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Awarding the Colonial Commemorative Medal to members of the German Imperial Navy
 

Markus Bodeux

Article 4 of the issue document states, that every recipient has the right to wear a bar on its ribbon, showing the name and the year of the operation he was participating.
Having the right to do so, means, that the medals were awarded without those bars in the first place.
Therefore the Bearer of the Colonial Commemorative Medal could buy their bars.

The information for which medal they were allowed to wear was clearly written on the award document. Written was the name of the operation/Colony and the year. This was a difference to the documents for the China- and Southwest Africa commemorative Medal. Those details weren't given on those documents. 
The fact that the Colonial Commemorative Medal was awarded without their bars, let a lot of recipients to wear their medal without bars. Looking through pictures of navy soldier from that time, shows only every 4th soldier wearing a medal with bars attached to the ribbon !
On the other hand a lot of recipients were buying bars, that weren't listed in their award documents and wore them on their medal bars. As an example for such an incident find the medal bar of Vice Admirals Max Looff pictured below. As guard officer on board of S.M.S. WOERTH during the China war he definitely belonged to the recipients for the China Commemorative Medal. Strange however is the attachment of the following three bars: 
 

-PEITANG=FORTS this operation took place without any navy involvement.
-TAKU  nobody on board the S.M.S. WOERTH took part in this operation.
-OSTASIEN 1900/01  this bar was for the Prussian Red Cross Medal, only.

The only explanation for this happen is that the bars were just taken by the medal manufacture or von Looff, with or without any knowledge.
 

 

Vice Admiral Max Looff wearing the above pictured medal bar. Absolutely remarkable is the Life Savings Medal and the Cross 4th class of the Prussian Order of the Crown for a second life saving act awarded on the ribbon of the Life Savings Medal..

 

For which operations the Colonial Commemorative Medal was awarded to Navy Soldiers (including Navy Infantry) and which are the matching bars is clearly stated in the issue document from June 13, 1912 and its additions  from February 1914.

A Colonial Commemorative Medal in steel for "non-combatants" or for "...merit in collaboration with an operation..." or "honorable" isn't stated at all. The circle of recipients is therefore traceable using ranking lists and the "Marineverordnungsblatt", stating all the changes in Navy personal matters. 

The "military operations", which the Colonial Commemorative Medal was awarded for, are listed in the issue document and in its additions from February 17, 1914. All operations counted as "war year" and "siege" for the participants and were benefiting towards the social retirement laws. 

For Navy soldiers the Colonial Commemorative Medal was awarded for the following operations:

- KAMERUN 1884
- KAMERUN 1891
- KAMERUN 1893
- DEUTSCHOSTAFRIKA 1888/89
- DEUTSCHOSTAFRIKA 1889/90
- DEUTSCHOSTAFRIKA 1905/07
- SAMOA 1888
- VENEZUELA 1902/03
- PONAPE 1910/11

The incidents on the coast of Cameroon in the year 1884 are seen as the first since the war in 1870/71 having German soldiers in action. 
The landing of the ship "Glattdeckskorvette VICTORIA" in Liberia in 1881, having enemy fire didn't count towards the right of being awarded with the Colonial Commemorative Medal, however some Prussian orders for military merit were awarded (1 Order of the Crown 3rd class with swords, 1 Red Eagle Order 4th class with swords, 1  Order of the Crown 4th class with swords, 5 Military-Honor-Medals 2nd class)

Some bars are rather rare. The bar KAMERUN 1893 could have been awarded to a circle of less than  200 people (Crew Kanonenboot S.M.S. HYÄNE, crew Hulk CYCLOP, crew Gouvernementsdampfer NACHTIGAL, Vermessungsdetachement Kamerun).


Thinking of the fact, that the Colonial Commemorative Medal was issued 21 years later, February 17, 1914, makes clear, that the real number of people buying themselves the bars are much smaller than the number of theoretical recipients. Besides the meanwhile deceased people a high percentage of people were already retired. Therefore they couldn't report to the official offices of the general orders commission.


This fact explains the extreme rarity for certain bars. While most of the more recent operations, like Venezuela, Ponape and Deutschostafrika, were able to be honored by an award of the Colonial Commemorative Medal and bar, for most of the other older operations, 20 to 30 years back in time, only a third or even a fourth of the eligible people might have been able to receive their medal and bar. These were mostly the higher ranking officers. An exemption are the NCOs that became government officials and police officers after their active duty in the Navy. They were officially know and received their Colonial Commemorative Medal.
The numbers stated in following articles are reflecting the amount of soldiers of the German Imperial Navy having been actively involved in those operations, having been a member of those crews. The actual number of awarding can't be given, due to above mentioned facts.

 

Read here the follow up article for the bars:

Kamerun 1884
Kamerun 1891
Kamerun 1893
Deutschostafrika 1888/89
Deutschosafrika 1905-07

© A. Schulze Ising, I/00


 
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