© Hendrik Meersschaert 2017
WORLD WAR II ORDERS, DECORATIONS AND MEDALS OF VARIOUS COUNTRIES
The War Cross 1939
In March 1939 Czechoslovakia was overrun by the Nazi German forces and immediately underground resistance was started. An emergency government was set up in exile in London and shortly after the outbreak of WW2 in September, military units were formed, first in France and later in Britain. These units were made up from Czechs living abroad at the time as well as from a number that managed to escape from their occupied homeland.
Simultaneously, a Slovak puppet state, controlled by the Germans, was set up under Mgr. Josef Tiso in March 1939 and cooperated fully with the occupying forces. It also had its own awards.
The exiled Czech Government instituted this award in London in December 1940. Linden leaves on the ribbon indicate multiple awards of the War Cross.
The Medal for Gallantry
This medal was created on the same day as the War Cross. Its obverse reads "Za Chrabrost" (for gallantry) whereas on the reverse the text reads "Pravda / Vitezi / 1939" (Truth prevails 1939).
The Military Medal for Merit
In April 1943, this award was instituted in two classes : bronze and silver. The medal was awarded for merit, without active engagement in action with the enemy, in connection with the liberation of the country.
The Commemorative Medal of the Czechoslovak Army Abroad
Instituted on 15 October 1943, this medal's reverse reads "Ceskoslovenska Armada v Zahranici 1939 / 1945" (The Czechoslovak Army Abroad). Bars can be present on its ribbon with a first bar fully worded and any supplementary bars added on being much smaller and abbreviated. In total four bars were created : SSSR, FRANCIE, VELKA BRITANIE and STREDNI VYCHOD (resp. USSR, France, Great Britain and Middle East).
The Military Order of the White Lion for Liberty
Late in the war, on 9 February 1945, this order was founded for award to Czechs or foreigners for military merit in connection with the liberation of Czechoslovakia. Five classes were created : 1st Class (breast star with gold crossed swords), 2nd Class (same star but with silver swords), 3rd Class (breast badge), Gold Medal and Silver Medal.
The Order of the Slovak National Uprising
To commemorate the first anniversary of the Slovak Uprising, this order consisting of 2 classes and a medal was created on 23 August 1945. The first and second class are gilt and silver medals resp., showing on the obverse a cloaked woman holding a sword and the circumscription "Slovenske Narodne Povstanie 29.VIII.1944". The reverse of these have a five-line text representing the title and the class of the order. The medal, in bronze, has the same obverse but the reverse has a three-line inscription commemorating the uprising. Three different ribbons also indicate the class within the order.
The Military Order for Freedom
This order was instituted on 2 April 1946, in three classes, for merit in the liberation of the country, without active engagement in action with the enemy. Its first class is a 5-pointed breast star on a silver linden wreath with a central medallion depicting two helmeted soldier's heads and the text "Za Svobodu Ceskoslovenska" (For the liberation of Czechoslovakia). The second and third classes are medals, resp. silver and bronze, depicting the breast star's medallion. The reverse shows two crossed swords, three linden leaves and a scroll above, inscribed "Pravda Vitezi", and "1939 1945" at the bottom. The ribbon is blue with red outer and thinner white inner edges.
The Order of Jan Zizka of Trocnov
Instituted on 14 June 1946, in three classes, this order was awarded to Czech and Allied army leaders. The 1st and 2nd classes are 8-pointed stars with a gold (1st class) or silver (2nd class) medallion depicting Jan Zizka. The 3rd class is a medal having the medallion on its obverse and two crossed clubs with the order's title above on the reverse.
The Commemorative Medal of the Second National Revolt
This medal was instituted on 14 May 1946 and its obverse legend reads "ZA VERNOST 1939-1945" (For Loyalty). The reverse inscription is "NA PAMET / DRUHEHO / NARODNIHO / ODBOJE" (In Remembrance of the Second National Revolt).
The Janosik Medal
Instituted on 14 June 1946, this bronze medal served to reward partisans who fought against the Nazis during the war. The standing figure of a 17th century Slovak hero, Jurag Janosik, is on the obverse.
The Commemorative Medal of the Battle of Sokolovo 1943
In commemoration of the Battle of Sokolovo in which the 1st Independent Field Battalion fought alongside the Red Army, this bronze medal was created on 5 March 1948. The obverse shows a soldier, rifle in hand, with two rows of soldiers behind him. The ribbon is red with a centre band consisting of nine stripes based on the War Cross ribbon.
The Partisan Star
The Political Prisoner Cross
Commemorative Anniversary of Victory over Fascism Medals
Commemorating resp. the 20th (left) and 40th (right) anniversary of the Victory over Fascism.
The Commemorative Medal for the Battle of the Dukla Pass
20th Anniverary of the Slovak National Uprising Medal
The Order of Prince Pribina
Authorized on 8 May 1940, this order was awarded for civil or military merit mainly to German or Italian high-ranking officers. From 4 March 1942, awards for military merit were made "with swords". Five classes and a special class, a gold collar, were instituted.
The Order of the Slovakian Cross
Similar to the previous order, this one also had 6 classes and was instituted on the same day. Furthermore, 3 classes of medals of the order were created. Awards "with swords" were also foreseen from 4 March 1942 onwards.
The Partisan Assistance Star
The War Victory Cross
This decoration has a misleading name as it is in fact an order. Originally instituted on 11 September 1939 in three classes, this order underwent some changes in 1942 and finally on 30 November 1943 the final form was decided on, authorising a total of 8 classes of which the final three were medals and which include a "Grand Cross with Collar". The order was to reward distinguished leadership of troops in the field and could be awarded with or without swords.
The Medal for Bravery
Instituted on 8 May 1939 as a single (gilt) medal, a 2nd and 3rd class (resp. silver and bronze) were added on 11 September 1939. The original gilt medal thus became the 1st class and hangs from a predominantly red ribbon. These medals were awarded for bravery in action but an award for military merit also exists. In the latter case the ribbon carries a laurel wreath with a riband inscribed "ZA ZASLUHY" (For Merit) and, for practical purposes, can be said to be the 4th class of this medal.
The Medal for the Defence of Slovakia
This short-lived medal, instituted on 8 May 1939 and suspended in October 1940, exists in two designs : one for incidents on the Slovak-Hungarian border in March 1939 and one for actions on the Polish border in September 1939 at the time of the German invasion of Poland. Only the latter type relates to WW2 and differs from the first design by its reverse description which reads "ZA OBRANU SLOVENSKA JAVORINA ORAVA". The medal itself is a bronze shield showing a vertical sword and laurel and linden leaves with a scroll dated "1939" superimposed. The ribbon is blue with a white centre stripe and white and red edge stripes. Three bars exist but for WW2 one should only consider "JAVORINA" and "IX 1939".
The Cross of Merit for the Defence of the State
Instituted in 1939 and suspended on 1 December 1942, this is a white enamelled cross in either silver (1st class) or bronze (2nd class) and was awarded for meritorious service in assisting in the security of the state and the armed forces.
The Medals for Merit in the Suppression of the Rebellion 1944
Instituted in 1944 in connection with the national rebellion against the Tiso regime, which was crushed by the Germans. Two sizes of medals (36mm and 30mm) each in three classes (gilt, silvered and bronze) were created, bearing the head of Dr. Tiso, surrounded by laurel leaves and a legend, on the obverse.
The Eastern Front Service Badge of Honour