German Marine Infantry- Seebataillone

The three Imperial German Marine Infantry Battalions ("Seebataillon" or "Seebataillone" in the plural) developed from the Prussian Seebataillon which itself was formed in 1852 for coastal protection and guarding naval bases. During the Danish, Austrian and Franco-Prussian Wars of 1864-71 the Prussian Seebataillon was deployed to protect ports along the Northern coast of Germany, as such it saw no action.

In 1886 the single Seebataillon was reformed firstly into two half battalions, then later in 1889 into two full battalions, the first (I. Seebataillon) was based at Kiel and the second (II. Seebataillon) at Wilhelmshaven. A third (III. Seebataillon) was formed in Tsingtao in China in 1898 and permanently based there, with small staff base at Cuxhaven.

Germany's new outward looking foreign and colonial policy from the 1880's onwards saw the Seebataillone used as elite rapid reaction forces, quickly deployed overseas in times of war, rebellion or for international peacekeeping duties in much the same way as the modern US Marines or British Royal Marines.
Highly Recommended External Link - Marine Infanterie

Foreign Deployment and Actions of the Seebataillone

The Dahomey Slaves Rebellion, Cameroon 1893-94
The first colonial deployment of the Seebataillone was a company sized expedition formed from elements of the I. and II. Seebataillone, sent to Cameroon to help defeat the mutiny of the Dahomey Slaves. They arrived too late to take part in any action and returned to Germany early the following year.

The Occupation of Tsingtao, China 1897-1914
In 1897 Germany annexed Kiaochow (with the port of Tsingtao) in China as a reaction to the murder of two missionaries. Two companies each from the I. and II. Seebataillone were sent to China. On 13th June 1898 they were officially formed into the III. Seebataillon and along with a Marine Horse Artillery Battery (formed on 4th December 1898) and several land based naval heavy artillery batteries became the permanent garrison of Tsingtao.

By 1914 the III. Seebataillon had been further strengthened by a mounted company (first formed as a mounted detachment in 1900, later named the 5. berittene Kompanie), a pioneer company (formed on 27th September 1910) and a machine gun company (formed on 25th November 1911). At the outbreak of war the III. Seebataillon consisted of 30 officers and 1269 other ranks. Further Reserve companies were added to its strength in wartime.
Recommended External Link - Tsingtau Info

The Boxer Rebellion, China 1900-01
When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in 1900, the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao were the only German troops stationed in China. Fifty men under Oberleutnant Graf von Soden were sent to Peking to protect the foreign legations. These fifty soldiers saw action as part of the allied defence when the legations came under siege. Another 25 soldiers from the III. Seebataillon were also sent from Tsingtao to defend Tientsin, while the bulk of the III. Seebataillon remained in Tsingtao.

Meanwhile back in Germany the first force that could be sent to China was the Marine Expedition Corps ("Marine Expeditionskorps") made up of the complete I. and II. Seebataillone. They arrived in China in August 1900 just ahead of the full East Asian Expeditionary Corps. They were then incorporated into the 1st East Asian Infantry Brigade of the East Asian Expeditionary Corps as the Combined Marine Infantry Regiment. They were returned to Germany in 1901.

The Herero Rebellion, German South West Africa 1904-05
In January 1904 two companies each from the I. and II. Seebataillone along with additional naval artillery and medical personnel were formed into a Marine Expedition Corps under the command of Major Glasenapp for service in German South West Africa against the Herero Rebellion. Once in Africa the four companies were divided amongst Schutztruppe formations. They saw heavy action and suffered casualties in various actions against the Herero, although they also suffered just as heavily from disease and the harsh climate. In March 1905 they returned to Germany.

The Maji-Maji Rebellion, German East Africa 1905-07
In August 1905 one company each from the I. and II. Seebataillone were formed into a Marine Expedition Corps under Hauptmann von Schlichting for service in German East Africa as the Maji-Maji Rebellion spread across the colony. Once again the Seebataillon troops were split up amongst different Schutztruppe units. They did not see heavy action and returned to Germany in early 1907.

The Occupation of Peking and Tientsin, China 1909-17
After the Boxer Rebellion a German East Asian Occupation Brigade was formed from regular German army soldiers to protect German civilians and trading interests in China. As the threat of further rebellion diminished so the force was reduced. In 1909 it was withdrawn entirely and replaced by the naval East Asian Marine Detachment ("Ostasiatische Marine-Detachement") made up of one company of Seebataillon troops under the command of the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao. In 1912 in reaction to the Chinese Revolution it was expanded to three companies, with two in Tientsin and one in Peking under its own separate command. When the First World War broke out the detachment made its way to Tsingtao where it fought and surrendered alongside the III. Seebataillon. Remaining staff elements of the detachment stayed in Tientsin until China entered the War on the allied side in 1917 when they were interned.

The Peacekeeping Mission to Skutari, Albania 1913-14
At the Treaty of London in 1913 ending the First Balkan War it was agreed that Albania be recognised as an independent state. The city of Skutari (modern Shkodër) was given an international peacekeeping force mainly to defend it from the Montenegrins who had occupied it during the recent war. The international force consisted of troops from Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Germany. The German contribution was an 100 strong detachment from the I. and II. Seebataillone, known as the Marine-Detachment Skutari commanded by Major Paul Schneider. When the First World War broke out the German troops were placed under Austro-Hungarian command and served as part of the Austrian 87th Infantry Regt (who had also been part of the Skutari garrison). As such they saw action against the Serbians at Višegrad, Bosnia on 20/21st August 1914. The Marine Detachment Skutari was withdrawn to Germany in September 1914 where it was used to form the cadre of the 10th Seebataillon of the Marinekorps Flandern on the Western front.
Recommended External Link - Axis History Forum Discussion on the Skutari Detachment

The Siege of Tsingtao, China 1914
Japan declared war on Germany on 23rd August 1914 under the terms of its secret alliance with Britain of 1902. Japan's only war aim was to conquer German territories in Asia- the Pacific islands North of New Guinea and more importantly Tsingtao. Japan assembled an invasion force of 60,000 troops with heavy artillery and naval support, to lay siege to the German protectorate. Britain also sent a battalion of the South Wales Borderers and two companies of Indian infantry to assist and observe. The defenders of Tsingtao consisted primarily of the III. Seebataillon and naval artillery batteries with reinforcements from the East Asian Marine Detachment, crews of German and Austro-Hungarian ships in the area and local German reservists. The vastly superior Japanese force suffered heavy casualties but succeeded by means of bombardment from both land and sea in forcing the German garrison to surrender once their ammunition ran short in November 1914.
Recommended External Link - Die Helden von Tsingtau at the Jaduland website

The Western Front, Flanders 1914-18
In 1914 the I. and II. Seebataillone were sent to the Western front to occupy the far Northern edge of the frontline along the Flanders coast. The I. and II. Seebataillone were each expanded with reservists to form the 1st and 2nd Marine Infantry Regiments respectively, while the remnants of the Marine Detachment Skutari (now known as the 10th Seebataillon) formed the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment. Together they made up the Marine Infantry Brigade, as part of the Marine Infantry Division of the Marinekorps Flandern. By December 1914 the term Seebataillon was dropped from usage. The Marinekorps Flandern was involved in much heavy fighting including defending against the Zeebrugge Raid in April 1918. They continued to hold the Flanders coastline up until the armistice in November 1918.
Recommended External Link - Kaiserliches Marinekorps


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