War Merit Cross
Kriegsverdienstkreuz was instituted in one class only on May 23, 1915 by the last Prince Reuss Younger Line, His Serene Highness Heinrich XXVII (Heinrich XXVII Fürst Reuß jüngere Linie, 10.11.1858-21.11.1928). Interesting to know that all male heirs of the Principality of Reuss, both Elder and Junior lines, and not only ruling monarchs, were given traditional names Heinrich and ordinal numbers at birth. As for the Elder line, numeration of male heirs recommenced with the first, i.e. Heinrich I, after Heinrich the Hundredth, or Heinrich C was named.
War Merit Cross was issued to the subjects of the Principality who served with various units of the German army regardless of their descent, social status, military rank and position for exceptional bravery in battles of the Great War. Besides citizenship of the Principality, each recipient had to be the holder of the Prussian Iron Cross, 1st Class.
After demise of the holder of Kriegsverdienstkreuz decoration was kept by the closest relatives of the deceased as a token of remembrance and was not to be returned to issuing authorities.
Kriegsverdienstkreuz had a shape of an equilateral black enameled Teutonic cross measuring 44x44 mm with polished silver edges. Round medallion measuring 18 mm in diameter with a raised wide border and pebbled surface was superimposed on the centre of the cross. It bore a cipher of the prince Heinrich XXVII – Gothic letter “H” with numeral “XXVII” below – topped with the crown of Reuss. Left and right arms of the cross showed the year the Great War began, “19” and “14”, respectively. Round green enameled laurel wreath tied with a ribbon tie at the bottom was placed on the obverse in a way that its upper and lower parts were superimposed on the corresponding arms of the cross, and its left and right portions were situated behind the cross. Wreath was fixed to the cross with four or eight rivets and soldering. No hallmarks were found on original wartime decorations.
Pin-backed Kriegsverdienstkreuz 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.
Depending on a manufacturer, the following types of the War Merit Cross are known to exist.
1.The very first official consignment of flat .400 silver crosses was manufactured by the court jeweler firm “Bury & Leonhard, Hanau” in 1915. They were presented in square red boxes that bore gilt state coat of arms as well as the name of decoration in two lines – “Kriegs Verdienstkreuz” – on top cover.
2. Awards produced in 1915-1920 by the Berlin-based company “Orden-Fabrik und Medaillen-Münze Juwelen-, Gold- und Silberwaaren-Fabrik Luis Lemcke”. Those pieces were made of silver as well as from yellow metal alloy. Salient shape and superimposed date “1914” were distinctive features of those crosses.
3. Decorations purchased in 1920 from the above-mentioned company by the Berlin-based “Paul Meybauer Militär-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik”. Their distinctive features were salient shape of the cross as well as added maker’s mark.
4. Post-war decorations manufactured by the Berlin-based “Paul Meybauer Militär-Effekten und Orden-Fabrik” of .925 silver. Salient shape; screw and nut attachment to the tunic; specific nut that bore maker’s mark and silver hallmark; additional cross-shaped intermediate plate were distinctive features of those crosses.
5. Post-war decorations manufactured by the Berlin-based company “J.Godet & Sohn” that were sold as duplicates to holders of the Kriegsverdienstkreuz upon presentation of appropriate award documents.
Official decorations with the War Merit Cross were made only in 1915-1918 and 366 awards only were presented to distinguished servicemen.