The Narvik Shield: a German badge of honour
The German army took great care to give due credit to the soldiers for the merits they had gained in hard battles. One of the most valuable decorations was the sleeve plate known as the „Narvikschild“. What did this atypical decoration look like and what was it awarded for?
During the fierce Battle of Narvik (April-June 1940), the German armed forces had to fight in extremely inhospitable conditions. Moreover, this operation had the flavour of an unusual improvisation for the German army, as the mountain hunters were also supported by sailors from destroyed or damaged ships.
In Hitler’s opinion, the performance of the armed forces required special recognition. According to a decree signed by the dictator, „in memory of the heroic struggle which was fought victoriously in true brotherhood of arms by the units of the land army, navy and air force in Narvik“, a sleeve plate was created, for which the name Narvikschild – Narvik Shield – was later adopted. The charter specified its bearers and other conditions: ‚The Narvik Shield will be awarded to all members of the Wehrmacht who have taken an honourable part in the Narvik landings or in the fighting of the Narvik Group. The award will be made on my behalf by the Commander-in-Chief of the Narvik Group, General Dietl of the Mountain Troops.“
The dead were also thought of.
The scope of the recipients was therefore limited to Narvik fighters only, not other areas in Norway: „A Narvik fighter is only one who was a Narvik fighter between 9 April and 9 June 1940, 24.00 hrs. under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Narvik Group, deployed for the purpose of combat, reconnaissance or supply in the combat area between Riksgränsen-the Oalge-Gratangsboten Pass including-Ofocen-the eastern edge of Skjomen-Norddalen, or in the air over this area.“
The deadline for submitting proposals for the award, which was extended several times, did not end until the end of January 1942. The first to receive his shield from Hitler’s hands was General Eduard Dietl of the Mountain Hunters in March 1941, but other „mountain men“ and other soldiers, airmen and sailors had to wait – the award was „frozen“ together with the steamer in the Szczecin harbour. In June of that year, more shields were finally distributed. The mountain hunters of the 3rd Mountain Division received 2,338 pieces, and the soldiers from the 2nd Mountain Division received 206. The command distributed a total of 8,577 Narvikschilds, including 681 „in memoriam“. The decorated soldier also received a proper document confirming his right to wear the shield.
Variants of the decoration
The Narvik Shield was issued in two versions – for sailors (gilded) and land army units (silver). The face bears the shield itself with the inscription „NARVIK“, with the year 1940 in a larger field below. However, the double numbers are separated by a stylized alpine protégé as a symbol of General Eduard Dietl’s mountain hunter units.
The participation of the navy in the fighting is commemorated by a ship’s anchor with a piece of rope crossed by a double-bladed propeller as a symbol of the air force. The whole of the coat of arms is surmounted by an imperial eagle with drooping wings, holding in its talons an oak wreath with a swastika. The Narvikschild, like all other sleeve shields, was worn sewn into the top of the left sleeve of the uniform.