Author: Gordon McGregor
Namibia Scientific Society
ISBN 9991640614 / ISBN 99916-40-61-4
Softcover, 14 x 21 cm, 128 pages, numerous bw- and colour photos
This book hopes to fill the much neglected area of both the German and Namibian medallic history and research namely the so called colonial Iron Crosses and Wound Badges that were awarded in the German colony of South West Africa during the 1914 - 1915 war.
The book will give the reader the background and events that led to the awarding of the 'Hildegard Orden', the only official variant of the 1914 Iron Cross, in German South West Africa.
Also included is the history of both the Iron Cross and Wound Badge that were awarded for the 1914- 915 campaign in the German colony as well as name lists of those that were awarded these decorations.
A name list of the few persons that were awarded the 'Hildegard Orden' is included for the very first time.
Of particular interest is the section dealing on how the former German colonial soldiers, still residing in the country after the war, got their awards remembering that the country was now administered by the Union of South Africa and no longer by Germany.
The book contains copies of various interesting documents relating to the 'Hildegard Orden', the Iron Cross and the Wound Badge that have been uncovered by the author during his research work for this publication.
This is a book that is a must on the book shelves of every historian and colonial collector dealing with the former colony of German South West Africa./p>
There are many and varied stories, as well as perceptions, about when and how soldiers were awarded the Iron Cross in the colony of German South West Africa1. This book concentrates on the Iron Cross2 itself as well as telling the story of the unique 'Order of Hildegard'3, and further detailing how the former soldiers of the Imperial Colonial Troops for German South West Africa4 received their awards after the military campaign of 1914 - 15 in the colony, remembering that after the war the country was now no longer a German possession.
This book does not aim to provide an historical background to, or aim to detail the military campaign in the colony, as these topics have been covered in great detail in other books, but rather concentrate on the decorations themselves. The Iron Cross was founded on 10 March 18135 by the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III, as a Prussian decoration6 and was awarded for bravery during the war of liberation against the occupation of Prussia by France under Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was not awarded again until it was re-instated on 19 July 1870 by Wilhelm I, King of Prussia for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. At the successful conclusion of this war, the German Empire was formed with Wilhelm I as the Emperor - the Emperor however also remained the King of Prussia.
When Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, the then Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, but now in his capacity as King of Prussia, re-instated again, for the second time, that old and well known Prussian bravery decoration - the Iron Cross - by a Royal Decree, dated 5 August 19147. The decree reads as follows:
Statute on the revival of the Iron Cross 1914
We, Wilhelm, by the grace of God, King of Prussia, etc. In view of the serious Situation in which the beloved Fatherland finds itself due to a war forced upon it, and in thankful remembrance of the deeds of valour of our fore fathers in the great years of the war of liberation and the battle for the unification of Germany, We wish to revive the order of the Iron Cross that was founded by our great grandfather who now rests in God. The Iron Cross can be awarded without distinction in rank or Standing to members of the army, the navy and the reserves, the members of the Voluntary Nursing Service and to individuals who are serving with the army or navy, or who are employed as army or naval officials, as a reward for merit on the battlefield. In addition, those persons who within the country have rendered Service to the well being of the German Military Forces as well as its allies, may receive the Cross.
Accordingly, We now decree the following:
1. The Iron Cross decoration that has been brought to life again for this war, will, as earlier, consist of two classes and a Grand Cross. The badge, as well as the ribbon, remains the same, but on the front, under the W with a crown, is now the date 1914.
2. The Second Class is wom from the buttonhole on a black ribbon with a white border if it is awarded for merit on the battlefield. For merit at home, it is worn on a white ribbon with black edges. The First Class is worn on the left breast, and the Grand Cross from around the neck.
3. The First Class can only be awarded if the Second Class has already been awarded, and is worn next to it.
4. The award of the Grand Cross is not subject to the prior award of the First or Second Class. It may be awarded for the successful conclusion of a battle during which the enemy was forced to leave their positions, or as a result of exceptional leadership in the army or navy, or for the capture of a major fortress, or for the defence of a fortress of major importance by its continued resistance.
5. All those in possession of the Military Badge of Honour First Class and Second Class with related Privileges give, without prejudice, the constitutional rule of an Honour Allowance over to the Iron Cross First and Second Class.
Attested by Our Eminent signature and attached Royal Seal.
Signed at Berlin, 5 August 1914.
von Bethmann Hollweg, von Tirpitz, Delbrück, Beseler, von Breitenbach, Sydow, von Trott zu Solz, Frhr. von Schorlemer, Leutze, von Falkenhahn, von Loebell, Kühn, von Jagow.
The Iron Cross was again used to reward bravery or merit in the field and of course, it was not to be the last time either. From 1813 to 1914, there were three classes only, namely the Grand Cross, worn on a neck ribbon, a First Class pin back Cross and a Second Class Cross, suspended on a ribbon. The Grand Cross was only given on rare occasions and then only to Field Marshals, Generals, etc. In order to be awarded the First Class, the Second Class had to have been awarded previously.
Non-Prussians were also eligible to receive the decoration. As can be seen from the above, when the Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II, but in his capacity as the King of Prussia, awarded the Iron Cross during the 1914-1918 war to either the Imperial German Armed Forces or the Imperial Colonial Troops in the German colonies, it was as a Royal Prussian decoration, and NOT as an Imperial German decoration!
So as to dispel the many and varied stories about the Iron Cross in the German colonies it must be noted that the Iron Cross was NEVER awarded for acts of bravery or merit during any of the various military campaigns that took place within the colonies previous to the 1914-1918 war. The Iron Cross was only awarded during the 1914-1918 war for the campaigns in the various colonies. During the various campaigns that took place in the colonies before the 1914-1918 war the System of rewarding for bravery or merit in the field was by means of State Orders or decorations i.e. from Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, etc.
When the Iron Cross was revived for the third time by proclamation of the Commander in Chief of the German Armed Forces, Adolf Hitler, on 1st September 1939, it was now as a German national decoration. The various semi-independent states ruled by kings and dukes that comprised Germany up to 1918, were after the abdication of the Emperor and the formation of the Weimar Republic, fused into a single German republican state and were now mere provinces of that state.
There were now, however, some changes to the 1939 Iron Cross, on both the First and Second Class crosses. The obverse of both classes now had the central spray of three oak leaves replaced by a swastika and the date in the bottom of the lower arm was now 1939. The reverse of the First Class was smooth and with a pin for attaching it to the uniform. The reverse of the Second Class, however, kept the date 1813, but the Prussian crown over the letters 'FW', as well as the spray of three oak leaves, was left out so as to make it a truly national German decoration.
The ribbon of the Iron Cross was also changed to the national colours of Germany - black, white and red, instead of the old Prussian colours of black and white. With the defeat of Germany in 1945, the 1939 Iron Cross came to an end but there was to be a tailpiece to its history, which was added in 1957 by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In a law passed on 26 July 1957, it was stated that any war veteran could now wear the Iron Cross again but the Iron Cross was to be in a new prescribed form leaving the swastika out and replacing it with a spray of three oak leaves as in the original design but otherwise identical in all respects to the 1939 Iron Cross. The colours of the ribbon remained the same as that of the 1939 Iron Cross. Thus, the Prussian decoration had now become a national decoration when revived again but kept the tradition, founded in 1813, of the Iron Cross as a reward for bravery or merit, well alive.
The Iron Cross has a history going back to 1813, thus making it one of the oldest and well-known bravery decorations in the world. The administration and control of the Colonial Troops in the German colonies was rather unique in the fact that they did not resort, under the High Command of the Imperial German Armed Forces at all, but reported directly to the Command of the Imperial Colonial Troops, Section 'M', within the Imperial Colonial Department8 which, in turn, resorted under the Imperial Foreign Ministry.
However, as from 17 May 1910, the Imperial Colonial Department moved out from resorting under the control of the Imperial Foreign Ministry and became a ministry on it's own known as the Imperial Colonial Ministry. Thus, by not reporting directly to the High Command of the Imperial German Armed Forces, the Colonial Troops were in effect an independent and separate military entity and also having as their supreme Commander the Emperor of Germany.
Due to this reporting line, should there have been any applications for any awards to members of the Colonial Troops, then these applications would have had to be forwarded, via the Command of the Colonial Troops in the Imperial Colonial Ministry, to the General Orders Commission of the state of Prussia or any of the other states for that matter for processing. Although the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, consisting of the Cape Colony, the colony of Natal, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, the Union only formed its own defence force, the Union Defence Force, by Law No. 13 of 1912, which came into effect on 14 June 1912, a scant 2 years before the outbreak of the 1914-1918 war.
It must be noted that South Africa was technically not a sovereign state but part of the British Empire. The constitutional Status of the dominions, of which South Africa was one, precluded any of them remaining neutral in any war that Great Britain might become involved in. On the 29 July and again on 1st August 1914, the Union of South Africa government was informed by the authorities in London that the position between Great Britain and Germany was tense and critical and that South Africa was to take the necessary precautions i.e. prepare for war!
After Great Britain had declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, General Louis Botha, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, sent a telegram to the British government on the 7 August 1914 in which he offered to extend help to Great Britain. In this telegram, he stated that the Union government was willing to deploy the newly formed Union Defence Force for the performance of the duties entrusted to the Imperial Troops stationed by Great Britain within the territory of the Union of South Africa. The object of the South African govemment's offer was of course, to release these Imperial Troops for military service elsewhere by Great Britain.
On the same day, the British government accepted the offer and added, 'If your ministers, at the same time, desire and feel themselves able to seize such part of German South West Africa as will give them Command of Swakopmund, Lüderitzbucht and the wireless stations there, or in the interior, we should feel that this would be viewed as an act of great and urgent Imperial service'.
The Union government agreed to this on 10 August 19149, thus effectively setting the stage for the Invasion of German South West Africa. It was not anticipated by the German government that the colony of German South West Africa or, in fact, any of her colonies would become involved in the military conflict that was in essence a European war and also due to the Congo Agreement.
This agreement, of which both Germany and Great Britain were signatories to, stipulated that in the event of war in Europe, these hostilities would not be carried over into the colonies and that Europeans would not fight Europeans in Africa or anywhere else, but never-the-less German South West Africa and the other German colonies did become involved in the war. The Govenor of the Colony, Dr. Theodor Seitz'", had foreseen that the war would spread to the German colonies and already declared that the colony was in a state of war on 6 August 1914" and initiated general mobilisation on 8 August 1914.
Consequently, all available men and resources were well prepared for the military conflict that he realised lay before them. The first shots of the war in German South West Africa were fired on 23 August 1914 at Kummemais in the south eastern portion of the country when a patrol of the 2nd Company of the Ist Regiment, stationed at Ukamas, surprised a group of Boers12 moving cattle across the border between the colony of German South West Africa and the Cape Province of the Union of South Africa.
An exchange of fire then took place during which 2 members of the Colonial Troops were shot dead, they thus became the first casualties of the war that was about to descend on German South West Africa13. Thereafter, various small actions took place between the two opposing forces. The first battle was to be at Sandfontein, near Warmbad, in the south of the colony on 26 September 1914. After this battle and then, before any further real full-scale military operations against the German colony could take place, the South African government and the Union Defence Force had to deal with a rebellion, verging on a civil war, by the Boers.
The primary cause of the rebellion was a belief, amongst elements of the Boers that still cherished the ideal of independence from Great Britain, that now was the time to rise up while Great Britain was engaged in a major conflict with Imperial Germany and thus was not able to assert her Position in South Africa with any strength at all. Through this rebellion, the yoke of Great Britain would be thrown off, and they would gain their independence once more and this would lead to the re-establishment of the old former South African Republic and the Free State again.
Many of the Boer leaders were also opposed to the invasion of German South West Africa as they still viewed Germany as the country who came to their aid during their earlier conflict with Great Britain. The issue of the invasion was also hotly debated in the South African Parliament by the various representatives there and the members siding with the invasion, winning the day. However, the flame of rebellion had been lit and some of the Boer leaders decided to rise up against the South African government and overthrow it.
The defeat of the Union Defence Force at Sandfontein was welcome news to the advocates of rebellion. On 9 October 1914 Lieutenant Colonel Saloman Gerhardus (Manie) Maritz, Commander of the Union Defence Force Troops stationed in the Upington area, went into open rebellion while camped at a place called van Roois Vlei in the northern Cape and on 12 October the South African government declared martial law throughout South Africa.
The South African government now had a rebellion on their hands! After a series of battles and actions with the Union Defence Force, the rebel commandos were forced to surrender to them one after the other. The Union Defence Force had successfully suppressed the rebellion and was now again ready to enter the war. On 28 November 1914, the British government was informed by the South African government that the Union Defence Force was once again ready to resume the campaign against German South West Africa.
The history of the Iron Cross in German South West Africa can effectively be split into two distinct periods, namely the 'Hildegard Orden' and the Iron Cross periods. These periods will be handled separately so as to build up a picture of each award and their distinct histories that make them unique additions to the history of the 1914 Iron Cross in general. […]
References and notes:
1. German - Deutsch-Südwestafrika
2. Ibid. - Eisernes Kreuz
3. Ibid. - Hildegard Orden. From now onwards all references to this decoration will be in German
4. Ibid. - Kaiserliche Schutztruppe fur Deutsch-Südwestafrika
5. Published in the Schlesische privilegierte Zeitung, Nr. 34, Saturday, 20 March 1813
6. A decoration is defined as an award ranking below any order but above any medal and is awarded for distinctions such as gallantry or meritorious service
7. Royal Decree of 5 August 1914, Militär-Wochenblatt, Nummer 105, 8. August 1914, Berlin, Germany
8. The Command of the Colonial Troops was situated at Mauerstrasse 45/46, Berlin W. 8, Germany
9. Smuts by W.K. Hancock, Vol. 1, pp. 378, 379, Cambridge University Press, 1962, United Kingdom
10. Dr. Theodor Seitz was Governor of the colony of German South West Africa from 1 September 1910 to 9 July 1915
11. Amtsblatt für das Schutzgebiet Deutsch-Südwestafrika, 6. August 1914, Nummer 17, p. 37, Windhoek, Deutsch-Südwestafrika
12. An Afrikaans speaking person of European descent and inhabiting Southern Africa
13. Der Feldzug in Südwest by Dr. Hans v. Oelhafen, p.28. Safari-Verlag, 1923, Berlin, Germany
The 'Hildegard Orden'
Name list of recipients of the 'Hildegard Orden'
The 1914 Iron Cross
Name list of recipients of the Iron Cross
The 1914-1918 Wound Badge
Name list of recipients of the Wound Badge
Alvensleben, Constantin von
Auguste Viktoria, Empress of Germany
Aus, town of
Baerle, Otto von
Bail, Max, Dr.med.
Bennecke, Heinrich Stats
Bennigsen, Hans-Jobst von
Bennigsen, Helmyth Rudolf von
Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Rheda, Hurbert, Graf zu
Berg, Ernst, Dr.med.
Blumers, Kurt, Dr.med.
Boer, people called
Boetticher, Wolfgang von
Botha, Louis, General
Brenner, Friedrich, Dr.med.
Brokopp, H. S.
Buhre, W. F. F.
Colonial Ministry, Colonial Troops resort under
High Command within
High Command within, address of
location within Imperial Foreign Ministry
medal group of
de Roos, Heinrich
Dewitz, Max von
Disbandment ofthe Colonial Troops
Dresden, colonial exhibition in
Du Plessis, Pieter
Eisberger, Frans, Dr.med.
Esebeck, Jochen, Freiherr von
Fock, Georg, Dr.med.
Forkel, Otto, Dr.jur.
Letter from Colonial Ministry
Fresenius, Friedrich, Dr.
Friedrich, Walter, Dr.med.
Fritzsche, Max, Dr.jur.
Geldem-Crispendorf, Werner von
Germany, aircraft markings of
Federal Republic of
Imperial War Flag
Gibeon, town of
Gobabis, town of
Gossler, Hans von
Greiner, Heinrich, Dr.med.
Gries, August, Prof.
Hadeln, Friedrich, Freiherr von
Hagen, Eberhard von dem
Hannemann, Hans, Dr.med.
Hartmann, Heinrich von
Heinrich Timm, business house named
Hepke, Georg von
Heydebreck, Joachim von
Command Order, copy of
Hintrager, Oskar, Dr.jur.
Hirsekorn, Hans, Dr.jur.
Iron Cross, 1813
Iron Cross, 1870
Iron Cross, 1914 9,11
Advertisements for the purchase of
Bar - SÜDWESTAFRIKA
Certificate of Possession
Decree for the revival of
Iron Cross, 1939
2nd Class, photograph of
Iron Cross, 1957,
Kalkfontein Süd, town of
Kamina, radio Station in Togo
Kannegieser, Joachim, Dr.med.
Karasburg, town of, see Kalkfontein Süd
Karibib, town of
Katzler, Carl von
Keetmanshoop, town of
Khorab, Treaty of
Kleist, Bogislav von
Köhler, Alfred, Dr.
lapel badge of
Kränzle, Kurt, Dr.med.
Kröncke, Hellmuth, Dr.
Kugland, Otto Eduard
Kühne, Heinz von
Kühnle, Wilhelm, Dr.med.
Kummemais, engagement at
Laskowski, F. H.
Löbbecke, Gert von
Lüderitzbucht, town of
Lüttichau, Max, Graf von
Lux, Arthur, Dr.vet.
Lyncker, Moritz, Freiherr von
Maag, Alfons, Dr.vet.
Maass, Georg, Dr.med.
Mähnz, Robert, Dr.med.
Maltahöhe, town of
Maltzahn, Heinrich, Freiherr von
Maritz, Salomon Gerhardus (Manie)
Martial Law in South Africa, declaring of
Merensky, Alexander, Dr.jur.
Merit Medal for Soldiers
Meyer, Felix, Dr.med.
Meyer, Karl Wilhelm
Namibia, country of
Oertzen, Viktor von
Oppen, Udo von
Order of Hildegard, see Hildegard Orden
Outjo, town of
Paris, Fritz von
Police force, territorial
Prittwitz und Gaffron, Hans-Wolf von
Prussia, State of
Qualifying certificate for a Wound Badge
Ramansdrift, skirmish at
Rebellion in South Africa by Boers
Rechenberg, Wilhelm, Freiherr von
Red Cross, Womans section ofthe German
Rehoboth, town of
Repatriation of German nationais
Reuning, Ernst, Dr.
Riefenstahl, Hans, Dr.med.
Roehl, Otto von
ROSS, Paul, K. J.
Rothkirch und Panton, Heinrich von
Rübner, Franz Guido
Sandfontein, battle of
Sasserath, Friedrich, Dr.med.
Schach von Wittenau, Hermann
Schack von Wittenau, Siegfried
Schade, Karl, Freiherr von
Schaumburg, August, Dr.med.
Scheele, Alexander Freiherr von
Schmettau, Walter von
Schmid, G. Dr.vet.
Schmidt, Johannes, Dr.med.
Scholvien, Robert, Dr.med.
Schröder, Philip, gen. von Schirp
Schütz, Julius von
Schütz, Wilhelm von
Schwarz, L. Dr.med.
Schweitzer, Theodor Dr.med.
Schwerin, Hans-Bogislav, Graf von
Seibert, Joseph, Dr.med.
Seitz, Hildegard, Mrs.
Seitz, Theodor, Dr., Governor of German South West Africa
Sigwart, Hans, Dr.vet.
South Africa, Union of
South West Africa, German 14,
Starck, Albert, Dr.
Stein, Wilhelm, Freiherr von
Summa, Eduard, Dr.med.
Swakopmund, town of
Sydow Ernst von
Szczytnicki, Xaver von
Trommsdorf, Friedrich, Dr.med.
Tsumeb, town of
Union Defence Force
Versailles, peace treaty of
Vietsch, Wilhelm, Dr. von
Vorberg, Hans, Otto
Wedel, Ewald von
Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany
Wife of, see Auguste Viktoria
King of Prussia
Windhoek, town of
Windhuk, town of, see Windhoek
Wolf, Paul, Dr.med.
Certificate of Possession
Decree for the army
Decree for the Colonial Troops
Decree for the navy
for Colonial Troops