Army Wound Badge was instituted by the Emperor of Germany Wilhelm II on March 03, 1918. Three classes were introduced, viz. “black” badge, or “in black” (in Schwarz); “silver” badge, or “in silver” (in Silber / in Mattweiß); “gold” badge, or “in gold” (in Gold / in Mattgelb). The lowest class, i.e. Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz was awarded for one to two wounds, while those wounded three or four times were eligible for a “silver” badge. Five wounds or more as well as loss of a limb, sight or other form of permanent disablement due to combat activities led to decoration with the “gold” badge being the highest class. It’s worth mentioning here that only one badge of the highest class was allowed to be worn, wearing of two or three badges was strictly prohibited.
The Bavarian War Ministry declared that the Wound Badge was rather an “award” than “decoration” and authorized its wear three months later, on June 03, 1918.
Since July 08, 1918 Wound Badge was extended to military personnel of the German colonial troops (Schutztruppen) that were surprisingly not eligible for that award according to the initial statute. However, those soldiers, NCOs and officers were presented with a badge retrospectively, upon their return to Germany and after showing documented proof of being wounded overseas. The only exception was Palestine where Verwundetenabzeichen were issued according to fact of casualties.
Army Wound Badge had a shape of a vertical oval formed by a wide laurel wreath tied by a ribbon at its bottom. A distinctive German helmet, widely known as Stahlhelm was situated in the centre of the badge and superimposed on a pair of crossed swords pointing upwards. Issued badges were seamless with pebbled surface, while privately purchased pieces in most cases had elegant cut-out design.
Wound badges that measured 45x39 mm approximately were made of various metals, e.g. iron, silver, Buntmetall, brass and zinc. “Black” badges were dyed with weather-resistant paint or blackened chemically, while “silver” and “gold” were emulated galvanically. The badges differed in size and minor details depending on a manufacturer. Slightly smaller and highly popular at the beginning of the XXth century “Prinzengröße” (28х24 mm approximately) versions of the badge and miniatures (17x20 mm) were produced as well.
Verwundetenabzeichen was worn on the lower left part of a tunic or civil attire below other decorations and was attached by a pin and catching hook soldered to its reverse. Privately purchased screw-back pieces existed as well.
Naval Wound Badge for the Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) personnel, Verwundetenabzeichen für Angehörige der Marine, or Marineverwundetenabzeichen, was instituted on June 24, 1918 by Wilhelm II in the same classes as the Army badge and under the same regulations described above.
Marineverwundetenabzeichen also had a shape of a vertical oval, but unlike Army Wound Badge it was formed by an anchor chain. An anchor with two superimposed crossed swords pointing upwards was situated in the middle of the badge. Issued pieces were seamless with pebbled surface, while privately purchased badges in most cases had elegant cut-out design.
As both Verwundetenabzeichen, Army and Naval, were introduced at the closing stage of the Great War, many wounded and mutilated soldiers and sailors never received their just awards. Injustice hadn’t been remedied in the Weimar Republic and it was only on January 30, 1936 that the Ministry of Interior Affairs of the Third Reich made a symbolic gesture applauded by former front fighters. Thus, since that date all the veterans who were wounded but never received a badge were eligible for that award upon presentation of a documented proof. They were also issued with a Home Ministry authorization that allowed them to wear Verwundetenabzeichen officially in public.
Another step forward was made on April 20, 1939, when the Ministry of Interior Affairs applied the same procedure to the former military personnel wounded in action during the Great War who were permanent residents of Austria, Sudetenland and Memel, annexed by that time by the Third Reich.
Thus Army and Naval Wound Badges, Model 1918 were presented to veterans until late 1941.