Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr

Honorary Badge of the Baltische Landeswehr

Honorary Badge of the Baltische Landeswehr was instituted on March 01, 1920 by the Association of the Former Personnel of the Baltische Landeswehr (Vereinigung ehemaliger Kameraden der Baltischen Landeswehr). Even though original founding documents had been long lost in the post-war turmoil, that date is regarded by most researchers as a true one being presented on all surviving award documents.

Baltische Landeswehr, or Baltic Land Defence was created on November 08, 1918 by the Regency Council of the United Baltic Duchy (Regierungsrat des Baltischen Herzogtums), a state proposed by the Baltic German and exiled Russian nobility. The decision was officiated on November 11 by General der Infanterie Hugo Karl Gottlieb von Kathen (27.08.1855-02.04.1932), commander of the Eighth German Army during the last few months of the Great War, who continued commanding German troops in the Baltic states after the Armistice. Baltische Landeswehr contributed to the liberation of the Baltic states from the Red Army units and took part in capture of Riga in May 1919. However, Provisional government of Latvia together with Entente authorities made German volunteers and Baltic Germans being withdrawn from the cadre of the Landeswehr in summer 1919, and therefore it was redeployed to Latgale, i.e. Eastern Latvia to fight Bolshevik forces. Baltische Landeswehr was finally disbanded at the beginning of 1920, but by the end of 1919 Tukums Infantry Regiment No.13 was raised from the remaining military personnel of the Landeswehr. Being not included to any division of the Latvian army, the regiment was dissolved on March 22, 1922.  

Each former member of the Baltische Landeswehr with at least three months of irreproachable service was eligible for decoration with Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr. For those who joined that volunteer unit after July 06, 1919, minimum timeframe was extended up to six months. Front fighters were supposed to receive Honorary Badge with a sword, officially named “with swords” (sic!) – Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr mit Schwertern, while non-combatants were eligible for a Badge without a sword.

All the applications were examined by the specially created Award committee (Ordenskommission) within the Head staff of the Baltische Landeswehr (Oberstab der Baltischen Landeswehr) that comprised of representatives of various units of Landeswehr. Due to financial difficulties only an award certificate (Urkunde) was issued by the Committee upon payment of relevant fees. As in case of all the other Weimar-era unofficial badges, Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr had to be privately purchased by a veteran from his personal savings upon presentation of an award document.

Designer of the badge remains unknown.

Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr had a shape of an equilateral Teutonic cross, white enameled with thin blue enameled edge. A vertical shield with straight black cross was superimposed on the centre of the badge. Decorations for front fighters featured a sword situated between cross and shield and pointing downwards.

Some badges were numbered on their reverses.

Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr was worn on the lower left side of the tunic, e.g. on a left breast pocket, attached by vertical or horizontal pin, or by a screw. Dimensions of the badge and its weight depended on a manufacturer and varied from 35x35 mm to 41x41 mm, and from 15 to 20 g. Alongside with flat badges, salient pieces widely popular with former front fighters were produced as well. Miniatures for wearing with frock coats measured from 18x18 mm to 22x22 mm.

Initially badges were manufactured by various jewelry companies according to official description of a decoration provided by veterans. That led to distinctive variations of design, (mostly of a sword) and dimensions of cross itself as well as of shield. At least three manufacturers are known to exist, namely J.Edelhaus from Riga, W.Müller from Posen and W.Lampe from Lübeck. Quality of badges and materials used (fine silver or silvered Buntmetall) depended on paying capacity of veterans. At last, centralized distribution of badges was organized at the beginning of 1940s when Joint Union of Former Personnel of the Baltische Landeswehr and Baltic Regiment (Verein ehemaliger Angehoriger Baltischen Landeswehr und Baltenregiments) placed orders with several manufacturers for further retail sale for its members. Thus, full-size badge made by W.Müller (Posen) cost 8 Reichsmarks, miniature measuring 22x22mm – 5 Reichsmarks, and even smaller version of miniature (13x13 mm) – 4 Reichsmarks. 

As it was mentioned above, Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr was generally worn as a pin-back or screw-back breast badge. However, in some cases it was worn as a part of a mounted bar or in buttonhole suspended from a ribbon. The latter was made of 25 mm wide silk and replicated the flag of Riga introduced in 1673 by Swedish rulers, viz. light blue and white equidimensional vertical stripes.

Design of an award certificate, or Urkunde, was elaborated by W.E.Hacker, an artist from Riga. Documents were printed in typography, while the name of the recipient as well as the number of the badge were filled in with ink by issuing authorities. Duplicates that bore “Duplikat” note at the upper right corner were filled in using typewriter. Both original award certificates and duplicates were hallmarked with a stamp of the Oberstab der Baltischen Landeswehr and had signatures of the Award committee.

Exact number of issued badges isn’t known, but approximate evaluations can be made judging from the highest number of surviving award certificate for Ehrenzeichen der Baltischen Landeswehr mit Schwertern (No.2543). Moreover, the Badge with a sword bearing engraved number “3129” is known to exist as well as a Badge for non-combatants bearing number “1542”.

The author thanks Konstantin Nikolaev (Russia), a military historian, an author and a renowned expert on Freikorps decorations for providing an extract from his book “The Baltic Cross and other decorations of German volunteer units in the Baltic States, 1918-1919” (2013, 3rd edition). 

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Baltische Landeswehr Honorary Badge