The Wehrgeschichtliches Museum Collection, Rastatt


The Military History Museum in the Palace at Rastatt has an extensive collection of German uniforms and weapons going back to the Turkish Wars of the 17th Century, through the Napoleonic era and up to the First World War. While it concentrates mainly on the Baden and Württemberg armies (the museum initially opened as the Baden Army Museum in the 1930s) it also has items from the other German states. Its collection of Imperial German uniforms and insignia is stunning. Amongst the many exhibits is an interesting display of colonial headdress, photographed below.

The museum is housed in the South wing of the baroque palace of the Grand Dukes of Baden, Schloss Rastatt, built by Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden for his wife, Sibylle Auguste of Saxe-Lauenburg, between 1700 and 1709. It was based on the style of Versailles and is a very beautiful and impressive sight in itself.

Guided tours of the palace are included in the entry price. For updated details of opening times, entry prices and further information see the official website-
Wehrgeschichtlichen Museum Rastatt im Schloss Rastatt
Herrenstraße 18
76437 Rastatt

The official website for the palace is at-


Display of German Colonial Headdress at the Wehrgeschichtliches Museum, Rastatt

  Schutztruppe Tropical Helmet

This is a Schutztruppe officers tropical helmet as authorised for the Schutztruppe of East Africa (and later Cameroon) in the uniform regulations of 4th June 1891. It is a tall cork/pith helmet covered in white cloth. It has a Pickelhaube style spike and an imperial eagle with spread wings above a small imperial cockade. Around the hatband are two bands of yellow metallic lace, as worn only by officers. The spike was only worn on parade and was then replaced with a white ventilation pommel. The eagle was also removable for active service. A khaki cover could be worn over the helmet in the field in which case the cockade was worn on the front of the cover.

The spike and eagle were discarded from tropical helmets in the uniform regulations of 19th November 1896.

  Schutztruppe Südwester

This is an other ranks Südwester hat as worn by the Schutztruppe of South West Africa. It is made of grey felt with hatband and edging in blue ribbon (for South West Africa). The right side of the hat is pinned up with a large imperial cockade.

Note that the central red section of the cockade is unusually large. Most other examples seen have a more balanced distribution of red, white and black.


  Togo Polizeitruppe Fez

This is a red felt rolled fez as worn by African other ranks of the Togo Polizeitruppe from 1891 until 1914, although it was partially replaced by a peaked cap from about 1910. The same style of rolled fez was also worn by African other ranks of the Cameroon Polizeitruppe and Schutztruppe.

Curiously the imperial eagle on this fez has standing wings, as opposed to the spread wings design usually seen on fezzes worn in Togo. The tassel has also been tied around the base of the red tip of the fez. Usually the tassel would emerge from the tip.

  III. Seebataillon Tropical Helmet

This is a typical other ranks Bortfeldt 1902 khaki tropical helmet as issued to the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao. Note the removable khaki neckshade. Similar helmets were issued to other Marine Infantry units serving in hot climates.

It has a yellow metal imperial naval eagle on the front. Both the anchor points from under the eagles talons appear to have broken off. The helmet has also lost its small imperial cockade from the from of the hatband.

On the underside of the helmet can been seen an issue stamp- "B.A.O. 1902" for the East Asian Uniform Depot - "Bekleidung Amt Ost-Asien").

  Schutztruppe Tropical Helmet

The museum caption for this tropical helmet describes it as one belonging to the East Asian Pioneers. It does not however have the appearance of one. The East Asian Pioneer helmet would be a Bortfeldt helmet (see the Seebataillon helmet above) with a white metal imperial eagle and a black hatband edged in red. A similar pioneers helmet was on display at the Rastatt museum several years ago.

This helmet looks more like a 1913 Schutztruppe NCOs helmet from East Africa or Cameroon. The Schutztruppe uniform regulations of 29th December 1913 authorised a lower style of helmet than previously used with a twisted cord in the imperial colours for NCOs and a small imperial cockade at the front, as seen here. The 1913 helmet was authorised in khaki, this helmet is however covered in white cloth.

  East Asian Pickelhaube

This is an other ranks Pickelhaube as authorised for the East Asian Expeditionary Corps (and later Occupation Brigade) on 9th February 1901.

It has a yellow metal spike and imperial eagle and a brown leather chinstrap. Usually an imperial cockade would be worn under the right side chinstrap boss, but it is missing on this example. The helmet itself is made of field grey felt. Unusually on this example the front and rear peaks are also made of the same felt. Other examples of the 1900 East Asian helmet seen in period photographs and private collections all have leather peaks, front and back.


Other Interesting Exhibits at the Rastatt Museum

As you will see from the following photos, if you have any interest in German military history from the 18th Century to the First World War a visit to the Wehrgeschichtliches Museum in Rastatt is highly recommended. These photographs show only a very small selection of the Museum's truly amazing collection on display.

A Württemberg Jäger zu Pferd uniform from the Napoleonic era c1805.   Kaiser Wilhelm II's Prussian Garde du Corps Cuirassier Regiment uniform.   An infantry Pickelhaube from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha c1860s.

 A display of imperial era tunics.   A rare 1916 "Scroll" Helmet, see Scroll Helmets article at Col J's Website.

A portrait of Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden (reigned as Grand Duke 1856-1907, regent from 1852) in the uniform of the I. Seebataillon. Painted in 1899 by Kaspar Ritter.  

A selection of shoulder straps and epaulettes from the 108th Royal Saxon Rifles Regiment "Prince George". The museum displays hundreds of similar shoulder straps.

The edged weapons room at Rastatt containing everything from First World War trench knives and 19th Century Hanoverian sword bayonets to some of the Kaiser's own collection of engraved swords.   A pair of "dragon swords" with a Chinese dragon on the hilt rather than a German eagle or state emblem. It has long been debated as to whether these swords (and the similar Dragon Belt Buckles) were made for the German East Asian troops or for the Chinese army. German eye witnesses to the Boxer Rebellion report finding such swords in Chinese positions at Taku and in Chinese arsenals (see Dragon Article- "China-Waffen" at Traditionsverband), yet the caption in the Rastatt Museum says they were a private purchase option for the German East Asian Expeditionary Corps.
The standard of the 1st Battalion, 27th Prussian Landwehr Regiment.   A commemorative board for the service of Seesoldat Waschle of the, 1. Komp,  III. Seebataillon who served in Tsingtao 1911-14.   The 1st Leib-Hussar Regt uniform of Field Marshall von Mackensen.
   short, a visit to the Wehrgeschichtliches Museum, Rastatt is a great day out...
See the WGM-Rastatt website for directions, details of prices and opening times.
All photographs on this page taken by C Dale © 2010

Please contact me here if you have more information or photos on this topic. 

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