“Berlin Fanfare Trumpets” of 1944

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A Proposal for Award Orchestras.


By Valerii Durov.


(From Tseikhgauz No. 14, 2/2001. Pages 46-47.)


In the years of the Great Patriotic War many glorious military traditions of the pre-Revolutionary Russian army were revived. The introduction of some of them, although likewise carefully worked out, nevertheless remained only proposals. Among them was an attempt to establish special silver fanfare trumpets as an award [nagradnye serebryanye fanfary].


            The first award of a trumpet for bravery in battle dates to the first half of the 18th century. In 1737 a battalion of the Life-Guards Izmailovskii Regiment that was part of a composite guards force distinguished itself at the capture of Ochakov and was awarded two silver trumpets. Later, for the taking of Berlin on 28 September 1760 in the course of the Seven Years’ War, as a mark of honor fourteen infantry and cavalry regiments were given silver fanfare trumpets with inscriptions telling of this glorious event.

            In the beginning of the 19th century the practice of awarding military units silver trumpets became more widespread and systemized. In 1805 a new kind of award trumpet appeared—silver St.-George instruments that were considered a higher decoration. Up to 1917 about 1500 award trumpets were issued in all. On each one was an inscription telling exactly what military unit it belonged to and for what reason it received the award.

            Later the tradition of awarding trumpets was not forgotten. The turn of the tide during the Great Patriotic War brought to mind again the relics connected with the victories of Russian troops in the Seven Years’ War. In June of 1944 a draft order was prepared for issue by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, entitled “On the awarding of orchestras with trumpets to military units” [“O nagrazhdenii voiskovykh chastei orkestrami s fanfarami”]. While this proposal was being drawn up, a historical comparison with the trumpets of 1760 was done so that the analogy with those trumpets given to Russian army regiments for the taking of Berlin would be accurate.

            The draft order proposed that military units that “especially distinguished themselves in battle for the Motherland as a result of skillful, decisive, and selfless military operations” would be awarded regulation orchestras. Such an orchestra would consist of 25 men with the appropriate musical instruments, including 4 trumpets.

            This award was to be given to regiments and separate battalions of all service arms “for being the first in the capture, either alone or as part of a larger formation, of large population centers or railway hubs, for being the first in crossing large and especially well-fortified water barriers, and for surrounding superior numbers of enemy troops.”

            Awards were to be done by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR upon nomination by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief.

            According to the proposal, trumpets that were part of an award orchestra were to be brought out on all ceremonial occasions (parades and honor guards). It was also proposed that units which earned this award would march in parades at the head of the column.

            Trumpets were to be kept as honored regalia according to the rules established for the keeping of flags. When an unit was disbanded they were to be turned in to Museum of the Red Army.

            Special requirements were laid down for the outward appearance of an award orchestra’s musical instruments. All brass wind instruments and the metal parts of other instruments  were to be silvered, and the inner surface of bell pieces and mouthpieces were to be gilded and polished. It was planned to engrave on trumpet bells a short inscription telling of the military unit’s battlefield feat. By means of a cord each trumpet was to have attached to it a special square flag of red velvet with gold fringes and tassels.

            The author is aware of three draft drawings of flags, two of them showing the Order of Glory. However, the draft order has only the third variant—on one side is a five-pointed star with hammer and sickle surrounded by a wreath, and on the other the inscription “To a unit distinguished in battle for the Motherland” [“Otlichivshemusya v boyakh za Rodinu”] and the name of the unit.

            For unknown reasons the order establishing award orchestras and trumpets remained only a proposal.

            At the same time, it is known that two silver trumpets nevertheless sounded in 1945 on the streets of defeated Berlin. But these were not new instruments but old veteran trumpets of the 18th century, decorated with the inscription “For success and bravery in the taking of Berlin September 28 1760.” One trumpet was at some time part of nine awarded to the St.-Petersburg Horse-Grenadier Regiment (later carabiniers). Before 1917 these nine trumpets were kept by the 1st General-Field Marshal Prince Menshikov’s Petrograd Lancer Regiment. The other silver trumpet belonged to the Neva Infantry Regiment.

            In 1918 both trumpets were found in an Oranienbaum barracks by Red-Army men. They were decorated with red ribbons and a star, after which they remained with the regiment. The regiment carried them through the Civil and Great Patriotic wars. For distinction in the Great Patriotic War the regiment was given guards status. It took part in the taking of Berlin, where its trumpets attracted the attention of the higher command. For the taking of Berlin it was decided to add to the trumpets’ red ribbons additional ribbons of the Order of Glory.

            Made on the occasion of the capture of Berlin in 1760, after 185 years the silver trumpets completed their military odyssey in that city’s streets, marking once again the glory and might of Russian arms. After the war the fanfare trumpets were turned over to the A.V. Suvorov Museum in Leningrad.




Pages 47-48: (Top right) Silver award fanfare trumpet for the taking of Berlin in 1760. (GIM)

(Bottom left and right) Proposed award fanfare trumpets, 1944. [The encircling inscription on each flag reads “To a unit distinguished in battle for the motherland.” The center inscription on the flag on page 46 reads “To the 45th Orel Order of Lenin Rifle Regiment,” while the centers of the top and bottom flags on the right both read “To the 45th Kursk Order of Lenin Rifle Regiment.”]


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2002.