Robert E. Wyllie.

Orders, decorations and insignia, military and civil; with the history and romance of their origin and a full description of each online

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Online LibraryRobert E. WyllieOrders, decorations and insignia, military and civil; with the history and romance of their origin and a full description of each → online text (page 3 of 19)
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the Mohammedans and waging war on the Barbary
pirates. The Teutonic Knights went to Marienburg on
the Vistula near Danzig, set up an independent princi-
pality, gradually extending their rule over Prussia,
Courland, and Livonia from the Gulf of Finland to the
Oder, until the rising power of the Electors of Branden-
burg (later the Kings of Prussia) and the Kings of Poland
gradually reduced the territories of the order until it
became a fief of Prussia. The Templars went to France
and at once came into difficulties with the King because,
owing to their great power, arrogance, and wealth, they


were considered a menace to the nation, consequently
they were aboHshed by Papal edict in 13 12. The Hos-
pitallers lasted till 1798 and the Teutonic Knights till
1809, both owing their end to Napoleon, that wonderful
soldier who overthrew so many kingdoms and ancient

The Hospitallers wore a black mantle with a white
linen cross of eight points on the left breast. The Tem-
plars wore a mantle of white, black, or brown according
to the class of the wearer, with a red cross of linen in the
same place, from which we derive our present custom of
wearing medals and decorations on the left breast.

To get a good understanding of these orders, a brief
outline of the organization of the Hospitallers will be
given. There were four grades of members, Knights,
Chaplains, Sergeants or Esquires, and Servants. The last
named class were called "affiliated brethren" and were
not members in the full sense of the word. The Knights
ruled the order, occupying all the principal offices, the
Sergeants being distinctly subordinates, while the Chap-
lains were confined to purely clerical work. The unit of
organization was the commandery, sometimes called pre-
ceptory, a small group of Knights and Sergeants living
together under a commander or preceptor. The com-
manderies were grouped into priories, each being under a
prior; and these again into provinces, according to nation-
ality and language, under grand commanders. At the
head of all was the general chapter of the order, presided
over by the Grand Master. This official was elected for
life by an electoral college specially organized for the occa-


iWilitarp ©rbers;

sion, his power was great but not absolute as he was
bound by the majority vote of the general chapter in
important matters such as the alienation of the lands of
the order, declaring war, and concluding peace, the ap-
pointment of provincial grand commanders, etc. The
general chapter or council of the order consisted of the
great dignitaries known collectively as the bailiffs.

While differing in a few details, the organization of the
Templars was very similar to that of the Hospitallers,
and the same can be said of all the other orders which
arose in the different countries in imitation of the original
three, although as they were all smaller and confined to
one country they were naturally simpler, but the same
principle pervaded all, a strict military body living under
rehgious fervor and discipline and having some worthy
object as the aim of the order. For example, in Spain
and Portugal, the orders of St. James, Calatrava, and
Alcantara were formed for the purpose of expelling the
Moors from that peninsula; while the Italian order of
St. Lazarus had the comfort of lepers in the Holy Land
as its object.

The only orders now in existence which can unquestion-
ably show an unbroken history from mediaeval times are
the Garter of England, the Annunziata of Italy and the
Golden Fleece of Spain and Austria. These three still
retain very much the old organization and are the links
which connect the modern orders with those of chivalry.
Several more exist in name but they have been so com-
pletely changed, secularized, reorganized, and in many
cases abolished and re-established that they cannot be


(Bxhtvsi, ©etorattottje;, anh Sns^ignia

considered the same as the original orders whose names
they now bear. As compared with the orders of chivalry
the modern orders are orders in name only, having no
real organization in the old sense, and the members have
no duties to perform as members, neither have the orders
themselves any object other than that of affording a means
for the reward of meritorious services rendered to the state.
As already narrated, the old orders usually had four
classes of members, but three of these, the Chaplains,
Sergeants, and Servants, were really for the purpose of
ministering to the Knights; the Chaplains were the
father confessors and spiritual advisers of the Knights;
the Sergeants corresponded somewhat to our non-com-
'missioned officers, and the Servants were the drudges and
menials, so in reality there was but one class of importance,
that of the Knights. The present custom of different
classes was introduced by Louis XIV when he established
the Order of St. Louis in 1693, and it gradually spread
until now very few orders retain the old characteristic of
a single class and they are mostly those ancient orders
which still preserve much of the original organization.



IN its broad conception a medal is a metallic ornament
used for commemorative and decorative purposes, usu-
ally given as a reward or token. Originally medals
were purely commemorative, the gradual evolution where-
by the idea of reward was introduced has been narrated
in a previous chapter, but it must not be forgotten that
the majority are still struck primarily to commemorate
events, therefore the design should be symbolical and ar-
tistic. A medallist in addition to being an artist must
have imagination, a knowledge of heraldry and both
ancient and modern symbolism, in order to produce a
design which will be artistic, and at the same time will
successfully portray the event in a simple manner. Our
War Department is in close touch with the United States
Commission of Fine Arts, and for some time that body
has assisted in the design of medals and insignia, which
insures artistic merit otherwise unobtainable.

The word decoration is somewhat broader in its mean-
ing than medal as it is not confined to metallic substances,
however it has been found necessary to restrict the tech-
nical meaning of both these words, and a decoration can


0thtxsi, 3Betoration£f, anb SttJ^ignia

be defined as an insignia of honour bestowed for some in-
dividual act or service, in contradistinction to a service
medal which is for general distribution, commemorative
of some war, campaign, or other historical event, to all
who honourably participated therein, irrespective of the
value of their individual services. For example, a Medal
of Honor is a decoration as it is bestowed for some signal
act of heroism, but the Victory medal is not, as it is for
general distribution to all who served honourably in the
World War, it is therefore classed as a service medal.
From this it can be seen that a decoration is a higher dis-
tinction than a service medal, and takes precedence

The orders of foreign countries described in the last
chapter conform in general to the above definition of
decorations, and are included under that term by the
United States Army and Navy regulations, however there
is a difference. As already explained an order is virtually
a society, and the honour conferred on the individual is
being made a member of the order or society, so the in-
signia which is worn is the evidence of such membership;
while in the case of a decoration proper it is the insignia
itself which is the distinction awarded, there is no official
society of the holders of decorations. The countries which
have orders place them above decorations in precedence.
The principal insignia of an order is called a badge. In
addition, that word is applied in the United States to the
insignia which are given to show qualifications in marks-
manship, aviation, swordsmanship, etc., and also to the
insignia of military and other societies. In general there-


iBtomenclature anb Ctosfification

fore the order of precedence places orders first, then deco-
rations, then service medals and lastly the badges which
show qualifications and membership in societies.

The badges of orders and some medals and decorations
are made in the form of a cross or star, but the vast
majority are circular shaped like coins, so that a fairly
close inspection is required to recognize the distinctions
between them. To provide a ready means of identifica-
tion each has a distinctive ribbon, so that by using differ-
ent combinations of colours, the particular decoration or
medal can easily be identified. This ribbon also serves
the purpose of providing a means of suspension for the
medal itself, so it is an integral part of the insignia, the
medal not being complete without its own distinctive
ribbon. Ribbons are not used with the badges which
show qualifications in small arms, etc., as those badges
are either made in such a shape as to be easily recognized,
or they have plain and legible inscriptions indicating ex-
actly the purpose of the badge. Badges of the different
military and other societies also have their distinctive
ribbons, these are not Government awards, but are given
only to the members of the societies by the societies
themselves, however they are decorations in the broad
sense of that word, and as such their wearing should be
controlled by the same rules of custom and good taste
which govern the wearing of any decoration.

In uniform it is customary for military men to wear
decorations and medals only in full dress; this uniform
has recently been abolished for our Army, but the prin-
ciples still govern, as decorations and medals are now


worn only on stated ceremonial occasions, when full dress
would have been employed in former days. Even on
these occasions the military man is limited to those
awarded him by his own, an equal or a superior govern-
ment, medals of inferior origin are not worn. To illus-
trate, a soldier of the United States Army in uniform,
should never wear a medal presented to him by a State,
municipality, or society, but only those of the Federal
Government or a co-ordinate foreign government. A
State officer, on the other hand, can wear a medal pre-
sented to him by his own or any other State in addition
to those awarded by the United States or a foreign gov-
ernment, but he should not wear a municipal decoration
or society badge. This is on the principle that it is deroga-
tory to the dignity of the government whose uniform is
worn to ornament it with a decoration emanating from
an inferior authority.

For civilian wear the same principle applies, medals
and decorations should be confined to appropriate cere-
monial occasions. At such times a personal decoration
awarded by a sovereign government is rarely out of place,
but a service medal would be appropriate only if it was a
military ceremony, a State or municipal medal only at a
State or municipal ceremony, and the badge of a society
only at a meeting of that society. The canons of good
taste furnish the best guide, and these will not be violated
if the decorations and medals worn are limited to those
which are strictly appropriate to the occasion.

It is thus apparent that medals and decorations are
rarely worn. They are not to be flaunted promiscuously


i^otnemlatttre anb ClaiHiUtatim

but are reserved for times when it is desired to do special
honour to the occasion. However substitutes are pro-
vided for other times to show that the wearer has received
recognition by his Government. On uniforms other than
full dress military men wear small sections of ribbon for
this purpose. These are simply short strips of the same
design and width as the distinctive ribbon from which
the medal itself is suspended and are known as service
ribbons. (Plate 13.) The length of these service ribbons
varies in different countries; the longest are the Portu-
guese, Vs inch, the shortest are the Russian, V32 inch.
The British regulation length is yi inch, the Italian "733
inch, the American Vs inch. In some countries there is
no prescribed length. The illustrations on Plates 13, 14,
and 15 are full size. It should be understood that the
"length" of a ribbon is the vertical dimension, the hori-
zontal size is the "width." The rule previously given
which prohibits the wearing of a decoration of inferior
origin applies also to service ribbons since the principle
is the same. These service ribbons originated with the
British about the time of the Crimean War. Lapel but-
tons are used with civilian clothes for the same purpose.
They are made in a variety of forms, rosettes, bow-knots of
ribbon, small pieces of ribbon, metallic buttons, buttons
in enamelled colours, etc., each decoration having its own
particular design. Formerly rosettes made of silk ribbon
of the same colours as the ribbon of the medal were used
by the United States for lapel buttons, but they were not
sufficiently distinctive, for example the Army has four
medals with red, white, and blue ribbons, the Navy has


0xtitxsi, 3iecotation£f, anb Sns^ignia

the same number in red and blue, and it is impossible
to make rosettes in those colours so that the differences
can be easily remembered and applied. As a result in
1919 we adopted as a lapel button, a miniature of the
service ribbon made in coloured enamel. This is now
used for all our decorations and medals except the Medal
of Honor and the Victory Medal, the former retains its
old rosette which is hexagonal and of light blue with
thirteen white stars, consequently very distinctive (Plate
6). A coloured enamel representation of the rainbow of
the Victory ribbon would be difficult if not impossible to
make, and the lapel button for that medal is a star on a
wreath with "U. S." in the centre, and is usually called
the "Victory button," (Plate 6).

Medals are rarely worn on evening clothes, that garb
is not suitable for them, the material being usually of
light weight, and the open front leaves but little space
for them, as a result the practice has arisen of wearing
miniatures on the lapels of evening clothes, military and
civilian. These miniatures are replicas of the full size
medal, on a scale of one third to one half. It need hardly
be mentioned that full size and miniatures should not be
worn together, the incongruity being apparent.

It is thus seen that although the medals themselves are
rarely worn, the possessor of one can always show that
fact either in uniform or civilian clothes by wearing the
proper substitute. It should further be noted that these
substitutes are not in themselves decorations, they merely
indicate that the wearer has received one, from which it
follows that the wearing of the service ribbon or lapel


JBtomenclature anb ClasfieJifitatiott

button is nothing less than sailing under false pretences,
if the wearer does not really possess the corresponding
medal or decoration.

Another important point is that no medal, decoration
or substitute should be worn unless the wearer possesses
it in his own right. He must be the one whose services
earned it to entitle him to wear it. On his death it be-
comes an heirloom to be kept by his family but it should
not be worn by any of them, and similarly in cases where
a medal is presented to the nearest of kin because of the
death of the one to whom the award was made, the person
thus holding it has no right to wear it. There was one
notable exception to this general rule. Lord Roberts's
only son, an officer in the British Army, was killed in
the Boer War while engaged in an act of great heroism
for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria
Cross. The decoration was duly presented to Lord
Roberts who was given express authority to wear it, but
this permission was undoubtedly based on the fact that
Lord Roberts had a Victoria Cross in his own right,
earned by gallant action during the Indian Mutiny, so
this case cannot be considered as a precedent.

This incident was an exception to yet another rule, not
quite universal, but nearly so, that the same decoration
is never given twice to the same individual. Lord Roberts
is the only man who was ever authorized to wear two
Victoria Crosses. When we come to consider the decora-
tions of the different countries, the exceptions to this rule
will be noted, at present it is sufficient to say that in the
majority of cases instead of giving a decoration a second


time on the performance of another act justifying such
an award, some special device is placed on the ribbon of
the medal and on the service ribbon to show that the
wearer has been decorated a second time with the same
distinction. These devices vary with different countries
and with different decorations and will be described in
detail later.

A citation is an official announcement of appreciation
for services performed. It may be in the form of an order
issued from the headquarters of some unit (citation in
orders) or in the official report of some commander (men-
tioned in dispatches) or as a special certificate. All are
included under the general head of "citation." Usually
the particular service rendered is briefly recounted giving
date, place, and sufficient detail to enable the reader to
form some idea of the circumstances. A citation does not
of itself carry any further reward. If a decoration is to
be given, it is customary to include that fact in the cita-
tion if the officer issuing the citation has the authority to
do so. If he has not, he may submit a recommendation
to that effect and if approved the award will be made by
another citation issued by the commander taking the
action. Thus there may be two or three citations for the
same act.

Membership in an order is usually conferred in a docu-
ment called a brevet^ which is given to the new member
and is the official evidence of his membership.

The distinction between award and presentation should
be clearly established. A citation which specifically be-
stows a personal decoration is the award; presentation is


o - ^

iBtamenclatttre anb €la^siiiitatifm

when the decoration is actually received. The award is
always to the individual who earned the decoration, even
though he may have died in the meantime. Whenever
possible it is also presented to him and with considerable
formality and ceremony, but this is not essential, presen-
tation can occur to any one deputed to receive it. In
the case of a Service Medal the order announcing the
qualifications for any particular medal is the award to all
who are covered by the order. These medals are rarely
presented with formality but are issued to those entitled
to them in the most convenient manner.

The word bar in connection with medals usually
refers to a small piece of metal to which the top of the
suspending ribbon is fastened. It is sometimes covered
by the ribbon, sometimes the ribbon is fastened to the
back leaving the bar visible. It is provided with a pin
at the back for attachment to the coat. Occasionally the
lower end of the ribbon is also attached to a bar and the
medal suspended from this lower bar instead of directly
by the ribbon. Service ribbons can be either sewed on the
coat or placed on a pin bar, covering the bar completely.
It is not correct to speak of the service ribbons them-
selves as "bars." The clasps placed on ribbons to show
participation in battles are also frequently called "bars."
In England these are placed so that the first earned clasp
is nearest the medal or at the bottom of the ribbon; our
practice is the reverse as we place them so they read from
the top down in order of date.

Medals and decorations, with but few exceptions, are
worn on the left breast and in a carefully arranged order
3 33

of precedence. The place of honour is to the right of the
wearer, nearest the centre Hne of the breast, and the
highest decoration possessed is worn in that position.
Others follow in the correct order of precedence, and then
service medals according to the dates of the services ren-
dered. Foreign decorations are worn after all the deco-
rations and medals bestowed by the wearer's government
and in the order of the date of receipt. This rule is to
avoid the embarrassments and complications which would
certainly arise if any attempt were made to establish an
order of precedence for the wearing of the decorations of
different countries. There is only one exception to this
rule and that is where a person has more than one deco-
ration from the same country, those particular decora-
tions are then worn in the relative order prescribed by
that country. To illustrate, an American possessing both
the Legion of Honour and the Croix de Guerre should wear
them in that order no matter which was received first,
because that is the relative precedence established by
France. When the number of medals is too great to place
them side by side in one line, some nations overlap them
in order that they can all be placed in one line, the ribbons
usually being fastened to one long bar. Others, including
the United States, place them in two or more lines as re-
quired, overlapping the different lines, the medals proper
must all be visible but the ribbons of the second and third
rows may be hidden. Service ribbons are worn in the same
place and in the same order as the decorations and medals
they represent, they are never overlapped but are placed in
as many rows as necessary, with a small space between the


iBtomenclature anlr Cla^iiUtatitm

rows. Aviation badges are worn above the line of medals
or service ribbons, other qualification badges below.

Our Medal of Honor is worn at the neck and it is con-
sidered a higher position than on the breast. The service
ribbon however is worn on the breast with the others
but to the right of them all. When any decoration is
worn at the neck the ribbon from which it is suspended
is placed around the neck inside the collar so it does not
show. With a uniform buttoning up to the neck, the rib-
bon comes out between the top hooks or buttons, the
medal hanging about one inch lower. In evening clothes
the medal hangs just below the tie.

It has already been stated that the principal insignia
of an order is usually called a badge, this is worn by all
members of an order, irrespective of the class they hold
therein, the badges for the different classes may vary in
small details, such as the material of which they are
made, or in some minor features of the design, but in
general they are the same for all the classes of an order.
An additional insignia possessed by all orders is a large
plaque, called a star, which is worn only by the highest
classes (Plate 5). It consists of a niimber of rays emanat-
ing from some central design and has no ribbon being
fastened directly to the coat.

It is impossible to give general rules for the wearing
of badges and stars of orders which will be universally
true, as each country has its own little pecuHarities which
will be given in detail under the head of the different
countries, in the meantime a general idea can be given
of the most common practice.


0xtittii, JBttotatitmsi, anb Snsitgnta

In the highest or first class of an order the badge is
almost invariably worn suspended from a sash, called a
broad ribbon or sometimes a grand cordon, which passes
over one shoulder and under the other arm, the badge
thus hanging near the hip. In uniform, this ribbon is
placed under the belt, in evening clothes under the coat.
In the second and third classes the badge is usually worn
suspended from a ribbon around the neck, in lower classes
on the left breast. The ribbons of the second and third
classes are generally a little wider than those of the lower
classes, but very much narrower than the broad ribbon
of the first class.

The star is worn by members of the first and second
classes, and is placed on the breast, below the line of
medals, from this the difference between second and third
classes can be seen (Plate 4). The difference between
lower classes is shown either by rosettes on the ribbons,
or by some difference in the badge itself.

Some orders provide for the wearing of the badge of
the first class from a metallic collar around the neck on
very special occasions, instead of from the broad ribbon
(See collar of the Tower and Sword, Plate 19).

Service ribbons are worn for orders just as for any deco-
ration or medal, but as the width of the ribbon varies

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryRobert E. WyllieOrders, decorations and insignia, military and civil; with the history and romance of their origin and a full description of each → online text (page 3 of 19)