Das "Feldpilotenabzeichen 1917" - The Field Pilot's Badge 1917

Award Conditions

As already mentioned in the article dealing with the1913 model badge, the training requirements for flying personnel at the beginning of the war had been successively adapted to meet changing conditions. Essentially, the regulations had only been tightened up through the introduction of mandatory "flights over the enemy". With the decree, Abt.5/L No 2133 and No 3212 dated the 2nd of November1916, for the first time detailed training regulations for the appointment of field pilots, aircraft observers and balloon pilots as well as the implementation regulations for the award of the field pilot's badge were published together. These two decrees were of course analogous for the somewhat later introduced aircrew badge (Luftfahrerabzeichen) which were utilized by observers and balloon pilots. Only the relevant conditions and regulations for field pilots are summarized here:

Training conditions for the appointment as a field pilot:

Performance:

Ten flights over the enemy (as a minimum flights leading over the enemy artillery positions are valid) of at least two hours flight duration (shorter sorties than two hours may only be counted in cases of particular success or achievement) and with a properly resolved mission. Take off and landing of all sorties have to be accomplished smoothly. The flights of nominated observer officers in the performance of observer duty count as flight performance.

Skill:

Mastery of the operation under all conditions of all aircraft types introduced for troop service , especially in bad weather and on small airfields with surrounding obstacles.

Engine Characteristics:

Knowledge of the operation and maintenance regulations.

Aviation Doctrine:

Principles of aircraft construction. Characteristics of aircraft types and knowledge of the interaction of aircraft characteristics. Exact knowledge of the range of own aircraft types. Testing of aircraft and the repair of minor defects.

Aero Navigation:

Characteristics of the compass, construction, maintenance, compass adjustment, wind triangulation, course setting by four different methods.

Battle Means:

Complete mastery of all introduced machine guns including maintenance and repair of stoppages. General knowledge of introduced bomb release equipment and munitions. Complete mastery of shooting and marksmanship principles for machine guns. Deployment of the Alder munitions. General knowledge of bombing principles.

Meteorology:

The most important characteristics , as far as they are necessary for aviators.

Further Requirements:

Fluent knowledge of map reading. Proficiency in orientation, photographing and understanding of air photography. Understanding of fire control (of artillery) with wireless observation.

So far the training regulations. Naturally, in the following implementation regulations some points are contained which have already been mentioned in the earlier article, however on account of their clear readability they are again now quoted exactly. For a better understanding of the command structure of the aviation troops the following comments are provided: All flying companies (Fliegerkompanie or FliK), which were assigned to an army corps or independent army group were subordinate in each case to a staff officer of aviation troops (Stabsoffizier der Luftfahrtruppe or Stoluft). The flying companies, balloon companies and aviation parks were mostly commanded by a Hauptmann (Rittmeister) or an Oberleutnant, the aircraft workshops, the field weather headquarters and the mobile and static field weather stations respectively mostly by Leutnants or Oberleutnants or appropriately trained military officials of corresponding rank.

Implementation regulations:

The commander of the aviation troops carries out the appointment after fulfillment of the conditions and applies to the war ministry for the award of the relevant badge. The award is effective for one year and is extended in each case for one year by the completion of a minimum number of flights as decided by the commander of aviation troops. After four years , the permanent award by the war ministry follows. Persons in the execution of their duty who are wounded or injured and in addition are decorated for brave conduct in the face of the enemy will be permanently awarded the badge.

From the 1st of December1916 the staff officers of aviation troops in the field, the commander of flying company number 6, then the commander of aviation replacement troops and the aviation arsenal have to report by name on the 1st of every month those officers, officer aspirants and NCOs who fulfill the conditions:

 

1.    For the appointment as a field pilot.

2.    For the extension of the wear of the relevant badge for one year.

3.    For the permanent award of the relevant badge.

Field pilots appointed before the 31st of December 1913 retain the the relevant badge.

The headquarters of the aviation troops has from now on to make the submission of reports on each officers' flying school student  who completes the training, whether the conditions for appointment as a field pilot are already met or not. Field pilots who do not meet the requirements for the extension of the right to wear the badge in wartime (category: performance and skill) have to remove the badge and return the government property badge to the headquarters of aviation troops. The renewed entitlement to wear the badge for one year occurs only when these conditions are perfectly satisfied and this is announced in the aviation troops orders.  The officers making out the reports are in every case responsible for their accuracy. Meticulous precision is obligatory. Cases occurring later of field pilots who do not meet the corresponding conditions will be the subject of an investigation which will look back at all circumstances at and before the appointment.

The Field Pilot Badge 1917

The alteration of the outward appearance of the field pilot badge was published with the "Normalverordnungsblatt" (official order) No 47/1917 of the k.u.k. army dated the 6th of October 1917 as follows:

Circular ordinance of the 2nd of October 1917, Abt. 13, No 44252

His k.u.k. Apostolic Majesty has graciously approved with the highest decree of the10th of September 1917 the changed design of the field pilot's badge according to the following drawing. The securing of the badge has been replaced by hooks in place of the up to now normal needle. In a similar manner will be found the alteration of the aircrew badge in the circular ordinance of the 9th of June 1917. To be noted in the circular ordinance of the 4th of January 1913 and further the circular ordinance of the 9th of June 1917. 

(All subunits of the army in the field were also recipients of this circular ordinance.)

 

signed: von Stöger-Steiner

General der Infanterie

Manufactured from Tombak these badges consisted of a dark green enamel oval wreath of oak leaves, with an Austrian emperor's crown and an Hungarian King's crown on the upper edge. The lower edge of the wreath had a white enamel shield with the initial "K" of Kaiser Karl. On this wreath is a floating eagle of blackened Tombak secured by a rivet on each wing. The manufacturer's mark of the Zimbler firm of Vienna VII is on the rear side of the eagle. On the rear of the double crown and the initial shield are now also two small hooks so positioned that the open ends face each other. Following the death of the aged Monarch, the alteration had become necessary. The double crown was chosen because of the increasing pressure of the Hungarian part of the monarchy. As one can see from numerous other examples, that with the increasing duration of the war, the striving for independence in Hungary had become so great that one could hardly find a common symbol for awards.

The alteration of the securing system was of a purely practical nature. The originally provided needle on the rear was changed because of various requests from the troops in the field. After the double needle system for the aircrew badge was recognized as too expensive and unpractical, the suggestion of the manufacturer was followed and it was decided to provide the two "Karabinerhafteln" or hooks. The cases were now delivered from the firm of Zimbler in simple red cartons (95mm x 85mm x 15mm) similar to those also used for the Military Merit Medal in the last years of the war usually on grounds of cost. One can find these simple two piece folding cartons with both the emperor's coat of arms as well as the text inscription "Feldpilotenabzeichen".

Figure 2 shows the originally intended design for the model 1917 badgeAs already mentioned in the article on the 1913 model, it is extremely unlikely that the first model was still being delivered in 1917. The award should have been published in the personnel ordinance of the k.u.k. army. However, at the end of January 1918, all announcements in the personnel ordinance of the war ministry (long service awards, Iron Merit Crosses etc were dispensed with for reasons of space and one is therefore left with the announcements in the LFT orders. The last LFT order (No 53/1918 was published on the 30th of September 1918. With the collapse of the monarchy, the business of the aviation troops was taken over by the "Chief of Aviation" (Chef des Luftfahrtwesens), whose last publication dates from the 19th of October 1918. Consequently the following awards of the field Pilot badge for the year 1918 are shown:

Officers 137
NCOs and Private Soldiers 183
Total Awards 320

 

Pattern Drawing showing both the introduced models: 1913 and 1917Since some time passed between the appointment as a field pilot and the award of the field pilot's badge, both were published separately, it can be assumed that the 6 officers and 7 NCOs appointed in the last LFT order No 53 dated 30th of September 1918 and those 21 officers and 8 NCOs  appointed in the three orders of the Chief of Aviation did not officially receive the award. It is however also probable that these 42 persons purchased the badge for themselves later from the manufacturer - with more right than many others! Numbers of awards for foreigners are not available, however the following was announced in the LFT order no 17 dated the 15th of February 1918:

As agreed with the commanding general of the German air force, the k.u.k. field pilot's badge and the k.u.k. aircrew badge will be awarded to German military personnel only when particularly above the normal and outstanding accomplishments for k.u.k. troops occur. The same regulations are valid for balloon observers and balloon pilots regarding the aircrew badge. In this connection reasonable award proposals are submitted on a case by case basis to here. Awards of Austrian aviation badges to foreigners in 1918 however seems questionable but can not of course be entirely ruled out.

 

The Field-Pilot Badge 1917 - Front The Field-Pilot Badge 1917 - Rear

Later Awards of Aviation Badges

Oberleutnant Alois Brunner, last commander of FliK 36 with the 1917 Model Field Pilot BadgeFrom a legal standpoint, there were of course no postwar awards of aviation badges. All claims for these state owned badges  up to the point of the collapse were dealt with by the chief of aviation. In spite of or perhaps because a number of personnel remain dissatisfied, who in the World War had performed service as flying personnel but because of various reasons had still not received the corresponding badge and therefore could not show that they had been flyers in the old army with the countless uniformed organizations of the interwar years and of course at the latest when they joined the German Wehrmacht after 1938. In the case of the various private associations of the interwar years, it was probably left to the individual and his conscience simply to buy a corresponding badge at the next military outfitter. Many, because they had lost their badges also did this. It is therefore not further remarkable that there were both field pilot's badges and also aircrew badges of various finishes up to the forties. Optionally with either a needle or hooks and according to the taste of the wearer with a "K" of "FJI" initials. Feldwebel Leo Koch, who as a Korporal of FliK 22 was awarded the field pilot badge model 1913 on the 8th of July 1916 (which is confirmed by different contemporary photographs) wore a field pilot badge with the double crown, which was secured on the reverse side by a needle. Apparently he had lost his original badge or it was no longer beautiful enough and so he simply purchased a new one.

Leo Koch, who was also the holder of the Golden Bravery Medal did this legally as a bona fide recipient but what happened in the case of those who had completed the training but because of the end of the war could not attain the required 10 sorties?  Some of them apparently used the lack of knowledge of the new German commanders and simply claimed for the badge based on the successfully completed training whilst in the German Luftwaffe. Unfortunately there are no records since the corresponding later awards were only documents in the personal files and pay books respectively. Since one cannot look at hundreds of personal files an exact number of these awards cannot probably be determined. Here are just two examples:

 

1.    Oberleutnant Ernst Dreher was assigned as an observer officer with FliK 36. However as this unit remained on the Eastern front until the armistice, he simply could not attain the requisite number of sorties. He was also for a period of time in Russian captivity and applied for the aircrew badge when he joined the German Luftwaffe which he was awarded on the 21st of April 1942.

2.    Gefreiter Adalbert Rehka reported for field pilots' training on the 17th of June 1918 from Infantry Regiment number 11. It seems plausible that he successfully graduated, however he was not successful in reaching the front as his flying company was already on the way home. In the Second World War he was drafted as an Obergefreiter and served as a driver for a Luftwaffe General.. He of course always wore the field pilot badge with the double crown on the photos he sent home from France in 1940, which apparently had been awarded to him after the First World War.

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