Medaille für gute Pferde Pflege was instituted in one class in the second half of 1919 by the commander of the Volunteer Corps “Freikorps von Diebitsch” Oberstleutnant Karl Heinrich von Diebitsch (05.12.1865-23.02.1924). The medal was presented to Freikorps military personnel who demonstrated particular zeal in care of the unit horses that numbered 600 head approximately.
Volunteer Corps was raised on March 26, 1919 by order of Generalkommando des Freiwilligen-Reservekorps renamed as such on March 23, 1919 and known previously as Zusammengesetzten Reservekorps. However, according to “Geschichte der Freikorps 1918-1924” written by Edgar von Schmidt-Pauli and published in 1936 in Stuttgart, the Freikorps was raised on April 01, 1919. Military personnel of the Bezirkskommandantur Suwalki made up backbone of the Freikorps that was designated “Freikorps von Diebitsch” after its commander. Volunteers were recruited from physically fit male civil population of Kurland and Lithuania.
Short biography of the commander of the Freikorps deserves being mentioned here. Karl Heinrich von Diebitsch, descendant of the famous Prussian-born soldier serving as a Russian Field Marshal Hans Karl Friedrich Anton Graf von Diebitsch, or Graf Ivan Ivanovich Diebitsch-Zabalkansky (13.05.1785-29.05.1831), was born on December 05, 1865 in Berlin. Having graduated from the Cadets Corps on March 18, 1886, he started officer’s military career on September 17, 1887 in Husaren-Regiment Kaiser Franz Josef von Österreich, König von Ungarn (Schleswig-Holsteinisches) Nr.16, where he served until May 17, 1902. He was promoted to Sekondelieutenant (name of the rank “Leutnant” before January 01, 1899) on September 17, 1887, and to Premierlieutenant (renamed Oberleutnant on January 01, 1899) on September 12, 1895. He ended his career with the Hussars as a Rittmeister (May 17, 1902). His further promotions were as follows: squadron commander of the Grenadier-zu-Pferd-Regiment Freiherr von Derfflinger (Neumärkisches) Nr.3 (22.03.1903-13.02.1906); squadron commander of the 2.Hannoversches Ulanen-Regiment Nr.14 (10.04.1906-18.04.1913); adjutant of the 1.Kavallerie-Inspektion (18.04.1913-1914). At the closing stage of the Great War von Diebitsch for a short period of time was appointed commander of the Grenadier-zu-Pferd-Regiment Freiherr von Derfflinger (Neumärkisches) Nr.3 (10.02.1918-12.03.1918). He was promoted to Major on January 27, 1913 and to Oberstleutnant on March 22, 1918. Karl Heinrich von Diebitsch passed away on February 23, 1924 aged 58.
- Freiwilligen Bataillon 51 (three companies and 18 machine guns)
- Freiwilligen Bataillon 52
- Freiwilligen Jäger-Bataillon Schneider (four companies, 25 heavy machine guns and 35 machine guns). It was raised in Ratzenburg in January 1919 from the cadre of Reserve Jäger-Bataillon Nr.9 withdrawn from the Caucasus
- Freiwilligen Kompagnie (five heavy machine guns) – former 4th Company of the 19th Volunteer Regiment (Freiwilligen Regiment 19), raised in February 1919 from the cadre of 46.Landwehr-Division (2.Königlich Sächsische)
- Maschinengewehr Kompagnie 52 (three machine guns)
- Maschinengewehr Abteilung 3 (six machine guns)
- Freiwilligen-Artillerie-Abteilung 39 Oberost that comprised of two batteries: four guns and four heavy machine guns. Sometimes this unit is referred to as “Freiwilligen-Artillerie-Batterie 39 Oberost”
- Freiwilligen Eskadron 14
- Freiwilligen Eskadron Jäger zu Pferde 8 (four machine guns)
- Freiwilligen Feldbäckerei-Kolonne 14.
The above-mentioned book by Edgar von Schmidt-Pauli also made reference of two more sub-units, viz. Nachrichten Abteilung and Kraftwagen-Kolonne that were also made part of Freikorps von Diebitsch. Absence of complete information regarding exact structure of that Volunteer Corps might be probably explained by constant reshuffle, in spite of the short history of the Freikorps.
Total strength of Freikorps von Diebitsch was 948 men: 38 officers, 210 NCOs and 700 lower ranks. Besides guns, heavy and light machine guns, Freikorps disposed of 120 cars, 93 bicycles and 600 head of horses.
Freikorps von Diebitsch was charged with garrison duty, maintaining order in Suwalki and its suburbs as well as with protection of the nearby railway bed. Moreover, its units fought the Red Army and military formations of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian insurgents.
Come June 1919, part of personnel was transferred to the Reichswehr-Infanterie-Regiment 102 of the Provisional Reichswehr (Vorläufige Reichswehr), while Freiwilligen Eskadron Jäger zu Pferde 8 was moved to Trier. In the beginning of October 1919 the remainder of the Freikorps von Diebitsch was used to form 3rd battalion of the 1st regiment of the Deutsche Legion that was subsequently joined the Westrussische Befreiungsarmee. According to its commander, Russian count Major-General Pavel Bermon(d)t-Avalov (04.03.1877-27.12.1973), overall strength of military personnel from the Freikorps von Diebitsch was 3,000 men approximately. In his book they are erroneously called “Corps of Oberst Diebitsch” (“Корпусъ полковника Дибича”).
Officialy Freikorps von Diebitsch was disbanded on December 18, 1919 in Thorn (now city Toruń in northern Poland).
Further development was described in the “Das Buch vom deutschen Freikorpskämpfer” written by Ernst von Salomon (25.09.1902-09.08.1972) and published in 1938 in Berlin. Thus, in late September 1919 von Diebitsch announced his intention to create a “Volunteer Labour Corps” (“Freikorps der Arbeit”), which would engage in manual labor across the country to promote early reconstruction of the post-war Germany. Freikorps der Arbeit was raised in Königsberg in East Prussia, and on October 20, 1919 von Diebitsch issued a call to the remnants of his troops to join his efforts. Although several units were set up and did find work, the project wasn’t successful and Volunteer Labour Corps gradually fell apart in April 1920.
Having completed that necessary historical digression let’s return to the main subject of an article.
An obverse of the Medaille für gute Pferde Pflege with raised border showed a head of a horse facing left with a laurel branch superimposed on its lower part. An inscription in capital letters “For Good Horse Care” (“Für gute Pferde Pflege”) was running in semi-circle on the upper part of an obverse and was flanked with two small equilateral crosses. An ornament in the shape of two symmetrical sprouts separated with a small equilateral cross was placed at the bottom of an obverse.
Centre of a reverse with raised border showed a miniature breast star of the Order of the Black Eagle (Hoher Orden vom Schwarzen Adler), the highest Prussian order of chivalry. Eight-pointed star had a central round medallion with wide-bordered rim. A Latin inscription in capital letters “To Each According to His Merits” (“Suum Cuique”), i.e. the motto of the Orden vom Schwarzen Adler, was running in semi-circle above, while two crossed laurel branches with five leaves on each were placed at the bottom of the rim, in semi-circle as well. A Prussian eagle facing left was situated at the very centre of the medallion. A ribbon bearing an inscription in capital letters “Freikorps v. Diebitsch” (“v.” as lower-case letter) was superimposed on the lower part of the star. Four small horizontal leaves were situated in folds of the ribbon: those of oak on the left and of the laurel on the right.
Like all the other decorations of the Freikorps von Diebitsch, Medaille für gute Pferde Pflege was manufactured by the Berlin-based company “Paul Meybauer Militär-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik” of silvered Buntmetall, i.e. non-ferrous alloy of yellow metal. Round medal measuring 40,4 mm in diameter, 3 mm thick and weighing 26,6 g was worn at the left breast suspended from a 24 mm wide yellow silk ribbon with three thin black stripes.
Decoration was presented with an award certificate executed on a typewriter. It bore a round stamp of the Freikorps and hand-written signature of Oberstleutnant Karl Heinrich von Diebitsch.
Totally 100-150 Medals for Good Horse Care were awarded.
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 Medaille für gute Pferde Pflege was prohibited.
Militär-Wochenblatt. Berlin, 1886-1914.
General Fürst Awaloff: Im Kampf gegen den Bolschewismus. Gluckstadt-Hamburg, 1925.
Edgar von Schmidt-Pauli: Geschichte der Freikorps 1918-1924. Stuttgart, 1936.
Ernst von Salomon: Das Buch vom deutschen Freikorpskämpfer. Berlin, 1938.
Die Kaempfe in Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga Juni bis Dezember 1919. Berlin, 1938.
Günter Wegmann, Günter Wegner: Formationsgeschichte und Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Streitkräfte 1815–1990. Teil 1: Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Heere 1815-1939. Band 3: Die Stellenbesetzung der aktiven Regimenter, Bataillone und Abteilungen von der Stiftung bzw. Aufstellung bis zum 26. August 1939. Kavallerie, Artillerie, Pioniere, Kraftfahr- und Fahr-Abteilungen, Panzertruppe, Verkehrstruppe und Nachrichten-Abteilungen. Osnabrück 1993.
Konstantin Nikolaev: The Baltic Cross and other decorations of German volunteer units in the Baltic Republics, 1918-1919. 2012.