The Iron Cross was a military decoration of the Kingdom of Prussia, and later of the Grossdeutsches Reich better known as Third Reich. It was developed from the symbolic cross of the Teutonic Knights.
First it was established by King Frederick William III of Prussia and first awarded on March 10, 1813 in Breslau , Prussian Province of Silesia – (today Wrocław, Poland).
In addition of that so called Napoleonic Wars, the Iron Cross was awarded also during the Franco-German War (1870-1871) by King William I of Prussia an later in the First World War, by William II – Emperor of the German Empire and King of Prussia.
In the end of year 1939 the Iron Cross was re-established with an extension of the higher class and separate bravery decoration Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross an its new grades during the Second World War by the Führer Adolf Hitler.
The Iron Cross was normally a military decoration only — though there were instances of it being awarded to civilians for performing military functions. As an example, the first and only female test pilot of the world – Hanna Reitsch – was awarded the Iron Cross First Class for her bravery as a test pilot during World War II.
The Iron Cross Second Class with kings crown, oak leaf branches and the initiales FW of the Prussian Kings. On the ribbon worn only on days of ceremony. Later at the buttonhole of the holders uniform.
The Iron Cross First Class with blank front. Order permanent worn on the uniform below on the heart side breast pocket.
Version 1870 + 1871
Awarded during the Franco-German War – here with strap in Prussia colour black and white
Version 1914 – 1918
Awarded during the First World War – also with strap in Prussia colour black and white.
The difference here ist the year numer of establishing 1914 inside the Cross
Version 1939 – 1945 with special extension
The Iron Cross 1939 Second Class with the ribbon in the colours of the Grossdeutsches Reich – black/red/white
It was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment and was worn in one of two different methods:
- only at the day of presentation cermony it would pinned to the uniform (see picture below “An army private of the Wehrmacht”).
- for everyday wear, only the ribbon was worn from the second hole in he tunic button.
The Iron Cross First Class was a pin-on medal with no ribbon and was worn left on a uniform breast pocket (heart side), either on dress uniforms or everyday outfit. It was a progressive award, with the normal second class having to be earned before the first class and so on for the higher degrees.
The Iron Cross repead clasp
Established in 1939 the Iron Cross repead clasp – in German: Wiederholungsspange des Eisernen Kreuzes – was awarded to those who received either of the first two classes of the Iron Cross in World War I, and would have earned the same class in the Second World War. This Spange was mounted on a white-black (prussian colour) ribbon.