This is a single shoulder strap for a man from the One-Year-Volunteer (OYV) program in Kaiser Alexander Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr 1. It was considered the second-most-elite Infanterie Regiment after the 1. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. These two regiments were the only two Prussian Army Regiments (after 1897) to wear the mitre for high dress occasions. The regiment was raised in 1814, when its regimental patron was Russia’s Tsar Alexander I. The regiment was garrisoned at Berlin, where it was attached to the Gardekorps.
The OYV shoulder strap is very scarce. The One-Year-Volunteer Program was a special program wherein a man agreed to spend one year in the Army or Navy instead of the required two-year enlistment. In return, the OYV was responsible for all of his military expenses. Instead of drawing his uniforms, headdresses, etc. from government stores, he paid for them, as well as his housing and meals. Typically, such men were from the middle class and their families could afford to pay for the program in return for one less year of service. It was common for these young men to attain the rank of Unteroffizier during that year. Once they went into the reserves, they often attained NCO’s ranks. If called back to the Army, they often received the rank of Leutnant der Reserve. While OYV’s were responsible for purchasing their own uniforms and headdresses, they were allowed a certain freedom in what they bought. Pickelhauben, kugelhelme, busbies, tschapkas, etc. were allowed in near-officer configurations. They typically bought their tunics from the same sales stores as did officers. They were of the same higher quality, with the only difference being their shoulder straps.
The difference between an OYV’s and an enlisted man/NCO’s shoulder strap is a black and white rope-like braid that extends around three of its edges. The strap measures 3″ x 6.” The strap’s background is white, against which a red crown (Russian, for Tsar Alexander), the tsar’s “A” cypher, along with a “1.” A small moth nip or two shows on the obverse. The reverse has feldgrau backing, which displays one moth nip. A small gilt button is also present to attach the strap to the tunic. [It was sewn onto the tunic at the other end]. It is a very rare shoulder strap from an elite regiment.