewenfeld ancestral colors: 25 mm wide silk yellow ribbon with three vertical black stripes: 8 mm wide at its center and two 1 mm wide at the edges. Eyelet for ring suspension measuring 4 mm in height was soldered to the upper arm of the cross perpendicularly to the surface of the badge.

Bewährungsabzeichen der 3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld measuring 40x40 mm were made of bronze and had gilt finish on obverse as well as on reverse. Berlin-based company “Paul Küst Abzeichen und Ordenfabrik” was the only official manufacturer of the decoration in question. Altogether 6,000 pieces of both classes were minted, and more than half are said to be those of the 1st class.

Each veteran deemed eligible for decoration with the badge was issued free of charge with an award document only, but not the badge that had to be purchased from the manufacturer’s shop. All the certificates were professionally printed at Paderborn and bore “Sennelager, June 30, 1920” as a place of issue. They also had circular stamp of the disbanded Freikorps as well as facsimile of its former commander. Rank, name and surname of an awardee were filled in hand. Class of the badge wasn’t mentioned, only duration of military service with the Corps: either ½ year for the badge of the 1st class or ¼ year for that of the 2nd class.

Like all the other numerous semi-official and unofficial badges issued during the Weimar Republic era, Bewährungsabzeichen der 3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld had to be privately purchased by veterans from their own expenses at the jeweler’s shop of the above-mentioned company “Paul Küst Abzeichen und Ordenfabrik” upon presentation of a corresponding award document. Merits Badge of the 3rd Marine Brigade von Loewenfeld were available for purchase up to 1934.

According to a Decree published on November 14, 1935 (Verordnung zur Ausführung des Gesetzes über Titel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen vom 14.November 1935) that put into effect a Supplement to the Law regarding state awards of April 07, 1933, wearing of Bewährungsabzeichen der 3.Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld was prohibited.

The author thanks Mr.Brian Lewis (Thailand) who kindly provided scan of an award document from his personal collection.

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Marinebrigade von Loewenfeld 1