Polish Soldiers posing just after being awarded Crosses of Valour. Photo courtesy of Michal.
Photo copyright ©1997, ©1998 PolCan Archives, all rights reserved, used by permission.
Controversial 1939 Cross of Valour; WW II Exile Cross of Valour; 1944 Communist issue Cross of Valour
Miniature Cross of Valour, WW II Exile type; Reverse of WW II Exile Cross of Valour. Current production also has 1920 on the obverse. Copies of all versions are now on the market in large numbers.
(all original II RP Crosses with machine stamped numbers up to number
First Issue of 1920 was made by Rozycki of Warsaw. 5499 produced. Eagle on a clear background and no year appears on the lower arm of the obverse of the dark copper Cross. On the reverse the wreath is half laurel leaves and half oak leaves. Sword on reverse with balls on the hilt. Letter A is normal. Suspension device soldered on. Ribbon ring soldered at seam. About 20 were awarded in 1933 to Veterans of the 1863 uprising. Copies now exist.
Second Issue of 1920 was made by Knedler of Warsaw with some sub-contracted to Gontarczyk. 39,500 produced. Has 1920 on lower arm on the obverse. Letter A is now with a "v" instead of a "-" cross stroke. The background of the Eagle has vertical stripes. The wreath on the reverse is now entirely laurel leaves. Suspension is part of the Cross with a hole drilled through it. Sword on the reverse with "bow tie" hilt. Copies exist.
Third issue of 1921 was smaller (36 mm x 36 mm as opposed to the original 44 mm x 44 mm). Between 12,500 and 15,000 of these were made. Much the same as the second version, except smaller. Some people claim that these were for nurses or women, which is not true. It was felt that the Cross should be a bit smaller than the Order of Virtuti Militari. The smaller size may have also had something to do with reducing costs. Copies exist.
Ribbons for the II RP issues come in many variations in shade and size. Hook and eye attachments were issued after 1929. Straight ribbons were issued before 1929, and these were suspended on a wide pin with ball shaped nuts on either end.
Multiple awards were denoted by a bar worn on the ribbon. There were 3 main variations of theses bars made during the II RP/Exile periods. First version awarded from 1920 to 1925 had small oak leaves and a leaf on each end. The second version awarded 1925-1939 had slightly larger leaves and an acorn at each end. The third version was made outside Poland for the Exile forces. It has even larger leaves and a pair of leaves at each end. Knedler made 75,000 of these bars.
WW II EXILE ISSUES
The 1939 issue is controversial. It appears that a few were possibly made, but when and by whom is unknown. Most sources consider this Cross an engraver's fantasy. These Crosses are very similar to the 1943 issue listed below. Perhaps they were made in 1943 as trials, but the date changed to 1943 to reflect Soviet influence. Replicas were made in numbers since 1975.
The 1940 issue is considered the first Exile issue. 600 were produced by Huguenin in Switzerland and were awarded to soldiers of the 2nd Rifle Division (interned in Switzerland since the fall of France in 1940 until the end of the War). This Cross is small (36mm x 36mm).
The Exile Government resumed the use of 1920 on Crosses produced from 1941 onwards. The ribbon colours were juxtaposed in order to distinguish the WW II awards from the original pre-War awards. A total of about 40,000 original WW II era Crosses were made by various makers including Spink in London as well as a few other English companies. Others were made in Palestine, Italy and France. Most Eagles on these issues have shorter tails and larger claws compared to the pre-War Crosses. Exile Crosses usually have normal A's with a "-" cross stroke. Sizes vary from 40mm x 40mm to 44mm x 44mm. None were officially numbered during WW II.
The first version awarded by the PRL was the 1943 Cross. It was made by copying a pre-War Cross and the Eagle had a Crown. The year 1943 replaced 1920 on the lower arm. Very few of these were made by the Gosznak mint in Moscow. Dark bronze. Suspension ring made of copper and soldered at the seam. Originals are extremely rare.
Two slight variations
1) 43mm x 48mm (including suspension) rarest version, 20 stripes behind Eagle.
2) 43.5mm x 48 mm (including suspension) 25 stripes behind Eagle.
Copies, including cast copies are around in numbers.
Second issue 1944 -made at a Soviet mint, the crown disappeared from the Eagle and the year changed to 1944. The Eagle's neck was extended up and to the left to fill in the space left from the crown. 43.5mm x 49mm (including suspension). Copies made in the 1980's.
Third issue 1944 issue made by Knedler, 1945. Slightly smaller Cross (2 versions- dark bronze or brass) 36mm x 39mm (including suspension). Brass suspension ring, not soldered at the seam. The feathers on the left wing (no joke) were higher than those on the right wing of the Eagle.
In 1945 a rare 1944 Tombak version was produced by an unknown maker. 40mm x 43.5 mm (including suspension).
In 1950, Grabski in Lodz made a slightly larger 1944 Cross in light bronze in two versions (either 3 or 4 feathers in the Eagle's tail). 43.5mm x 49 mm (with suspension).
In 1960 the State Mint Produced the Official 1944 Cross of 44mm x 44mm, made of brass (two main versions, both fairly common).
Multiple awards by the PRL were rare. Regulations abolished bars on ribbons in the 1950's.
The Cross of Valour was re-established in 1990 by the current Polish Government. This version closely resembles the II RP issue, using 1920 on the obverse lower arm.
Most of the information in this guide was obtained from Cezary Goch's
Polish Cross of Valour, parts I and II, published by the Polish Association in Brampton 1998.
References used for the article:
Bigoszewska, Wanda. Polskie Ordery I Odzanczenia, Warsaw 1989
Krogulec, Grzegorz. Medalierstwo I Falerystyka- Krzyz Walecznych w Ludowym Wojsku Polskim.
Krogulec, Grzegorz. Walecznym Na Polu Chwaly, Wroclaw 1988.
Oberleitner, Stefan. Polskie Ordery, Odzanczenia i Niektore Wyroznienia zaszczytne 1705-1990, Zielona Gora 1992.
Ordery I Odzanczenia Polskie I Ich Kawalerowie, Warsaw 1987.