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Subject: Photo of unknown WWI (?) officer - need help identifying! rss

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This past weekend I was cleaning and sorting a few boxes of books that had been in storage for nearly 15 years, when an old photo dropped out of one of them:



Can anyone help me identify his nationality and rank, as well as put an approximate date on the photo? From what little I could find online, some of the medals seem to be French and Belgian WWI decorations...

Apologies if this is not strictly wargame-related, but I had a hunch one (or more) of you knowledge-hoarding grognards would be able to teach me a thing or two

Many thanks in advance!
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Jason Sadler
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I think the medal on the viewer's right, hanging from his neck, is Polish.

Order of Polonia Restituta:







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I am home looking at the bigger picture I am pretty sure he has an Order of Leopold (Belgian) medal as well.



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Jason Sadler
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The palms hanging down
appear to be Palms of the Order of the Crown. Which would make the medal they are attached to The Order of the Palm.

Belgian Medals also have the weird device that looks like a trivial pursuit piece:



The swords on the awards mean that he was awarded them in war time. Which probably seems obvious, but I thought he might be royalty. He may still be royalty, but if he is, he still served in war time.

If that is The Order of Poland Restored, the picture was taken after 1921. A gentleman of his age would have had plenty of opportunities to fight in plenty of wars.

I think the amount of doodads on his Order of the crown shows "Grand Officer: Awarded after 38 years of meritorious service to a general officer with minimum rank of lieutenant-general". This is because "Grand Officer, which wears a star on the left chest, and may also wear the neck badge". If he was a Grand Crown, the star would be on a sash on the other side. Any lower and he wouldn't wear the neck device.

I think he may have the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Crown around his neck and the Fourragere he is wearing is attached to it, but it is hard to tell.

Man, I hope some of our grognards can shed some more light.
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Jason Sadler
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And a French Legion of Honour:



That one seems clear as day.

At least one nations Croix de Guerre with multiple awards (Belgium has the Crown at the base of the ribbon):


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That's some pretty impressive military sleuthing!

I had no idea the swords meant the medal was awarded during war time - makes perfect sense (the learning has begun!).

I am curious as to why you think he might be royalty, though, as I missed any detail that suggested that connection.

Oh, and I forgot to say before, for context, the photo was being used as a marker in a very battered copy of this 1929 book:

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Good work! Jason, can I ask how you knew those medals, or where you researched them?
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Jason Sadler
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I only thought royalty because it was pretty common for them to just have a lot of medals from all over Europe. It was just a leap of the mind that landed nowhere.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Wendell, I recognized the Polish eagle and went chasing after Polish medals.

Then,based on the OP saying they looked French and Belgian, I looked at lists of pictures of French and Belgian medals on Wikipedia with a few jaunts back to google to look for more pictures.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Looking at Foch's awards, I thought it might be a picture of him when he was younger. He was awarded the Polish Order of the White Eagle in 1923. However, he would have been 72 at the youngest in any picture of him wearing that Polish medal. This gentleman appears to be considerably younger.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

This guy has a chest of awards that looks like a Field Marshal, even though I don't think it is Foch. Many French top brass received citations from Belgium and Poland.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

This is fascinating, but I have to give up for the night.
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After using your method and doing a little digging of my own, I'm pretty sure the one between the Legion of Honour and the Belgian Croix de Guerre is actually a French Croix de Guerre (the edges are different):



It also seems that the rosette (apparently the proper but much less interesting name for the trivial pursuit piece) on the Legion of Honour indicates an Officer level.

BeatPosse wrote:
I only thought royalty because it was pretty common for them to just have a lot of medals from all over Europe. It was just a leap of the mind that landed nowhere.
[...]
This guy has a chest of awards that looks like a Field Marshal, even though I don't think it is Foch. Many French top brass received citations from Belgium and Poland.


That would make sense - whoever he was, he was important. It seems most of his medals were French or Belgian (pending identification of the rest). Maybe the uniform can provide a more unifying lead?
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The outer medals aren't as visible, but I think I found pretty plausible identifications - they both seem to be Italian.

The details are hard to make out, but the one in the top row is probably a Croce al Merito di Guerra (with the star side showing):



The bottom row cross is equally faded - having colour on the photo would really help - but my money is on the Order of Saint Maurice and Saint Lazarus:

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    This is the BGG Thread of the Week.

    Can the belt buckle or the collar give us more of a lead on the uniform? I'd be curious to know the nationality of this guy, though the medals from three or four countries might mean the uniform just happens to be the one he chose to put on that day.

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I had posted that I thought that was an Italian Cross, but then took it down pending further searches. It has that raised star in the middle that really looks like the Italian one.

St. Maurice and St. Lazarus looks good as a suspect. Also Italian.

I have been trying to find that uniform cut, the collar devices, the buttons, and the belt by searching for dress and parade uniforms for various nations. Unfortunately, once you got to be a special fellow, you could often do whatever you want.

What is that thing on his collar? A laurel? A wing? A Colonel's leaf?

I think he is likely French since he seems to have given precedence to French awards on his left breast. I am basing that on modern uniform regs, so that could be off base.
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Robert Morss
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Running with this clue - the Order of Polonia Restituta - I looked through the list of recipients in the military category -- possible suspects based on date of birth (and a passing facial resemblance) are Władysław Anders or Wacław Jędrzejewicz
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Wacław Jędrzejewicz looked like strong candidate based on his experience and even his appearance (short hair, dark mustache).


Edited because I had the wrong Pole! They both showed up on the same page.

This is the right Pole:



No picture in uniform. The other fellow I posted was in a Polish uniform and it had the same Forragere that our mystery man is wearing.

I don't think this is our guy:

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    Wladyslaw Anders:



    . . . and a text listing of his medals, Polish and foreign.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W%C5%82adys%C5%82aw_Anders#Med...
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Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
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I'd say "not Anders". Here's a early WWI pic of Anders in his 1st Krechowiecki Lancers Regiment uniform ...



Doesn't look like the same man to me.
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Amusing quest.

I am coming up empty on that uniform so far. I suspect the collar insignia is a leaf or laurel, but the chevron is throwing me. My first guess would have placed the chevron as French, but none of the rest. Bah!

The collar may be a French artillery or engineer insignia? This website lists them (scroll on down a ways):

http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~worldwarone...
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The image is definitely post 1921 ... the Order of Polonia Restituta didn't exist before that. It's also a medal often given to foreigners (non-Poles) which bolsters my "not Anders" point. Here's a full list of the recipients of said medal ... he'd have to be listed here, probably in the Military or Politics sections.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recipients_of_the_Orde...
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Unfortunately, not a list of every recipient, but a darn good place to look. I feel like this guy might be "notable". It's wholly possible he received the order as a politician after his service in the military. I didn't look at that category.
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Capt_S wrote:
Amusing quest.

I am coming up empty on that uniform so far. I suspect the collar insignia is a leaf or laurel, but the chevron is throwing me. My first guess would have placed the chevron as French, but none of the rest. Bah!

The collar may be a French artillery or engineer insignia? This website lists them (scroll on down a ways):

http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~worldwarone...


Maybe staff officer? Good resource you found.
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BeatPosse wrote:
Capt_S wrote:
Amusing quest.

I am coming up empty on that uniform so far. I suspect the collar insignia is a leaf or laurel, but the chevron is throwing me. My first guess would have placed the chevron as French, but none of the rest. Bah!

The collar may be a French artillery or engineer insignia? This website lists them (scroll on down a ways):

http://freepages.military.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~worldwarone...


Maybe staff officer? Good resource you found.

I thought artillery possibly as well looking carefully at the coat buttons (cannon ball and flame?)
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Argh ... I'm in too deep. Just spent the last 30 minutes looking over photos of Foch's funeral to pick out Polish officers. LOL!
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Capt_S wrote:
Argh ... I'm in too deep. Just spent the last 30 minutes looking over photos of Foch's funeral to pick out Polish officers. LOL!

I've done Google image searches on all of the listed men who have been awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta on that Wiki page that would be of the correct era.

Err, I mean I'm working.
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DaveyJJ wrote:
The image is definitely post 1921 ... the Order of Polonia Restituta didn't exist before that. It's also a medal often given to foreigners (non-Poles) which bolsters my "not Anders" point. Here's a full list of the recipients of said medal ... he'd have to be listed here, probably in the Military or Politics sections.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recipients_of_the_Orde...


His page in Wikipedia lists the Polonia Restituta, officer's and commander's. I don't have a stake in this, but I don't think he's ruled out yet.

Is the photo you have a legit photo, or a print like a postcard? If it's a postcard it indicates mass production, perhaps a keepsake from an event in a famous man's life, perhaps a funeral.

And that odd mustache cut matches. Might have been a style at the time though.
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I suggest checking the index of the book that the photo was in (if it has an index). I would suspect that the person was mentioned in the book, and that's why the photo was put in there.
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