The Mystery of the Yellow Südwester Hats

Yellow Edged Südwester of an Officer on Secondment to Togo
Note the small Hanseatic cockade worn below the Imperial cockade showing the officer to have been seconded from either the 76th Hamburg or 162nd Lübeck Infantry Regiment.
Photograph from a Private Collection first shown in
"The German Colonial Troops 1889-1918" by Jürgen Kraus and Thomas Müller (Verlag Militaria)


Togo Südwester Hat 1912-14

The Schutztruppe uniform regulations of 1912 authorised yellow as the colour for the hatband and edging of the Südwester hat and field cap for German army officers seconded to Togo. At the same time green was authorised for those in New Guinea and Salmon Pink for those in Samoa. Officers on secondment from the German army wore a small state cockade of their home regiment below the Südwester large Imperial cockade.

Several Südwester hats and a few uniforms have turned up with yellow edging in modern private collections and online auctions. All claim to be from Germans serving in Togo.

This is surprising as very few German officers served on secondment to Togo between 1912 and the fall of the colony two years later. At any one time, there were no more two army officers deployed there. If they served six month tours of duty, only eight men can ever have been authorised to wear the yellow piping, perhaps less.

None of these officers have yet been seen in period photographs yet up to half a dozen such items have been seen in modern collections.


Chinese Veteran's Südwester Hat 1920s-40s

There is however another explanation for some of the yellow trimmed hats and uniforms that appear in modern collections. In the 1920s overseas veterans of the Deutsche Kolonialkriegerbund or DKKB were authorised new khaki uniforms loosely based on those of the Schutztruppe. With them they wore the grey felt Südwester hat with a single large German cockade.

Whereas previous Schutztruppe khaki uniforms were piped in blue for all colonies, the new tunics and trousers were piped in colony colour. The Südwester also had its hatband and edging in the colony colour.

Colony colours for the three larger African colonies were the same as previously (blue for South West Africa, white for East Africa and red for Cameroon). However whereas the 1912 regulations gave Togo, New Guinea and Samoa their own colony colours the veterans from these colonies now all wore green. Yellow was the colour now worn by veterans of service in China, mainly from the East Asian Expeditionary Corps and III. Seebataillon.

This would certainly explain the relatively high number of yellow trimmed hats (often without state cockades) and yellow piped uniforms (sometimes bearing the 1900 China Campaign Medal) that appear in the modern collections.



Yellow Edged Südwester and Uniform of an Officer on Secondment to Togo

Südwester, Field Cap and Greatcoat of a Hauptmann of the 143rd Lower Alsace Infantry Regiment on secondment to Togo. Note the small Prussian cockade worn by soldiers from Alsace and Lorraine
Illustration from "Das Deutsche Heer, Friedensuniformen bei Ausbruch des Weltkrieges " by H. Knötel and P. Pietsch (Diepenbroick-Grüter & Schulz, Hamburg 1935)

Yellow Edged Südwester
Note the lack of a state cockade
Photo from Ebay

Yellow Edged Südwester
Photo from Ebay

Veterans of the German Colonies, Bremen 1938

The most instantly notable figure in this group is the African Mohammed Hussein who served as a signals Askari in German East Africa in the First World War, later moving to Germany where he acted in several Nazi propaganda films about the former colonies. He wears a newly tailored variation on the wartime Schutztruppe Askari uniform with a Tarbush bearing the Royal Prussian eagle. As with the other figures in the group he wears the Nazi swastika armband on his left arm. Hussein was later arrested by the Gestapo for having a relationship with a white woman and died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1944.

Most of the Germans in the group wear the DKKB 1935 uniform with Südwester hats edged in what shows up as dark shades in this black and whit photograph. This is most likely blue for South West African veterans (at least one has the 1904-08 South West Africa Campaign Medal) or possibly in some cases red for veterans of service in Cameroon.

The uniform of the figure on the far right interests us most however. He has a pale coloured edging to his Südwester hat. This could be the white of an East African veteran or the yellow of a veteran of service in China. Indeed closer examination show his medals to be the Prussian Iron Cross Second Class awarded for action in the First World War and the 1900 China Campaign medal for service in the Boxer Rebellion, proving him to be a veteran of a Chinese campaign and this his hatband to be yellow.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv



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