Qualification Badges

After the lost war of 1866 many reforms were made within the Austro-Hungarian Army: The basic colour of the tunics was changed from White to (Dark) Blue, the Lorenz-rifles were exchanged for the more modern Werndl rifles and so on. The experiences of the wars in 1864 and 1866 with the Prussian Army led to thinking on  the necessary improvements required and one of the most important factors considered was the large difference in the qualification of the common non-commissioned personal. At this time the spirit within the Austro-Hungarian Army was nearly the same as during the Napoleonic-wars or prior. The soldiers were seen as "analphabetic animals", who had to be forced to fight and carefully controlled in order that they did not flee the battlefield - of course one could teach them tricks but they were considered in common too stupid for education or responsibility! But times had changed since the Napoleonic wars and the basic education of the conscripted soldiers was improving with every decade. In the Prussian Army this was realized much earlier and during the united war in 1864 many of the k.u.k. officers (see especially the reports of Hauptmann im Generalstab Gründorf) were impressed by the skills and knowledge of the "simple Prussian Feldwebel".

To improve the qualifications of the non-commissioned personnel within the Austro-Hungarian Army (and Navy) some training-targets and regulations for examinations were introduced. It is small wonder that one of the first of the newly regulated qualifications was the one for Marksmanship skills - on the one hand it is obvious why a soldier should be able to hit the target  and on the other hand the better the quality of marksmanship the lower the number of bullets required and therefore a lower resultant cost. To ensure the desirability of the successful attainment of these examinations to the men some special distinctions were introduced for wear. Until the end of the Dual Monarchy in 1918 three major groups of qualification- badges could be distinguished: twisted Lanyards, metal Cockades and pin back Badges.

One could say that the armlets, which were introduced for the Army, would be a 4th group because one must have some special education or training to be allowed to wear such an armlet but the difference was that the armlets were only worn during the few hours of being on a particular duty. These will be dealt  with separately on this web-site.

All Qualification Badges were seen as part of the uniform and therefore their descriptions were found within the particular Adjustierungsvorschriften (dress-regulations). The badges were not owned by the men but they belonged to the authorities and had to be returned together with the other equipment when the man left army service. Under normal circumstances a man would have earned two different Qualification Badges during the first three years of duty, commonly one Lanyard and one Cockade. If a soldier was transferred from one branch to another he could wear his badges continuously but if in the new branch another form of badge for his qualification was introduced he had to replace his piece for the new one. In 1907 the army (not the navy) decided that in future all qualification badges would be a personal issue to the particular soldier if he guaranteed with his signature that he would keep it in fine condition, would not sell or lose it and bring it back with him in the case of being recalled to duty! On the 28th of July 1908 it was further decided to present a special Award Document to the winner of Qualification-Badges. These documents were to be organised by the commanders of the particular unit (commonly a regiment) and were to be written in German and the particular language of the man. However by examining the (very rare) documents in several collections of today one can only find certificates in the German, Hungarian or Czech languages depending on the command language of the particular unit! When the war started in 1914 the further training for and the awarding of all Qualification Badges was ceased. In some special cases, for instance the badges for Aircrews, Machine gunners or the newly created badges, the training and awarding carried on but they were presented without any award document to the recipients. The drawings in the following overview are taken from the original Adjustierungsvorschriften (dress regulations) or introductory orders.

Twisted Lanyards

All Qualification Badges in the form of Lanyards were worn from the button of the left shoulder down to the 3rd button of the jacket, in the case of two rows of buttons (e.g. with the greatcoat) from the 2nd button of the right row. If the soldier owned as a second badge a Cockade he commonly fixed the end of the Lanyard there, using the clip on the back of the Cockade. It was often seen that NCOs fixed small drill whistles onto the Lanyards - more decorative than useful!

General Lanyard - used for several qualifications in different colours. Schützenschnur für k.u. Honvéd - Marksmanship Lanyard only used between 1876 and 1888 by the Hungarian Honvéd.

Scharfschützen- und Oberscharfschützenauszeichnung für k.k. Landesschützen - Marksmanship Lanyard only used by members of Landesschützen units. Geschützführerauszeichnung - Qualification Lanyard for Gun Commanders of artillery guns.


All Qualification Badges in the form of Cockades were worn on the upper right side of the breast, always on the outermost tunic (e.g. greatcoat). Normally the Cockades were made out of a yellow colored metal-alloy called Tombak a kind of brass. The slug was first casted and than the motif of the obverse was embossed with the particular die followed by the soldering of the clip on the rear side. During the latter years of the war some pieces were minted in yellow-colored sheet iron. Fully casted pieces, especially made out of zinc-alloy, or non-magnetic hollow stamped badges are modern copies!

Although the badges were used over a wide period of time and many produced there are only very few variants and only the most common badges, are known. Probably these variants were caused through the necessity to replace broken dies with replacements. These badges which were issued partly painted with black (army and navy) or red (honvéd) colour could often be found without any painting whatsoever. The paint was polished away because the recipients much preferred the golden appearance!

Schützenauszeichnung für die Kavallerie - Marksmanship Badge for the cavalry, painted partly black in the k.u.k. and k.k. cavalry (1871) and painted red for Honvéd cavalry (1876) Reiterauszeichnung für die Honvéd-Kavallerie - Badge for skilled riders of the Honvéd-cavalry (1883)
Richtauszeichnung für die Artillerie - Marksmanship Badge for first gunners (1888) with Hungarian Crown for Honvéd-Artillery (1913) Gewehrschützenauszeichnung für das Matrosenkorps - Marksmanship Badge for rifle marksmanship in the k.u.k. Navy (1891)
Artillerieschützenauszeichnung für Turmgeschützführer - Marksmanship Badge for crew chiefs of turret guns - k.u.k. Navy (1896) Artillerieschützenauszeichnung für Vormeister - Marksmanship Badge for gun crew chiefs of the k.u.k. Navy (1896)
Distanzschätzerauszeichnung - Badge for skillful range estimators (1906) Sappeur- und Pionierauszeichnung - Badge for skillful engineers (1893), partly painted black for k.u.k. and k.k. troops and painted red for Honvéd troops(1906)
Zimmermannsauszeichnung - Badge for skillful carpenters (1906) Reiterauszeichnung für die Kavallerie - Badge for skillful riders of the k.u.k. and k.k. cavalry (1906)
Fahrauszeichnung für die Artillerie - Badge for skillful coachmen of the mounted Artillery (1906) Arbeiterauszeichnung für die Verpflegsbranche - Badge for skillful workers of the food commissariat branch (1906)
Fahrauszeichnung für die Traintruppe - Badge for skillful coachmen of the supply troops (1906) Telegraphistenauszeichnung - Badge for skillful telegraphists for Honvéd-troops with Hungarian Crown (1906)
Krankenpflegerauszeichnung - Badge for skilled medical personnel (1906) from 1915 also for the k.u.k. Navy. Scharfschützenauszeichnung für die Kavallerie - Higher class of the Marksmanship Badge for the cavalry (1907)
Maschinengewehr-Schützenauszeichnung - Marksmanship Badge for MG gunners (1908) with Hungarian Crown for Honvéd-troops. Hornistenabzeichen für Landwehrtruppen - Badge for regimental buglers of the k.k. Landwehr-troops (1909)
Fahrauszeichnung für die Kraftfahrtruppe - Badge for skillful drivers of the automobile troops (1912) Arbeiterauszeichnung für die technische Artillerie - Badge for skillful workers of the technical artillery (1914), with Hungarian Crown and "M" for Honvéd troops (1917)
Radfahrerauszeichnung - Badge for skillful drivers of the cyclist-battalion (1914), with Hungarian Crown for Honvéd troops (1917) Beschlagschmied-Auszeichnung - Badge for skillful farriers (1917)
Pferdewärterauszeichnung - Badge for skillful grooms (1917) Feldscharfschützenauszeichnung - Badge for field snipers (1917)

Pin back-Badges

The Badges of this group, not all of them actually have pins on their back, were designed to be worn on the lower right breast. These badges, mainly produced in enamel were good looking pieces and are often desired by today's collectors which has automatically resulted in higher prices and many modern fakes!

Feldpilotenabzeichen Modell 1913 - Badge for field-pilots (1st type) - k.u.k. Army Feldpilotenabzeichen Modell 1917 - Badge for field-pilots (2nd type) - k.u.k. Army
Seeflugzeugführerabzeichen (1915) - Badge for pilots of seaplanes - k.u.k. Navy (1915). Luftfahrerabzeichen (1917) - Badge for Observers and Balloon Crews - k.u.k. Army.
Seeflugzeugführerabzeichen (1918) - Badge for pilots of seaplanes - k.u.k. Navy (1918). Seeflugbeobachterabzeichen (1918) - Badge for observers of seaplanes - k.u.k. Navy (1918).

Militär-Bergführer-Auszeichnung - Badge for military mountain guides.  

Special Badges

The following badges are not exactly what we call a Qualification-Badge, they had more the character of armlets, but they were used and often mixed up with Qualification-Badges.

Lanyard for Geschütz-Vormeister (crew chiefs) of the Artillery
Sash and Badge for the Feldgendarmerie (military police)
Lanyard for drill-whistle (not officially introduced!)
Badge for patrol-leaders of the Hungarian Gendarmerie
Badge for non-commissioned members of Submarine-Crews
Badge for patrol-leaders of the k.k. Gendamerie (whilst on duty with the k.u.k. Army)
Badge for painters and photographers of the propaganda department of the k.u.k. Army
Badge for the k.u.k. Militär-Polizei in Vienna

Non realized projects of Qualification-Badges

As stated at the sub-heading above, the following group deals with planned but never realized Qualification-Badges. Some of them existed only as ideas and drawings, some of them were produced in single pieces as customer display models.

Projected Air-Crew Badges in the k.u.k Army
Projected Air-Crew Badges in the k.u.k. Navy
Projected Qualification-Badge for the Luftabwehrtruppe (anti aircraft artillery)
Projected Qualification-Badge for the Sturmtruppe (storm-troops)
Projected Qualification-Cockades for the Ottoman Army

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