German South West African Schutztruppe
White Tropical Uniform



On 19th November 1896 a white tropical uniform was authorised for German officers and NCOs of the East African and Cameroon Schutztruppe. It was worn in those two colonies for parades and peacetime duties from 1896 until the First World War. It was only authorised to be worn in hot weather by officers the of the South West African Schutztruppe from 29th December 1913 . Period photographs however show that some Schutztruppe officers in South West Africa had purchased the white uniform long before 1913 (see example below).
The white tropical uniform was of identical cut to the 1896 Khaki Uniform. The tunic was piped in blue (for all colonies) on the collar, front and cuffs. It had pleated sloping breast pockets and level hip pockets. There were six white metal buttons down the front, one on each pocket flap and one smaller button holding each shoulder strap. All the buttons were of white metal and bore the imperial crown.

Officers displayed their rank insignia on their shoulder straps in the usual manner (see Officers Rank Insignia Page).

The shoulder straps for NCOs in Cameroon and East Africa were of twisted black/white/red braid for NCOs and other ranks as on the khaki uniform. NCO rank insignia was displayed in the form of inverted chevrons on the upper left arm (see NCO Rank Insignia Page).  Parade aiguillettes, marksmanship lanyards, musicians swallows nests and other specialist insignia were all worn on the white uniform (see Specialist Insignia Page).

Privately tailored uniforms purchased by officers, senior NCOs and One Year Volunteers were usually of better quality material and cut. They often had higher collars and occasionally had more major variations in cut such as having no hip pockets or sometimes having only partial or no piping.

There seems to have been some confusion over the style of cuff defined in the regulations of 1896. The original text describes a Swedish cuff, which usually means one with a piped turn-back cuff held by two horizontally placed buttons. However the next page of the uniform regulations where the tunic buttons are described does not mention buttons for the cuff. It seems that the vast majority of uniforms therefore did not have the cuff buttons but occasional privately purchased tunics did. The white uniform was also illustrated at the time by the military artist Moritz Ruhl with cuff buttons (see Illustrated Plates Page).

Matching white trousers were also authorised, piped in blue although period photographs show not all trousers had the piping. Matching white ankle boots or shoes were worn with the white uniform.


Figure 1
Schutztruppe Officer


Figure 2
Schutztruppe Officer

  The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of an artillery Officer of the South West African Schutztruppe. He wears the standard white uniform as authorised with blue piping, white metal buttons and four pockets. His headdress is the corduroy field cap with black leather peak, small imperial cockade and hatband and piping in blue for South West Africa. He wears corduroy riding breeches and brown leather gaiters and short ankle boots.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of an Officer of the South West African Schutztruppe, Leutnant von Hadeln, taken alongside officers of the South African Free Corps in 1914. He wears a privately purchased variation on the white tunic without piping. It is also being worn without shoulder straps. His trousers and short boots are also white and his headdress is the grey cloth field cap from his home uniform.

  Friedrich Freiherr von Hadeln (1885-__) was born in Weimar 14th May 1885. In 1915 his reconnaissance unit, Abteilung von Hadeln led a raid against South African forces at the Battle of Kakamas, 4th February 1915 and as such was the only German officer to invade the Union of South Africa during the First World War. He later saw action at the Battle of Gibeon, 26th-27th April 1915. For his service in the South West African campaign 1914-15 he was promoted to Hauptmnann and awarded the Iron Cross, first and second class. By 1936 he held the rank of Major.
Recommended External Link- Abteilung von Hadeln at the Kaiser's Cross




Schutztruppe Officers 1896 White Tropical Uniform
Linke Kolonial Museum Collection

  This is a privately purchased officers white tropical uniform. This tunic was worn in South West Africa as can be seen from the blue backing to the shoulder straps. Note that the officers shoulder straps are without pips, showing the wearer to be a Leutnant. Also note the slightly pointed pocket flaps, these were a variation by private tailors. He wears post-First World War medals as a chain of miniatures across his left breast. This not a style of medal wearing commonly seen on active Schutztruppe officers.  


Mountain Gun Battery of the South West African Schutztruppe, Okahandja 1903
Note that the two officers (Joachim von Heydebreck on the left and Freiherr von Hirschberg on the right) both wear white tunics ten years before they were authorised. (Click Here for Close-ups and more information on this photograph).
Photo Karsten Herzogenrath


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