Projected Air-Crew Badges in the k.u.k. Navy

Badge for Observers (1st attempt):

Immediately after the introduction of the Naval pilots badge (Seeflugzeugführerabzeichen) in early 1915 the responsible authorities at the war ministry were also busy with the basic work for the introduction of a badge for observers. Such an insignia of course was also very strongly demanded by the officer's corps of the aviation troops of the k.u.k. Kriegsmarine and consequently on the 23rd of October 1915 the commander of the Seeflugstation (Naval Flight Station) at Pola sent the following letter (Res.No.1616/1915) to the navy-section of the war ministry:

"The enormous importance of the flight observers, without which a successful continuation of aviation activity is unthinkable - also the outstanding efficiency of the pilots - makes it appear in some sense advisable to train the observers thoroughly and at the same time to equate them with the Naval pilots after the completion of training. In an unjustified manner the opinion has been valid quite broadly until now - also in aviation circles - that the duty of an observer is inferior to the real pilot's activity; very proficient, first-class observers therefore very often repeatedly ask for their training as pilots although they know even better that their service as an observer is more important and more interesting. The reason for it is only in the opinion mentioned above and the higher prestige of the pilots in guiding a plane against that of the observers in simply observing.

The Naval Flight Station therefore presents the following propositions to the k.u.k. Kriegsministerium - Marinesektion:

1.) A badge similar to that of the Naval Pilots is conferred to the qualified observers after passing of an examination by a commission.

2.) The observer-aspirants become equal to the pilot-aspirants, the observers become equal to the pilots financially."

Two colored design drawings - very similar to the Seeflugzeugführerabzeichen Model 1915 - were enclosed with this letter. The drawings showed a falcon, instead of the dove, as the symbol for observer activity. One of these designs was enclosed as a presentation pattern - enameled and manufactured in Tombak, the usual bronze alloy. (Drawings and metal samples are illustrated below.) Furthermore a transcription was enclosed to this letter of the regulations and the conferral conditions of the German badge for observers of navy planes introduced in the German Navy in 1915.

Especially interesting in this context is the evaluation of the activities of the observers - supposedly coming from the circle of the aviators - as inferior to the duty of the pilots. In the aviation troop of the k.u.k. Army it obviously was diametrically different, possibly because most pilots were not officers in the army and so their duty was therefore regarded automatically inferior by the officer's corps.

The quoted letter was not successful for the moment - the navy section wanted to wait for the corresponding processes in the army - and this lasted up to the introduction of the Luftfahrerabzeichen in June 1917!

Design Drawing 1, October 1915 Design Drawing 2, October 1915 Presentation Specimen, enameled Tombak, October 1915


Badge for Observers (2nd attempt):

About a year later, with Res.No.2466 of the 1st of October 1916, the command of the naval aviation at Pola turned again to the navy section with an almost identical text now claiming urgently for the equality between pilots and observers. They formulated that the observers, same as the pilots, now in the meantime would be trained directly with teaching aids within the troop and also had to pass a theoretical examination. Again a design drawing was submitted, this time produced only in black ink. The description of this design: "On green, red-white-red tied, laurel-wreath a floating, natural noble falcon with an aerial bomb in the claws, ready to throw it." Notable in this context is the documenting of the war caused changing of the observer's duty, becoming more and more important to throw bombs skillfully into valuable targets beside the basic observing.

Although this design also found no favour, the war ministry at least responded with following concession this time:

"K.u.K. Kriegsministerium - Marinesektion, Abtl.10/M.S., No.29699 to k.u.k. Seeflugleitung Pola

Vienna, on the 10. December 1916, Ref.: Res.No.2466 of 1916

1.) The observers - which have passed the mandatory examination with success - are to have their names submitted to the k.u.k. war ministry, navy section by the k.u.k. Naval flight control for the purpose of nomination to be Naval flight observers. The nomination will be decreed by the navy main office.

2.) The creation of a "Seebeobachterabzeichen" is agreed in principle and the relating design sketch to be sent by the k.u.k. fleet command to us. For their information it is stated, that the analogous design-sketch of the k.u.k. Aviation troop command is itself presently with the k.u.k. war ministry and is in fact at the examination stage. Establishing of the design sketch has to be agreed by Linienschiffskapitän von Kuepach, who is to be consulted in this respect.

3.) The Naval observers (observer aspirants) receive the same flight-bonuses as fixed for Naval pilots.

For the chief of the k.u.k. War ministry, Navy-Section, KEIL m.p."

Finally the arrangement of the conditions took place for the Naval observers in October 1917 and the introduction of the corresponding badge together with the badge for Naval pilots in January 1918, as documented in the particular rubric of this website.

Design Drawing, October 1916


Badge for Air-Gunner:

While the army - and the navy as well - were busy with the creation of an observer's badge, also the idea came up for the creation of an "Air Gunner's Badge" (Fliegerschützenabzeichen). The duty of the gunners differed from that of the pilots and observers of course clearly, however their possibilities simply were still too limited and the number of gunners, as well as the number of planes and airships in which they could act, was too small during World War 1, that a specific badge seemed to be justified. Nevertheless, there is a quite interesting letter in this context from the Generalinspektor der Luftfahrttruppen, Erzherzog Joseph Ferdinand to the war ministry /navy section dated 11th of May 1918:

"The proposal of the new regulations for the nomination to be Naval pilot, Naval observer and Air Gunner is conveyed herewith for further perusal. The corresponding regulations of the k.u.k. Army have been submitted to the k.u.k. Kriegsministerium separately and are enclosed as a copy. In this proposal the qualification of the Air Gunner is included. The introduction of the badge for Air Gunners is applied herewith. A design proposal is enclosed. In the sense of the present proposal it is applied hereby, that the right of the nomination in all cases for army and navy is transferred to the general inspector of the aviation troops. Sent in copy to the k.u.k. fleet command and command of the naval air corps."

Following conditions for the Air-Gunners were fixed in the supplement to this letter:

Performances: 10 sorties over the enemy of at least one hours flight duration each and appropriately solved task.

Skills: Complete mastering of all machine guns of the air plane under all circumstances especially in evasive flight. Skill in the handling and marksmanship with the machine gun from the air plane.

Knowledge: Successful passing of the assigned theoretical examination.


1.) As flights over the enemy are regarded: a) that led actually over an hostile area; b) which have taken place under hostile fire; c) which have been executed for mine and submarine observing task.

2.) Flights of a duration of less than one hours duration count only if special success or performances are achieved.

3.) The scope of the demanded knowledge to be proven becomes determined according to standards set by the requirements of the command of the k.u.k. Naval Air Corps.

4.) Air-Gunners could be used for tasks as Naval observers also without achieving the claim for nomination to be Naval observers.

The remaining regulations, who, when and why the badge was conferred, when it had to be worn or when it was forbidden to wear and so on were exactly according to those of the other Naval aviation badges - as described in the particular rubric of this website.

Although the propositions of the general inspector of the aviation troops were followed further on, the navy as well as also the army - in which the circle of persons actually was covered with the Luftfahrerabzeichen already - decided against the introduction of such a badge for Air-Gunners. Looking at the attached colored design drawing, that should be shaped similar to the Navy pilot badge of 1918, the question is allowed, whether - if it would have been technically possible to produce a badge of that size and form - it would be practicable to wear it at all.

Design-Drawing, end of 1917 or early 1918

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