The very first long service distinctions for enlisted personnel of the Bavarian army were instituted on January 13, 1816 by Maximilian I Josef (27.05.1756-13.10.1825), the first King of the Kingdom of Bavaria. Initially they were introduced as a “worthy reward for loyal service” for those retired soldiers who gave their consent to re-enlist in the army either out of patriotic motives or inspired by an increase of money allowances according to the Law on Recruitment dated March 29, 1812 (Conscriptions-Gesetz vom 29.März 1812). Decorations in question have been introduced in the shape of sleeve service stripes (Auszeichnungs-Borten) and breast veterans’ shields (Veteranenschilde). Some regulatory enactments of the first half of the XIX century referred to those awards as “Capitulationszeichen”, i.e. career soldier badges.
Royal Rescript stipulated that every NCOs and soldier who has completed his term of active service fully and uninterruptedly (within six years – Author’s Note) and decided to re-enlist for six more years, was issued with a white stripe (weiße Borde) sewn on diagonally to the upper left sleeve of his tunic. Second stripe was issued after six years of extended service, and third stripe – after second term of six-year extended service.
Order dated May 01, 1816 introduced several additions and amendments to the aforementioned Rescript. Thus, Paragraph 1 stressed that badges of the first three classes, i.e. stripes could have been issued only to servicemen who decided to continue extended military service. Those who made up their minds to leave the army and find employment in the civilian sector were not decorated with the stripe upon completion of the six-year extended military service. Rescript dated April 29, 1836 defined that annual leaves granted officially were calculated as military service, while indefinite leave was not. Participation in military campaigns was calculated on ordinary, not preferential basis.
Service stripes for all branches of service were manufactured of white mohair yarn and measured 1 Bavarian inch (2,43 cm – Author’s Note) in width. When two or three stripes had to be worn, they were to be sewn parallel to each other. A distance between stripes wasn’t initially specified and Order dated May 01, 1816 mentioned it as “a certain”. However, Rescript dated April 29, 1836 defined that distance as half-Bavarian inch (1,2 cm approximately – Author’s Note). Slope angle of stripes was particularized as well: distance between upper and lower parts of the stripe had to measure three Bavarian inches, i.e. 7,29 cm. As for the exact length of a stripe, it had to be quarter-ell (20,82 cm approximately – Author’s Note).
Four uninterrupted terms of active military service (including three extended ones) within twenty-four years allowed re-enlistee (so-called “Capitulant” or, later, “Kapitulant”) to be granted with the status of a veteran. As a result, instead of the fourth service stripe he was decorated with the so-called “veterans’ shield” (Veteranenschild) that was manufactured of brass in the shape of a vertical oval measuring 85x45 mm. The badge with pebbled surface showed a lion rampant topped with the Bavarian crown and holding an upright sword in the right forepaw. The whole composition was framed with a laurel wreath. The shield was sewn to the red cloth lining through four twin holes and was worn on the left side of the breast.
After forty years of active military service veteran was decorated with another shield. It had a shape of the vertically expanding octagonal star with rays and wide border. Center of the badge showed a vertical oval with border containing the following design: Roman fasces lictoriae topped with M1814 Bavarian helmet in profile flanked with four flying battalion flags. Veteranenschild measuring 75x63 mm and manufactured of brass was sewn to the red cloth lining through multiple holes and was worn on the left side of the breast. Non-regulation method of mounting of the shield by two flat prongs soldered to its reverse is known to exist as well.
Paragraph 10 of the Order dated May 01, 1816 specified that veterans’ shields were to be worn on the left side of the breast, next to the flap of the breast pocket. However, exact measurements of the mounting place were not stated as the latter depended entirely on “stature and habitus” of a veteran.
Various reduced versions of veterans’ shields were manufactured as well.
Apart from decoration with the shield, veterans enjoyed several privileges as well. Thus, they have been exempted from duty details and physical works, and during the latter they could have been used as supervisors only. In cases of criminal or military offences committed by veterans, no corporal punishment could have been taken against them, and the only legal measure was arrest of various degrees of severity depending on the gravity of the offence. If found guilty of a crime and convicted, veteran was deprived of the shield, and the latter was confiscated before a judicial sentence entered into effect.
As for the service stripes, Rescript dated April 29, 1836 allowed them to be worn on Landwehr tunics only. If placed in a nursing home (Veteranen- oder Invaliden Anstalt), NCOs and lower ranks were allowed to continue wearing their long service distinctions, but time spent in such institutions, as well as retirement period were not counted when calculating total length of military service.
All the long service awards described above, whether stripes or shields, were awarded to NCOs and lower ranks on extended active military service only. Military personnel eligible for decoration included quarter-masters (Fourier), servicemen of garrison companies (Garnisons-Compagnie) and caserne custodians (Kasernenhausmeister), the latter according to the Rescript dated April 29, 1836.
Paragraph 2 of the Order dated May 01, 1816 introduced an important clarification that the constituent Royal Rescript was retrospective in nature, which meant that long service awards were issued not only to re-enlisted veterans, but also for all NCOs and soldiers on active military service with a long service record at the time the Rescript has been gazetted.
Servicemen who already signed contracts for extended military service, i.e. re-enlistees, or Capitulanten, and received respective money allowances (Handgeld), were also eligible for decoration with long service awards. So were NCOs and soldiers transferred to Bavaria from foreign states for continuation of their active military service provided they have reached required length of loyal service to their former suzerains.
The period during which a soldier served as a hired recruit for another Bavarian subject was not taken into account in calculating the total length of service required for decoration with long service award. In this regard, he was entitled to wear only those long service awards which he may have been decorated with earlier. Upon completion of his service as a hired recruit and after reenlisting as a re-engaged man, he could claim the next class of long service award, subject to the calculation of his length of service from that point onwards.
Soldier could have been deprived of long service awards if he has been ignominiously dismissed from the military for violation of oath of allegiance and was not entitled for their restitution even he was subsequently granted the Royal pardon. However, Rescript dated April 29, 1836 defined that re-issue of awards was still possible provided that text of the Royal pardon contained a specific reference to such measure. Paragraph 7 of the Order dated May 01, 1816 clarified that those once tried and sentenced for desertion but subsequently granted the Royal pardon could be decorated with the long service award provided that their length of service was calculated from the moment of their return to active military service and its further carrying without interruption and reproach. On the other hand, soldiers who had been deprived of the award could gain the right to receive it back by irreproachable military service which length was calculated anew.
History of veterans’ shields has come to an end at the beginning of 1865, when on February 11 the King Ludwig II voiced his dissatisfaction with their design and showed discontent with the fact that the Bavarian honours system lacked long service awards for officers. As early as on March 3 Veteranenschilde have been replaced with crosses for 24 and 40 years of loyal service (Dienstalterszeichen für 24 / 40 Militär Dienstjahre) for all military personnel of the Bavarian army, including officers and military officials.
As for the service stripes, they were awarded until January 21, 1876 when they were replaced with buckle-shaped Long Service Awards (Dienstauszeichnung) for NCOs and lower ranks for 9, 15 and 25 years of loyal service.