Breast badge “For Proficient Driving of Combat Vehicles” was instituted by the Order of the People’s Commissar for Defense of the USSR No.1 of January 03, 1936 and was aimed at moral incentive and improvement of fighting spirit of Soviet tank crew members.
Design and statute of the badge were approved by the head of the People’s Commissariat of Defense Kliment Voroshilov on July 25, 1935 followed by endorsement on September 01, 1935 by the Commission under Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, the highest governing body of the Soviet Union in the interim of the sessions of the Congress of Soviets.
The badge was issued to soldiers and officers who served with armored units of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA) and excellently completed preparatory and test tasks within the scope of two courses, viz. basic one and advanced training courses of superior driving. Within at least one year they also had to demonstrate excellent knowledge and preservation of hardware and weaponry, perfect fail-safety as well as absence of crippling and forced stopovers while driving armored vehicle.
Excellent performance in training and exemplary discipline of tankman were indispensable conditions for presentation of the badge.
Decoration with the badge “For Proficient Driving of Combat Vehicles” was performed by the Order of the head of the Armored Fighting Vehicles Department (AFVD) of RKKA upon nomination of unit commanding officers conveyed through heads of Armored Fighting Vehicles troops of corresponding military districts.
Initially AFVD was created on November 03, 1929 by Decree of the Revolutionary Military Council, the supreme military authority of the USSR, as Mechanization and Motorization Department of RKKA from the cadre of three subdivisions: Motor unit of Military-Technical Department of RKKA, Mechanical Traction unit of Artillery Department of RKKA and Inspection of Armored Troops. In accordance with the Order of Revolutionary Military Council No.615 of November 18, 1929, head of AFVD was simultaneously put in charge of mechanized troops of RKKA and reported to People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of the USSR. According to the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense No.0128 of June 26, 1940, AFVD of RKKA was renamed Chief Armored Fighting Vehicles Department (CAFVD) of RKKA. Twelve years later, classified Decree of the State Defense Committee No.GOKO-2589s dissolved CAFVD and reorganized it into two new departments: Chief Department of Formation and Combat Training of Armored and Mechanized Troops of the Red Army and Chief Armored Department of the Red Army.
During its twelve-years existence AFVD (CAFVD) of RKKA was headed by the following high-ranking Soviet military commanders:
- Komandarm (abbreviated from “Commander of the Army”) of the second rank (a Lieutenant General or full General equivalent) Innokentiy Halepskij (November 1929 – April 1936);
- Komdiv (abbreviated from “Division commander”, a Major General equivalent) Gustav Bokis (April 1936 – June 1937);
- Komcor (abbreviated from “Commander of the Corps”, a Lieutenant General equivalent) Dmitry Pavlov (November 1937 – June 1940);
- Lieutenant General of Armored Troops Yakov Fedorenko (June 1940 – December 1942).
Holders of the badge were automatically awarded honorary status “Excellent driver of combat vehicle”. According to an Article 9 of the statute, they also possessed advantages during reenlistment, admission to military schools, promotion and granting a furlough.
Awardee could be temporarily or permanently deprived of the badge in case of “damage, breakdown, catastrophe or accident that occurred through his fault”. Statute also stipulated that “holder of the badge is issued with warning in case of evident deterioration of efficiency, and is deprived of the badge failing necessary amendments”. According to an Article 11 of that document, “deprivation of the badge could be limited to a specified timeframe ranging from one to six months depending on a type of the fault and a situation”.
In case of temporary or permanent deprivation of a right to wear badge “the latter together with an award certificate are taken away from its holder and are to be kept at the unit headquarters”. Deprivation of the badge automatically deprived its holder of all the privileges stipulated in the Article 9.
Design of the badge was elaborated by AFVD of RKKA personnel under the guidance of its head, Komandarm of the second rank Innokentiy Halepskij (14.07.1893-29.07.1938).
Breast badge “For Proficient Driving of Combat Vehicles” had a shape of a vertical diamond with considerably reduced upper portion and top angle of 38 degrees. An obverse was covered with light grey hot enamel and topped with red enameled five-point star bearing sickle and hammer gilt emblem at its centre. An emblem showing stylized light cavalry tank BT-5 facing right was superimposed on the centre of the badge and was fixed by two rivets. An inscription “For Proficient” (“За отличное”) executed in capital gilt letters was placed in two horizontal lines above tank, while word “Driving” (“Вождение”) was running in semicircle just below vehicle.
The badge was manufactured of Tombac and hot enamel.
Breast badge “For Proficient Driving of Combat Vehicles” measuring 45x30 mm was worn on the left side of the breast and was attached to the tunic with screw soldered to the reverse and round nut bearing no maker’s mark. Decorations bore serial numbers engraved with burin at reverses.
“For Proficient Driving of Combat Vehicles” badge was presented together with dark beige hard cover award certificate.
Badges were manufactured and awarded in 1936-1941. Decorations discontinued in 1941 as the Great Patriotic War began. According to modern estimations, approximately 1,000 pieces were issued.