Merits Badge was instituted in February 1919 by commander of the Volunteer corps “2.Marine-Brigade Wilhelmshaven” Hermann Ehrhardt (29.11.1881-27.09.1971).
The Freikorps was raised by the Korvettenkapitän Hermann Ehrhardt (29.11.1881-27.09.1971) on February 17, 1919 as “2.Marinebrigade Wilhelmshaven” from the former Kaiserliche Marine personnel. Initial appeal to the population of Wilhelmshaven to enroll into a volunteer unit to be (Aufruf zur Bildung einer Regierungstruppe in Wilhelmshaven) was published on February 13, 1919 in the local newspaper “Die Republik”. That appeal signed by the commander of the North Sea Naval base (Marinestation der Nordsee) Vice-admiral Andreas Michelsen (19.02.1869-08.04.1932) proclaimed: “I’ve got an order of the state government to raise government troops in Wilhelmshaven subordinated to the state government for the purpose of east borders protection” (“Die Reichsregierung hat mir den Befehl erteilt, in Wilhelmshaven eine Regierungstruppe zu bilden, die der Regierung direkt unterstehend, dieser für den Grenzschutz Ost zur Verfügung steht”). Further appeals widened future military use of the required unit, mentioning “suppression of mutinies on the domestic scene”.
2.Marinebrigade Wilhelmshaven commanded by Hermann Ehrhardt defeated revolutionary mutinies in various cities of Germany, e.g. Berlin, Brunswick, Munich and fought Polish insurgent in Upper Silesia. Come August 1919, Freikorps was renamed “2.Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt” (or “2.Marinebrigade Ehrhardt”). That Volunteer Corps was disbanded in Munster on April 20, 1920 following failure of the Kapp Putsch on March 17-20, 1920. After disbandment of the Freikorps some of its members were transferred to Reichsmarine, and the rest continued their nationalist or even terrorist activities under different covers such as “Bund ehemaliger Ehrhardt-Offiziere”, “Organisation Consul”, “Bund Wiking” and “Sportverein Olympia”.
Having completed that necessary historical digression let’s return to the main subject of an article. Initially Verdienstabzeichen der 2.Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt was presented to Freikorps military personnel for impeccable service and bravery in the field. The majority of decorations were awarded in April-May 1920, when that Volunteer Corps was no longer in existence. Some badges were presented to former Freikorps fighters even later, but as long service decorations. Members of the above-mentioned nationalist organizations, e.g. “Bund ehemaliger Ehrhardt-Offiziere”, “Organisation Consul” and “Bund Wiking” were also eligible for decoration with the Verdienstabzeichen der 2.Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt.
Two types of the Merits Badge can be singled out: early pattern decorations manufactured until July 1919 and late pattern minted from August 1919 until beginning of 1920.
The badge had a shape of a rectangle with wide raised border divided into three equal parts. Upper and lower parts bore an inscription in capital letters “For Merits to the Fatherland” (“Verdienstums” – as a solid word above and “Vaterland” below). Middle part of the badge had cut-out shape with a wide round oak wreath in its centre. Tricolor black-white-red silk ribbon was fixed behind the frame by a wide plate attached to the reverse of the badge. Scarce later decorations were minted as one-piece badges, with ribbon imitated by lacquer finish of appropriate colors.
Verdienstabzeichen der 2.Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt measuring 27,8x27 mm was made of silvered bronze and was worn at the lower left part of the tunic. Early badges were attached to the uniform by vertical pin and catching hook soldered to the reverse, while badges of thw late issue were fixed by a one-piece vertical pin.
The badge was presented to distinguished Freikorps fighters together with a typographic award document (Besitzzeugnis) that bore hand-written signature of the Brigadekommandeur Korvettenkapitän Hermann Ehrhardt as well as round stamp of the Brigade. Name, rank and unit of an awardee as well as date, month and year of issuance were filled in either by hand or on a typewriter. Depending on period of decoration, two types of award documents may be singled out, bearing either name “2.Marine-Brigade Wilhelmshaven” or “2.Marine-Brigade (Ehrhardt).
Merits Badge of 2 Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt was officially manufactured by the Berlin-based company “Erste Berliner Abzeichen-und Fahnenfabrik Heinrich Timm”, that also minted Wehrsport-Abzeichen of that Freikorps. Apart from that firm, Merits Badge was minted for sale to veterans upon presentation of appropriate documents by Berlin-based manufacturers “Paul Meybauer Militär-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik” and “Orden-, Ordensband- und Abzeichen-Fabrik von Paul Kust”.
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 Verdienstabzeichen der 2.Marine-Brigade Ehrhardt was prohibited.