This obscure badge was instituted on December 22, 1919 by the order of the XVII Army Corps commander Generalleutnant Johannes von Malachowski as a "Commemorative badge for a distinguished member of the Reserve of East borders protection" ("Gedenkzeichen für verdiente Regrostangehörige"), abridgement "Regrost" standing for "Reserve des Grenzschutz Ost". No wonder that such an intricate name was modified before long and the badge in question is better known as German Order Shield (Deutscher Ordensschild), Commemorative German Order Shield for East Borders Protection (Deutscher Ordensschild zur Erinnerung an den Grenzschutz Ost), German Knights' Cross (Deutschritterkreuz), Border Protection Commemorative Badge, etc. It's worth mentioning here as well that the first decoration with the badge can be traced back to November 1919, well in advance of the official institution of a decoration.
The badge worn on the left side of the breast had a shape of a white enameled shield with a black enameled cross of Teutonic knights. Designer of a Deutscher Ordensschild remains unknown. It must be taken into consideration though, that similar design had been also used by other Volunteer Corps who wore such shields as sleeve badges.
At the initial stage only military personnel of the XVII Army Corps were eligible for the decoration. However, since March 1920 it was extended to members of various civil voluntary militia units that protected borders alongside the Corps. Precise criteria being absent, the final decision whether an applicant was eligible for a Deutscher Ordensschild, was made by commanders of various units deployed at eastern borders.
Like all the other unofficial post-WWI decorations of the Weimar Republic, only an award document was issued while the badge itself had to be privately purchased by a recipient. By December 1919, the cost of ordinary Deutscher Ordensschild was 12 Marks.
Some volunteer units placed orders with various manufacturers and organized selling of badges upon their receipt. Those not satisfied with the quality or finish of stock pieces or offered price were free to purchase badges directly from private jewelers or different companies. Lack of unique pattern resulted in existence of numerous badges that differed in size, design details, finish, materials and attachment methods. Thus, Deutscher Ordensschild can be found made in silvered Buntmetall and silver, with horizontal and vertical pins soldered to reverse as well as with screw. Weird pieces mounted on a medal bar are also known to exist. Dimension of badges differed drastically, from 39 to 47 mm in width and from 43 to 58 mm in height.
It goes without saying that single design of an award document never existed. Surviving pieces are either printed, filled using typewriter or, very seldom, hand written.
Decorations with Deutscher Ordensschild were performed from November 1919 until March 1920. Total number of decorations remains unknown for objective reasons.
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 a Deutscher Ordensschild zur Erinnerung an den Grenzschutz Ost was prohibited.
The author thanks Konstantin Nikolaev (Russia), a military historian, an author and a renowned expert on Freikorps decorations for providing an extract from the upcoming third volume of his book on decorations of German volunteer units.