Breast badge “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” was instituted by the Decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, the highest government authority of executive power, No.1186 of August 10, 1939. Its institution was later gazetted by the Order of the People’s Commissariat of the Navy No.431 of October 22, 1939.
However, initial elaboration of the badge had started much earlier on initiative of Flag officer, 2nd rank Yury Rall (16.03.1890-16.09.1948), head of the Combat Training Department of the Navy. For the very first time the badge, though non-existent at that moment, was mentioned in the Order of the People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR No.44 “On the Socialist Emulation” issued on April 05, 1938. The document particularly stated “decoration of the distinguished commanders and Red sailors with the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge”. Shortly after that, on May 29, 1938 the People’s Commissariat of the Navy had issued an Order No.77 “On Appointment of the Commission for Consideration of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” Badge Draft”. Moreover, in three months the Order of the People’s Commissariat of the Navy No.166 of August 27, 1938 instituted statute of the non-existent badge.
Patterns of the badge were manufactured at the Leningrad Mint according to the draft elaborated by Boris Homich (see the text below). Interesting to know that those unique pieces were struck with the legend “Excellent Serviceman of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Navy”, despite the ministry exact name being “People’s Commissariat of the Soviet Navy” (according to the Decree of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars No.120/2204 of December 30, 1937), not “People’s Commissariat of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Navy”! Discrepancy was liquidated and necessary corrections to the design of the patterns were made on personal orders from Flag officer, 2nd rank Nikolay Kuznetsov (24.07.1904-06.12.1974), People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR.
Here’s the full text of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” breast badge statute approved by the People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR Nikolay Kuznetsov.
“I. General clauses
1. The following persons are eligible for decoration with the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” breast badge:
a) Particularly distinguished Red sailors as well as commanding officers of warships and units demonstrating outstanding proficiency in combat and political training, excellent knowledge and preservation of hardware and weaponry, perfect fail-safety and absence of crippling;
b) Distinguished low ranks and commanders of construction units, construction and engineer departments of fleets and flotillas;
c) workers, employees and technical staff of plants, workshops and ports of the Navy who distinguished themselves at military production.
2. “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” breast badge is instituted in one class only.
II. Procedure of decoration
3. Decoration with the badge is executed according to the Article 1 on the grounds of:
a) excellent progress in combat and political training;
b) excellent knowledge, care and preservation of hardware and weaponry;
c) extract certifying absence of breakdown, damage and forced cut-off of handled hardware, machinery and units pending the whole campaign (but not less than one year);
d) excellent progress in naval and physical training;
e) discipline and exemplary training of an awardee.
In case of manufacturing plants and construction organizations personnel decoration is executed on the grounds of:
a) excellent performance;
b) high quality of operation;
c) excellent knowledge, care and preservation of hardware and equipment;
d) absence of breakdown, damage and forced cut-off of handled hardware, machinery and units;
e) discipline and exemplary training of an awardee.
4. According to provisions stipulated in the Article 3, a commission consisting of commander and political instructor of combat department as well as of unit commander is called forth on order of warship (unit) commander. Commission statement is approved by warship (unit) commander.
At manufacturing plants and construction organizations a commission is set up on order of chief of logistics and chief of fleet construction and quartering. Representatives of trade-union organizations are to be included to that commission.
Warship, unit and formation commanders are inspected by a commission set up by formations commanders and fleet councils of war (flotilla commander).
Testing certificates, extracts and other documents describing qualities of an awardee are to be attached to the nomination for an award.
5. Nomination for an award is performed by fleet councils of war (flotilla commanders). Decoration with the badge is performed by the Order of the People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR.
III. Rights and privileges of the holders of the badge
6. “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge is worn either on duty or on leave attached to the left part of the breast provided award certificate is being carried by the bearer.
7. Holders of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge possess advantages during:
b) admission to military schools;
d) granting a furlough.
IV. Procedure of deprivation of the badge
8. Holder of the badge is issued with warning in case of evident deterioration of efficiency listed in the Article 3, and is deprived of the badge failing necessary amendments.
9. Holder of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge is deprived of the decoration in case of damage, breakdown or accident that occurred through his fault.
10. In case of deprivation a badge together with an award certificate are taken away from its holder and are to be kept at the fleet (flotilla) headquarters. Deprivation of the badge deprives its holder of all the privileges stipulated in the Article 7.
11. In the event that former holder of the badge displays excellent results and impeccable behavior thus demonstrating his complete reformation within six months after the deprivation, unit commander is given the right to resubmit a petition for decoration of the serviceman with the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge.
12. Procedure of deprivation of the badge is carried out in the same way as decoration, i.e. by the Order of the People’s Commissar of the Navy of the USSR upon submission made by fleet councils of war (flotilla commanders).
Now let’s return to description of the badge. Its design was elaborated in May 1938 by Lieutenant Commander Boris Homich, head of the 5th section, 2nd division of the Administrative and Mobilization Department of the People’s Commissariat of the Soviet Navy, later Vice-admiral (May 09, 1961) and designer of naval orders, medals and badges.
The final version of the badge had a shape of the vertical oval framed with gilt oak leaves on the left and oxidized anchor chain on the right. Stylized red enameled ribbon with an inscription in gilt capital letters “Navy” (“ВМФ”) is situated at the bottom. Upper part of the badge shows flying flag of the Soviet Navy introduced on May 27, 1935 covered with white, blue and red enamel. Silver cruiser moving westwards is placed in the centre of the badge. An inscription “High Achiever” (“Отличник”) in gilt capital letters is situated against a blue enameled background representing sea.
The badge was attached to the uniform with a screw and round nut. Initially it was to be worn on the left side of the breast. However, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR that was announced with the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense No.240 of June 21, 1943, “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” as well as all the other badges since that date had to be attached to the opposite part of the tunic and would be worn to the left or below state awards.
Three major types of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge may be singled out depending on manufacturer.
1. Badges produced at the Leningrad Mint were made of 925 silver and had flat reverse with number and hallmark “МД” at the bottom. Badges measured 27,2x23,9-24,1 mm and weighed 7,55-7,95 g (without nut). Silvered brass nut measuring 17,6-18 mm in diameter bore either a semicircular inscription “Mint” (“Мондвор”) at its upper part or “Мон” above and “Двор” below. More than 10,000 badges of that type were minted within 1940-1941.
2. Badges manufactured by “Moskovskoe Tovarishchestvo Hudojnikov”, or Artists’ Society of Moscow were made of Tombac and had counter-relief (mirror reverse) with number at the bottom. Those pieces measured 27,8-28,5x23,9х24,1 mm and weighed 5,4-7,15 g without nut. Brass nut measuring 18,8 mm in diameter had a semicircular inscription: “Moscow” (“Московское”) – above and “Artists’ Society” (“Т-во художников”) – below, in two lines. Approximately 13,500 badges of that type were minted.
3. Badges minted at the Moscow factory “Pobeda” (“Victory”) had slightly different design of cruiser and inscription. Brass badges measured 27,4-27,7x21,7-22,8 mm and weighed 6,57-7,15 g without nut. Mirror reverse bore number followed by a letter “A”, an exclusive numeration of “Pobeda” badges. Brass nut measuring 18,8 mm in diameter bore a semicircular inscription: “Factory Pobeda” (“З-д Победа”) – above and “Moscow” (“Москва”) – below. Approximately 5,500 pieces were manufactured.
“Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge was presented together with either red or grey hard cover award certificate, or cardboard temporary document. Extracts from relevant orders printed on thin paper were sometimes given to awardees during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.
According to modern-day estimations, totally 29,000-45,000 badges were manufactured. The very first decoration with 805 pieces of the “Excellent Serviceman of the Soviet Navy” badge took place in conjunction with the Vladimir Lenin’s 70th anniversary, according to the Order of the People’s Commissariat of the Navy No.191 of April 20, 1940. By May 15, 1940 3,033 pieces were awarded. Decorations with the badge continued right up to the end of the Great Patriotic War.
Literature: Yevgeny Pozdnyshev. Year of 1939. Award Badges and Commemorative Badges of Red Army and Navy. Reference Book. Kiev, 2012.