The development of the Aeroplane in the German navy was somewhat delayed by the continued deployment of the Zeppelin. Commanding Zeppelins traversing over long expanses of open land or sea was a perfect assignment for the highly developed navigational skills of German naval officers.

Prince Heinrich while making his flying license
Prince Heinrich while making his flying license. vd

It was Prince Heinrich and his love of all things technical who realized that the Dirigible was at it apex of development and `heavier than air” craft should be explored for the Navy. Heinrich pursued the training necessary to obtain a private flying license and receive the credentials on 28 November 1910. Following his lead, 38 naval officers also took private lessons and were li-censed. These officers formed the nucleus of German naval aviation.

By 1911 the navy technical service under the direction of Oberingineur Loew began a series of test flights at Danzig. These tests determined that the double wing Albatross was more stable over the ocean than the single wing aeroplane. One of the German Navy’s landmark flights took place on 18 June 1911 when a Taube fitted with pontoons completed a sea flight of 90 kilo-meters. It was not until 3 March 1912 that the first water landing was achieved. By 1913 the Sea plane division had four pontoon fitted aircraft. Albatross W 4.

Sea planes attacking the English fleet. German propaganda postcard
Sea planes attacking the English fleet. German propaganda postcard. vd

As the sea plane continued development it responsibilities were increased during the war to include the attack of English shipping both at sea and in port.

The technical development of Seeflieger aircraft was difficult and somewhat time consuming, but the Landflieger Abteilungen expanded rapidly as they were land based, and returned to land based air stations as they were not fitted to land on water. Their responsibilities along with supporting the general land war effort also included air defense of the bases, spotting for artillery and observation of troop movements. Special units like those located in Flanders provided reconnaissance for U-boats and torpedo-boats as well.

Sea planes attacking the English fleet. German propaganda postcard

During 1916 the naval planes began a new role in the war effort. Training schools were set up to teach the students how to properly handle and load bombs and also how to aim and drop them. Bombing was practiced from as high as 1200 meters. By May of 1916 Landflieger planes began being fitted with bomb sites. Generally these were installed simply by cutting away part of the floor in front of the observer’s seat.

Osterkamp letter courtesy by Michael Day coll

Obtaining enough flight personnel was a continual problem for both the Heer and naval forces. Naval pilots came from a variety of naval areas. As with the land flieger, members of Kaiser-liches Freiwilliges Automobil-Corps along with civilian private contract flyers volunteered for the navy and became naval flight officers.

The full scope of German naval aviation is beyond the intent of this article, but reading in that area is recommended as it is a fascinating study.

Three naval flyers earned the coveted Pour le Merite. These flyers were Friedrich Christiansen, Commander of the Zeebrugge Air Station, 11 December 1917, Theo Osterkamp, Commander of the 2nd Marine Field Jagdstaffel, 2 September 1918 and Gotthard Sachsenberg Commander 1st Marine Jagdgeschwader 5 August 1918.

Osterkamp letter courtesy by Michael Day coll.

The naval daggers pictured here are both from the `Gold for Iron” period of 1916. During this time brass was considered a military strategic metal and military daggers and swords were produced of iron. Also during this period as earlier, patriotic Germans did trade gold for iron by donating their gold wedding bands for iron replicas.

The iron naval cadet dagger on the right belonged to Leutnant zur See Wolfgang Wiesand. This dagger was awarded to Wiesand in October 1916 when he received his cadet diploma. Wiesand received training both as an observer and pilot and was stationed at Holtenau, Wiek and Putzig performing reconnaissance duties as well as aerial defense of the military facilities. While stationed at Holtenau Wiesand served with PLM wearer, Friedrich Christiansen. In August 1918 Weisand was commanded to the Seeflieger staff in Zeebrugge and served as a fighter pilot during the almost daily sorties with the British air forces attempting to destroy the MarineKorps Flandern and its associated air stations. During his time at Zeebrugge, Wiesand again served under Christiansen.

iron naval cadet dagger
Wiesand's dagger is a standard cadet dagger, with long blade etched with the standard naval mo-tif. The hilt features the usual Imperial crossguard and ivory grip. The pommel is an open crown variation, which had been favored by many cadets since the late 1890’s. The lighting bolt scabbard is hand engraved in script with the name `Wiesand” below the rear scabbard mouth.
National Air Fund for the Navy 1912
Iron medal. ´I gave gold for armor and received iron for honour´
National Air Fund for the Navy 1912 vd
Iron medal. ´I gave gold for armor and
received iron for honour´

The very fact that Wiesand survived the conflict at Zebrugge in itself is testimony to his skills as a fighter pilot.

The black enameled naval air service dagger on the left was first published by Hermann Maurer as a Naval Air Service Officer Dagger in the `Kaiserzeit” magazine in the late 1970’s. It was later published by one of the co-authors in 1988 as an Aero Corps dagger in the reference Collecting the Edged Weapons of Imperial Germany by Thomas Johnson and Tom Wittmann. Only now, after more than 30 years of continuing research, we are understanding that this dagger belonged to a member of civil trained Navy pilots. The dagger continued to be worn during the war period when opportunities for dress uniforms presented themselves. The private purchase and wear of this unique dagger closely follows the manner of wear of the Automobile Corps dagger.

To the casual observer this black painted steel dagger looks exactly like the 1916 steel navy dagger. It is interesting to see that it is actually more than an inch shorter over all than the naval cadet dagger of the period. The dagger actually meets the exact size specifications established by the Kraftfahr Korps regulations of 1916 regarding the 45 centimeter long Kraftfahr Korps dagger. It is also important to note the black painted fittings with gilded trim are the same as a Bavarian Kraftfahr Korps dagger of the late war period. A question could be asked as to why was the metal naval scabbard adopted instead of wearing the traditional leather KFAC scabbard. It is felt that a sense of comradeship and `Esprit du Corps” would have dictated this scabbard change. The Navy Flyers became comrades in arms with naval officers who had worn a traditional dagger since 1848

black painted steel dagger
black painted steel dagger

The open crown pommel is interesting in that the crosses are of two types; one a cast type that the small ring circumference protrudes from the background and the other a chased pattern that is recessed in the perimeter design, as if punched. This design is not unique, as it has been observed in both Aero and Kraftfahr Korps daggers of the pre-war period.

The beautifully toned ivory grip is double wrapped with a twisted, blackened steel wire. The ends of the wire are concealed under the pommel and crossguard. The crossguard is in the Imperial Naval style except that a pinned brass propeller is located in the center of the obverse panel. This propeller retains much of its original gilt. The reverse contains the scabbard release button. This button is of the two piece type and is drilled through the crossguard.

The center ridge blade is unmarked to maker and is devoid of the standard naval etching. The tang is internally numbered 23 as is the bottom of the crossguard. The steel butt plate is protected by an original green felt washer. The steel scabbard is of the typical Imperial lightning bolt design with suspension bands in the Guilloche, twisted rope pattern. The suspension eyes are rounded and plain as are the undecorated rings. The suspension bands are gilded as are the eyes. The scabbard throat was taken from a steel navy scabbard of the period as it still retains the gold wash associated with naval daggers. The reason for the blackening of this dagger as well as Kraftfahr Korps daggers is associated with the adoption of the M1915 and later changes in the war time uniform.


Impressum - Mail

The Early Prussian Aviators and their Daggers - By Vic Diehl and H.Hampe