Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen, a.k.a. Abzeichen für Militärflugzeugführer

Military Pilot’s Badge

The Bavarian Army Pilot’s Badge was authorized on February 04, 1913 by the King of Bavaria Ludwig III after Wilhelm II as the King of Prussia and the Emperor of the German Empire instituted similar Prussian decoration on January 27, 1913. According to the terms of unification with Prussia, Bavaria was the only state within the German Empire that was allowed to maintain and institute its own awards that corresponded to Prussian criteria. That was exactly the case of qualification and commemorative flight badges.

The badge was awarded to officers, NCOs and enlisted men upon successful graduation from the flying schools and passing two practical flight examinations that consisted of unassisted takeoff and landing as well as long distance or cross-country flight. Proficiency of pilots was rated by the Royal Bavarian Inspection Command for Military Air Vehicles (Königlich Bayerischen Inspektion des Militär-Luftfahrt-Wesens) that issued an award certificate and added name of an aviator to a list authorizing wearing of a Pilot’s Badge. Thereupon the badges were presented by local air stations commanders.

All pilots attached to staff units were obliged to verify their qualification several times a year during special examinations, failing which they faced removal from the list of active pilots and would be then required to surrender their badges and certificates. Retired flight personnel were allowed to maintain their names in the pilots’ list and keep their certificates provided they agreed in writing to undergo reexamination and refresher training if such necessity occurred.

After the Great War broke out, criteria for conferring the Pilot’s Badge that was rather qualification insignia than an award saw changes. Thus, a war pilot was expected to have completed some actual combat flying and demonstrated practical skills before his badge would be awarded. That was one of the main reasons why not all the aviators who did fly active combat missions were issued with Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen. Moreover, at some point during the WWI only award certificates were presented and air personnel were required to purchase their own badges.

The Bavarian Pilot’s Badge was nearly similar to a Prussian model. It 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. However, unlike Prussian badge, Bavarian Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen was topped by a crown of the Royal Wittelsbach house. The centre of the badge carried an image of a multirole two-seated monoplane “Rumpler-Taube”, a pioneer of German combat aviation flying eastwards over an undulating landscape. Depending on manufacturer, badges differed in some details, e.g. crown could have been either seamless or cut-out. Decorations differed in size as well and were measured 71-74х44-46 mm.

Issued badges were most often stamped of silver Buntmetall, while privately purchased hollow two-piece or single massive badges of superior quality were made of silver. Slightly smaller and highly popular at the beginning of the XX century “Prinzengröße” (47-49х30-31 mm) versions of the badge, miniatures and frock coat miniatures were produced as well.     

The Bavarian Pilot’s Badge was worn on or below the left breast pocket and was generally attached to a tunic with a vertical pin soldered to its reverse. However, other attachment methods are known to have existed, e.g. by means of two forked prongs soldered to backside of a wreath, or by sewing a badge on a tunic via several small holes.

Contradictory to the common Weimar-era sentiments, Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen in its original design, i.e. with the outlawed Royal crown was awarded even after the Great War, thus allowing former aviators to obtain just reward and collect their long desired decoration. According to the Army Regulations (Armee-Verordnungsblatt) No.70 of August 14, 1919 that supplemented previous statutes of all the three active flyer badges, former flight personnel were authorized to continue to wear those awards as a sign of the extraordinary meritorious service they rendered to their Homeland during the Great War. Since the Royal Prussian and Bavarian Flying Corps (Luftstreitkräfte) and the Flying Corps of the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) had been officially disbanded on April 05, 1920, all aviators should have had to submit their applications prior to that date. Army Regulations of December 30, 1920 stipulated that the Bavarian Pilot’s Badge would be issued up to January 31, 1921 upon presentation of a documented proof. The badges were produced by the original manufacturers until the end of the WWII and were available for private purchase by former aviators.

Militarflugzeugfuhrer Bayern 1