today I want to go back a little bit in time. I think it is about two years ago when a family contacted me and offered a little estate of a World War II soldier. Not a real big grouping with paperwork and pictures, just two badges and a story behind it. I told them to send me pictures and I will tell them how much I can pay.
A few days later the pictures of the badges came via Email on my computer. I opened them and saw that the badges were damaged. Ok, we see that more often as collectors that a catch is missing or the hinge is broken off. But in this case the damage severe, looked like bullets went straight trough the badges.
If you see that on the screen you come to a “full stop” and you start thinking about your hobby. A hobby where you collect badges from brave soldiers who fired their weapons to win the battle and…..to kill or to wound soldiers from the other side.
Some of you might know it that I am a soldier on active duty, so I think always different when it comes down to battle or war. In 25 years of service I went 5 times in war areas to do what I have to do. Mostly in special units with special orders….that way you see things you don’t want to see.
Anyway, that´s the job and I am still here.
There must be a story behind that two badges, so I started digging for more information. I wrote an Email to the family and asked them about the fate of the soldier.
All they knew was that he served in the Germany army on the eastern Front, was heavily wounded but survived the war.
We all know where a wounded badge and an Iron cross 1st class is placed on the uniform, with the damage on that badges I would say that these were bullets of a machine gun. However he survived this wounds is not comprehensibly. Maybe he had a book in his breast pocket or his ID Tag somewhere in between. Or he was in a special move or jumped when he was hit…….
Here you see another strong hit, this time on a Knights Cross
About three weeks ago a Kriegsmarine grouping was offered with a dog tag of the soldier who got a lung shot through his Erkennungsmarke / ID Tag. In the email the seller wrote that the brave navy soldiers survived that too. Sadly I didn´t get the tag and the paperwork to study the story.
By scanning the net and also the Wehrmacht Award Forum I found some more battle damaged badges and what happened on the battlefield.
Some damages are made by bullets and some made by splinters. Also these little bastards can do a lot of damage. Back in 1999 I was on a busting course with some german navy seals. Just a basic course for blowing up everything we found. After a week of training we had to blow up a part of an old American tank. For cover we had to climb in a troop carrier about 500 meters away from the explosive area. Sitting in the tank and waiting for the bang, you think for yourself: I am 500 meters away, good spot….. no danger. But after we pulled the trigger a lot of metal splinters flew around like hell and also hit our cover tank with such a high energy…..deadly velocity.
So it dosen`t mater if it is a bullet or an explosive splinter, always enough to hit you hard and wound or kill you.
Some time ago there was a Soldbuch and an ID Tag on display in the WAF where a bullet or a splinter went straight through the book and some tiny metal things hit the ID Tag. Here you see some pictures of it.
Another interesting part is, why the soldiers kept their damage badges? Nice souvenirs from the war or maybe to tell their family “how close it was”?
On day I saw a TV report about army medics in Bagdad during the Iraq war. All wounded soldiers who came in that hospital with several injuries told the doctors :”Whatever you take out of my body, put it in a plastic pot and let me take it home!”
The next badge we have here is a Knights Cross L/12 from the WAF User ErikN. The soldier, Hauptmann Hans Klärmann, was killed in action by wearing that cross………. He was awarded the Knights Cross as a Hauptmann and Führer II./PzGrenRgt 361 on 19.09.1942 and died on the Eastern Front / Poland on 06.09.1944. Whatever went trough his Body had so much energy to damage his cross on the backside.
If this would not be an serious subject we handle here, the next badge would be considered a funny thing.
As you all know you get the wounded badge after you were hit by a bullet or by a splinter. Here we have a soldier who was really “in the middle” and got another hit from whatever crossed his path. We will never know the story but that looks like a real big shrapnel which went through the edge of that badge.(Pictures came from WAF user Urza 1)
I can remember when I was hit by a “thing” after an explosion some time ago some where in the world. I had a protective vest on and a Kevlar helmet, I was kneeling down for cover. I was not in the direct line with the point where the explosion was, but somehow something went up in the air and came down balistic, hit me in the chest and pushes me back on my butt. For me as 190 cm tall and 108 Kg heavy guy you need some energy to push me somewhere……..
The last badge I want to show you has really no story behind it. The German Cross in Gold (134) is melted from extreme heat. So maybe a battlefield pick up or it was in a house which burned down. Another collector told me that he had a similar German Cross which came out of a destroyed german tank in normandy…..We will never know it for sure.
Finally we have to look twice on badges and documents from the war, always behind all the heroism and bravery we have the other side of injury, pain and death. I won`t forget that and hopefully that blog entry let you think about it.
If you combat damaged badges in you collection feel free to send me pictures and stories for Part II of that subject.
You can always find all pictures here: