Beobachter-Abzeichen für Landflieger, a.k.a. Abzeichen für Beobachtungsoffiziere,

Army Observer’s Badge

The Prussian Army Observer’s Badge was instituted on January 27, 1914 by the King of Prussia and the Emperor of the German Empire Wilhelm II in conjunction with his birthday.

The badge was awarded to Army observers (Beobachtungsoffiziere) who successfully passed a series of the following examinations:

- Cumulative flight distance of 1,000 km along the front line or crossing over the front line;

- Aircraft flight technical preparation test including knowledge of airplane aerodynamics, engine theory and operation;

- Test on charts reading, navigation, enemy troops locating, schemes and pictures drawing, bombing, machine guns and aerial camera operating, Morse code and signaling proficiency;

- Reconnaissance flights;

- Acquiring of an Observer’s license.

Proficiency of applicants was rated by the General Military Air Transport Inspection and Motor Vehicles (General-Inspektion des Militär-Verkehrswesens) that issued an award certificate and added name of an observer to a list authorizing wearing of Flugzeug-Beobachter-Abzeichen. Thereupon the badges were presented by local air stations commanders.

All observers 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 observers and would be then required to surrender their badges and certificates. Retired aerial reconnaissance personnel were allowed to maintain their names in the active list and keep their certificates provided they agreed in writing to undergo reexamination and refresher training if such necessity occurred.

The Prussian Army Observer’s Badge 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. Imperial crown topped the badge. The centre of the badge carried a Model 1885 square ensign of the German Army High Command (Armeeoberkommando) executed in black, white and red (or orange red, depending on a manufacturer) enamel against a background of divergent stylized sun rays. That design symbolized significance of observers that were regarded as “eyes of the Army High Command in the sky”. Superimposed ensign was attached by means of two prongs folded beyond the reverse or by soldering.

Depending on manufacturer, badges differed in minor details as well as in size and measured 71-72,5х45-47 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 XXth century “Prinzengröße” (47-48х30-31 mm) versions of the badge, miniatures and frock coat miniatures were produced as well.     

The Prussian Army Observer’s Badge was worn on or below the left breast pocket lower than the Prussian Iron Cross 1st Class and was attached to a tunic with a vertical pin soldered to its reverse.

Contradictory to the common Weimar-era sentiments, Flugzeug-Beobachter-Abzeichen in its original design, i.e. with the outlawed Imperial crown was awarded even after the Great War, thus allowing former observers 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 observers should have had to submit their applications prior to that date. Army Regulations of December 30, 1920 stipulated that the Prussian Army Observer’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 observers.

The exact number of issued Flugzeug-Beobachter-Abzeichen remains unknown as the actual records containing that data for 1914 through 1921 were destroyed by bombing raids on Potsdam in 1945. 

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