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Iron Cross Equivalents - Award Authority

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Next in my never ending series of questions:

My understanding is that during WWI, the authority to award the Iron Cross was delegated to commanders. I do not know but I assume that meant division commanders. Can someone confirm? Did this apply to both 1st & 2nd class?

For other ?nominal? equivalents (list purloined from Dave Danner), is the awarding authority known?

Kingdom - Prussia's Iron Cross

Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin - Military Merit Cross, 1st and 2nd Class

Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz - Cross for Distinction in War, "Brave and Loyal"

Grand Duchy of Oldenburg - Friedrich August Cross, 1st and 2nd Class

Duchy of Brunswick - War Merit Cross, 1st and 2nd Class

Principality of Lippe-Detmold - War Cross for Heroic Deeds & War Merit Cross.

The Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe - Cross for Loyal Service.

Anhalt's Friedrich Cross,

Hesse's General Honor Decoration "For Bravery"

What I am ultimately driving at is a ?pecking order? for awards (working on junior officers because it is less complex). My premise going in is that the EKII was almost always the first award due to the delegation of authority and therefore rapidly accomplished. Orders, I assume required processing through the chancellory and hence ?slow in coming? unless the sovereign was doing ?on the spots? in person. Issue then becomes ? where does the EKI fit? What about equivalents for natives of other imperial states either in Prussian units or their native contingents?

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This is hard to say. I have never seen documentary paperwork on the "process" except for Bavaria.

Unlike WW2, where Iron Crosses were ALWAYS issued at no lower than Divisional level, in WW1 EK2 documents can be found down to independent platoons, and often "signed off on" by officers as low as Lieutenants. Most seem to have been issued at battalion level, with regimental awards uncommon but not unusually so, and divisional level awards-- for enlisted men at least-- a fairly big deal, indicating personal presentation by the commanding general himself at a grand parade.

In Bavaria, for officers, Iron Crosses seem mostly to have been signed off at Corps level. I have seen lower levels, so again, it is hard to say what level actually AUTHORIZED something before it made its way back down to an award document issuing level.

Certainly, actual citations were "sent up" for approval, and what came back in approved cases led to a document being issued.

Here is one of those rarely seen "process" bits of paperwork-- this is a cover letter from the Bavarian IIIrd Army Corps Home Establishment per War Ministry authorization paraphrasing an exact EK2 citation for Hauptmann Alois Louis and asking the IIIrd Army Corps Commander in the field to kindly track him down and send him the EK and a document, since months have passed with this sitting on somebody's desk.

Louis had been badly wounded in 1914 by machine gun bullets through both legs, and had been given permission for private home medical care, making him "disappear" from the military bureaucracy. (Apparently he was on unpaid leave for that duration as well.) He would lose one leg below the knee almost a year later, before returning to Etappen duty.

The actual award document is simply issued by IIIrd Bavarian Army Corps, with a surprising gap between authorization date and award document date, but nothing on that to indicate how the chain of command had been travelled up and down and all around and to and from France and Germany!

Bavarian awards to Bavarians were always issued from Munich, at that level. Smaller states like Brunswick, Hesse-Darmstadt, Hamburg, L?beck, Bremen, Schaumburg-Lippe, and Mecklenburg-Schwerin all issued printed award documents from their own capitols, signed off on by Orders Chancery or city councillor, or Duke-- regardless of any unit involved. So those were "home" awards not linked to a MILITARY chain of command, but to the local political system.

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Some visual aids.

All three of the Hanseatic Crosses were always issued "back home" on standard pre-printed forms bearing the printed "signature" of the local political worthy designated as in charge of the processing of such awards. These were turned in to the respective CITY authorities for approval, and not any military chain of command. Regimental histories record various field presentations from city officials, but there is nothing to indicate whether the document was simply mailed back to the successful recipient, or handed over personally by the Oberb?rgermeister, since they are always identical paperwork.




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Mecklenburg-Schwerin processed all awards "back home" at the Orders Chancery (by an amazing coincidence, I have the Secretary of their Orders Chancery's ribbon bar! :ninja: ) and on standard pre-printed forms. These, too, were politically approved awards rather than anything in a military chain of command.

"MK2" awards were issued on this standard preprinted form with, as with the Hanseatic Crosses, only the recipient's data and date filled in.

But an "MK1," at least before 1918, while on a similar form, was hand signed by the Grand Duke personally-- these were HIS awards, and HE decided who was worthy of them.

These may LOOK identical, as scanned, but the lower document is indeed an autograph and not printed. MK2 documents will always have the "signature" in the identical spot, printed that way, but "MK1" documents were hand signed and so will be found with the differences that actually signing something produces in signatures and positioning.

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In Brunswick, Orders Chancellor "Wolff" (ennobled and made "von Wolff" for his efforts some time 1916-18) personally hand signed every single document for the "BrK," Ernst August Cross--

here, a combatant on the early war long form,

and a noncombatant ("on the yellow-blue ribbon") on the 1918 small form:

Awards of the Ernst August Cross when it only came in one class apparently OFTEN went unaccompanied by any award document, since many 1918 documents will be found for earlier awards, as if the recipients were simply handed a Cross with nothing else in 1915 or whenever. And yet there WERE documents being handed out, as the large one from 1916 attests.

(Some states, such as Oldenburg, never issued any award documents at all for their 1914-18 awards, using ordinary typed letters of notification! The Principlaity of Hohenzollern never had any documents at all, either.)

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Back to Bavaria: all wartime awards came on standard printed "autograph" forms, which for enlisted men were reduced in size due to shortages of paper in 1917. Quite bizarrely, these either named the recipient's PRE-WAR unit assignment,

or in the case of units which had not existed before August 1914, with titles such as that on the MMC3X for this Palestine Flakzug 136 mechanic:

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And one from Schaumburg-Lippe, again hand autographed.

(This state was soooo small that Freiherr "v Feilitzsch" actually had to be in charge of just about everything.)

The smaller states could apparently afford the luxury of true personal centralized political attention in awards processing, just like before the war, while the REAL "exception" to general rules seems to have been the Iron Cross, among the few--if not only-- German WW1 awards so freely bestowed that authority was delegated downward below "national" level to military commands.

Now, Turkish War Medal stars WERE delegated to just about any officer, leading to a torrent of "conveniently" dated actual day of the 1918 Turkish Armistice bestowals from platoon Lts der Reserve, etc-- but that's ANOTHER thread.

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Rick, my friend - you are simply too much!

I'm beginning to feel challenged to find a question to which you do NOT know the answer!

What I'm getting here is that the EKII is - in most cases - the first award received but after that - native awards, orders or the EKI are pretty much a toss up.

Great documents! Thanks for sharing them and your knowledge!


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It's funny-- based on random assortments of documents over the years, I'd say that in most cases where a state bestowed its own award, the native one was given first, and then the EK2 was second. Not always though. I once had a group to a Bavarian infantry private with 2 years front service who only got an EK2! How did anyone decide between that and an MMC3X, and who did? Not a clue!

Lauenburg J?gers Gefreiter/later Oberj?ger Jaugitz above got his Hamburg before his EK2. Bavarian flak mechanic G?schel got his TWM first (a special award for downing a British sea plane and capturing the crew), then his EK2, and finally his home state MMC3X-- but that may have been an accident of being in an independent platoon of under 24 men all the way off in Palestine.

But in the cases of "double dip states" officers (Bavaria, Saxony, etc) it seems that the EK2 was indeed their first award, follwoed by the appropriate home state Order for their rank. I've seen Bavarian enlisted men's groups with no EK2, but never a Bavarian officer with an MVO with Xs and no EK2. Saxony could bestow their top awards without regard for any other decorations being held.

The losers in the award game were Pure Prussians who only had the two EKs available to them, such a gulf existing between the enlisted ranks' GMVK and the officers' HHOX.

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  • 2 years later...

This is hard to say. I have never seen documentary paperwork on the "process" except for Bavaria.

Unlike WW2, where Iron Crosses were ALWAYS issued at no lower than Divisional level, in WW1 EK2 documents can be found down to independent platoons, and often "signed off on" by officers as low as Lieutenants. Most seem to have been issued at battalion level, with regimental awards uncommon but not unusually so, and divisional level awards-- for enlisted men at least-- a fairly big deal, indicating personal presentation by the commanding general himself at a grand parade.


in WW1 the EK awards were APPROVED at Divisional level for divisional troops or Korps or AOK level for non divisional troops (unless they were attached to a division in whivch case the div commander could approve it)

The documents temselves could then be issued at much lower levels at a later date.

In WW2 at some stage in the war these lower level preliminary docs became forbidden and all docs were issued at the level the award was approved.

This leads to the Irrtum that the WW1 EKs were awarded at Regt or even Batln level. It was not so.



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Rick never ceases to amaze me. He should have an Honorary Doctorate in Obscure and Arcane Facts.


Come now, we all know that Dr. R. R., D.O.A.A., has a well-earned Doctorate in Obscure and Arcane Arts (year <censored>) from Miskatonic University. This explains all. He was, however, a 7th-, or 12th-, or was it 666th-generation alumni "legacy" admission, though he was excused "athletic" and "chapel" participation, based on prior multi-generational familial, well, er, um, "services".

Edited by Ed_Haynes
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