first permanent German unit stationed in South West Africa, the
Francoistruppe, were armed with a large bowie knife from 1888,
as seen in period photographs and illustrations of the time. The
Francoistruppe had an initial strength of 21 troopers, so
presumably at least that number of bowie knives were issued.
Very little is known about the
weapon itself; where it was made, who designed it or how many
were produced are all unknown. It seems to have been dropped
from service shortly after it was introduced and the later
Schutztruppe are not known to have used them.
No clear period photos have been
seen of the blade itself, no detailed descriptions found and no
examples have been seen in modern collections, until this very
curious item arrived in my inbox recently.
It appears to match that of the
period photograph on the right in its basic details. The
scabbard appears of a similar design, with the same leather
strap and button holding it in place. The wooden grip appears
the same with the same two rivets.
Most curiously, the scabbard is
stamped with 'K.A. 1906'. The size and lettering of the stamp
matches bayonet frogs of the Schutztruppe and would seem to
indicate that it was issued by the Colonial Office (Kolonial
Amt) in 1906.
However, as previously mentioned
these weapons were not general issue after their first use in
1888. No photographs of the German forces in South West Africa
have been seen with them on active service after 1889. If any
were still in use by that time, they were very few and far
between and certainly not commonly issued.
Francois-truppe Reiter, 1888
Note the large bowie knife in its leather scabbard carried on
Frankfurt Colonial Archive