This is a single Großadmiral’s shoulder board that once adorned Kaiser Wilhelm II’s uniform. Only six men achieved this exalted rank in the Imperial German Navy’s history. These men included:
1901 – Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941)
1901 – King Oskar II of Sweden (1829 – 1907)
28 June 1905 – Hans von Koester (1844 – 1928)
4 September 1909 – HRH Prinz Heinrich of Prussia (1862 – 1929)
27 January 1911 – Alfred von Tirpitz (1849 – 1930)*
*[Promoted on an Honorary Basis without Patent, and thus NOT
authorized to wear his shoulder boards with the crossed batons
(the other five recipients could do so).]
31 May 1918 – Henning von Holtzendorff (1853–1919)
A Großadmiral’s rank in the Kaiserliche Marine was equivalent to that of a Generalfeldmarschall in the German Army, hence the use of crossed batons. The shoulder board is massive, measuring 2 ¼” x 5 .” It sports two gold bullion braids sandwiching a center silver bullion braid as the primary background. The silver bullion braid sports black chevrons that identify it as a naval shoulder board, since the Navy was part of the Reich (Empire) [not even such a mighty Kingdom as Prussia had possessed a Navy]. A magnificent set of crossed 2 ¼” Großadmiral’s batons is installed on the gold/silver bullion ropes. [Full-sized batons were issued to any man who achieved this rank, with the owner’s name noted on each one. Also please note: although the Großadmiral’s shoulder board batons have the same measurements as those on a Generalfeldmarschall’s shoulder board, the similarity ends there]. The Großadmiral batons’ attention to detail is amazing. If you look closely, you can see Prussian Crowns AND fouled Navy anchors! Instead of being silver, they are painted in THREE colors. Their primary background color is dark copper enamel, although much of it has worn off to reveal the gold beneath. The Hohenzollern Eagles and anchors are painted/enameled gold. Each baton tip is also gold with a small band of white enamel just below it.
The sumptuous detailing just keeps on coming! Kaiser Wilhelm II’s royal cypher is laid over the batons, with a beautiful Prussian Crown directly above it. Both are rendered in subdued brass that blends attractively with the batons. The obverse’s final item is a gilt-toned naval button displaying a crowned, fouled anchor. The reverse features a fine, dark-blue felt underlay, which ALWAYS appears on any Navy officer’s shoulder board. Some very light mothing shows on the fabric. An unusual circular brass backing plate holds the naval button in place.
Although we have offered Kaiser Wilhelm II’s shoulder boards in the past, this may be our rarest example yet!