The Imperial War Museum Collection, London


The 15 Inch Naval Guns at the entrance of the Museum

The Imperial War Museum has a vast collection of exhibits, photographs and documents from the wars of the 20th Century. Their collection of German Colonial items was unique. All the items photographed here were from the Museum's First World War Exhibition as it was in 2005. Sadly the majority of this display has recently been removed from display.

If you ever have a chance to visit London, I would still fully recommend a trip to the Imperial War Museum. Admission is free and it is centrally located with good public transport access. See the Imperial War Museum website for more information.

Thanks again to the very helpful staff of the Imperial War Museum for allowing me to photograph the collection before it went into storage.

(Click on the pictures below to enlarge)

A display case containing the khaki tropical uniform of an NCO of the 1st East Asian Infantry Regt c.1901-04. This unit formed part of the East Asian Expeditionary Corps and later the East Asian Occupation Brigade until its disbandment in 1909.   The East Asian issue tropical helmet. It is a 1900 Bortfeldt helmet (see Tropical Helmets Details Page) with a brass imperial eagle. Stocks of these same East Asian tropical helmets were issued to some German troops in Palestine and Macedonia during the First World War.   A side view of the East Asian tropical helmet showing the removable attachment of the neckshade.



This photo shows the leather headband and issue stamps inside the helmet. Note the folding crease across the rear peak. NCO rank insignia is in the form of black/white/red collar lace with a large brass collar button bearing an imperial eagle, denoting his rank as a Sergeant.


A closer look at the collar and shoulder strap. The stiffened shoulder board is piped in white for infantry and bears the red numeral 1 for the 1st East Asian Infantry Regt.


Another view of the East Asian uniform showing the concealed button front.

This photo shows the sloped breast pockets of the East Asian uniform again with concealed buttons.   In this photo the left arm rank chevron of the East Asian uniform is just visible behind a shoulder strap from the M1910 field grey uniform of the II. Seebataillon. East Asian NCOs of all ranks were authorised to wear a single chevron on the left arm from 1901. The rank chevron itself is made of the same lace as the collar.
  Another photo of the East Asian uniform, this time showing the hip pockets with concealed buttons and the plain cuff.
This photo shows a Schutztruppe other ranks tunic from South West Africa, very similar to the one on the Schutztruppe Khaki Uniform Details Page (see there for full description). Identical tunics were worn by the German other ranks in East Africa and Cameroon.   A closer look at the blue-piped collar and black/white/red shoulder straps of the Schutztruppe tunic.   Another look at the Schutztruppe tunic. Note the breast stitching and sloped pockets.
A close up of the Schutztruppe tunic's blue piped collar and white metal buttons. Curiously although being otherwise identical to most Schutztruppe buttons, the buttons on this tunic bear the Royal Prussian crown rather than the Imperial German crown usually seen on Schutztruppe tunics.   The left arm of the Schutztruppe tunic showing the single rank chevron of a Corporal or Unteroffizier.   A collection of items captured from the Germans in East Africa including a pair of opera glasses used as binoculars, a pocket camera, several Schutztruppe white metal tunic buttons with the imperial crown, a beer tap from the SMS Königsberg, some pieces of shrapnel and three cartridges from a Mauser 7.9mm, British Lee Enfield .303 and a Mauser 11mm.
A Cameroon Schutztruppe African Soldier's Fez with white metal eagle and black tassel. Note how the fez is worn rolled down. The German term for this kind of headgear is appropriately a "Rollfez". Although we can't see the underside of the fez on display at the museum another example has been seen with the issue stamp "KA 1906" (for Kamerun or possibly Kolonial-Amt and date of issue) similar to those on other German issued equipment.   A close up of the white metal eagle on the Cameroon fez. The fez would have been identical for the Cameroon Polizeitruppe but for the eagle being brass rather than white metal as shown here worn by the Schutztruppe.   A German naval officers white summer cap. Note the embroidered black/white/red cockade, gold wreath and imperial crown on the front.
A British Wolseley Tropical helmet worn in the Middle East during the First World War. This was the most commonly issued tropical helmet to the British forces serving on all fronts overseas in the First World War. It was also popular with the German Schutztruppe in East Africa when captured, sometimes with the addition of a black/white/red cockade. Von Lettow-Vorbeck himself even wore one. This particular example has had insects added by the museum as part of the display.     A side view of the British Tropical helmet.   A decorative imperial German eagle that was removed from the walls of a German residence in Baghdad by British troops.
A ribbon with bars of the German Colonial Medal. This medal was issued to all combatants and non-combatants in German Colonial campaigns. The medal itself was similar in appearance to the German South West African medal (See Medals Details Page) and was also issued in bronze for combatants and white metal for non-combatants. The ribbon differs only in that the centre red bars are vertical stripes rather than horizontal chevrons. Brass bars have been added to this ribbon for additional campaigns, in this case for the risings in Cameroon (or Kamerun in German as here) in 1884 and 1891, and the rebellion of the Sokehs people on Pohnpei (or Ponape in German) in New Guinea 1910-11.   A South West African Medal with campaign bars on the ribbon. It is unlikley that these were all earned by a single soldier. The bars are for the campaigns: Oranje, Omaruru, Gross-Namaland, Hereroland, Nossob, Allob, Gross-Nabas, Waterberg, Ongajira, Omaheke, Toasis, Káras-Berge, Nurudas and Fahlgras.  

A Chinese Dragon Belt Buckle. The Chinese Dragon belt buckle was a source of some debate until the mystery was finally solved in an article entitled "China-Waffen" at Traditionsverband. They were in fact made in in the 19th Century in Germany for export to the Chinese Army along with similarly decorated swords. German forces found Chinese prisoners at the Taku Forts in 1900 bearing such items. So it seems that they were not intended for use by Chinese troops in German service as myself and others had previously thought. It is nonetheless a very interesting and collectable item.

This buckle is made from one piece of stamped brass rather than the usual two piece metal belt buckles of the German army of the time. Other examples of the Dragon belt buckle are made from two pieces of metal.

A collection of German Militaria from China. On the left is the Chinese belt buckle. In the centre is a cartridge pouch issued to Musketeer Paulick of the 5th Company, 2nd East Asian Infantry Regiment. On the right is a China Campaign medal (See Medals Details Page)   An Armband and Ribbon from East Africa in German imperial colours for sewing onto the uniform to aid in identification. These items were captured during the First World War.   A set of Documents, banknotes and coins captured from the Germans in East Africa during the First World War.
A Samoan Fita Fita Sash worn for ceremonial duties. Note that although the eagle is pinned in line with the sash itself on this display, contemporary photographs show the eagle was usually worn upright. This sash was captured by New Zealand forces in at Apia in 1914.   A close up of the brass imperial eagle on the Samoan sash.   A Japanese illustration of the the German surrender at Tsingtao. The artist was clearly not an eyewitness of the event as the imaginative pickelhaubes, blue tunics and red trousers worn by Major Waldeck and his staff show.

Some other items at the Museum include...

A French 75mm field gun c1914   Japanese Infantry uniform as worn at the Siege of Tsingtao in 1914   Cut-away view of a Jagdpanther SP gun with a Heinkel 162 jet plane overhead.
A German Kürassier uniform c1900   A London bus used on the Western Front in 1914.   An Austro-Hungarian Jäger NCO uniform


 short, a visit to the Imperial War Museum, London is a great day out. But it should be noted that the majority of the colonial display has recently been removed from display.
See the Imperial War Museum London website for details.

All photographs on this page taken by C Dale © 2005

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