Jump to content

Guidelines: IS A Medal/Ribbon Bar Traceable ?

Recommended Posts

There are only three ways to find awards to German officers (in almost no cases is it ever possible to identify enlisted ranks' groups)

1) Rank Lists

2) The pre-WW1 German Orders Almanac

2) Award Rolls/Lists

1) were published back then, usually annually

2) was a vanity publication last updated in 1908 so that only people who PAID to be listed were-- but this is still the broadest sampling of CIVILIANS outside the individual states' Court & State Handbooks, which will be considered "Rank Lists" as annual period publications

3) are in the process of being transcribed and published-- work ongoing for 20 years now by the Guild Of Research Gnomes International.

1A) NO Rank Lists EVER listed COMPLETE awards. The Bavarian Army came closest, with pre-1914 campaign awards and commemorative medals listed. W?rttemberg's Military Hand Book did not list campaign medals per se, but gave specific listings of where and when officers had served in "combat situations" before 1914 which allow for actually identifying bars to the 1912 Colonial Medal.

Generally, there were NO campaign awards or jubilee medals listed. For freakish reasons beyond our understanding, in most cases awards were not even listed in the precedence that they were WORN in :banger: and for what seems to have been NO reason whatsoever, many awards were simply NOT listed. One example of this is the Austrian Marian Cross-- shown in Bavarian but not Prussian Rank Lists.

Each Rank List had its own "Egyptian hieroglyphics" emblems for many awards or abbreviations that varied from one (navy versus Prussian Army versus Saxon Army etc etc etc) so that a Knight 2nd Class of the combined Ernestine House Order was listed as EITHER an "EH3b" OR an "HSEH3b" OR an "HS?H3b" OR an "SEH5" and... you get the idea. :banger:

2a) The Orders Almanac randomly-- they were paying by the word-- lists all the 19th century and colonial campaign awards, wedding jubilee medals and so on, often providing first names and dates of birth that NEVER appear in military Lits except for Bavaria and W?rttemberg.

3a) Award Rolls have to be transcribed and indexed since they are virtually always chronological and unindexed-- making them "useless" until that work is done. Faithful Readers will have noted WHICH states and WHICH awards (1914-18) have been and are being worked on. More and more data is being added and published which has never been done-- but the limitation remains that UNLESS this work has been completed, it is not available. :(

NO foreign awards for peacetime were listed in ANY German Rank List after 1914. (Bavaria's 1916 excepted)

The ONLY foreign awards shown in Rank Lists after the war were Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Turkish decorations for the World War.

NO Freikorps awards--including the officially recognized Silesian Eagles and Baltic Cross-- appear in Rank Lists.


The most likely people to BE identifiable are:

A) pre-WW1 officers with lots of Orders-- IF they are in a distinctive COMBINATION

B) Reichsheer and Reichsmarine officers, since their wartime awards are shown, and can be compared with peacetime awards--if any--from earlier Lists. They also leave perfect paper trails from continuous careers.

C) WW1 officers whose awards in distinctive COMBINATIONS can be traced using the Award Rolls.

COMBINATIONS are the KEY. It is rarely possible to identify an officer with LESS than FOUR decorations to be searched for.

This is the part that gets tricky. :rolleyes::cheeky: Sometimes the combination may SEEM fairly common, but something ELSE provides the additional distinguishing element-- say the difference between Wehrmacht 25 years and 18 years service crosses, or the presence of a jubilee/pre-1914 campaign medal/or not. In other cases, a single specific award may be SO rare that its presence alone makes an identification possible.

An additional factor aiding/thwarting identification of groups is the BACKING MATERIAL commonly found on German medal/ribbon bars. Red was the standard "generic" traditional choice up to 1914. Normally army, it can sometimes be found on naval bars. Dark navy blue, of course, was the normal choice for naval groups-- but there is enough "mix and match" that while a VERY useful guide for at least where to start looking, this still requires craefully searching BOTH services for combinations. Other colors are largely irrelevant-- though Feldgrau is a good indication of an army recipient as well. Under the Third Reich, uniform colors CAN be more closely matched, at least for tailor made ratherthan stock combination groups. Luftwaffe "badge cloth" was commonly used to back medal/ribbon bars for the air force. RAD and Party browns or Police green MAY be found-- but not commonly enough to overwhelm the usual random color backings. Dark green was probably the most common "generic" nacking under the Nazis.

Third Reich ONLY groups are completely hopeless. They are all NATIONAL awards that cannot be sorted out in any way the way that the dozens of federal Imperial states' awards can be, so there are NO 'combinations" that can be searched for. Remember-- NO AWARDS AFTER 1932.

The SS was an exception, but still did not list campaign awards, used a single embblem to indicate any WW1 award(s) other than Iron Crosses or the Pour le Merite, and even used a solitary emblem to repressent all WW2 combat badges.

Bottom Line:

There was never any SINGLE source showing ALL awards to ALL people. Even the secret Bavarian 1916 Rank List which shows campaign medals, jubilee medals, still carried all foreign pre-war awards, and all wartime awards... was a snapshot of awards reported as of April 1916. OTHER sources still have to be consulted for awards AFTER that.

It will NEVER be possible to assemble COMPLETE lists fo all awards because in far too many cases, Rolls no longer exist.

Some--like Mecklenburg Strelitz's that were SUPPOSED not to exist... have been miraculously found. So there is always future hope. :rolleyes:

But we are working from FRAGMENTS of data, with some coverage better than others:

Imperial navy officers are "easier" to find because there are TWO wartime Lists showing their awards. While woefully delayed in LISTING awards (over 2 years behind schedule was not uncommon), pre-war awards and more of them making it into the Reichsmarine than the decimated post-war army officer corps make a larger sample in print. The navy also listed all its reserve officers during the war, with awards.

There is no more hopless case than a wartime WW1 army Leutnant der Reserve, with no awards BEFORE the war, no listing at all during the war, and a total "invisibility" of records AFTER the war. :shame:


If there are LESS than THREE "listed" decorations which CAN be seen in Rank Lists or known Award Rolls, barring some unique rarity-- forget it.

Even with FOUR or more listed decorations, combinations can have been quite common, so unique individuals will still be impossible to pick out, barring some OTHER distinguishing award. LOng service award and jubilees are often the best way to sort these out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This Reichsarbeitsdienst (two BLANK long service ribbons) Super Hero would SEEM to be Easy As Pie! Look at alllllll that bling!!!! But-- excluding awards for which no Rolls exist (X), and the ones for which the Rolls are EITHER

partial or

full of the idiotic German No First Names Listed which makes telling Schmidts and M?llers apart excruciatingly difficult (check minus) :banger:


combining with the fact that while R.A.D. Rank Lists HAVE now been found (thanks Chris! :cheers: ) but do not list any awards...

this fellow remains lost in the Last Names Only WW1 award rolls-- doubtless listed for EACH of the check minbus awards... but not yet "re-assembled" into ONE MAN. It may take the Reuss rolls ("?" on bar) to finally find him-- if and when THOSE ever get done.

Complicating matters is when the WRONG ribbon is used. Note on one bar a W?rttemberg Long Service Ribbon and on the other an Ottoman Gold Liakat Medal with Sabers Bar. Which WAS it? :speechless:


THIS officer was almost certainly--almost-- an Oberstleutnant when he wore this... IF it is a WARTIME bar and NOT 1920+. He had a Red Eagle Order 4th Class, normal for every single pre-war Major, which would make his XXV Years Service Cross prewar also. But what if that's a 1920 XXV-- and he was a Lucky Captain with an early Red Eagle in 1914? What if he got his RAO4 between the May 1914 rank List and the beginning of the war-- so it was never even published? The Baden Z?hringen Lion Order X with Oakleaves does not distinguish whether it is for a Knight 1st Class (oakleaves for Oberstleutnants) or a Knight 2nd Class (for Captains with oakleaves). The Lippe House Order ribbon does not reveal whether it is the DETMOLD version or the SCHAUMBURG issue. (May-August 1914 comments ditto) Hamburg's Hanseatic Roll has yet to be started. Stijn's L?beck Roll is well along the way to being done.

I strongly suspect this one will give up its owner eventually from the Baden/Lippe/L?beck combination (weirdly distinctive) yet..., no luck as a PRE-WAR combination of awards--but there are so many variables complicating this one! It may take Hamburg's Roll as a 4th point to finally find... Herr Schmidt or M?ller, lost amid the no first names. :banger:


FIVE WW1 awards to a highly decorated officer. VERY nice...

BUT-- there is only ONE award here on a Roll-- the Hohenzollern House Order 3rd X in second place. So for the purposes of RESEARCH/TRACING... this is a SINGLE ribbon bar, not a QUINTET. The awards from Hesse and the two Lippes are "invisible" because no Roill exists for them any more than for the 5 million Iron Crosses 2nd Class. Just having the awards doesn't make anything traceable...

being able to match names with the awards does.

Since this officer was not in the Reichswehr... hopeless.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So... confused? Baffled? Stunned? :catjava:

Yup. "Fun" ain't it tho'.... :rolleyes:

To do this seriously, it is ESSENTIAL to have a reference library on hand, and with the widest possible range of information.

Unless you decide to concentrate on ONE specialty only, forsaking all others... you are going to NEED a wide research library to cover every eventuality that may ever arise.

Like my late guru George Seymour, I am more interested in being ABLE to identify a recipient at all than who or what he actually was. Cheaper, perhaps, to ONLY collect officers from Pioneer Battalion 18, or naval Feuerwerks officers...

but I am a greedy pig.

I'll take ANYTHING I can put a name to... or might someday be ABLE to put a name to. :rolleyes:

And that means reference books, CDs... whatever format the DATA is contained on.


I had Vizeadmiral Karl Topp's ribbon bar above for 15 years without ever knowing that it belonged to the commander of the "Tirpitz."


Because the 1926 Naval Rank List OMITTED his Oldenburg Friedrich August Cross entry. :banger: It was in my 1931 all along... but I never checked BOTH... abandoning the search with the 1926 edition.


You have GOT to have as many reference sources as possible to compare and verify data. :catjava:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But Fear Not! ALL is NOT Gloom & Doom as the above may seem to indicate.

As I find them, I will add links in here for SUCCESSFUL research examples of anonymous undocumented groups.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Create New...