Imperial German Land Flight Qualification Badges
 
The Imperial German Army Air Service Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilot's badge) was authorized for use on 27 January 1913. All of the Imperial German Army flight qualification badges are common in their design in that the outside perimeter of the badge is surrounded by a wreath. The left side has laurel leaves symbolizing victory, the right side has oak leaves signifying strength and hardiness, and the two are joined together with a bow at the bottom of the badge signifying the joining of these two qualities. The top of the badge mounts either a Preußen (Prussian) crown or a Bayern (Bavaria) crown. The badges were presented upon the individual meeting the specifications for either pilot or observer. At some point during the war (dates vary by reference) only certificates were issued and air crew were required to purchase their own badges. This could explain the relative scarcity of stamped metal issued badges in comparison to the two-piece privately purchased examples.
Badge Patterns
The three commonly encountered flight badges are the Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilot badge), Beobachterabzeichen (Observer badge), and Flieger-Erinnerungsabzeichen (Commemorative Flyer's badge). The center of the Pilot's badge carries a Taube monoplane, which was the first aircraft used by the German army. An interesting note, is that "Taube" the aircraft found on the Pilot's badge, translates as "dove". The Observer's badge carries an enameled flag of the German tactical symbol for an Army Corps and the Commemorative Flyer's badge which was awarded to retired German Army Air Service flight crew featured a dove flying over a landscape. The dove reflects the use of the Taube monoplane on the standard Pilot's badge. The last badge to be issued was the Bordschützenabzeichen (Air Gunner's Badge) which was not issued until January of 1918. This badge had similar features of the other badges, but with an eagle perched on a machine gun cross-hair.
Construction Methods
Issued badges were thinly stamped and silvered or silver-washed metal and are magnetic. Privately purchased examples can be found in hollow two-piece construction or single massive silver stampings and are not magnetic. The hollow two-piece badges could be made from silver for high-quality examples or silver plated brass or white metal for less expensive badges.
A wonderful postcard of Oberleutnant von Cossel (on the left) and his pilot Vizefeldwebel Windisch (on the right). As the observer, von Cossel wears the Preußen (Prussian) observer's badge which is discerned by the king's crown. The badge is worn on the left breast and is worn below the Iron Cross. He is wearing a M1910 Feldrock with black band on his visor cap, correct for Fliegertruppen. As the pilot, Windisch wears the Preußen (Prussian) pilot's badge on his left breast. He is also wearing a M1910 Feldrock with NCO lace on the collar and a single row of Garde Litzen correct for Fliegertruppen. Note the light-grey sleeve oval on Windisch's left sleeve denoting Flieger Abteilung 62 (Artillery Spotting). Windisch was the only aviator to be awarded the Prussian Crown order 4th class while he was a NCO. He was eventually commissioned to Leutnant and awarded the Pour le Merite with 22 aerial victories. He was reported missing in action on 27 May 1918. To see a larger scan of this photo in a new window, please click HERE
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Issued Stamped Metal Preußen Flieger Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilot's Badge)
This Pilot's badge is the issued pattern. It is made from thinly stamped metal which has been given a silver wash. The badge is magnetic. The details to the front of this example are quite crisp with good definition. As an issued piece, it carries no manufacturer's marking. The hinge is of the "crimped" pattern with a thin, round pin. The badge measures 72 mm high and 46 mm wide.

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Issued Preußen Pilot
Obverse
37 kb.
Issued Preußen Pilot
Obverse
Close-up 191 kb.
Issued Preußen Pilot
Reverse
30 kb.
Issued Preußen Pilot
Reverse
Close-up 116 kb.
 
 
Privately Purchased Preußen Flieger Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilot's badge)
This Pilot's badge is an excellent example of a privately purchased badge that is not made from silver. The details to the front of this example are extremely sharp and crisp with superb definition. The badge is constructed of two pieces soldered together making it exceptionally light, but there are no visible weep-holes (holes to allow gas to vent during soldering). An area of wear to the reverse reveals that the badge is actually made of brass that has been silver plated. Subsequently, the badge is not silver marked. For a pilot with less disposable income, this badge would be an economical alternative to a silver badge. When purchased, the silver finish and frosting would have resulted in a beautiful badge, far superior in appearance and quality to the stamped issue badge. The hinge is of the "crimped" pattern with a wide, flat pin which tapers to a sharp point at the end. The pin is maker marked with a crown and "RG". The crown mark should not be confused with a crown silver content mark which is of a different pattern. This crown is an unknown manufacturer's mark, not a silver stamp. The badge measures 71 mm high and 43 mm wide.

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Preußen Pilot
Obverse
44 kb.
Preußen Pilot
Obverse
Close-up 214 kb.
Preußen Pilot
Reverse
31 kb.
Preußen Pilot
Reverse
Close-up 135 kb.
 
Preußen Flieger Beobachterabzeichen (Observer's badge)
One of the most prolific maker's of Preußen flight badges was Juncker of Berlin. Juncker appeared to make at least two different qualities of badges both with identical stamps:

1. Rayed-back ultra-high quality; and
2. Flat back of a slightly lower quality.

As these badges were privately purchased, the quality of the badge was dependant on what the purchaser could afford.
The backing plate on Juncker badges is marked "C.E. JUNCKER Berlin" with a half-moon and "800" indicating silver content. Even under high magnification, the stamps are clear and sharp. Note that the crescent moon is solid and not merely an outline.
The detail and quality of this rayed-back example are exceptional. The badge is constructed of two pieces soldered together with a rayed back which is visible from the front. Even with a jeweler's glass at high magnification, no seam is visible. The badge is interesting in that the top of the Preußen crown on the obverse is vented. The obverse of the badge is highly detailed and retains much of the original silver frosting. The Army Corps flag device is silver plated brass filled with an orange-red enamel which is typical for Juncker badges. The hinge on the reverse is of the "barrel" pattern and is correctly recessed into the back of the crown. On Preußen two-piece badges, the recess for the hinge behind the crown follows the contour of the crown itself. The pin is slightly rounded and blunted at the end. The securing hook is rounded with one weep-hole to the right of the bottom clasp. The smooth areas of the reverse are flawless with no casting marks or pitting; a feature of an original badge. The front flag device is held to the backing plate with two flat brads. Of note is the shape of the bottom bow as seen from the reverse. Original Juncker's badges have a distinct "duck feet" appearance. This example measures 72 mm high and 46 mm wide.

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Preußen Observe
Obverse
45 kb.
Preußen Observe
Obverse
Close-up 222 kb.
Preußen Observer
Reverse
40 kb.
Preußen Observe
Reverse
Close-up 149 kb.
 
Bayern Flieger Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilot's badge)
The only known maker of Bayern (Bavarian) badges was the maker Karl Pöllath/Carl Poellath of Schrobenhausen. Research conducted by the director of the city archives of Schrobenhausen Germany confirmed that Karl Pöllath and Carl Poellath are in fact, the same company. Flight badges are found with either of two spellings;

1. "Karl Pöllath" which are exceptionally high quality; and
2. "Carl Poellath" which tend to be a somewhat lower quality.
In the religious antique market, late 1800s religious items such as cards etc marked Karl Pöllath or Carl Poellath are commonly found. In the example shown here believed to pre-date 1914, the same card uses two different spellings of Pöllath/Poellath, although both use Carl as opposed to Karl.

This one period artifact alone should provide evidence to any skeptic that the spellings were interchangeable by the firm. Items that pre-date 1914 can be found with the spelling: Karl Pöllath, Carl Pöllath, Karl Poellath, and Carl Poellath.


The city Archives in Schrobenhausen confirmed a shift by the firm from religious articles to military badges during the 1914-1918 period. The religious articles continued after the war, but now the spelling was only Carl Poellath and "Tinnies" from commemorative Nazi events and Third Reich War Merit Cross paper wrappers are found only with the spelling Carl Poellath which seems to indicate that only this spelling was used after 1918 and up to today, as the company still exists.


The centers of Karl Pöllath examples are typically marked with a tiny but clear "KARLPÖLLATH SCHROBENHAUSEN SILBER" in three lines. One this example, the Ümlaut (two dots above the U) are not visible in the stamping, which is very tiny. Note that the maker's name has no space, as if it was one word, another important indicator of an original high-quality Pöllath. On badges marked Karl Pöllath, the back is partially rayed with a blank center. On badges marked Carl Poellath, the back tends to be completely rayed.
This Bayern Pilot's badge is constructed of two pieces soldered together with a rayed back. The workmanship is superb with no visible seam between the two halves. The obverse of the badge is highly detailed as shown by the pebbling in the crown, leaf, and landscape. The hinge on the reverse is of the "barrel" pattern and is correctly recessed into a hollow at the back of the crown which follows the crown shape, unlike Preußen badges. There is one small weep-hole above the hinge. The pin is semi-flat and tapers to a point. The securing hook is slightly rounded and has one weep-hole below the bottom clasp. The center of the rayed backing plate has a smooth area in the center, without rays. The center is marked "KARLPÖLLATH SCHROBENHAUSEN SILBER" in three lines. Note that the maker's name has no space, as if it was one word. Also note the tiny and finely detailed maker's mark, another important indicator of an original high-quality Pöllath. As expected, the smooth areas of the reverse are perfect with no casting marks or flaws. The center of the rayed backing plate has a smooth area in the center, without rays. As expected, the smooth areas of the reverse are perfect with no casting marks or flaws. This badge measures 74 mm high and 45 mm wide.

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Bayern Pilot
Obverse
44 kb.
Bayern Pilot
Obverse
Close-up 237 kb.
Bayern Pilot
Reverse
38 kb.
Bayern Pilot
Reverse
Close-up 164 kb.
 
Bayern Flieger Beobachterabzeichen (Observer's badge)
Karl Pöllath also made this Bayern (Bavarian) Observer badge. The badge is constructed of two pieces soldered together with a rayed back, with the rayed backing plate visible from the front. Like the Pilot's badge, the workmanship is remarkable with no visible seam of the two halves being joined. The obverse of the badge is superbly detailed, especially in the pebbling on the crown and leaves. The Army Corps flag device is silvered brass filled with enamel, which is a much deeper red color than Prussian badges. The reverse of the badge is in all respects identical to the Pilot's badge above. The hinge is of the "barrel" pattern and is correctly recessed into the back of the crown. There is one weep-hole above the hinge, not visible in the scans. The pin is semi-flat and tapers to a point. The securing hook is slightly rounded with one weep-hole below the bottom clasp. The center of the rayed backing plate has a smooth area in the center, without rays, as is correct for an original Karl Pöllath marked badge. The center is marked with a tiny and finely engraved "KARLPÖLLATH SCHROBENHAUSEN SILBER" in three lines. The front Army Corps flag device is held to the backing plate with two rounded brass pins, which are held on horizontally unlike Juncker badges, which are vertical. The badge measures 73 mm high and 45 mm wide.

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Bayern Observer
Obverse
33 kb.
Bayern Observer
Obverse
Close-up 196 kb.
Bayern Observer
Reverse
29 kb.
Bayern Observer
Reverse
Close-up 145 kb.
 
Preußen Flieger-Erinnerungsabzeichen (Commemorative Flyer's badge)
This Commemorative Flyer's badge is made from a heavy piece of solid silver. This results in the badge being considerably heavier than a stamped or two-piece example. In contrast to the pebbled surface in the crowns of most badges, the background on this crown is cross-hatched (XXX). As is correct for an original badge, the dove on the badge has a distinctive small beak which is often misidentified in references as an eagle. Note also that the shape of the bow at the bottom is different than pilot or observer qualification badges which is associated with the manufacturer Meybauer, however, this badge is unmarked. The hinge is secured to a square block, which sits in a shallow recess behind the crown and the long pin is of silver and tapers gradually to a point. These features indicate 1920s or 1930s manufacture. This is to be expected for this pattern of badge, which was to commemorate service in the German Army Air service. The reverse of the badge is flawless, smooth, and of the highest quality. The badge measures 71 mm high and 44 mm wide.

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Preußen Commemorative
Obverse
52 kb.
Preußen Commemorative
Obverse
Close-up 204 kb.
Preußen Commemorative
Reverse
25 kb.
Preußen Commemorative
Reverse
Close-up 130 kb.
 
References
Angolia, John R. & Hackney, Clint R. Jr. (1984) The Pour le Mérite and Germany's First Aces. Hackney Publishing Co. Friendswood TX.

Chalif, Don & Bender, Roger. (1982) Military Pilot & Aircrew Badges of the World (1870-Present). Vol 1, Europe (Albania-Hungary). R. J. Bender Publishing. San Jose CA.