Two of the most common long service fire awards are the 40-year and the 25-year medals issued by the German state of Bavaria between 1920 and 1936. They are both oval in shape and bear the same obverse. The obverse may be described as having at the center a side view of an old German fire helmet. This helmet is bracketed by two laurel branches that cross below the chin strap of the helmet, but do not touch above the helmet. Just below the crossing point of the laurel branches is a small letter “u”. Both the edge of the medal and a thin portion of the face of the medal are raised in such a manner as to double frame the contents of the face.
Except for the numerals, the reverse of each medal is the same. The format for the reverse is “FUR /. (numeral for the number of years) JĂHRIGE – DIËNST- ŻEIT” in five lines. The numerals, 40 or 25, are more than twice the size of the “wording”. The reverse of the medal is double-framed in the same manner as the obverse.
The connecting loop at the top of the medal is set off by inverted commas that face in opposite directions. This is done on both sides of the medal. Through this connecting loop goes a small connecting ring of about the same size. The connecting ring also goes through a larger ribbon ring.
The 40-year and 25-year medals were awarded on different ribbons. The ribbon for the 40-year pedal is claret coloured, while that of the 25-year medal is light blue with 8 white stripes of 1.25 mm. Both ribbons are 36mm in width.
During the years these medals were issued, the measurements remained constant, 50 mm for the width and 40 mn for the height. The metal composition did not remain constant. Therefore examples of this medal can be made of a light tin alloy as well as a heavier material.
These long service medals are just part of the history of fire awards in the state of Bavaria. The history of awards has run from 1884 to the present, with a few short breaks. As might be expected, when there were dramatic changes in the form of government, there were changes in the form of the long service fire awards. With this in mind, the dates of these two fire medals just described (1920-1936) will appear quite logical.
These dates coincide closely with the dates of the Weimar Republic of Germany. The Weimar Republic was established after World War I ended, with the end of the World War came the end of the Kingdom of Bavaria; the Bavarian Free State was born and became part of the Weimar Republic. Shortly thereafter, in 1920, the 40-year and 25-year long service fire medals were established to replace the Badge of Honor issued by the Kingdom of Bavaria. These two medals were issued until shortly after the next dramatic change in the German government, the establishment of the Third Reich.
Shortly after taking power, the Nazis established an elaborate system of awards. One of the awards was the Fire Brigade decoratíon instituted December 22, 1936. This Nazi award replaced the two medals issued by Bavaria during the Weimar Republic. After the end of World War II Bavaria returned to issuing its own fire awards. However, these awards were different from any previously issued.
Two additional points regarding the two long service fire medals issued by Bavaria between 1920 and 1936 remain. The first is an observation about the quality of the medals, it is comparatively low. There is a good reason for this. During most of the period Bavaria, with the rest of Germany, was in poor economic straits as a result of reparations after World War I.
A second point of information not yet mentioned is that while these two medals were the only long service fire medals issued by the state of Bavaria in their time period, other long service awards were given to Bavarian firefighters of the time. These include both local governmental awards and awards presented by private organisations. These medals are frequently of higher quality than the two medals issued by the state of Bavaria.