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THREE RIBBON BAR Recipient “Miraculously” Identified

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You would think that with a mere three ribbon bar it would ALWAYS be impossible to identify the recipient.

But that always depends on the COMBINATION of awards….

Here we see the ubiquitous 1914 EK2 for combatants, a Württemberg Friedrich Order with Swords that could be either a Knight 1st Class (WF3aX) or Knight 2nd Class (WF3bX) and an Ernestine House Order with no swords, so a peacetime Knight 1st (EH3a) or Knight 2nd (EH3b) or either of those without swords as a war effort type with year dates added to the arms of the Order.

The wearer could have been an officer in the Prussian army, Imperial navy, or Württemberg army, ranging from a Second Lieutenant up to a Major, that senior if not wearing pre-war decorations as a typical “fashion statement”. ALL these variables have to be accounted for, in every possible combination OF the combination.


Luckily Württemberg’s Personal Nachrichten and the years long labours of Uwe Bretzendorfer and Daniel Krause account for the Württemberg Order’s Rolls, and I’ve been working with the three Thuringian Ernestine Duchies. Searching for any possible combinations (WF3aX/EH3a, WF3aX/EH3b, WF3bX/EH3b) eliminated all suspects from the Prussian army and Imperial navy. This is a Württemberg army officer’s bar.

There was only one possible original wearer, with the only combination as worn here being a WF3aX and peacetime EH3b—

Robert Holtzmann was born 4 May 1883 in Dürrheim, Baden. He joined Württemberg’s army as a Fahnenjunker 27.04.03, being commissioned in K.W. Gren Rgt 119 as a Leutnant with seniority of 18.08.04 R6r. He transferred to K.W. Inf Rgt 126 probably on promotion to Oberleutnant 18.08.13 V7v. Promoted Hauptmann 25.02.15 H6h, and discharged after the war as a charakterisiert Major aD. (I suspect from the as yet incompletely recovered secret Luftwaffe manuscript Seniority List of summer 1944 that he was an retread Oberst then.) Died 26 June 1964 per the Landesarchiv.

Here he is, from Neal O’Connor’s Württemberg volume, page 158, albeit without visible awards on his old fashioned double breasted jacket—


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While that EH3b was indeed the statute “peacetime” type… it was awarded DURING THE WAR. No, not a war effort version with Year Dates on the arms… a normal, ordinary, unembellished statute peacetime type. My friend the late Neal O’Connor listed this specific recipient’s EH3b as a “mit Jahreszahlen” type in his Thuringian “Aviation” volume but it was not. The separate Coburg Year Dates roll confirms that, as does the Coburg Accounting Roll—which shows expense for each variety of Order—Holtzmann’s being confirmed as the statute type by its price:

The triple state Master Roll also verifies the “pre-war” Order. It is worth noting that an EH3b’s cost to the Treasury was roughly a week’s pay for a Lieutenant!

Bizarrely, there were 14 EH3bs of the normal peacetime type awarded to officers during the war—2 from Altenburg, 1 a joint bestowal by Altenburg and Meiningen, 9 from Coburg, and 2 from Meiningen. There was no obvious pattern as to why any specific individual received a statute Order rather than with Swords (many rear area types did) or the war effort Year Dates variety. This EH3b was one of the nine from Coburg:

Holtzmann’s EH3b was gazetted in the Württemberg Personal Nachrichten 24 June 1915, listed as Hptm IR 126 and Adj Insp Fliegerwesen. He had been promoted in the interim.

Holtzmann’s WF3aX was awarded 20.09.15, as Hptm und Adj Insp Fliegertruppen.

He also received an ÖM3K, gazetted 10.03.16 as Hptm u Adj Insp Fliegertruppen.

How—and more to the point, WHY—Holtzmann moved from being an infantry platoon officer in Württemberg to a “Prussian” Berlin headquarters staff type in aviation is an interesting mystery. He was not himself a flyer (though Neal has him commanding two aviation units later in the war) by anything period sources reveal, nor did he receive any other decoration detected by the research community’s ever-growing accumulating Rolls. Likely he received an EK1 as a matter of course for officers of his rank.

It seems odd when bars with 8 or 9 awards often thwart our efforts at identifying some original recipients that a mere trio CAN be discovered, but it all comes down to the COMPLETENESS of the Rolls for the awards we have transcribed and being able to verify that officers commonly listed without first names were indeed one and the same.

In this case our combined sources COULD accomplish such a “miracle.” No magic—black or otherwise—was required, simply years of tedious typing and sorting out the resulting shared data. Then there are always such factors as when awards were made—so that one suspect with the “same” trio BUT additional awards could be eliminated because he had one of the others first—this is not a trio that recipient could have been able to wear for that reason. This style of ribbon bar replaced the large trapezoid Shoot-Me-First variety which came to be known as the “Old Style” only at the end of 1915, so this bar would date from no earlier than then. Holtzmann would certainly have added the fourth ribbon for his March 1916 ÖM3K (delay after actual bestowal being …?) so he would thus likely have worn this ribbon bar for only a few months into 1916 before putting it away…

to be here 94 years later, giving up its secrets.


Original award rolls of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order

Württemberg Personal Nachrichten, wartime issues

Prussia/Württemberg annual Army Rank Lists

Württemberg Military Handbuch 1913

German Army Honor Rank List 1914-1918

Luftwaffe summer 1944 typed copy manuscript Seniority List (for Ergänzungs officers, where he (?) is listed, only the index pages have been recovered)

Neal O’Connor, “Aviation Awards of Imperial Germany in World War I and the Men Who Earned Them,” Vol. IV—Württemberg, 1995.

My thanks to Paul for posting this since I am not online. Rick Research

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  • 3 years later...

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the nice pic - this photo was also on the website, but I didn't get to save it in time. But I can now!

Not sure if they were related, but there is also an Erwin Holtzmann (b. 07/12/1887) in the Fliegertruppe.

A few photo's etc. of Erwin are available for viewing at https://www2.landesarchiv-bw.de/ofs21/olf/struktur.php?bestand=6597&baumSuche=Ho&standort=H%C3%B6l



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