Tsingtao Chinese Company
Chinese Soldiers in German Service 1899-1901
Figure 1
Infantryman Chinese Company
Tsingtao c1900
Figure 2
Infantryman Chinese Company
Tsingtao c1900
Figure 3
Infantryman Chinese Company
Tsingtao c1900
Figure 4
Infantryman Chinese Company
Tsingtao c1900

Background of the Chinese Company
On 19th February 1899 a Chinese Company ("Chinesenkompagnie") was officially formed, consisting of 120 soldiers and 20 mounted troops under the command of three German officers and ten NCOs all from the III. Seebataillon. They were based at Litzun, near Tsingtao and commanded by Oberleutnant Schoeler. First opinions of the Chinese troops were high. Chief of the East Asian Cruiser Squadron, Otto von Diederichs noted that "the local population would make really good soldiers" and hoped one day they could be recruited in large enough numbers to serve in Germany's colonies in Africa ("Askari und Fitafita" by Thomas Morlang).

They did not live up to these hopes. Desertion was a common problem. During the Boxer Rebellion they were considered unreliable and kept away from action. In November 1900 they were reduced in numbers to 56 infantrymen and 12 mounted troopers. Even then they were mostly delegated to police or garrison duties. The Chinese Company was finally disbanded in September 1901. 

Uniforms of the Chinese Company
The uniforms of the Chinese Company are a difficult topic to study due to a general shortage of source materials, written or photographic. There is certainly more to be discovered on this subject.

Summer Uniform
The Summer uniform was khaki, with a standing collar, no pockets or shoulder straps, five buttons and simple Chinese style ties across the breast from each button (some photographs show six buttons and ties).

Winter Uniforms
The Winter uniform was grey/green with yellow Chinese style braid across the front and
a loop of yellow lace on the cuff. Matching trousers were worn. Morlang describes the Winter uniform as being made of corduroy.

I have so far not found any NCO rank insignia worn by the Chinese company in period photographs. Likewise I have not seen any specialist insignia worn by them. Photographs of their drummer and trumpeter have no swallows nests.

Several types of headdress were worn by the Chinese company.
With the Winter uniform a grey/green Manchurian peaked cap with ear flaps was worn. I have so far only found one unclear photograph (published by Morlang) showing this cap and cannot discern its details.

With the Summer uniform a Chinese conical straw hat with tassels in the Imperial colours was worn. Period photographs show that the conical hat and Manchurian cap were both worn with the Winter and Summer uniforms. In some period photographs a traditional Chinese small peakless black cap with a pom-pom is worn..

One uniquely Chinese characteristic was the wearing of  their hair long in pigtails trailing down their backs. The pigtails were then sometimes tucked into the back of the belt.

Trousers (of matching colour to the tunic) were Chinese style, worn loose at the thigh and close around the calves. Footwear consisted of short brown leather boots worn with dark blue/grey puttees. Period photographs also show them wearing Chinese straw soled sandals worn over white Chinese socks.

Weapons and Equipment
The Chinese company were armed with the Gew88 rifle and S71 bayonet. Their equipment followed Marine Infantry standards of the time in blackened leather with 1895 ammunition pouches and the same Imperial belt buckle as the III. Seebataillon.

Uniforms of the German Officers and NCOs
The German officers and NCOs from the III. Seebataillon that commanded the Chinese company wore standard Marine Infantry uniforms.

  The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a Soldier of the Chinese Company taken in around 1900. He wears the khaki Summer uniform, note the five Chinese ties across the breast. He wears the Manchurian grey/green cap with the ear flaps folded up. His equipment includes the 1895 pattern ammunition pouches and Imperial belt buckle and his rifle is the Gew88. He wears dark blue/grey puttees with Chinese sandals and white socks.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Soldier of the Chinese Company taken in around 1900. He wears the same khaki uniform this time with a small black Chinese peakless cap. He wears no puttees but still has the Chinese sandals and white socks.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of a Soldier of the Chinese Company taken in around 1900. He wears the same khaki uniform. Note this rear view shows his pigtail tucked into his belt at the back.

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of a Soldier of the Chinese Company taken in around 1900. He wears the grey/green Winter uniform with yellow braid across the front and loops of yellow lace on the cuffs. He wears the Chinese conical hat with tassels in the Imperial colours more usually associated with the Summer uniform. He has 1895 ammunition pouches with a Marine Infantry Imperial belt buckle and wears brown leather boots with dark blue/grey puttees.


The Chinese Company on Parade
As with most photographs of them, this one does not show the uniforms very clearly. It seems they wear Chinese caps and the khaki uniform with puttees. They appear to be unarmed. The Germans wear standard Seebataillon uniforms- the officer in the foreground wears a white tropical tunic and cap, possibly with dark blue riding breeches, while the German NCOs wear khaki uniforms with blue peaked caps and white hatbands and piping. 
Photo from WikiMedia



Soldiers of the Chinese Company c1900
Illustration by by Edgar Graf von Matuschka in "Deutsche Expeditionstruppen und Schutztruppen"

They wear the khaki uniform with Chinese ties and the Manchurian cap here illustrated in blue/grey whereas sources such as Morlang describe it as being grey/green to match the winter uniform. The equipment is in brown leather. Dark blue grey puttees are worn with brown leather boots.

Note the rear view showing the pigtail worn tucked into the belt.

This illustration is clearly based on a nearly identical earlier line drawing by H Knötel.



Main Sources
"Askari und Fitafita - Farbiger Söldner in den deutschen Kolonien" by Thomas Morlang (Published by CH Links)
Polizeiuniform by Arne Schöfert at Traditionsverband
"Unsere Marineuniform" by J. Zienert (published by Helmut Gerhard Schulz Verlag, Hamburg 1970)
"Deutsche Expeditionstruppen und Schutztruppen" illustrated by Edgar Graf von Matuschka (available from Historischer-Bilderdienst )
"Ergänzung zur Bewaffnung und Uniformierung der Chinesenpolizei in Kiautschou" by Rolf Selzer in Zeitschrift für Heereskunde
"Chinesische Polizeisoldaten" by H Ehlers illustrated by H Knötel in Zeitschrift für Heereskunde
Discussion on the
Chinese Company on the Axis History Forum

Special Thanks to Rolf Noeske, Arne Schöfert and Thomas Morlang for their personal help on this page.

und Fita-Fita

Thomas Morlang
with a chapter on the
Chinese in German service
Imperial German Field Uniforms
and Equipment 1907-1918 Vol 3
 Johan Somers
with a section on the
Chinese in German service
Uniforms of the German Soldier
1870 to the End of World War One
Alejandro M. De Quesada
with photos of the 
Chinese in German Service
Unsere Marineuniform
Josef Zienert
with information in the
Chinese in German Service


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

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