Bar with the Combatants Colonial Medal and Ottoman Awards

Photo by C Dale from the Imperial War Museum Collection

The medals on this bar in order of seniority from left to right are-
Prussian 1914 Iron Cross, second class
Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, fourth class with crown
Colonial Service Medal, awarded for taking part in the Venezuela Blockade 1902-03
Prussian Officers Long Service Award, for 25 years service
Prussian Wilhelm I Centenary Medal
Bremen Hanseatic Cross
Hamburg Hanseatic Cross
Schaumburg-Lippe Cross for Loyal Service
Saxe-Meinigen Honour Cross for Merit in War
Ottoman Imtiyaz Distinction Medal Medal
, second class in gold with swords
Ottoman Imtiyaz Distinction Medal Medal, first class in silver with swords and battle clasp
Ottoman War Medal
Ottoman Imtiyaz Distinction Medal Medal
, first class in silver without swords

The original owner of this medal bar was Vizeadmiral Wilhelm Souchon, who commanded the SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau in Ottoman service during the First World War. His medals are worn in correct naval order of seniority with all the Prussian awards before those of other German states (including the ports of Bremen and Hamburg), with four Ottoman medals in last place.

Admiral Souchon was also awarded many other medals which do not appear on his medal bar. These awards and the reason for their non-appearance on this medal bar are just as interesting as those that do appear. They include the Prussian Pour-Le Mérite (which was worn at the throat rather than on a bar), the Prussian Iron Cross First Class and Turkish War Medal (which were both worn on the chest); several pre-war awards from Entente countries- Russian Order of St Anne, third Class, two Italian Orders of the Crown and a Greek Grand Commander of the Order of the Redeemer (which would probably have been removed as each country sided against Germany and her allies in the war, although the Greek order would not have been on a bar as it was like the Iron Cross, worn on the breast and neck); several repeated awards of the Prussian Red Eagle in different classes (which were superseded on his bar by the one that appears there); and the Turkish Gold Liakat Medal, Turkish Medjidie Order first class, two Saxon Albrecht Orders (first and second class) and two Prussian Crown Order (both second class, one with star), which he is presumably not wearing for the simple reason of lack of space across his chest.

  Wilhelm Anton Souchon (1864-1946) joined the Imperial Navy as a cadet in 1881. In 1884 he was part of the crew of the SMS Leipzig raising the German flag over the new colony of South West Africa. He was promoted through the officer ranks and given prestigious commands, in 1904 he was made Chief of Staff of the East Asian cruiser squadron.

He was given command of the Imperial German Mediterranean Squadron ("Mittelmeerdivision") in 1912. The squadron consisted only of the Battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the Light Cruiser SMS Breslau, yet their impact on the course of the First World War went well beyond their firepower.  Winston Churchill said that by their actions bringing the Ottoman Empire into the war, they brought "more slaughter, more misery and more ruin than has ever before been borne within the compass of a ship."

When war broke out in Europe, Rear Admiral Souchon left the Austro-Hungarian port of Pola (in modern Croatia) and led his ships to bombard French ports in Algeria. He then dodged British attempts to corner him and headed for Istanbul where his ships were transferred to the Ottoman navy. It was while in Ottoman service that they bombarded the Russian Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol thus provoking a Russian declaration of war and bringing the Ottoman Empire into the First World War on Germany's side. Souchon spent the next three years updating the Ottoman navy until recalled to Germany in September 1917.

When the war ended in November 1918 he had the dubious honour of commanding the naval base at Kiel that mutinied starting the German Revolution.

Admiral Wilhelm Souchon in Istanbul 1917
Photo from WikiCommons


Please contact me here if you have more information on this topic or if you have a medal bar you would like to share. 

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