Prussian Naval Sea Pilot’s Badge was instituted on May 31, 1915 by the King of Prussia and the Emperor of the German Empire Wilhelm II. Official announcement was published in Paragraph 101 of the Navy Regulations Gazette (Marine-Verordnungsblatt) No.14, 1913 issued on June 16, 1913. In tote, qualifications for the earning and the withdrawal of the badge closely resembled those of the Prussian and Bavarian Army Pilot’s Badges (Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen), save unique demands of maritime conditions of the Naval aircrews.
Naval Sea Pilot’s Badge with relevant certificate of ownership was awarded by the Naval Aviation Division (Marinefliegerdivision) command on behalf of the state secretary of the Reich Navy Office (Staatssekretär des Reichs-Marine-Amtes) to officers, NCOs and lower ranks who have received the naval pilot’s certificate at Naval Aviation Base (Marine-Flegerstation) upon completion of the special training.
The primary training in the German Naval aviation conformed generally to that given in the corresponding schools of the Military Air Service. Before the Great War broke out officers were trained at Döberitz, and in 1912 a branch establishment was formed at Putzig (now Puck in Poland) close to Danzig for aeroplane and hydroplane training. The primary site for training was Johannisthal, near Berlin (merged into Berlin in 1920 according to the “Greater Berlin Act”). Three schools for training of naval pilots and observers were situated there, viz. Marine-Jagdstaffel-Schule, Marine-Flieger-Beobachter-Schule and Marine Flieger-Funker-Schule. Specialized training such as pursuit school, bombing, observer instruction, wireless telephone, aerophotography and machine gun practice was held in advanced training schools located at Wiek, Hage (Marine-Flieger-Beobachter-Schule Hage) and Danzig (Marine-Jagdstaffel-Schule Danzig). Wilhelmshaven was the headquarters for the North Sea seaplane stations and was also an important site for technical instruction for pilots and observers. Seaplane pilot training was also conducted at Kiel, Warnemünde, Flensburg and Bug. Thus, the Kiel flying school for the training of pilots included six weeks of theoretical instruction and examinations, six weeks of dual flight instruction and three months of solo flying. By 1917 a single-seat airplanes Marine-Feld-Jagdstaffel-Schule was in operation in Putzig. Single-seat fighter conversion training was also held in Mannheim and Warsaw.
Let’s return to the main subject of an article though, i.e. description of the Marine-Flugzeugführerabzeichen für Seeflugzeuge.
Those awarded with the badge were entitled to wear it as long as they were fit for the duty as a naval pilot and were thus included on the Naval pilot’s list (Liste der Marine-Flugzeugführer) of the Dockyard department of the Reich Navy Office (Werftdepartment des Reichs-Marine-Amts). Naval Aviation Division commander was charged with inspection of professional knowledge of his personnel, i.e. check whether they were to be kept on the Naval pilot’s list as qualified aviators. Holders of the badge not physically present at the Naval Aviation Division were obliged to prove their ability to pilot an aircraft at least twice a year during four weeks long tours of duty ordered by the state secretary of the Reich Navy Office.
If during such a tour of duty it was found out that the pilot no longer fulfilled requirements for a naval pilot, he would be deleted from the list. However, in special cases the tour of duty was extended to provide the personnel with the opportunity to regain their operational skills. Qualified pilots who were deleted from the list were obliged to return the badge and the award certificate to their next higher command authority immediately upon receipt of the relevant notice. Badges and certificates were kept at the Naval Aviation Division headquarters. Award documents were then sent to the state secretary of the Reich Navy Office through official channels. In case of special circumstances, e.g. if the badge owner lost his ability to perform as a Naval pilot due to a line of duty injury or mutilation, which would justify the owner’s retention of the badge, a relevant application had to be submitted to the state secretary of the Reich Navy Office. Nevertheless, in that case aviator would be deleted from the list of pilots and would not receive flight incentive pay worth 150 Marks per month. It’s worth mentioning here that during the peace-time each student of a flying school used to receive 75 Marks monthly for dangerous service (Lebensgefahr Zulage) from the day of his first flight.
As a rule, holders of the Naval Sea Pilot’s Badge who were on leave or were released from Naval service were kept on the Naval pilot’s list only if they had given their written consent for the participation in refresher exercises prior to their release from service.
After the end of the Great War German Naval aviation was disbanded and Marine-Flugzeugführerabzeichen für Seeflugzeuge was no longer awarded in accordance with the Navy Regulations Gazette (Marine-Verordnungsblatt) No.32, 1919 published on October 01, 1919.
Naval Sea Pilot’s Badge had a shape of a vertical oval with an outside perimeter surrounded by a wide wreath. Its left side had laurel leaves symbolizing victory and its right side had oak leaves standing for strength and hardiness. Both were joined together with a ribbon bow at the bottom thus signifying combination of those two qualities. Imperial crown topped the badge. The centre of the badge carried an image of an eagle flying over the sea off Helgoland Island, the site of German Navy base at the North Sea, in the rising sun.
Depending on manufacturer, Naval Sea Pilot’s Badges differed in certain details, e.g. some had crown inserts and lower ribbon fragments cut out.
A reverse was either plain or carried an image of multiple straight rays radiating from the centre. Manufacturers’ hallmarks and silver standard were often found on reverse or pin.
Anti-snag loop soldered to the reverse of the crown cross was characteristic to badges manufactured by the Berlin-based firm of the court jeweler Hugo Schaper (1844-1915).
Dimensions of Marine-Flugzeugführerabzeichen für Seeflugzeuge depended on the manufacturer and measured 70-73х43-47 mm. Its weight fluctuated from 24,2 to 49,6 g and depended on the construction of the badge, i.e. two-piece hollow badge or solid seamless one.
Issued badges were most often stamped of gilt bronze, while privately purchased hollow two-piece or single massive badges of superior quality were made of gilt silver. Slightly smaller and highly popular at the beginning of the XXth century “Prinzengröße” versions of the badge, miniatures and frock coat miniatures were produced as well.
Abzeichen für Marine-Flugzeugführer von Seeflugzeugen was worn on or below the left breast pocket of a tunic and was attached with a vertical pin and catching hook soldered to a reverse.
Approximately 700 badges were awarded to German naval pilots.