Bug-Stern der Schutztruppe Bug

Commemorative badge of Schutztruppe Bug, a.k.a. Bug-Stern

Commemorative badge of one of the Freikorps units, Schutztruppe Bug was instituted on February 01, 1919 by its General Headquarters. A history of this decoration needs a little digression into the history of the above mentioned volunteer detachment.  

A volunteer guard unit with an objective of protecting important rail interchange of Brest-Litovsk was raised in January 1919 from the cadre of various Imperial army elements according to an Order No.Ic 4220 and was put under command of Major Waldemar Kobe von Koppenfels. He was born in Erfurt on September 27, 1874 and started his military career as a Sekonde-Lieutenant (later Leutnant) with the 2.Hannoversches Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.26 on August 18, 1894. Von Koppenfels served subsequently as an Adjutant of the 1st battery of that regiment, was promoted to Oberleutnant on  September 15, 1904 and in the second half of the same year was transferred to Husaren-Regiment König Humbert von Italien (1.Kurhessisches) Nr.13. On April 01, 1908 he was seconded to the Rheinisches Train-Bataillon Nr.7 for a year followed by his definitive transfer to that branch of service in 1909 in the same unit. Von Koppenfels was promoted to the rank of Rittmeister on October 18, 1909 initially without a Patent and was appointed as a commander of the 3rd company of the Train-Bataillon Nr.9 the same day. He enjoyed substantive promotion to Rittmeister on June 16, 1911 having in the meantime been transferred to the Train-Bataillon Nr.2 as a commander of its 2nd company. His final prewar position was commander of the 2 nd company of Elsäßische Train-Abteilung Nr.15 (March 22, 1914). Von Koppenfels was promoted to the rank of Major on July 18, 1917. Let’s return to Freikorps story though.

Fights against Polish insurgents intensified by the end of the January 1919 and on February 01 a decision was made to pool all available resources by combining various small but battleworthy volunteer units operating in Belarus and Lithuania and put them under joint command. Major General von Passow took command over Headquarters of Schutztruppe Bug and was given task of raising an efficient unit. Major Waldemar Kobe von Koppenfels was made commander of all infantry units (Infanterieführer) of Schutztruppe Bug. 

Volunteer brigade Olita (Freiwilligen-Brigade Olita) was raised on March 26, 1919 from the cadre of Schutztruppe Bug and consisted of 97 officers, 305 NCOs, 2,003 other ranks and 9 auxiliary workers. Being 2,414-strong nominally its real strength never exceeded 1,865 men including 80 officers, 229 NCOs and 1,556 soldiers. Though Generalmajor von Passow was a formal commander of the Brigade his illness restricted his authority and reins of power in fact belonged to Oberstleutnant Fritjof Freiherr von Hammerstein-Gesmold (1870-1944), former commander of Infanterie-Regiment Nr.146 (1918), later Generalleutnant (char.) (1933). As for Major Waldemar Kobe von Koppenfels, he retained his position as a commander of all infantry units (Infanterieführer) of Brigade Olita. Its order of battle included the following units: Freiwilligen Regiment Koppenfels, Freiwilligen Regiment Hammerstein, Freiwilligen Artillerie Abteilung, Freiwilligen Kavallerie Abteilung and Freiwilligen Eskadron 3/Drag.10. In 1919 together with Freikorps Diebeitsch it was used to form Reichswehr-Brigade 38 Suwalki of the Vorläufige Reichswehr.

Having completed that necessary historical digression let’s return to the main subject of an article.

As stated above Commemorative badge of Schutztruppe Bug was instituted on February 01, 1919 by its General Headquarters. It was issued to all volunteers from various units that formed part of that Freikorps for one month of irreproachable service. Since March 26, 1919 decoration with the badge was extended to Brigade Olita personnel.

Design of Bug-Stern resembling that of Bruststern der I.Klasse dse Roten Adlerordens was elaborated by Major Waldemar Kobe von Koppenfels. It had a shape of a 53,5-55 mm eight-pointed breast star with a central round medallion bordered by a thin laurel wreath. Central composition consisted of two crossed swords and inscription “Schutztruppe” (above) and “Bug” (below) made in capital letters and separated by two rosettes made of seven dots on both sides.

An order was placed at Berlin-based company “Militar-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik Paul Meybauer” that exclusively manufactured several types of salient Bug-Stern in relief.

1. Pinback badge issued for official decorations was made of silvered Buntmetall, i.e. alloy of non-ferrous metals. Black lacquered central medallion had tints of dark blue. 

Four variants were produced to be sold to former Freikorps personnel that had a right for wearing of that decoration and were interested in purchasing a duplicate.

2. Pinback badge of silvered Buntmetall with purple lacquered medallion and green lacquered laurel wreath.

3. Pinback badge of silvered Buntmetall with purple medallion and light green enameled laurel wreath. Technical fault led to damage of silver finish that shed in the short run. 

4. Pinback badge made of .800, .900 and rarely .925 silver with purple medallion and light green enameled laurel wreath.

Construction of a needle with catching hook was predominately vertical though pieces with horizontal needle are known to exist.

5. Silver badge with purple medallion and light green enameled laurel wreath attached by a screw.

Totally 6,500 badges of different types were manufactured by Meybauer company. Exact number of decorations is not known due to loss of original paperwork.

Commemorative badge of Schutztruppe Bug was issued in 1919-1923. Soon after it was replaced by the Cross of Honor officially instituted on July 13, 1934 and its open wear was prohibited according to laws of the Third Reich.

The author thanks Konstantin Nikolaev (Russia), a military historian, an author and a renowned expert on Freikorps decorations for providing detailed information on the Commemorative badge of Schutztruppe Bug. 

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Bug Stern 1