German South West Africa

  Background of the South West African Reservists
German civilians living in German South West Africa were liable to call up to the Reserve (or Landwehr and Landsturm depending on their age) in times of rebellion and war. Reservists were called up during the Herero Rebellion and many German civilians and farmers also volunteered to fight during the conflict. During the First World War reservists added three companies and two artillery batteries to the strength of the Schutztruppe. A Landwehr and Landsturm were also formed for garrison duties. Many of those called up or volunteering had former military training and most being used to life on the farmsteads, were good horsemen and excellent shots. Unlike in most colonies members of the Reserve and Landwehr South West Africa may also have completed their annual training alongside regular Schutztruppe units in peacetime.

Figure 1

Uniforms of the South West African Reservists
Unlike the other colonies where uniforms were often in short supply and reservists were often left to provide whatever uniforms they could themselves, the Schutztruppe of South West Africa had sufficient stocks so that their reservists were usually issued standard Schutztruppe uniforms, although sometimes from obsolete stocks.

On 25th February 1916 reserve officers of the Schutztruppe in Germany were authorised to wear a Landwehr cross on the Pickelhaube eagle with the motto "Mit Gott für Kaiser und Reich" on the cross. A small silver cross was also worn on the field cap cockade (see Cockades Page). Photographic evidence shows that reservists in South West Africa had sometimes worn the Landwehr cross long before these regulations were authorised.

Figure 1 on the left, is based on a photograph of a Landwehrmann, Reiter der Landwehr Lenßen, taken in 1904, during the Herero Rebellion. His uniform is entirely of Schutztruppe issue although with several curiosities. The imperial cockade on his Südwester hat is overlaid with a metal Landwehr cross. His uniform is the 1894 Corduroy Uniform, with its distinctive Polish style cuffs. The edging and hatband on his Südwester as well as the collar and cuffs on his tunic are in blue for South West Africa. Interestingly the collar Litzen of the regular Schutztruppe has been removed but the cuff Litzen remains. The 1894 corduroy tunic had long been replaced (with the 1896 Kord Waffenrock and the 1900 Kord Litewka) in regular Schutztruppe units by this period. His equipment, ammunition pouches and riding boots are standard Schutztruppe issue. He is armed with an 1888 Commission carbine, which had also largely been replaced with 1898 Mauser carbines and rifles in the regular Schutztruppe.

Figure 2 on the right, is based on a photograph of a Landwehr NCO taken in about 1909. His uniform is entirely of standard up to date Schutztruppe issue. He wears a khaki corduroy peaked cap and 1896 Khaki Uniform with a single white metallic chevron on the upper left arm to denote his rank as Unteroffizier. Again, the piping and hatband on his peaked cap as well as the piping on his tunic are in blue for South West Africa. He wears standard brown leather South West African Schutztruppe equipment, ammunition pouches and marching boots.

Figure 2
Landwehr Unteroffizier



Schutztruppe Volunteers 1904
This photograph shows volunteers under the German flag during the Herero Rebellion. They wear civilian clothing and hats with a variety of different ammunition pouches which do not look like Schutztruppe issue. The weapons are however regular issue. To the left is a stack of Gew88 rifles and the mounted volunteer on the right has a Kar88 carbine. Writing on the photograph identifies the mounted men as Reiter Arno Henker in the centre and officer Wilhelm Junker on the right.

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

Schutztruppe Veteran Reservists on Parade, 1910
These men are veterans of the Herero Rebellion (as noted by the South West Africa Campaign Medal worn by the man in the centre right) waiting for inspection by the South West African Governor, Dr. Seitz. The photograph was taken on 14th November 1910. Other photographs show that Schutztruppe veterans often wore the 1896 white tropical uniform on parade. The man on the left carries a veterans flag and has a sash in the Imperial colours. Most interestingly they are clearly wearing a reservists cross on the cockade of their Südwester hats. This was not officially authorised until 1916, after South West Africa had surrendered, yet photographs such as this show that it was in use in the colony long before.

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

Schutztruppe Reservists in Training 1913
These men have been recalled for their annual training. They wear a collection of ill fitting 1896 khaki uniforms and field caps. Most wear their trousers loose over short boots and have a simple belt and Imperial buckle rather than the regular Schutztruppe mounted equipment. They are armed with the Gew88 rifle which was entirely replaced by the Gew98 in the regular Schutztruppe by this date.

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv


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