A Schutztruppe tunic from German East Africa
Reproduced from the Mike Murrie-Jones Collection by kind permission



This very curious Schutztruppe tunic clearly shows the improvisation and lack of regulation in uniformity of the German troops during the latter stages of the East African campaign during the First World War. It was captured from the Schutztruppe in 1916 by Charles Groves Wright Anderson VC MC during his service with the 3rd Battalion, Kings African Rifles in East Africa (who was awarded the Military Cross for his service in this campaign). The tunic was purchased from the Anderson family by a friend of the current owner into whose possession it came soon after.

The tunic is similar in original cut to the 1896 Khaki Schutztruppe tunic (see 1896 Schutztruppe Tunic Details Page) but without the blue piping. This blue piping was removed from regulation uniforms after 1913 which could explain its not being on this tunic, although many German tunics still in use during the First World War retained their piping. The tunic may originally have been a privately purchase item as the higher standing collar, slightly pointed pocket flaps and buttons on the rear skirts were not seen on regulation issued items. Slight changes to the regulations such as these were common amongst privately purchased uniforms worn by officers and senior NCOs. Variations in colour are also seen on privately purchased items but this tunic's pale appearance may also be due to exposure to the elements while on campaign.

Several modifications have been made to the tunic during its time on campaign in East Africa. Most noticeable of these is the fact that the sleeves have been cut short. The buttons on the chest pockets and on the rear skirts appear to be original in white metal with the imperial crown, but the buttons fastening the front have been removed and the tunic altered to have a concealed front. This may possibly have been done by a field tailor in the Schutztruppe if several buttons had been lost and if ownership of the tunic passed to a smaller man (or possibly if the wearer had lost significant amount of body weight while on campaign). Perhaps the most interesting features on this tunic are the evidence of combat and battle damage. Roughly stitched field repairs cover some rather nasty holes and the blood stains are self evident.

The insignia on the tunic is also very interesting although some of it may be post-war additions. Rank (in the case a Vize-Feldwebel) is shown in the form of three separate faded metallic lace chevrons on the upper left arm. Schutztruppe rank chevrons were usually grouped together on a blue background (again see the 1896 Schutztruppe Tunic Details Page) but these may have been made in wartime East Africa when regulations could not always be followed due to shortages. Curiously this rank lace also edges the front and lower edges of the collar. Schutztruppe NCOs did not usually wear such lace on their khaki uniforms (although it was worn on the home uniform).

The shoulder straps are those from a 1910 field grey uniform from the 55th Westphalian Infantry Regiment ("Infanterie-Regt. Graf Bülow von Dennewitz (6.Westfälisches) Nr.55") of the regular imperial German army. They are clearly a post war addition.

The Iron Cross second class worn on the tunic has wear similar to that of the tunic and so may be original. The only second class Iron Crosses issued in German East Africa were awarded to members of the crew of the SMS Königsberg who were incorporated into the Schutztruppe after the ship was sunk.

In all it is a curious and unique survivor of the East African Campaign.

Additional Note: As commander of the 2/19th Battalion AIF, during the invasion of Malaya in 1942, Charles Anderson conducted a fighting withdrawal to Parit Sulong during which he and his men were cut off and suffered heavy casualties. Anderson led them through four days of heavy fighting in a bid to reach Allied lines. For his leadership, his protection of his own wounded men, and for repeatedly risking his own life Anderson was awarded the Victoria Cross. He later spent three years in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp.

Please respect Mike Murrie-Jones's generosity in sharing these photos with us by not reproducing them without prior permission. Thanks also to Mike for providing notes and background information on the tunic.

(Click on the pictures to enlarge)


The front of the tunic. Note the shortened sleeves, concealed front and bloodstains on the right breast pocket.   The rear of the tunic. Note the two retaining buttons on the skirt.   The inside of the tunic, showing wear and tear and signs of repairs.
The rank chevrons on the left sleeve of the tunic.   Detail of the front of the tunic showing the collar lace and the second class Iron Cross.   Detail of some of the repairs made to the tunic.

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 All photographs on this page are copyright Mike Murrie-Jones © 2008

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