The article should be started with an indication at the certain assumption in its title: strictly speaking, this entry deals with three slightly different crosses each bearing its own name, i.e. Regimental Commemorative Cross (Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz, R.E.K.), Battalion Commemorative Cross (Bataillons-Erinnerungskreuz, B.E.K.) and Naval Commemorative Cross (Marine-Erinnerungskreuz, M.E.K.). The difference between these three will be reviewed below, but for the sake of convenience the name of its most common variant, Regimental Commemorative Cross, or Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz, will be mainly used further.
Thus, Regimental Commemorative Cross (Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz), also referred to as Regimental Commemorative Badge (Regiments-Erinnerungszeichen), was instituted in the beginning of 1920s in Berlin for sale to the Great War veterans, not only Prussians, but citizens of other German states as well. According to Detlev Niemann, decoration was instituted by a certain Issuing Office of the Regimental Commemorative Cross of Former German Armed Forces (Ausgabestelle des Regiments-Erinnerungskreuzes der ehemaligen Deutschen Wehrmacht). No additional info on that authority is known to the author.
Being exclusively commercial project aimed at reaping benefits from desire of former servicemen for decorating their medal bars with visually appealing cross, Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz could have been purchased by every veteran. The thing is – unlike other Weimar-era medals and crosses the primary characteristic of the decoration in question was its versatility expressed in the highest possible level of “personalization” achieved through inscription on obverse (“Regiment”, “Battalion” or “Navy”) and custom-made clasp bearing name of exact unit particular veteran served in.
Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz has the shape of a cross patoncé measuring 39,1x39,1 mm with pebbled surface and wide ribbed borders. Two swords pointing upwards and measuring 39x2 mm are placed beneath. Centre of the cross shows circular medallion measuring 14 mm in diameter with smooth surface and encircled with an oak wreath tied with ribbon ties crosswise at the top, at the bottom and at the sides.
At least one cross without crossed swords is known to exist, and the clasp on its ribbon reads “Military Hospital 122” (“Kriegslazarett 122”). Whether it was a scarce version of the Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz for non-combatants, or removal of swords has been done by the veteran himself for unknown reason, or it is just a cheap ruse of an unscrupulous dealer to increase the price of a rare piece, remains unknown, at least to the author.
Upper arm of the cross on obverse shows M1916 German steel helmet facing left, the lower one – Prussian eagle holding semicircular ribbon with motto “For Glory and Fatherland” (“Pro Gloria et Patria”) executed in capital letters. Medallion bears the cipher of the King Friedrich II: intertwined letters “FRII” topped with the royal crown. Three types of inscriptions are found on left and right arms of the cross on obverse, depending on the unit particular veteran served in: “Loyal to the Regiment” (“Treu dem / Regiment”), “Loyal to the Battalion” (“Treu dem / Bataillon”) or “Loyal to the Navy” (“Treu der / Marine”). All those are executed in capital letters.
Upper arm of the cross on reverse shows two crossed swords pointing upwards, while the lower one has three oak leaves. Left and right arms of the cross are inscribed “Always Ready” (“Allzeit / bereit”) in capital letters. Medallion shows eagle of Weimar-era pattern, and two types are known to exist: either official one or topped with a crown.
As in the case of other unofficial post-war decorations for veterans, Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz was sometimes worn with its reverse facing outside.
An interesting feature of Regiments-, Bataillons- and Marine-Erinnerungskreuz is variety of ribbons they suspended from depending on exact unit particular veteran served in during the Great War. The author is unaware of any document regulating correspondence of crosses and ribbons and the list below is based on personal observations.
1. Aviation units – dark blue ribbon with two thin central red stripes thus forming wide dark blue stripe in between.
2. Navy – plain dark blue ribbon.
3. Infantry, füsilier, reserve infantry regiments as well as Landwehr infantry regiments – dark blue ribbon with central wide stripe flanked by two thin red stripes. Central wide stripe could be either blue of various shades – from extremely light blue (nearly white) to dark blue – or yellow, or light green.
4. Infantry regiments – apart from described above, two more ribbons are known to exist:
- dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes;
- ribbon with wide black and white stripes at edges and with central wide green stripe flanked by two thin red stripes.
5. Grenadier and guard grenadier regiments – dark blue ribbon with central wide yellow stripe flanked by two thin red stripes; dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes.
6. Jäger, guard jäger and reserve jäger battalions – light green ribbon with subtle red stripes at edges and central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes.
7. Lancer regiments – dark blue ribbon with central wide yellow stripe flanked by two thin red stripes; dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes. Cross suspended from dark blue ribbon with central wide light green stripe flanked by two thin red stripes is known to exist as well.
8. Hussar regiments – dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes.
9. Field and foot artillery units – dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin black stripes.
10. Guard pioneer battalion, pioneer battalions and regiments – dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin black stripes. Cross suspended from dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin yellow stripes is known to exist as well.
11. Railway regiments, telephone and telegraph battalions, signals battalions, mortar companies as well as Assault battalion Rohr – dark blue ribbon with central wide red stripe flanked by two thin black stripes.
12. Motorcar battalions and military hospitals – dark blue ribbon with two thin central red stripes thus forming wide dark blue stripe in between.
It should be stressed that detected combinations were not strictly followed by all the veterans countrywide and many exceptions are known to exist.
Complete set of the Regimental, Battalion or Naval Commemorative Cross included metal clasp with a custom-made name of the unit particular veteran served in. However, period photos showing crosses being worn without clasps are known to exist as well.
Horizontal rectangular clasp of a curved shape had raised ribbed border measured 40x12 mm and was manufactured of gilt bronze. Clasp was attached to the ribbon with two wire prongs soldered to its reverse. Maker’s mark executed in capital letters was stamped in four horizontal lines between those prongs: “Paul Küst / Berlin C 19 / Seydelstr.[aße] 19A / Ges.[etzlich] Gesch.[ütz]”.
Clasps for Naval Commemorative Crosses had unique design, different from the common pattern. Those one-piece clasps had miniature emblem placed at the top in the shape of a horizontal oval wreath with an anchor in its centre against pebbled background.
Text stamped on each clasp corresponded to the unit particular veteran served in during the Great War. If veteran served in two different units, he could either attach two clasps to one ribbon or wear two different crosses with corresponding clasps. According to the photographic evidence, sometimes Regimental Commemorative Crosses were worn with incorrect clasps taken from other post-war veteran medals.
Mintage of clasps for the same unit but with slightly different text are known to exist, e.g. “II.MARINE JNF. RGT.” and “II.MAR. INF. RGT.”.
It is therefore clear that complete list of clasps manufactured for Regimental, Battalion and Naval Commemorative Crosses is impossible to be compiled. Below is the list of documented clasps.
2.GARDE FELD ART.RGT.
2.GARDE FUSS ART.RGT.
2. GARDE RGT. z. FUSS
3.GARDE RGT. z.F.
24 cm MÖRS.BATT.
DIFERNA [Divisions-Fernsprecher Abteilung] 449
EISENBAHN RGT. 2, 3
FELD ART. RGT.7, 19, 21, 40, 46, 64, 74, 84, 206, 219, 286
FÜS. RGT. 37, 39, 40, 73, 80, 86
FUSS ART. RGT. 4, 7
GARDE FUSS ART.R.
GARDE GR.RGT. 1, 2, 3
GREN. RGT. 1. 3, 4, 119
HUS. RGT. 7
JÄGER z. PF. 5, 6, 8
JNF. R. 11. M.L.W.
JNF. RGT. 13, 15, 21, 26, 39, 41, 47, 56, 66, 67, 68, 96, 121, 124, 125, 128, 130, 135, 137, 153, 170, 174, 246, 380, 395, 396, 427, 478
KÖNIGS GREN. RGT. 7
L. GREN. RGT.8
L.JNF. RGT. 119
LEIB GREN.RGT. 8
R.FELD ART. RGT.46
RES. JNF. RGT. 6, 13, 29, 37, 77, 85, 88, 91, 137, 213, 226, 227, 234, 238, 243, 245, 247, 259, 263, 270
STURM A. ,,ROHR”
ULAN. RGT.6, 7, 10
FUSS ART. BATL.71
GARDE JÄGER BAT.
GARDE PION. B.21
GARDE PION. BAT.
JÄG. BAT. 1, 2, 7, 9, 11, 14, 18
NACHR. BAT. 7
PION. BAT.19, 21, 22
R. JÄG. BAT. 15
TRAIN ABT. 19
I. MATR. RGT.
II.MARINE JNF. RGT.
II.MAR. INF. RGT.
II. TORP. DIV.
5. MATR. RGT.
MAR. KORPS FLANDERN
When Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz was worn by veteran on a tunic as a single ribbon bar, it either had no clasp attached or had crossed swords device pinned to the bar. Ribbon bars still showing miniature clasps do exist as well, but the latter bore shortened names of units due to the lack of space, e.g. “GREN.R.3” instead of “GREN. RGT. 3”.
Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz was sold with the award certificate that incidentally bore no indication of an issuing authority. However, name of the manufacturer, “Paul Küst Berlin S.W19.”, was found below the ornamental frame. Certificates were signed by the retired Oberstleutenant (Obersleutnant a.D., i.e. “außer Dienst”) Eschmann who held position of an “Authorized representative” (“Vertrauensmann”). Place of issue was encoded as a certain “Issuing office” (“Ausgabestelle”) in Berlin. Curiously, image of the Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz obverse printed at the bottom of the award certificate showed Prussian motto “God with us” (“Gott mit uns”) inside the central medallion instead of the Friedrich II cipher. Several entries were filled in by hand: serial number of decoration (in the upper right corner), name of the unit to appear on the clasp (in the special plate), as well as name of the unit, rank, name and family name of the veteran (in the text of the certificate). Day, month and year the certificate was issued were filled at the bottom of the document. The latter was also sealed with the round seal.
The author is aware of the following types of award documents for the Regiments-Erinnerungskreuz:
1. Early type (1927). Document is titled “Urkunde”; decoration is titled “Regiments-Erinnerungszeichen”; printed entry for indication of serial number of decoration by hand is absent; left shield is inscribed “Treu dem Regiment”; date of issue is fully handwritten; rank of Eschmann is printed as “Obersleutnant”, while special designation “a.D.”, i.e. “außer Dienst” (“out of service”) is added by hand.
2. Transitional type (1928-1929). Document is titled “Urkunde”; decoration is titled “Regiments-Erinnerungszeichen”; printed entry for indication of serial number of decoration by hand with single underlining is situated in the upper right corner; left shield is inscribed “Treu dem Regiment”; date of issue is indicated as “ ./ .192 ”; rank of Eschmann is printed as “Obersleutnant a.D.”.
3. Late type, variant 1. Document is titled “Besitzzeugnis”; decoration is titled “Erinnerungs-Kreuz (R.E.K.)”; printed entry for indication of serial number of decoration by hand with single underlining is situated in the upper right corner; left shield is inscribed “Treu dem Regiment”; date of issue is indicated as “ ./ .193 ”; rank of Eschmann is printed as “Obersleutnant a.D.”.
4. Late type, variant 2. Document is titled “Besitzzeugnis”; decoration is titled “Erinnerungs-Kreuz (R.E.K.)”; printed entry for indication of serial number of decoration by hand with double underlining is situated in the upper right corner; left shield is inscribed “Treu der Waffe”; date of issue is indicated as “ ./ .193 ”; rank of Eschmann is printed as “Obersleutnant a.D.”.
Finally, a few words should be said about service record of “authorized representative” Eschmann. Erich Eschmann was born in Berlin and served with the Infanterie-Regiment Nr.144 before and during the Great War.
- Seconde-Lieutenant (18.11.1893), adjutant of the III Battalion of the Infanterie-Regiment Nr.144;
- Leutnant, adjutant of the III Battalion of the Infanterie-Regiment Nr.144 (1899);
- Oberleutnant (27.01.1903), commander of the 1st Company of the 5.Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 144;
- Oberleutnant of the 5.Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 144 commanded to Bezirks Kommandantur (District Office) Metz (1908);
- Oberleutnant, commander of the 10th Company of the 5.Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 144;
- Hauptmann (10.09.1910), commander of the 2nd Company of the 5.Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 144 (the last known position that he held at least at the beginning of the Great War, when he was lightly wounded).
Having been retired after the armistice and classified as Oberstleutnant a.D. unavailable for further military service, Erich Eschmann didn’t serve in any unit since 1919.
Commemoration crosses were manufactured by the Berlin-based company of Paul Küst “Erste Berliner Fahnen-, Fahnennagel, Abzeichen-, Orden-, Ordensband- und Scharenfabrik Paul Küst”. Decorations and bars were made of gilt bronze. Miniatures of R.E.K., B.E.K. and M.E.K. were available for purchase as well.
According to a Decree published on November 14, 1935 (Verordnung zur Ausführung des Gesetzes über Titel, Orden und Ehrenzeichen vom 14.November 1935) that put into effect a Supplement to the Law regarding state awards of April 07, 1933, wearing of Regiments-, Bataillons- and Marine-Erinnerungs-Kreuz was prohibited.