One hundred years ago this December, the troops in World War I Europe on the eastern and western fronts experienced their third Christmas – and winter – in the trenches. As he had in the previous two years, German medallist Karl Goetz struck a small, 22.5 mm medallion to commemorate this anything but festive occasion.
The reverse showed the fir tree branch of yesteryear’s medals. For the third WEIHNACT IM FELD [Christmas in the field] it bore three candles.
The obverse features Crown Prince Leopold of Bavaria recently appointed Supreme Commander of the German forces on the Eastern front.
Leopold was one of Germany’s most able commanders. He had been brought out of retirement in April 1915 to replace General von Mackensen on the Eastern Front. His capture of Warsaw five months later saw him awarded both the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph on Aug. 5 and Pour le Mérite [Blue Max] on Aug. 9.
The following summer his Heeresgruppe Prinz Leopold von Bayern [Army Group Prince Leopold of Bavaria] succeeded in reversing Russia’s Brusilov Offensive that had badly mauled the Austrians.
On Aug. 29, 1916, he succeeded Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Oberbefehlshaber Ost [Supreme Commander on the Eastern Front]. He held this post for the rest of the war and was responsible for signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918 that ended the war on the Eastern Front on most favorable terms to Germany.
On March 4, 1918, Leopold received the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross awarded only five times during World War I. It followed his having been presented with oak leaves to accompany his Pour le Mérite on July 25, 1917.
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