Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz was instituted on June 10, 1915 in one class only by the last reigning ruler of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach Wilhelm Ernst Karl Alexander Friedrich Heinrich Bernhard Albert Georg Hermann von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (10.06.1876-24.04.1923) who reigned from January 05, 1901 until November 09, 1918.Wilhelm Ernst War Cross was issued to the subjects of the Grand Duchy regardless of their descent, social status, military rank and position. Holders of decoration were mainly officers, NCOs and lower ranks of the Infanterie-Regiment Großherzhog von Sachsen (5.Thüringisches) Nr.94 recognized for their military merits and bravery in battles of the Great War. Subjects of the Grand Duchy serving in other German units were also eligible for decoration. Besides citizenship of the Grand Duchy, each recipient had to be the holder of the Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class. However, exceptions to that rule are known to have existed. Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz was also bestowed on civilians for exceptional meritorious service during the war years.
After demise of the holder of Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz decoration was kept by the closest relatives of the deceased as a token of remembrance and was not to be returned to issuing authorities.
Design of the decoration was elaborated by the Weimar-based court jeweler company “Firma Theodor Müller”.
Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz had a shape of the equilateral white enameled Teutonic cross with gilt polished edges and two crossed gilt swords measuring 51-52 mm and pointing upwards. Round medallion measuring 20 mm in diameter was superimposed on the centre. It bore an image of the traditional Weimar white falcon with raised wings measuring 18-20x25-27 mm facing left. Two laurel branches with seventeen green enameled leaves on each one were superimposed on the left and right arms of the cross.
Round blue enameled medallion with gilt rim superimposed on the centre of the reverse bore gilt cipher of Wilhelm Ernst, intertwined capital letters “WE” topped with the gilt crown of the Grand Duchy. The year of institution of the decoration, “1915” was engraved on the lower arm of the reverse of the cross.
Pin-backed Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz was worn at the lower left part of the tunic next to the Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class and was attached with a wide vertical pin and catching hook soldered to reverse of upper and lower arms of the cross.
Seven variants of the Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz are known to exist.
1. Awards manufactured by “Firma Theodor Müller” in 1915-1917 for official decorations. Those crosses were minted of silver, medallions were made of gold, certain elements had gilt finish. White, blue and green enamel was applied to cross, medallion and laurel leaves.
2. Simplified awards issued by “Firma Theodor Müller” in 1917-1918. For obvious reasons silver and gold were substituted with silvered and gilt brass.
3. Unique piece incrusted with diamonds was presented to the commander of the Infanterie-Regiment Großherzhog von Sachsen (5.Thüringisches) Nr.94 Oberstleutnant Elimar Friedrich von Taysen (15.04.1866-31.05.1940).
4. Duplicates of the order manufactured by “Firma Theodor Müller” for sale to holders of the decoration. Those pieces were made of silver, gilt finish and enamel.
5. Post-war decorations manufactured by the Berlin-based “Paul Meybauer Militär-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik” were made of silver, gilt finish and three-colored enamel. Those pieces were sold as duplicates to holders of the Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz upon presentation of appropriate award documents. Their distinctive features were salient shape of the cross as well as maker’s mark minted on the reverse of the lower arm of the cross.
6. Post-war decorations manufactured by the Berlin-based company “J.Godet & Sohn”. Those salient-shaped crosses made of silver, gilt finish and three-colored enamel were sold as duplicates to holders of the Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz upon presentation of appropriate award documents.
7. Salient-shaped silver cross attached to a tunic with screw, nut and additional wide intermediate plate. Manufacturer of that type remains unknown.
Wilhelm Ernst-Kriegskreuz measured 45x45 mm approximately and weighed ca.35,2 g. Some crosses bore moon and crescent hallmark.
Miniatures of the Wilhelm Ernst War Cross measuring 15,8x15,8 mm and weighing 2,79 g were manufactured of gilt silver and enamel.
Totally 379 decorations were awarded from 1915 until 1920: 366 pieces in 1915-1918, six pieces in 1919 and seven more in 1920.