Schutztruppe Greatcoats, Cloaks and Overcoats

Greatcoats were authorised for German Schutztruppe officers and other ranks of all colonies for wear on home duty or leave in Germany. South West Africa was the only colony where Schutztruppe officers and other ranks needed to wear greatcoats. Nights in the Namibian deserts can get extremely cold. The different types of overcoat and cape worn by the Schutztruppe, all came from regular army patterns.

South West African Schutztruppe
Germany 1906

Figure 1 on the left, is based on a photograph of a Trooper of the South West African Schutztruppe being inspected by King Friedrich August III of Saxony in October 1906 prior to departure for the colonies. He wears the Schutztruppe single breasted other ranks greatcoat as described above. Note the colony coloured (in this case blue for South West Africa) shoulder strap and collar patch with white Litzen.

His headgear is the Südwester hat with hatband and piping again in blue for South West Africa. He wears the short brown leather riding boots of the Prussian Dragoons of the Imperial army, as were standard issue to mounted other ranks in the Schutztruppe. On active service the Schutztruppe mounted equipment and ammunition pouches were usually worn over the greatcoat.

Figure 2 on the right is based on a photograph of a General Officer of the Schutztruppe on parade in Berlin in 1917. This officer wears the pre-war grey officers double breasted great coat.

As allowed the 1916 regulations it is still worn but with a grey collar rather than the old collar in colony colours (or in this case red for a General). It still has the gold plate imperial crowned buttons and red piping of a Schutztruppe general. While most officers did not wear piping on their greatcoats, general officers had red piping on the collar, pockets and scalloped rear skirts. The braided shoulder straps also display his rank.

This officer is still wearing his old Südwester hat with generals gold lace hatband and edging, which was supposed to have been replaced for generals on home duty by a Pickelhaube with an imperial eagle in white metal in 1913 and for all officers on home duty in 1916. I have yet to see a photograph of any Schutztruppe personnel wearing the 1916 field grey uniform with its Pickelhaube.

Figure 2
Schutztruppe General
Colonial Office
Germany 1917

Other Ranks Greatcoat
Other ranks of the Schutztruppe wore a grey Prussian cavalry greatcoat ("Mantel") as worn by the regular army.

The cavalry greatcoat differed from the infantry greatcoat in that it was longer and at the rear it had a long slit up from the bottom to assist when mounted. It was single breasted with six white metal buttons down the front (bearing the imperial crown from 1896 onwards). It had a large grey stand and fall collar, plain deep turn-back cuffs, two slanted hip pockets with a button on each flap and a short belt across the rear of the waist with a singe button to adjust the waist size.

On 19th November 1896 colony colour collar patches and shoulder straps were authorised (blue for South West Africa, white for East Africa and red for Cameroon). Blue collar patches had been worn in South West Africa since at least 1894, albeit without shoulder straps (as seen in some contemporary illustrations by Ruhl- see Illustrated Plates Page).

NCO rank was shown on the collar patches with one or two stripes of lace in the imperial colours (see NCO Rank Insignia).

On 28th November 1899 white Litzen were authorised to be worn on the collar patches, as seen on the Home Uniform.

While most other ranks wore plain colony coloured shoulder straps, one interesting photograph in Somers' book "Imperial German Uniforms and Equipment 1907-18 Vol.3" (see Book Reviews Page) shows a Schutztruppe artillery gunner in about 1905 wearing a greatcoat with plain shoulder straps featuring the number "1" (and a grenade motif according to the author, although this cannot be confirmed from the printed photograph). This is presumably a unit number for the battery or detachment ("Feldartillerie Abteilung" of which there were two in 1905). The colours of the strap or number cannot be made out for certain from the monochrome photograph. This is the only time I have seen variations on the other ranks greatcoat shoulder straps or unit numerals worn by the Schutztruppe.

South West African NCOs Greatcoat
(See Swakopmund Museum Photos Page)
Photo ©  Phil Buhler

Collar of an East African NCOs Greatcoat
(See Siebentritt Collection Page)
Photo © Traditionsverband

Officers Coats

Schutztruppe officers were authorised to wear several variations on the Prussian infantry officers greatcoat ("Paletot") at different times. The basic infantry officers greatcoat was made of grey cloth, it was double breasted, with two rows of six buttons, a large stand and fall collar and two slanted hip pockets with a button on each flap. As with the other ranks greatcoat, at the rear it had a long slit up from the bottom to assist when mounted. It had a short belt across the rear of the waist with a singe button to adjust the waist size and scalloped rear skirts with three buttons on either side. The shoulder straps worn on officer's greatcoats showed their rank and were the same as for the home uniform (see Officers Rank Insignia Page).

From 12th June 1891 officers of the East African Schutztruppe (and later those for Cameroon) were authorised to wear a greatcoat with a dark blue stand and fall collar and yellow metal buttons bearing the imperial crown.

Officers of the early South West African Schutztruppe (or "Reichs-Kommissars Truppe" as they were known at the time) are seen in Ruhl's illustrations (see Illustrated Plates Page) from 1894 wearing a similar greatcoat but with a plain grey collar and no shoulder straps. Their buttons would presumably have been plain white metal ones to match those on their uniforms of the period (see Early South West African Schutztruppe).

From 19th November 1896 Schutztruppe officers of all colonies were authorised to wear a Prussian infantry officers greatcoat with a colony coloured collar (blue for South West Africa, white for East Africa and red for Cameroon) with the underside in the same colour for when it was worn with the collar turned up against the wind. It had white metal buttons with the imperial crown.

Officers Cloak
From 28th November 1899 Schutztruppe Officers were also authorised to wear a Prussian Cavalry Officers Cloak ("Umhang"). It was a long grey cloak with concealed buttons at the front and had a colony coloured collar (blue for South West Africa). Despite this order coming into effect in 1899 at least one period photograph shows a Schutztruppe officer wearing a cavalry cloak as early as 1894. The cloak was not very commonly used.

Officers Overcoat
An officers tight fitting, double breasted, three quarter length overcoat ("Überrock") was authorised on 12th June 1891 for the Schutztruppe of East Africa and later Cameroon. It was based on that of the Marine Infantry in dark blue with two rows of six yellow metal crowned buttons and white piping around the collar, cuffs and straight rear skirts. The regulations describe the collar as being an "Umflappkragen", one standing or literally without a flap, while Krickel's contemporary illustrations (see Illustrated Plates Page) show it as being of the stand and fall style. I have yet to see a period photograph of the overcoat being worn. Officers displayed their rank insignia on their shoulder straps in the usual manner (see Officers Rank Insignia Page).

The overcoat was dropped from uniform regulations from 1896 onwards but brought back in those of 29th December 1913 for home use in Germany only. This 1913 overcoat was of the same cut but in field grey with two rows of six white metal crowned buttons and piping around the collar, cuffs and straight rear skirts in colony colours. This overcoat was not commonly used and was again dropped from the regulations of 1916.

Field Grey Coats
An order of 25th of February 1916 introduced field grey home Prussian army uniforms for the few Schutztruppe personnel still serving in Germany. The new greatcoats and cloaks were of a similar cut but in field grey with a darker field grey collar and white metal imperial crowned buttons. Officers displayed their rank insignia on their shoulder straps in the usual manner (see Officers Rank Insignia Page).

The 1916 regulations did however allow for the old grey greatcoats to be worn but with grey collars rather than the old colony coloured collars.

The 1913 officers overcoat was replaced in the 1916 regulations with a double breasted Litewka jacket ("Kleiner Rock"). It was in field grey with two rows of six white metal crowned buttons and red piping around the collar, cuffs, front and straight rear skirts. It had collar patches in colony colours and the usual officers shoulder straps. This jacket was not commonly used.


Period Photographs


The photograph above shows a Schutztruppe unit in Hamburg before sailing to South West Africa in about 1904-05. The officers can clearly be seen on the right foreground wearing their double breasted Paletot coats. The other ranks in the background wear single breasted Mantel coats with white Litzen on their collar patches.
Photo by Franz Spenker, Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons

The photograph on the right shows Unteroffizier Brödertz of the South West African Schutztruppe wearing the single breasted other ranks Mantel coat. Note the blue collar patches with White Litzen.   
Photo © Peter Klein

The photograph below right shows Hauptmann von Estorff talking to other officers on campaign in South West Africa in 1904. The officer with the peaked cap is Hauptmann Franz Epp. Von Estorff wears the Paletot coat. Note the three buttoned scalloped rear skirts.
Photo from Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons

Ludwig von Estorff (1859-1943) served in the 31st Thüringian Infantry Regt ("1. Thüringischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 31") before transferring to the Schutztruppe from 1894-1911. He served in the colonial office in Germany and briefly in East Africa, but spent most of his time in South West Africa, serving throughout the Herero and Nama Rebellions. After the defeat of the Herero at the Battle of Waterberg in 1904, he tried to accept the surrender of some of the rebels promising to resettle them peacefully, but was over-ruled by the then Schutztruppe commander Lothar von Trotha who ordered them to be interned as part of his notorious drive against the rebellious tribes. Hauptmann von Estorff was initially a company commander but was promoted to Major in 1906 and Oberst in command of the Schutztruppe of South West Africa from 1907 until his retirement back to Germany in 1911. During the First World War he was wounded in September 1914 while in command of the 68th Infantry Brigade on the Western Front, was awarded the Pour Le Mérite in 1917 and eventually briefly commanded the 8th Army Group as Military Governor of Königsberg (modern Kalingrad) on the Eastern Front.
Recommended External Link- Biographies of Namibian Personalities


Franz Ritter von Epp (1868-1946) was born in Munich and educated in Augsburg. He joined the 9th Infantry Regt of the Bavarian army in 1887, then the East Asian Expeditionary Corps serving in China. He transferred to the Schutztruppe of South West Africa for service in the Herero Rebellion where he served as a company commander in the 1st Field Regiment. During the First World War he commanded the elite Bavarian Life Guard Regt ("Königlich Bayerisches Infanterie-Leib-Regiment") the Western Front and later the Italian and Rumanian Fronts. Amongst other awards he received the Bavarian Military Order of Max Joseph and the Prussian Pour-Le-Mérite in 1918. After the war he formed and led the Freikorps Epp, taking part in the crushing of the Bavarian Socialist Republic. He was a supporter of Nazism, serving first in the SA, then as an NSDAP member of the Reichstag as well as leader of the German Colonial League and holding the office of Reichskommissar of Bavaria, though he later fell foul of the leadership and was arrested on suspicion of treason in 1945. It was while in American custody after the war that he died.
Recommended External Link - German Wikipedia Page on Franz Epp



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