Orders of Chivalry and Gallantry Awards

Orders of Chivalry

In order of precedence, the chivalric orders within the Reich are as follows:

The Order of the Black Eagle

This is the most senior order in the Reich, and consists of the Imperial family and twenty-five knights. Membership of the Knights of the Black Eagle is in the gift of the Kaiser alone, and is usually granted to honour those who have held high public or military office, who have contributed in a particular way to national life or who have served the Kaiser personally. If there are vacancies in the order, appointments are announced on 29 September.

The Order of the Red Eagle

The Order of the Red Eagle is awarded for meritorious service to the Reich. It is both a military and a civilian award, with the addition of crossed swords to indicate a military award. Like the Order of the Black Eagle, it is in the sole gift of the Kaiser, and it is restricted to 150 members.

The Order of the Oak Leaves

This Order technically ranks equal with the Order of the Red Eagle, although it is primarily an external decoration, with the exception of certain members of the Imperial Council: the Crown Prince, the RFSS, the Reichsmarschalls (past and present), the Reichskanzler, the Lord Chief Justice and the Archmage of the RBTA. It is given to heads of state and other dignitaries of nations outside than the Fatherland, often as a sign of friendship or alliance. Recipients include Emperor Sirius of the Empire of Eboracum. The Order is in the sole gift of the Kaiser: he will accept suggestions for nominees from those other members of the Imperial Council who are members of the Order, and often agrees to them, although he won’t guarantee to accept such suggestions.

The Order of the Kaiserin

Previously the Order of the Fatherland, in which form it has existed as long as the Kaiser has ruled, this order was renamed in celebration of his marriage. In recognition of the fact that the Kaiserin chose military State Service, it is an order awarded to members of the Wehrmacht, the SS and the Waffen-SS, for great military or paramilitary service to the Reich. Officers are admitted to the Order of the Kaiserin First Class; NCOs and other ranks to the Order Second Class. At any given time, there can be up to 300 Knights/Dames First Class, and 700 Second Class.

The Princess Wilhelmina Order (aka The Order of the Princess)

This order was founded by the Kaiser in honour of his beloved sister, and is a civilian award. There are three degrees of membership of the order, and in total it has rather more Knights and Dames than the Order of the Kaiserin, although the two orders are of equal rank within the Reich. There can be up to 500 Knights/Dames First Class, 1,000 Second Class, and 1,500 Third Class, although it should be remembered that the order is open to all Citizens of the Reich and the Aussenhandel Shadows, and therefore the total membership is tiny compared to the population to which it can be awarded.

The Imperial House Order

This is the lowest of the Reich orders of chivalry, and is the most commonly awarded, with no upper limits as to membership. Both Citizens and non-Citizens are eligible, should they perform some suitable service to Kaiser, Fatherland, military or community: for example, exemplary war service, or to acknowledge a distinguished contribution to the arts or sciences, or public service. Non-Citizens are limited to the three lower (non-noble) ranks of the order. However, Citizenship is conferred with the award and thereafter, if they perform another great service, they may well be promoted within the order.

The Imperial House Order is split into Military and Civil Divisions, and has five classes, in decreasing order of seniority:

  • Ritter or Freifrau Grand Cross (GIH)
  • Ritter or Freifrau Commander (KIH or DIH)
  • Commander (CIH)
  • Officer (OIH)
  • Member (MIH)

Only the two highest ranks entail admission into the knighthood (as part of the Lower Nobility).

Gallantry Awards

As in Sable, there are different sets of awards for gallantry for military and civilian service. In order of precedence and equivalence these are:

Military Award Civilian Award
Knight (Ritter) of the Iron Cross (confers nobility) Imperial Cross (confers nobility)
Cross of Valour (Military), aka the Blue Max  Cross of Valour (Civilian)
Gold Cross Fatherland Medal
Iron Cross First Class Kaiser’s Medal
Iron Cross Second Class Kaiserin’s Medal
Mention-in-Dispatches The Kaiser’s Commendation for Bravery

The Mention-in-Despatches (MID) is a gallantry award for acts which are judged of sufficient merit to be officially mentioned in the reports sent by the officer commanding a theatre of operation, back to the Wehrmacht Staff Council.

If a service person has won an award, and then goes on to perform another act of bravery, they can be awarded the same medal again, although in the case of the Iron Cross Second Class, they are more likely to be awarded the Iron Cross First Class. For the second and any subsequent instance of the same award, they receive oak leaves to attach to the ribbon of the first medal.

The civilian gallantry awards can be earned by military personnel when the acts of gallantry fall outside the warrant for a military gallantry award. Likewise, on rare occasion, military awards can be earned by civilians in a combat situation with the Reich forces.

SS Specific Awards

The Order of the Knights of the SS

The highest honour for members of either branch of the SS is to be admitted into the Order of the Knights of the SS (KSS), which was officially founded at the Winter Solstice, RY000. The membership is restricted membership, and is solely in the gift of the Reichsführer-SS. In order of chivalric seniority, it ranks second only to the Order of the Black Eagle.

Historically, there have only been twelve full Knights at any given time, plus the Reichsführer-SS, however at Imbolc RY154, a second circle of full Knights was instituted, to increase the highest level of membership of the Order to twenty-four individuals plus the RFSS. Thereafter, the two groups have be known as the Winter Circle and the Summer Circle, with the RFSS a member of both circles. The Knights (the title Knight is used whether the individual is male or female) usually comprise a cross-section of the highest ranked officers within the SS and SD, at least one of whom is always a woman. The only Winter Circle Knight who does not currently hold the rank of Brigadeführer or higher is Heinrike Karsten: her membership is due to his great personal service to (and potential sacrifice for) the RFSS. However, certain of the Summer Circle Knights hold lower than general officer rank. Possibly contrary to popular expectations, Andreas Delatz was never a member of the Order, although his predecessor as head of the SD (Jürgen Kessler) and his successor (Tristan Heydrich) were/are both full Knights. Depending on which Circile they belong to, the Knights are designated KSS (W) and KSS (S)

There are also a number of associate members of the Order: up to 52 individuals hold the rank of Companion (CSS), and there are up to 130 Members (MSS). These are not knighted, and are not admitted to the highest rites of the order, which are the preserve of the Knights alone. Companions who have held that title for more than seven years (Senior Companions) are, however, occasionally admitted to the lower rites of the Knights. All members of the Honour Guard are included among the Companions, with the exception of Schultz and Karsten. The order’s spiritual home, if that is the correct term, is at the Wewelsburg, on the outskirts of Bremen, and various other Companions and Members, who are permanently assigned to the castle, oversee and teach at the nearby SS-Schule Haus.

A secondary function of the Order is that it acts as the Honour Court for members of the SS – both Reichs-SS and Waffen-SS – who are accused of serious infractions which it is not appropriate for their commanding officers to deal with. Such Honour Courts are usually made up of a Knight or Companion, and two Members of the Order, although depending on the rank of the accused and the crimes for which they are being tried, the breakdown of membership of the Honour Court may vary. At least one member of the Honour Court must be of equal or higher rank or precedence than the defendant.

SS Service and Gallantry Awards

The SS-Ehrenring (Honour Ring)

This is the most common award within the SS. The Honour Ring is presented to officers and men who have displayed great valour or leadership skill in battle, while maintaining a clean disciplinary record. Award of the ring is in the gift of the Reichsführer-SS, although he will accept recommendations for recipients from his senior officers. The ring is gold, and decorated with a number of runic devices, including a stylised dagger, the SS sig-runes and runic symbols for kinship and family, and prosperity. The inside of the ring is engraved with the name of the bearer, and the date of presentation.

The SS-Ehrendolch (Honour Dagger)

All SS personnel are issued with a standard service dagger, which is black and silver with the SS motto engraved on the blade, and sig-runes and an eagle on the grip. It is usually worn in a plain black scabbard suspended from the belt by a single strap hanger. However, a more ornate version of the basic weapon, the Honour Dagger, can be presented for particularly meritorious service. The tracery on the blade is inlaid with silver, with the words “For service” and the date of presentation on the reverse of the blade. The runes for zeal/enthusiasm and kinship are inlaid in the hilt below the claws of the eagle, while the guard and pommel bear tracery of oak leaves. In everyday service these are worn in place of the standard dagger in a standard scabbard. With dress uniform, they are worn in a scabbard which is suspended by means of linked plates embossed with tyr (battle) runes, and there is a stylised version of the rune for faith inlaid in silver on the scabbard itself. As with the Ehrenring, award of the Ehrendolch is in the gift of the RFSS, but may be recommended by a senior officer.

The SS-Ehrendegen (RFSS’s Sword of Honour)

All SS officers and NCOs are issued with a standard, straight-bladed sword, often with runes or insignia to indicate their area of service; or in a more traditional curved sabre style for the cavalry. However, a further award in the gift of the RFSS is the Ehrendegen. This is bestowed only on selected commanders and graduates of Bad Tölz, but can be won by personnel serving in both the Reichs-SS and the Waffen-SS. Usually, any award will be accompanied by a citation from the RFSS indicating why the holder earned the Erhendegen. There are far fewer of these in circulation than there are Ehrendolchen, although every Knight of the SS of either Circle is awarded the Ehrendegen on their confirmation.