Throughout the Second World War, the German Armed Forces were awarded with a huge variety of decorations. The Kriegsmarine in particular had a large number of specific awards for its personnel. Some of the most distinctive of these were the War Badges which we will examine in more detail.
In the early years of WW2, the German Navy saw action in multiple theatres. The invasion of Norway in April 1940 and the Battle of the Atlantic placed great demands on the Kriegsmarine. In recognition of its accomplishments and the service of its sailors, a range of combat awards was instituted in 1940 and 1941. All the awards featured similar criteria, including either sustaining a wound during service, sinking an enemy vessel, successful completion of periods at sea and general meritorious service. All awards were worn on the left breast pocket.
The first new award was the Destroyer Badge, established on 4 June 1940. Following the battle of Narvik, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder instituted the badge in honour destroyer crews. As destroyers had played a major role in the battle and the invasion of Norway, over 6000 badges were awarded. The badge featured a grey destroyer surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves with the German Eagle at the head.
The second award to be instituted was the Blockade Breaker Badge. Initially introduced on 1 April 1941 and first awarded on 1 July, this badge was made in recognition of the Kriegsmarine’s efforts to break through the British sea blockade of Germany. It could be awarded to crews of either naval or merchant vessels. The civilian version was half the size of the Kriegsmarine award but featured the same design. The badge shows a grey ship with a German Eagle perched on its bow.
On 24 April 1941, Grand Admiral Raeder instituted the Auxiliary Cruiser Badge. Featuring a Viking longship sailing over the orthern hemisphere of the globe surrounded by a laurel wreath of oak leaves, the badge is one of the most visually striking of the Kriegsmarine decorations. It was awarded to officers and sailors of auxiliary cruisers who patrolled global sea routes. It is uncertain how many awards were bestowed. However, a special version with diamonds was presented to two Kriegsmarine captains in recognition of outstanding service in 1942.
One week after establishing the Auxiliary Cruiser award, the High Seas Fleet Badge was instituted. Although the Kriegsmarine’s large surface ships saw limited action throughout most of the war, they were highly active in 1939 and 1940. Although the badge was created in 1941, it was awarded primarily for actions prior to that year. The design features a prominent battleship sailing head on at full steam through the centre of the Badge. The battleship is surrounded by a gold wreath with the Reichsadler at the top.
Finally, on 30 May 1941, the E-boat Badge was instituted. In recognition of the great dangers faced by the crews of the Kriegsmarine’s fast attack boats, these badges were awarded for completing successful sorties and demonstrating outstanding leadership. Prior to the new decoration, E-boat crews were awarded the Destroyer Badge but from May 1940 they had their own unique award. The design mimics the other Kriegsmarine war badges with a German E-boat in the centre.
The German Kriegsmarine badges are some of the most distinctive yet unknown awards of the Third Reich. If you are interested in any of these badges or other decorations, head over to our website where we have a wide range of German WW2 insignia on offer.