Marine Infantry Tropical Uniforms
III. Seebataillon in China 1898-1914

Figure 1
III. Seebataillon
Tsingtao c1898

Figure 2
III. Seebataillon
Tsingtao c1914

Figure 3
III. Seebataillon
Shazikou 1910

Figure 4
III. Seebataillon
Tsingtao c1910

Figure 5
III. Seebataillon
Japan 1916
Tropical Uniforms of the Imperial Marine Infantry in China
III. Seebataillon 1898-1914, Marine Expeditionskorps 1900-01, Marine Feld Batterie 1898-1914, and Ostasiatische Marine-Detachement 1909-14
On 13th June 1898 a new khaki tropical uniform was authorised for the newly formed III. Seebataillon to wear in China during the Summer months. This same uniform was later issued to other Marine Infantry units in China, South West Africa, East Africa and Skutari.

Other Ranks Uniforms
The 1898 Khaki Tunic had a stand and fall collar, six plain brass buttons down the front and plain cuffs. There were two buttoned, unpleated hip pockets and no breast pockets. The rear of the tunic was plain with only mounted troops having two retaining buttons to support the belt at the back. The shoulder straps were the same as worn on the Home Uniform and Litewka- they were white with yellow insignia showing an imperial crown above two crossed anchors with the battalion Roman numeral below that (see right). According to Knötel (see Illustrated Plates Page) khaki shoulder straps were worn instead of white ones but I have yet to see photographic evidence of this. These shoulder straps were sometimes removed in action. The button retaining the top end of the shoulder strap had the company number in Arabic numerals.

One surviving other ranks tunic from the artillery battery (Marine Feld Batterie) attached to the III. Seebataillon, is very curious in that it has plain white shoulder straps and Brandenburg style cuffs, piped in white with three cuff buttons (for sale at the German Militaria Website). I have so far seen no regulations or period photographs showing tunics like this in use.

NCO Rank Insignia was worn in the form of strips of lace in the collar and cuffs and buttons on the collar (see NCO Rank Insignia Page). The bars of lace were in white with threads of red and black making up the imperial colours (see right), and were usually worn on the front and upper edge of the collar. NCO rank buttons on the collar were worn at the front of the collar rather than halfway back as was usually seen on German uniforms.

Photographs of the Marine Expeditionskorps in South West Africa 1904-05 show groups of NCOs with some wearing lace on the upper edge and other on the lower edge. According to Knötel and Pietsch (see Illustrated Plates Page) the Marine Detachment Skutari also wore them on the front and lower edge.

Specialist Insignia was usually worn on the khaki uniform in the form of khaki patches with red or yellow insignia, but some photographs show white patches with red insignia. Musicians swallows nests were also worn in colours more suited to the khaki uniform (see Specialist Insignia Page).

Trousers were matching khaki, although photographs show that the blue trousers with white piping of the home uniform were also sometimes worn with the khaki tunic on manoeuvres in China. Khaki riding breeches were worn by mounted troops with some being issued breeches in brown corduroy (see Mounted Marine Uniforms).

Officers and Senior NCOs Uniforms
Khaki Uniform worn by officers and senior NCOs were similar to those of the other ranks except that the tunic often had an unpleated left breast pocket with a buttoned square flap. Being privately purchased, these uniforms were of better quality and some had other slight variations such as a higher or standing collar. Matching khaki trousers or riding breeches were worn, again these were often of better quality due to private tailoring.

White Uniform was also authorised for officers and senior NCOs (see right). It was identical in cut to the khaki uniform but with a standing collar. Again variations in private tailoring meant that some white tunics had a breast pocket, others did not. White trousers were worn with the white tunic.

Officers Rank Insignia was shown on shoulder straps in the same style as those worn by the regular army and Schutztruppe (see Officers Rank Insignia Page) but with a brass imperial crown added to the shoulder straps.

Tropical Helmets
Along with the tropical uniform a white tropical helmet was issued in 1898 with a white metal imperial eagle superimposed over an anchor in the style worn on the Seebataillon shakos (see right), over a small imperial cockade. Early issues of the helmet were quite low in height with a rounded brim. Later helmets were of the 1900 Bortfeldt design, taller with a more steeply inclined brim, folding rear peak and a removable neckshade.

Several changes to the regulations for the helmet occurred over the following years. On 28th June 1900 the eagle was authorised in bronze rather than white metal, and in 1905 the helmet was officially changed to a khaki one for other ranks with officers and senior NCOs still wearing white. These uniform orders do not however tell the full story and are often contradicted by photographic evidence.

For example, khaki helmets have been seen in photographs of the Seebataillone as early as the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. From such photographs it seems that the I. Seebataillon had khaki helmets in that period, while the II. Seebataillon had white helmets (sometimes worn with khaki covers). The III. Seebataillon also received khaki helmets around this time, either shortly before or more likely after the Boxer Rebellion. This theory is supported in text by Eberhard Hettler (see Illustrated Plates Page). During this period, photographs of officers and senior NCOs of all battalions seem to be mostly wearing white helmets. Furthermore photographs clearly show that the Marine Expeditionskorps in South West Africa wore khaki helmets in 1904, so the regulation order of 1905 for khaki helmets seems to have been largely retrospective.

Later photographs of III. Seebataillon officers and senior NCOs in China show them sometimes wearing khaki tropical helmets too, as they wear privately purchased officer's and senior NCOs helmets sometimes varied further in shape. Officers were also authorised to wear a gold coloured cord around the hatband of the helmet.

Some photographs taken on campaign in China and South West Africa show the helmets worn without their metal eagles. Photographs of troops on manoeuvres in Tsingtao show them sometimes wearing a red hatband around the tropical helmet. These red bands were introduced into the German army as a whole in 1909 and were to distinguish different "sides" during simulated battles, similar red bands were also worn on Seebataillon shako covers while on manoeuvres in Winter months.

Other Forms of Headdress
When not wearing the tropical helmet various types of peaked and peakless caps were worn. All bore a small imperial cockade at the front of the hatband.

The Khaki Peaked Cap ("Bordmutze") was all in khaki with no coloured hatband or piping and had a small imperial cockade at the front. Like most German peaked caps it was issued with a wire retaining loop that held the shape of the top of the hat. This loop was often removed to give a more comfortable appearance. The chinstrap and peak were in brown leather. A removable khaki neckshade was also issued and was attached to the chinstrap buttons. As no photographs or contemporary accounts that I have seen show proof of the khaki cap in Africa, it may have only been issued to the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao.

The Officers White Peaked Cap was a plain white peaked cap (see right) with a small imperial cockade on the front and a black leather chinstrap and peak, worn by Seebataillon officers to match their white tropical uniform.

The Blue Field Cap (see right) from the home uniform is also often seen in photographs worn with the khaki uniform. They were dark blue to match the peacetime uniform and had white hatband and piping with an imperial cockade at the front. They were usually peakless for other ranks and peaked for officers and senior NCOs, although other ranks could also privately purchase the peaked version. The chinstrap and peak were in black leather. This peaked version of the cap had a wire retaining loop that held the shape of the top of the hat. This loop was often removed to give a more comfortable appearance and was not present on other ranks peakless caps.

The Onboard Cap was another form of headgear worn by members of the Seebataillone while at sea and also sometimes worn by the III. Seebataillon in China. From photographic evidence, it seems to have specifically been worn by members of the III. Seebataillon on police duties. The cap was a white naval style peakless cap with a pale blue hatband and an small imperial cockade on the front.

Non-Regulation Headgear occasionally seen worn with the tropical uniform include naval straw hats sometimes worn in China and Schutztruppe Südwester hats sometimes worn in South West Africa. Neither of these hats seem to have been regulation issue, although entire Schutztruppe uniforms were routinely worn by the Marine Expeditionskorps in South West Africa to replace their battered Seebataillon uniforms.

The Seebataillone like most German Infantry units of the time wore short jackboots in back leather, later brown leather boots the III. Seebataillon at Tsingtao.
Officers and mounted troops usually wore leather gaiters and short boots.

The personal equipment issued to other ranks of the Seebataillone was the same as issued to the German infantry of the period. It consisted of two 1871 ammunition pouches on a leather belt clasped with a naval other ranks belt buckle (see right). Two shoulder straps supported the ammunition pouches and met in a Y configuration at the back. The first Seebataillon troops in China wore black leather equipment to match their blue peacetime uniforms, soon the III. Seebataillon were authorised to clean the black polish off and wear natural brown leather to match the khaki uniform. It is unclear from period photographs whether other Seebataillon troops in khaki (such as those in Africa and Skutari) also wore natural brown leather equipment or kept their equipment polished black as worn on home duty. A backpack with tent section, canteen, water bottle, and bread bag was also carried when in marching order.

Mounted troops wore bandoliers, rather than ammunition pouches on the belt, while pioneers carried either a spade or pick axe attached to the left side of their backpacks.

Officers usually carried as little as possible, often just having a naval officers belt made from silver thread woven with one red central and two black outer stripes, clasped with a naval officers' belt buckle. The brass buckle showed an imperial crown above an anchor and W (for Emperor Wilhelm II) surrounded by a laurel wreath. Brown leather belts with plain open buckles were also worn. The belt usually had the minimum of equipment on it, often only a pistol holster.

Marine Infantry Khaki Tunic
(See Colonial Tunic at German Militaria)
This Item is For Sale at German Militaria

I. Seebataillon Shoulder Strap
(See Seebataillon Blue Uniform Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

Marine Infantry Officers
White Uniform
(See Seebataillon White Uniform Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

NCO Collar Lace Detail

(See IWM Collection Page)
IWM Collection

Marine Infantry Officer's
Shoulder Strap  (Leutnant)
(See Seebataillon White Uniform Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

 1900 Bortfeldt Tropical Helmet
of the Marine Infantry
missing its imperial cockade
(See Tropical Helmets Details Page)
Photo from the Wehrgeschichtliches Museum

Marine Infantry Helmet Plate
(Click here for a larger image)
© Chip Minx

Marine Infantry Officer's
White Tropical Cap
(See Seebataillon White Uniform Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

Marine Infantry NCO's
Blue Field Cap
(See Field Caps Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

Naval Other Ranks Belt Buckle
(See Belt Buckles Details Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection

Naval Officers Belt Buckle
(See Belt Buckles Details Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection


The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a Marine ("Seesoldat") of the III. Seebataillon taken in Tsingtao in about 1898. He wears the khaki tropical uniform with the white tropical helmet (with white metal eagle) and black leather personal equipment as it was first issued to the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Seesoldat of the III. Seebataillon taken in Tsingtao prior to the First World War. He wears the khaki tropical uniform with the khaki tropical helmet (with yellow metal eagle) and brown leather personal equipment as was issued to the III. Seebataillon replacing the old white helmets and black equipment. Note also the lack of shoulder straps, these were often removed on active duty.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a Seesoldat of the III. Seebataillon taken in Shazikou (known in German as "Schatzykou") in 1910. While the bulk of the III. Seebataillon was based at Tsingtao, small detachments were also based at other towns within the German leased territory of Kiaochow. One such unit was the "Marine Detachment Schatzykou". The photograph upon which this illustration is based shows members of this unit in their khaki tropical uniforms (mostly without shoulder straps) and unusually wearing naval style straw hats with plain black hatbands. The straw hats would have presumably have proven comfortable in hot weather, although I have so far found no official authorisation of their use by the Seebataillone.

Figure 5 is based on a photograph of Adolf Krampe, a Senior NCO ("Feldwebel") of the III. Seebataillon taken while a prisoner of war in Japan about 1916. He wears a senior NCOs khaki tropical tunic with standing collar and single left breast pocket. His rank, Feldwebel, is shown as two white lace bars with black and red threads on his cuffs, a similar single bar on the upper and front edge of the collar and by the brass button on the front of the collar (see NCOs Rank Insignia Page). He wears an NCOs peaked blue cap with white hatband and piping and a single imperial cockade on the front, still with the wire loop retaining its shape (photographs show the blue cap was quite commonly worn with the khaki uniform. Other ranks wore a peakless version without wire loop). The trousers appear to be from his white tropical uniform. Such mixes of uniforms were not uncommon, and became more so amongst prisoners of war.

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of an Officer of the III. Seebataillon taken in Tsingtao in about 1910. He wears the white tropical tunic as authorised for officers and senior NCOs. He also wears the white peaked cap to match the tunic. A white tropical helmet was also authorised for officers even after other ranks had been issued khaki versions. White trousers were issued to match the tunic but this officer wears dark blue riding breeches and brown leather gaiters from his winter uniform in preference. As previously mentioned mixtures of uniforms were not uncommon in the III. Seebataillon, especially amongst officers.

Adolf Krampe was a senior NCO (Feldwebel) of the 7th Company, III. Seebataillon. After the fall of Tsingtao he was held prisoner at the Marugame and Bando camps in Japan before being repatriated to Germany in December 1919.



Marine Infantry Tropical Uniforms
This illustrated page by H Knötel and P Pietsch shows details of the tropical uniforms and equipment of the Imperial German Marine Infantry as they were in 1914. It includes details of tunics, tropical helmets, tropical field caps, NCO rank and specialist insignia, mounted equipment and even their shoe lacing details.
(Plate 170a of "Das Deutsche Heer, Friedensuniformen bei Ausbruch des Weltkrieges " written and illustrated by H. Knötel and P. Pietsch, originally published by Diepenbroick-Grüter & Schulz, Hamburg 1935)

Marine Infantry during the Occupation of Tsingtao, 1898/99
Oberleutnant von Eberstein (saluting) leads his men mounted on Chinese ponies. They wear the newly introduced 1898 kahki uniform and broad white tropical helmets. Note that von Eberstein's privately purchased tunic unusually has two breast pockets while the other have none.
Photo from WikiCommons / Bundesarchiv

Oberleutnant Graf von Soden with the NCOs of the III. Seebataillon that defended the Peking Legations, 1900
Graf von Soden was in command of the fifty men of the III. Seebataillon that fought defending the Foreign Legations in Peking (Beijing) during their siege in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. This photograph taken shortly afterwards shows him third from right with the NCOs of his unit. They all wear the 1898 Marine Infantry Khaki Uniform and matching khaki field cap.

Von Soden carries a Naval Officer's Sword, has a left breast pocket on his tunic with officer's shoulder boards, a neat shirt and tie under his tunic and dark blue peacetime trousers worn loose over privately purchased shoes. It is difficult to be sure from this touched up photograph but he may be wearing his dark blue home field cap, with white hatband and piping. His senior NCO stands to his side also with a naval sword.

The NCOs all wear the standard issue other ranks 1898 khaki uniform without breast pockets. Their khaki trousers are tucked in to their marching boots. They carry 1871 ammunition boxes in polished black leather, curiously supported around their necks with the leather straps from their water bottles. In action at the Siege of Peking, they were probably dressed the same but most likely wore their broad white tropical helmets.
Photo from WikiCommons

Marine Expeditionskorps to the Boxer Rebellion at Tongu Awaiting Transportation to Tientsin 1900
These soldiers of the I. or II. Seebataillon on service during the Boxer Rebellion wear the 1898 Marine Infantry khaki tropical uniform with 1900 Bortfeldt helmets bearing the Marine Infantry Imperial eagle. Note the marching equipment with tent quarter worn over the shoulder. They are armed with Gew98 rifles, the marine in the foreground of the front row has an Hf71 bayonet which would not fit on a Gew98. The other bayonets cannot be identified but are presumably the same.
Photo from the American Library of Congress

III. Seebataillon with Sailors, Tsingtao
This photograph was taken onboard a ship shortly before the First World War. The Marine Infantry soldiers wear the 1898 khaki uniforms with matching peaked field caps. Note the standard bearer in the left corner with his distinctive shield insignia on the right sleeve and NCOs insignia as a button and lace on the collar. His neighbour has NCO lace and musicians swallows nests. The officer to the upper right can be distinguished by his left breast pocket and shoulder boards. Most of the others in this photograph are sailors of the Imperial Navy in their white summer uniforms.
Photo from Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons

III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao
This photograph was taken on manoeuvres shortly before the First World War. The soldiers wear khaki tunics with dark blue trousers. They wear the khaki tropical helmet and full marching equipment. Note the musician with swallows nest insignia to the upper left of the photograph.
 Photo © Mark Skurka see For Sale Page

Machine Gun Company of the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao
This photograph was taken on manoeuvres shortly before the First World War. The soldiers wear khaki uniforms, mostly with blue peakless field caps with white hatbands. Some wear the khaki tropical helmet with a red hatband to show which side they are on in the manoeuvre.
Photo © Mark Skurka see For Sale Page

Machine Gun Company of the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao
This photograph was taken on manoeuvres shortly before the First World War. The other ranks wear khaki tunics and tropical helmets with dark blue trousers. Their NCO in the background appears to have attached some leaves to his tropical helmet as a form of camouflage.

The observing officers wear white tropical uniforms, white peaked caps and riding breeches with riding boots. The officer in the centre looking through binoculars wears a naval officers peaked cap with a black hatband rather than the Marine infantry officers cap.
 Photo © Mark Skurka see For Sale Page


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