The Military Merit Cross 1914-1918

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Third Class Cross with War DecorationThe Military Merit Cross was founded on the 22nd of October 1849 by Kaiser Franz Joseph I on the suggestion of Feldmarschall Radetzky von Radetz as a distinction for especially meritorious service by commissioned officers in the face of the enemy. Exceptionally all officers who had participated in the campaigns of the years 1848/1849 were awarded the decoration. The decoration was enhanced in 1860 through the introduction of the War Decoration (Laurel Wreath) for especial actions in the face of the enemy. With the outbreak of the First World War, the decoration was reorganized into three grades on the 23rd of September 1914 with the original MVK becoming the new Third Class. The Second Class was worn at the throat on the white and red ribbon of the Bravery Medal and the First Class was worn without a ribbon on the left breast. Finally the further distinction of the MVK with Golden Crossed Swords was introduced on the 13th of December 1916. The medal itself was manufactured in white enamel with a red enameled border. The obverse bore the motto "Ver dienst" spread over two lines. A fine example of the Second Class Cross in wear can be seen in the illustration of Generaloberst Rudolf Stöger-Steiner von Steinstätten on this site. Like so many of the other Austro-Hungarian decorations of this period, the MVK developed into many differing grades with variations on the type and class of War Decoration. Similarly on the 23rd of April 1918 "Kleine Dekorationen" or service wear versions of the First and Second Class awards were introduced. These took the form of a Third Class award with a miniature of the actual Cross worn on the ribbon. The Kleine Dekoration miniature of the Second Class had a miniature representation of the throat ribbon above the award. Of particular note is the case of a second award of a Second Class MVK introduced on the 8th of February 1918: In this case a further circular Laurel Wreath was attached to the loop of the neck ribbon from which the order was suspended. A link to award statistics may be found at the bottom of this page.

 

1st Class Cross with War Decoration of the Third Class 2nd Class Cross with War Decoration of the Third Class

The following table lists the 34 variations in general use by the wars end:

1st Class Order 1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration and Golden Swords
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" 2nd Class Order
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Third Class 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration"
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Third Class 2nd Class Order with War Decoration
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Second Class 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Second Class 2nd Class Order with War Decoration of the Third Class
1st Class Order with War Decoration 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Third Class
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration 2nd Class Order with War Decoration and Golden Swords
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Second Class with Silver Swords 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration and Golden Swords
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Second Class with Silver Swords 2nd Class Order with War Decoration and Silver Swords
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Second Class with Golden Swords 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration and Silver Swords
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Second Class with Golden Swords 2nd Class Order with War Decoration and Golden Swords with a Green Wreath for repeat awards
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Third Class with Golden Swords 2nd Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration and Golden  Swords with a Green Wreath for repeat awards
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Third Class with Golden Swords 3rd Class Order
1st Class Order with War Decoration of the Second or Third Class with Silver Swords 3rd Class Order with War Decoration
1st Class Order "Kleine Dekoration" with War Decoration of the Second or Third Class with Silver Swords 3rd Class Order with War Decoration and Swords
1st Class Order with War Decoration and Golden Swords 3rd Class Order with War Decoration and Swords later variant

Not to mention yet even further variants with Diamonds and Rubies. These were personally bestowed by the Emperor on deserving recipients at the Kaiser's own expense. These were not in fact an higher grade of the order but a token of esteem from the Emperor to honour those already possessing the Award. The original intention was to honour individuals close to Kaiser at the time of Jubilees and like occasions and the practice continued thereafter. I am indebted to Jörg C. Steiner for providing the following information regarding the recipients of these rare honours. The award years show the the year of the original award followed by the special award of the "Brilliants":

1st Class. All with War Decoration, Archduke Eugen with War Decoration and Swords and Generaloberst Bolfras with War Decoration and Swords of the Third Class:

Name Manufacturer Cost in Crowns Award Years
FM. Erzherzog Friedrich Köchert 6200 ----/May 1915
Generaloberst August von Mackensen (Prussian Army) Köchert 6200 May 15/Nov 15
Sultan Mohammed V Marschall 4300 ----/Apr 1917
Generalfeldmarschall Prinz Leopold von Bayern  Köchert 9500 Jun 15/Jul 17
Generaloberst Eduard Graf Paar Köchert 9500 Nov 16/Sep 17
Generaloberst Erzherzog Eugen Köchert 11560 Jul 15/Nov 17
Generaloberst Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras Köchert   Nov 16/Sep 18

Third Class with War Decoration:

Name Manufacturer Cost in Crowns Award Years
General der Kavallerie Erzherzog Joseph Köchert 1700 1866/1898
General der Kavallerie Johann Freiherr von Appel Köchert 1700 1849/1898
General der Kavallerie Ludwig Prinz zu Windisch-Graetz Köchert 1700 1849/1898
General der Infanterie Friedrich Graf Beck Köchert 1700 1859/1898
General der Infanterie Wilhelm Freiherr von Reinländer Köchert 1700 1859/1898
General der Infanterie Johann Freiherr von Waldstätten Köchert 1700 1859/1898
General der Infanterie Zeno Graf Welsersheimb Köchert 1700 1866/1898
Feldzeugmeister Rudolf Prinz von Lobkowitz Köchert 1600 1866/1905
General der Infanterie Eugen Freiherr von Albori Köchert 1600 1859/1907
General der Infanterie Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras Rothe 1760 1866/1908
General der Infanterie Remus von Woyrsch (Prussian Army) Köchert 1545 ----/1914
Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Beneckendorf und von Hindenburg Köchert 1600 1914/1915
Generaloberst Samuel Freiherr von Hazai Köchert 1400 1915/1916

Third Class:

Name Manufacturer Cost in Crowns Award Years
Erzherzog Rainer Köchert 1700 ----/1898
Erzherzog Friedrich Köchert 1700 1892/1898
Feldzeugmeister Philip Graf Grünne Köchert 1700 ----/1898
General der Infanterie Geza Freiherr Fejérváry de Komlós-Keresztes Köchert 1700 ----/1898
General der Infanterie Anton Galgótzy Rothe 1500 ----/1898
Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand Rothe 1500 1898/1908
Erzherzog Eugen Rothe 1500 1898/1908
Admiral Rudolf Graf Montecuccoli Köchert 1500 ----/1909
General der Kavallerie Alexander Graf Üxküll-Gyllenband Rothe 1700 1905/1914

 

Listed below are the recipients of the First Class Order throughout the period of the First World War and as all the decorations were bestowed during wartime they were awarded with the War Decoration consisting of a circular laurel wreath. Many of the awardees if they did not at the outset receive the Swords with the decoration were subsequently awarded them but this is not recorded in the following chart. The particular fine example in the photograph to the left shows the Militärverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse with the War Decoration and Crossed Swords. It should be borne in mind that although many variations of Awards were indeed authorized including some 34 separate such variations for the Military Merit Cross not all of these were actually issued. Many were manufacturers' proof items only produced for the Kaiser's approval but in reality never awarded. For example a First Class without the War Decoration was produced but none were issued as all awards of the First Class were made in wartime and therefore came with a War Decoration. The "Kleine Dekoration" of an Order was a private purchase item and was not generally issued with the full size Award. 

 

 

 

 

 

Name Award Date Grade/Remarks
1914
Feldzeugmeister Oskar Potiorek 13 Nov 1914 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Franz Freiherr Conrad von Hötzendorf 08 Dec 1914 War Decoration
Generaloberst Remus von Woyrsch 08 Dec 1914 War Decoration/German General
1915
Feldzeugmeister Alexander Ritter von Krobatin 01 Jan 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Friedrich Freiherr von Georgi 03 Feb 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Samuel Freiherr von Hazai 03 Feb 1915 War Decoration
Generaloberst Hans von Plessen 07 Mar 1915 War Decoration/German General
General der Infanterie Moritz Freiherr von Lyncker 07 Mar 1915 War Decoration/German General
Admiral Georg von Müller 07 Mar 1915 War Decoration/German Admiral
General Enver Pasha 26 Mar 1915 War Decoration/Turkish General
Admiral Guido von Usedom 26 Mar 1915 War Decoration/German Admiral
Generalfeldmarschall Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz 04 Apr 1915 War Decoration/German Field Marshal
General der Infanterie Erich von Falkenhayn 23 Apr 1915 War Decoration/German General
Generaloberst Albrecht Herzog von Württemberg 28 Apr 1915 War Decoration/German General
Admiral Anton Haus 03 May 1915 War Decoration
Generaloberst August von Macksensen 06 May 1915 War Decoration/Diamonds 28 Nov 1915
Feldmarschall Erzherzog Friedrich 09 May 1915 War Decoration & Diamonds 
General der Infanterie Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand 09 May 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Svetozar Boroevic von Bojna 09 May 1915 War Decoration
Ludwig III. König von Bayern 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
Friedrich August III. König von Sachsen 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
Wilhelm II. König von Württemberg 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Wilhelm Kronprinz des Deutschen Reiches 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
General der Kavallerie Friedrich Franz IV. Großherzog von Mecklenburg-Schwerin 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
Großadmiral Heinrich Prinz von Preußen 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
Generaloberst Rupprecht Kronprinz von Bayern 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
Generalfeldmarschall Leopold Prinz von Bayern 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration/Diamonds 28 Jul 1917
Generaloberst (m.d. Range als GFM.) Bernhard Herzog von Sachsen-Meiningen 06 Jun 1915 War Decoration
General der Kavallerie Eduard Böhm-Ermolli 23 Jun 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Otto von Below 30 Jun 1915 War Decoration/German General
General der Infanterie Alexander von Linsingen 08 Jul 1915 War Decoration/German General
Generaloberst Erzherzog Eugen 29 Jul 1915 War Decoration/Diamonds 05 Nov 1917
General der Infanterie Hans von Beseler 22 Aug 1915 War Decoration/German General
General der Infanterie Ernst Ludwig Großherzog von Hessen 02 Sep 1915 War Decoration
General der Kavallerie Friedrich August Großherzog von Oldenburg 02 Sep 1915 War Decoration
Generaloberst Friedrich Leopold Prinz von Preußen 02 Sep 1915 War Decoration
Generaloberst Friedrich II. Großherzog von Baden 02 Sep 1915 War Decoration
General der Kavallerie Viktor Dankl 04 Sep 1915 War Decoration
Großadmiral Alfred von Tirpitz 03 Oct 1915 War Decoration/German Admiral
Ferdinand I. King of Bulgaria 01 Nov 1915 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Felix Graf von Bothmer 22 Nov 1915 War Decoration/German General
General der Artillerie Max von Gallwitz 28 Nov 1915 War Decoration/German General
General der Infanterie Hermann Kövess von Kövessháza 28 Nov 1915 War Decoration
1916
General der Kavallerie Otto Liman von Sanders 19 Jan 1916 War Decoration/German General
Generalmajor Nikolaus Jekow 14 Feb 1916 War Decoration/Bulgarian General
General der Kavallerie Karl Freiherr von Pflanzer-Baltin 14 Feb 1916 War Decoration
Generaloberst Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádas  17 Oct 1916 War Decoration
General der Kavallerie Erzherzog Joseph 17 Oct 1916 War Decoration
Generaloberst Eduard Graf Paar 24 Nov 1916 War Decoration/Diamonds 01 Sep 1917
Generaloberst Arthur Freiherr von Bolfras 24 Nov 1916 War Decoration/Diamonds 01 Sep 1918
Wilhelm II. Deutscher Kaiser und König von Preußen 05 Dec 1916 War Decoration
Generaloberst Erzherzog Leopold Salvator 05 Dec 1916 War Decoration
1917
Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff 20 Jan 1917 War Decoration/German Admiral
Admiral Eduard von Capelle 20 Jan 1917 War Decoration/German Admiral
Generalfeldmarschall Paul von Beneckendorf und von Hindenburg 22 Jan 1917 War Decoration/Diamonds 05 Nov 1917
Generaloberst Franz Rohr 17 Mar 1917 War Decoration and Swords
Generaloberst Karl Freiherr von Kirchbach auf Lauterbach 17 Mar 1917 War Decoration and Swords
Mohammed V. Sultan der Osmanen Apr 1917 War Decoration/Diamonds
General Wahideddin Effendi 16 Apr 1917 War Decoration/Turkish General
General Tevfik Pascha 16 Apr 1917 War Decoration/Turkish General
Eitel Friedrich Prinz von Preußen 25 Jul 1917 War Decoration
Generaloberst Karl Kritek 28 Jul 1917 War Decoration and Swords
General der Infanterie Arthur Arz von Straussenburg 28 Jul 1917 War Decoration and Swords
General der Infanterie Erich Ludendorff 28 Jul 1917 War Decoration and Swords
Generaloberst Wenzel von Wurm 05 Nov 1917 War Decoration and Swords
General der Infanterie Friedrich von Gerok 22 Dec 1917 War Decoration
1918
General der Infanterie Wilhelm Ernst Großherzog von Sachsen 17 Feb 1918 War Decoration
Generaloberst Stephan Freiherr  Sarkotic von Lovcen 10 Mar 1918 War Decoration and Swords
General der Kavallerie Friedrich von Bernhardi 20 Mar 1918 War Decoration
Generaloberst Ludwig Freiherr von Falkenhausen 12 May 1918 War Decoration
Generaloberst Adolf Freiherr Rhemen zu Barensfeld 23 May 1918 War Decoration
Djemal Pascha 15 Jun 1918 War Decoration
Wehib Pascha 15 Jun 1918 War Decoration
Generalfeldmarschall Hermann von Eichhorn 28 Jun 1918 War Decoration
General der Infanterie Alfred Krauss 27 Sep 1918 War Decoration and Swords
General der Infanterie Franz Freiherr von Soden 02 Nov 1918 War Decoration

Plus the two Kaisers;

Kaiser Franz Joseph I. 02 Dec 1915 War Decoration 
Kaiser Karl I. 24 Jun 1917 War Decoration

Award Statistics

1849-1899

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