“General, you have nobly protected your forts. Keep your sword. It has been an honor to have crossed swords with you, Sir”
General der Infanterie Otto von Emmich to captured wounded Liège garrison
commander Lieutenant General Count Gérard Mathieu Joseph Georges Leman (August 07, 1914)
This article deals with unofficial commemorative tinnies and medals dedicated to the battle of Liège (Lüttich) and capture of the Belgian fortress by German Army on August 07, 1914. That battle on the early stage of the Great War was a momentous event for several reasons. Thus, Liège campaign that lasted from August 4 to August 16 was the very first battle of the WWI. For the first time an airship was deployed to bomb forts during the assault. It was there that the mournful list of German generals killed in action during the Great War was opened: commander of the 14th Infantry brigade Generalmajor Friedrich von Wussow and commander of the 9th Cavalry division Generalmajor Karl Hans Ulrich von Bülow perished on August 6, 1914. The very first Pour le Mérite of the WWI, the highest Prussian order of military merit, was awarded to General der Infanterie Albert Theodor Otto von Emmich (04.08.1848-22.12.1915) as a recognition of his extraordinary personal achievement in capturing Belgian fortress. The first holder of the Blue Max commanded Army of the Meuse, a 59,800-strong German provisional formation with 124 guns set up to capture Liège. His army consisted of the following infantry and cavalry units. Six infantry brigades: 11th Infantry Brigade of the III Army Corps (commanded by Generalmajor Georg von Wachter), 14th Infantry Brigade of the IV Army Corps (Generalmajor Friedrich von Wussow), 27th Infantry Brigade of the VII Army Corps (Oberst Benno von Massow), 34th Infantry Brigade of the IX Army Corps (Generalmajor Richard von Kraewel), 38th Infantry Brigade of the X Army Corps (Generalmajor Friedrich von Oertzen) and 43rd Infantry Brigade of the XI Army Corps (Generalmajor Walter von Hülsen).
II Cavalry Corps under the command of Generalleutnant Georg Cornelius Adalbert von der Marwitz (03.07.1856-27.10.1929) consisted of three cavalry divisions: 2nd (commanded by Generalmajor Friedrich Freiherr von Krane), 4th (Generalleutnant Otto von Garnier) and 9th (Generalmajor Karl Hans Ulrich von Bülow).
Attacking German air units consisted of Field Flying Battalion 9 (Feldflieger-Abteilung 9) and airship LZ 21 “Z.VI” under command of Hauptmann Kleinschmidt.
Erich Ludendorff, Deputy Chief of Staff to the II Army, took an active part in capture of the Belgian fortress and displayed illustrious example of personal bravery. Accompanied by his aide-de-camp, he left advancing German troops behind and stormed into Liège forcing citadel garrison to surrender. His merits were rewarded by the Pour le Mérite that was presented to him by Wilhelm II on August 22, 1914.
Having completed that necessary historical digression let’s return to the main subject of an article and provide description of tinnies and medals.
Commemorative tinny “Zur Erinnerung an die Einnahme von Lüttich” was sold across Germany as part of a war fund raising campaign. Such practice was widespread on the early stage of the Great War until eventually vanishing due to shortage of metal and once prevailing euphoria decrement.
Design of the tinny was elaborated by two famous medalists, Wilhelm Mayer (23.10.1840-1920) and Franz Wilhelm (24.04.1846-?) who were at the head of “Stuttgarter Metallwarenfabrik Wilh.Mayer und Frz.Wilhelm”.
An obverse showed a bust of the Emperor Wilhelm II wearing uniform and decorations facing left. It was encircled “Wilhelm II. Deutscher Kaiser” in capital letters. Hallmark of the manufacturer, “M.&W.ST.” was situated at the lower right part of an obverse.
A reverse bore a central inscription “In commemoration of the capture of Liège on August 7, 1914” (“Zur Erinnerung an die Einnahme v.Lüttich a.7.Aug.1914.”) in capital letters running in six lines. An inscription was encircled by an olive wreath tied by a ribbon at its bottom.
Medallion measuring 33 mm was manufactured of aluminum alloy. No reliable information on the ribbon is known to the author, but an assumption exists that it might have been worn on that of the national German flag, i.e. tricolor silk ribbon of three vertical stripes, black, white and red.
The same year “Stuttgarter Metallwarenfabrik Wilh.Mayer und Frz.Wilhelm” manufactured a table medal of 950 silver of the similar design measuring 33,5 mm in diameter and weighing 16,5 g.
Another medallion of the same name, i.e. “Zur Erinnerung an die Einnahme v.Lüttich a.7.Aug. 1914.”, had different design of an obverse. Its face showed Otto von Emmich full face in general’s tunic flanked by inscription in capital letters “General” and “v.Emmich”. Medallion measuring 32 mm in diameter was made of bronze.
One more bronze table medal with the same design of a reverse was manufactured in Stuttgart in 1914. An obverse showed a bust of the Emperor Wilhelm II wearing uniform and decorations facing left. An inscription in semicircle “Wilhelm II” was situated on the left, while another one, “Deutsch Kaiser” was running in two lines on the right. Medalwasnothallmarked, unlikesilveronedescribedabove.
To make the picture complete, two more table medals of different design issued in commemoration of the capture of Liège are worth being mentioned here. They were created by two famous sculptors, Austrian Rudolf Küchler (1867-1954) and German Hugo Grünthal (22.03.1869-14.12.1943).
An obverse showed Otto von Emmich three-quarter view in general’s tunic flanked by inscription in capital letters “General” and “v.Emmich”. Name of the Austrian designer (“R.Küchler”) was situated at the lower right part of an obverse.
A reverse had an allegorical naked figure of a German warrior in helmet proclaiming fall of Liège. Soldier held a burning torch in his right hand and a herald’s trumpet in his left hand. Background consisted of a German airship flying over a burning fortress. Inscription in capital letters “Lüttich” was situated at the upper part of a reverse, while date of capture of Liège (“7.8.1914”) – at the lower left part. Name of the German designer (“Grünthal”) is struck beneath.
Two different table medals of 800 silver and bronze were manufactured. The former measured 34,1 mm in diameter and weighed 17,9 g, while the latter – 93 mm and 180,74 g.
In conclusion of this review it must be stressed that no official medal commemorating feat of German arms during the capture of the fortress of Liège at the cost of thousands of lives was ever issued.