Officer Aspirant Insignia in the k.u.k. Army/k.k./k.u. Landwehr 1867-1918

The subject of the titles and insignia of officer aspirants both regular and reserve prior to and during the course of WW1 is somewhat confusing and contradictory. This article will attempt to detail the situation in place from around the end of the Austro-Prussian War until the end of WW1.

With the introduction of reserve officers after the shortcomings of the 1866 campaign and the institution of the One Year Volunteer[1] system, came about a dual system for the eventual appointment of officer candidates to either an active or reserve commission.

Generally speaking during this period, those individuals aspiring to an active commission would either attend a military academy from which they would be directly commissioned on graduation or from a cadet school from which they would be appointed to non commissioned rank prefixed by the title Cadet[2]. Although in the main, the cadet schools provided the primary source of cadets, cadets could be appointed direct from civil life after the passing of an examination.[3] On graduation from the cadet school, the Zögling or student would be assigned to his regiment with cadet rank depending on the outcome of his final examinations. The ranks ranged from Titular[4] Gefreiter up to and including Cadet-Officers-Stellvertreter to which the most successful were appointed. From 1891[5] onwards the cadet school graduate was normally appointed directly to the rank of Cadet-Officers-Stellvertreter which was renamed as Fähnrich in 1909. Study of various editions of the published Army and Landwehr lists would suggest that at least some individuals for a regular officer’s career were still appointed to the rank of Cadet-Feldwebel within the k.u.k. Army. The rank of Kadett-Feldwebel was also renamed in 1909 to plain Kadett. Therefore with very few exceptions indeed, the rank of Kadett became one associated with reserve officer aspirants as shown by the table below.


k.u.k. Army

k.k. Landwehr
















Insignia of Regular Officer Cadets

This article will not consider the special insignia of the Zöglinge or students at the military academies or cadet schools but that worn by officer aspirants serving with units. Although the dress of the regular cadet up to and including the Cadet-Feldwebel/Cadet was the normal pattern as worn by the other NCOs and soldiers they were distinguished by 13mm wide gold coloured silk Borte or braid around the collar and the relevant number of white stars corresponding to their individual held rank. The Cadet-Feldwebel/Cadet was further distinguished by a row of yellow silk Borte placed under the golden but with about 6mm of the former showing directly above the latter. On appointment to the rank of Cadet-Officiers-Stellvertreter/Fähnrich a single silver plated star was taken into use in conjunction with the gold silk Borte. Additionally the Cadet-Officiers-Stellvertreter/Fähnrich was permitted the wear of a quasi officer’s uniform including the stiff black service dress cap or Kappe albeit with yellow and black as opposed to the gold and black fittings of the commissioned officer.

Cadet (ohne Charge)

Only 13mm wide gold braid and no stars of rank. A Cadet without any corresponding NCO rank. See note 4 below. In all probability very rarely seen after 1891. 



One white star on 13mm wide gold braid. In all probability very rarely seen after 1891.



Two white stars on 13mm wide gold braid. In all probability very rarely seen after 1891.



Three white stars on 13mm wide gold braid. In all probability very rarely seen after 1891.



Three white stars on 13mm wide gold braid as per the Feldwebel but with the addition of a second yellow braid placed under the golden.



One silver plated star on 13mm wide gold braid.

Insignia of Reserve Officer Cadets

With regards to the collar badges of rank of the reserve aspirant officers of the former Austro-Hungarian armed forces the situation is at its most confusing in regard to the Kadettaspirant (E.F.-Feldwebel) and Kadett, both of whom held the rank of Feldwebel or equivalent. After a careful study of period photographs, regulations and illustrations I believe the correct situation is set out below.

The reserve officer aspirant began his career as an Einjährig Freiwillige or One Year Volunteer. In peacetime these generally well educated individuals of a respectable background normally served just one instead of the normal two years with the colours in a regiment of their choice and equipped themselves at their own expense. Normally reporting for duty on the 1st of October they would rise initially to Titular Gefreiter at the end of December and after completion of a course at a reserve officers’ school be promoted to Titular Korporal. Having passed the necessary examinations and having demonstrated practical ability they would be promoted to Feldwebel (Reservekadettaspirant) on the following 1st of October.[6]  Usually promoted then to Reservekadett on the following 1st of January they would attain the rank of Reservefähnrich after completion of an arms specific course and finally about three years later be commissioned as a Leutnant in der Reserve. Although wartime conditions greatly accelerated the progression to commissioning and of course the period of service was for the duration, it should be understood that even in wartime, candidates for a reserve commission were still enlisted as One Year Volunteers.

Prior to March 1915[7] all One Year Volunteers up to and including the Kadettaspirant wore around each lower arm at cuff level a 1cm wide yellow silk stripe with a narrower black (red for the k.u. Landwehr) stripe in the centre. From March 1915 onwards a small button corresponding to the type worn on the tunic was introduced to replace the cuff stripes which were worn towards the rear edge of each of the collar patches in a central position. Photographic evidence confirms that both patterns of insignia were worn concurrently together at least until 1916 by some individuals.  

Reservekadettaspirant (E.F. Feldwebel)

Shown here is a post March 1915 example with the EF button

Three white stars on 13mm wide yellow braid as per the Feldwebel. Until March 1915 with the cuff stripes and post March 1915 with the addition of the E.F. button.

The Kadett wore insignia that was specific and unique to his rank. He wore gold instead of yellow braid but additionally had also another piece of yellow braid placed under the golden which showed about 6mm above the latter. He did not wear the One Year Volunteer’s button.

Reservekadett/Kadett in der Reserve

Three white stars on 13mm wide gold braid as per the Feldwebel but with the addition of a second yellow braid placed under the golden. White stars replaced by silk stars in June 1914.[8] No One Year Volunteer button or sleeve stripe.

The Cadet-Officier-Stellvertreter/Fähnrich in der Reserve wore exactly the same badges of rank as his active counterpart.

[1] Einjährig Freiwillige.


[2] Later Germanified to Kadett-Offizierstellvertreter and Kadett and found in both forms in various publications.


[3] Geschichte der k. und k. Wehrmacht Band 1 by Alphons von Wrede, Wien 1898.


[4] Titular: Acting or brevet rank. Individuals appointed to cadet rank directly from civil life were initially cadets without rank (ohne Charge) and wore the golden Borte but no stars.


[5] Die Habsburgermonarchie 1848-1918, Band V: Die Bewaffnete Macht by Adam Wandruszka and Peter Urbanitsch, Wien 1987


[6] Heerwesen 2. Teil Österreich-Ungarn by Hugo Schmid, Vienna 1917.


[7] Die Rang- und Distinktionsabzeichen in der k.u.k. Armee by Jörg C. Steiner, Edition S&H, Vienna 1992.


[8] The Emperor’s Coat in the First World War by Rest, Ortner and Ilming, Verlag Militaria, Vienna 2002.


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