Instituted in March 1919 by Hauptmann Alfred Georg Friedrich Kuno Karl von Randow (08.02.1879-25.12.1958), commander of the Volunteer Detachment von Randow (Freiwilligen Detachement von Randow) that was raised on January 05, 1919 and fought extensively in the Baltic States. Incorrect name “Randow Cross” (Randowkreuz) can sometimes be encountered as well.
Award was instituted initially in two classes, German Knight’s Cross (Deutschritter-Kreuz) and Silver Breast Star of the German Knight’s Cross (Bruststern in Silber). Both were issued to Free Corps fighters as a recognition of four (the former) and six (the latter) months of irreproachable service.
Strictly speaking those badges were not combat awards in the true sense of the word being rather a kind of long service awards instituted to encourage military personnel. According to von Randow, “the commemorative badge was aimed to strengthen links of comradeship among soldiers of the unit and become a reminder of days bygone” (“Mein Gedanke war, durch derlei Erinnerungszeichen für spätere Zeiten einen gewissen kameradschaftlichen Zusammenhalt der Angehörigen des Detachements zu erzielen”).
In the meantime it won’t be entirely correct to assume Deutschritter-Kreuz was exactly long service award as the Volunteer Detachment von Randow raised initially as a security battalion to protect section of a railroad between Šiauliai (Schaulen) and Tilsit saw action and took part in various military operations up to seizure of several settlements.
Thereby the most correct way of defining statute of Deutschritter-Kreuz would be describing it as a long service commemorative badge cum merits award.
German Knight’s Cross could have been issued to military personnel of other Volunteer Corps as well.
The first award ceremony took place on April 12, 1919 just nine days after the first batch of crosses had been delivered. Unlike numerous post-war badges that had to be privately purchased upon presentation of an award document, Deutschritter-Kreuz was issued together with a certificate on the spot.
Only four officers were decorated with the Silver Breast Star of the German Knight’s Cross, namely von Randow, Detachment adjutant Leutnant G.Negendank and commanders of Northern and Southern groups of the detachement – Hauptmann Meyer and Hauptmann Ebert, respectively.
German Knight’s Cross was divided into two classes in May 1919. Henceforth pinback cross 1st class was reserved for officers while cross 2nd class worn on ribbon – for NCOs and other ranks. Prerequisite four months minimum period of service remained unchanged. Upon decoration with the higher class of an award the previous one had to be returned to the detachment staff but reluctance of military personnel to part with simple but austere award led to recall of that rule.
Two additional classes of German Knight’s Cross were instituted the same month, i.e. in May 1919: Golden Breast Star of the German Knight’s Cross (Bruststern in Gold) and Grand Cross of the German Knight’s Cross (Grosskreuz des Deutschritter-Kreuzes).
The only recipient of the Golden Breast Star reserved for major units commanders who showed exceptional merits was Generalleutnant Richard Ludwig Wellmann (29.06.1859-12.06.1934), chief of staff of the 52nd Corps (special purpose) (Führer des Generalkommandos (zur besonderen Verwendung) 52). The Star together with certificate signed by von Randow were sent to Wellmann by post.
Grand Cross issued simultaneously with the Golden Breast Star was supposed to be issued to Volunteer Corps commanders who operated in the Baltic states for exceptional merits. Five such warlords were nominated for an award but only von Randow was decorated. Four unaccomplished holders of the highest class of the German Knight’s Cross were Russian count Major-General Pavel Bermon(d)t-Avalov (04.03.1877-27.12.1973), Oberstleutnant Karl Heinrich von Diebitsch (05.12.1865-23.02.1924), Hauptmann Ritter Franz Felix Pfeffer von Salomon (19.02.1888-12.04.1968) and Hauptmann Cordt von Brandis (04.10.1888-11.06.1972).
Grand Cross was worn at the neck.
German Knight’s Cross was designed by von Randow himself and manufactured by various German companies. It had a shape of a black enameled slightly crooked quadrilateral eight-point Maltese cross. Its dimensions varied depending on a manufacturer – 46x46 up to 50x50 mm.
Deutschritter-Kreuz was made of silvered bronze.
German Knight’s Cross 1st class was worn on the left breast pocket of a tunic and was attached by a vertical pin and a catching hook.
German Knight’s Cross 2nd class was worn on a black ribbon with a clasp that had a shape of crossed swords and a crown.