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I asked a very good question, which already caused 100 years ago a quite significant confusion.
In fact, following the statutes, the military merit medal was awarded, when the deeds of the soldier were not sufficent enough to receive the war merit cross (and / or the Prussian Iron Cross).
But especially at the beginning of the war (1914-1916) almost nobody returned his military merit medal after receiving the cross and even the "Staatsministerium" was unsure about the returning procedure.
So the Prince was officially asked about it and in 1917 the "Militärkabinett" sent an official letter to the Staatsministerium
in order to clearify that the medal had to be returned after receiving the cross (I have a copy of this letter in my files).
If you go through the receipts of the military merit medal you will find various stamped receipts, stating that the medal was returned after awarding the cross.
To summarize...some did it and some not. That´s why you find medalbars with both awards as well.
There was only one exception: In 1915 the Prince ordered to award 55 wounded soldiers of the IR 55 with the military merit medal (without swords!), used more like a wound badge...these 55 medals had not to be returned!.
Below you will find an example of such a stamped receipt of the war merit cross.
I hope, I explained it in an understandable way...quite complicate topic.
Hi, yes indeed... I think it is copied from the French.... When a unit was cited in the French army the participants of the action got a document just like this with their name added confirming they were part of the action.