The German Mission to Afghanistan 1915-16
(The Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition)

Figure 1
Leutnant Werner von Hentig
Kabul 1915


The Afghan Mission in Kabul 1915/16
From left to right the photograph shows-
Kâzım Orbay, Werner von Hentig, Walter Röhr, Mahendra Pratap, Kurt Wagner, Oskar Niedermayer
, Günther Voigt and Maulavi Barkatullah.

Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

The Afghan Mission was a collective of Indian, German and Ottoman military and diplomatic personnel sent to Kabul to try to convince Emir Habibullah of Afghanistan to join the Central Powers and rise up in a Jihad against the British in India. The Indian nationalists hoped this would lead to a free and independent India while the German and Ottoman plan was to disrupt British and Russian interests in the area enough to force them to withdraw troops from other fronts.

The mission travelled overland on a gruelling and perilous march through Persia to Afghanistan splitting into small groups at times to avoid British and Russian patrols. Those that made it finally reached reached Kabul on 2nd October 1915. They ultimately failed to convince the Emir (who was cleverly accepting bribes from both sides while remaining neutral) to join the war and the Germans left Kabul via different routes in May 1916. The Indian nationalists remained to set up a Provisional Indian Government in exile which was disbanded in 1918.


Figure 2
German Officer

Figure 3
German Trooper

Figure 4
Pathan NCO

Figure 5
Austro-Hungarian NCO

Figure 6
Ottoman Army Officer

The total strength of the mission has been quoted as 140 men with 236 mounts and pack animals (see Wehrmacht Awards Forum). This number includes the German military cadre, the Indian nationalists, Persian tribesmen and escaped Austro-Hungarians that later joined the expedition. After casualties, losses and desertion there were about fifty remaining men with seventy horses and pack animals by the time they crossed into Afghanistan.

The expedition was under the leadership of the Indian Nationalist Mahendra Pratap and the German Diplomat Leutnant Werner von Hentig with a Bavarian artillery officer, Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer in charge of the military aspects. This joint leadership caused several arguments and problems between the parties along the way. Indian Muslims were represented by Maulavi Barkatullah and the Ottoman Empire by Captain Kâzim Orbay. When von Hentig, Pratap and Barakatullah slept on the floor of a carriage at one point in the journey, Pratap later wrote that there lay together "a follower of the religion of love, a Muslim, and a militant Christian. Truly politics makes strange bedfellows".

German Troops
The military cadre led by Niedermayer consisted of specially chosen men, most with previous Middle Eastern or colonial experience, though the Prussian War Ministry refused permission to choose candidates from the active officers list. They included specialists in several fields including artillery, medicine and local languages. According to British intelligence reports (in "Like Hidden Fire" by Peter Hopkirk) the original German part of the mission was 84 strong, the Phototheca-Afghanica has the group at 27 strong. I have not yet found a rank list of this unit.

Pathan Volunteers
Six Afridi Pathan volunteers were recruited from "Halbmondlager", the Muslim Prisoner of War  camp near Zossen, South of Berlin. These men were originally from the Indian North West Frontier bordering Afghanistan. They had served in the British Indian Army and been captured on the Western Front. They were offered the chance of freedom and to return home if they served as armed escorts in the mission. One served as a Feldwebel (Jemadar Mirmast), one as a Sergeant and three as other ranks. The sixth (Seyed Achmed) was the mission's cook and von Hentig's servant. Two Afghan Pathans, (Abdur Rahmen Khan and Abdul Subhan Khan), also volunteered for the mission having arrived in Germany from the United Sates of America via Britain and Holland to fight in the Holy War against British India.

Austro-Hungarian Prisoners of War
A number of Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war who had escaped from Russian prison camps joined the group in Persia. I have yet to find exact numbers for these men. At least five of them are seen in a photograph printed in Kaskett magazine.

Locally Recruited Personnel
Persian tribesmen were hired by the mission as guides along the way. Other Mesopotamians and Persians were recruited as mule guides, porters and servants as needed. Along the way several deserted or were left behind and at least one was shot while trying to defect to the enemy.

Uniforms of the Afghan Mission

The original military cadre of the team were kitted out in stocks of South West African Landespolizei uniforms (see Landespolizei Page) as well as additional items of private purchase and local supplies.

They wore the Landespolizei Südwester hat with small imperial cockade at the front and yellow metal imperial crown holding up the folded right hand side. Their tunic was from the 1907 Landespolizei dark khaki uniform but without the rank insignia or green collar and shoulder straps. Like the Landespolizei they are seen in period photographs wearing khaki riding breeches with brown leather gaiters and short boots, though some men wore puttees rather than gaiters. Their personal equipment was also from Landespolizei stock and included the Landespolizei Sam Brown belt with eight ammunition pouches.

Any uniform appearance was however not possible during their expedition. For the journey across the Persian desert the mission all wore local tribal clothing for practical reasons and to disguise themselves as much as possible.

When the mission crossed the Afghan border they stopped to rest and recuperate while messengers were sent to the Emir in Kabul requesting an audience. Here the Germans discarded their Persian clothing and proudly put their Landespolizei uniforms back on. The Emir then sent cordial greetings to the mission along with new clothing tailored in Afghanistan to replace some that had been worn out on the journey across the Persian desert.


Landespolizei Südwester
Note the Imperial Crown on the right hand side and the Imperial cockade at the front
(See Südwester Details Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection

Leutnant Werner von Hentig retained an immaculate white Cuirassier officer's uniform for his audience with the Emir. The Ottoman army officer who represented the Sultan on the expedition, Major Kazim Bey wore an Ottoman Army Officer's Uniform. The Indian nationalist leaders wore civilian clothing (see photos below).

The Pathan former prisoners of war that accompanied the expedition were initially given what appears in period photographs to be East African Askari Uniforms these were later replaced by Landespolizei uniforms as worn by the German members of the mission and white turbans (see photos below).

A photograph in Kaskett magazine shows Austro-Hungarian former Prisoners of War alongside Niedermayer and his staff still wearing their pike-grey peaked caps and a variety of Austro-Hungarian army uniforms, though they may have been in a state of some disrepair after the men's imprisonment and subsequent escape.

Along the way the mission also employed Persian tribesmen to serve as guards and guides. They wore their traditional robes and turbans, no doubt with bandoliers of ammunition.

  The Illustrations

Figure 1- German Diplomatic Officer, Afghan Mission, Afghanistan 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of Leutnant Werner von Hentig, the leader of the German diplomatic mission. He wears his white uniform as an officer in the 3rd East Prussian Cuirassiers ("Kürassier-Regiment 'Graf Wrangel' (Ostpreußisches) Nr.3") which he kept packed and pristine throughout the journey to Afghanistan. The uniform is white with light blue piping, collar and Swedish style cuffs. The polished steel Cuirassier helmet with a yellow metal spike and Prussian eagle was standard for his regiment. He wears privately purchased short riding boots rather than the Cuirassier long boots and his horse has a locally acquired blanket along with his riding saddle.

Figure 2- German Officer, Afghan Mission, Afghanistan 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of Kapitänleutnant d.R Kurt Wagner wearing the South West African Landespolizei 1907 Dark Khaki Uniform with Südwester hat (note the Imperial crown badge holding up the right hand side of the brim). He wears khaki corduroy riding breeches and field grey puttees with marching boots. He is armed with a shotgun or hunting rifle, possibly privately purchased and two pistols, one of which is a naval issue long pistol. The bandolier is also Landespolizei stock.

Figure 3- German Trooper, Afghan Mission, Afghanistan 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of Niedermayer's orderly, Hans Jakob. He wears the 1907 Landespolizei uniform with the cuffs rolled up and the Landespolizei Südwester hat (note the cockade on the front). He wears khaki or dark khaki trousers rolled up. He may be wearing locally purchased sandals but does not appear to have German riding boots or gaiters. He carries a Gew 98 rifle and the Landespolizei ammunition bandolier. Note the two water bottles on his saddle and the water bag below, the local blanket and the generally well laden horse equipment.

Figure 4- Pathan NCO, Afghan Mission, Afghanistan 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of Feldwebel Jemadar Mirmast, one the Pathan volunteers on the Afghan Mission. He wears the Landespolizei tunic which judging from the few period photographs available, replaced their original East African Askari uniforms. His trousers are khaki and patched, they may from his original Askari issue. He along with other Pathans in the original photograph wears a white turban. He appears to have no rank insignia but carries a pistol on a lanyard. He also has the Landespolizei ammunition bandolier, brown leather belt and carries the shoulder straps of a small backpack.

Figure 5- Austro-Hungarian Soldier, Afghan Mission, Afghanistan 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of one of the Austro-Hungarian former Prisoners of War that joined the mission in Persia. He wears the 1909 Pike Grey uniform common to members of the Imperial and Royal army in the early war years note the three pointed pockets. He has folded his collar down over his collar patches as was often done but this prevents us seeing his rank. He has the matching 1909 pike grey cap with leather peak and Hapsburg black and gold cockade. In the original photograph upon which this illustration was based this soldier cannot be seen below the waist. I have guessed that he may have worn marching boots and puttees.

Figure 6- Ottoman Army Officer, Afghan Mission, Mesopotamia 1915
This illustration is based on a photograph of Captain ("Yuzbashi") Kâzım Orbay, the representative of the Ottoman Sultan on the Afghan Mission. He wears little of his uniform so as to attract less attention to the mission on their journey across Mesopotamia and Persia. He has a red fez, which could be military or not, a civilian shirt and waistcoat, which may be knitted wool. His trousers are his Ottoman army riding breeches but he wears them with local sandals rather than military boots


Period Photographs
(by kind permission from
Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica © 2013)

The German Military Leadership Outside Kabul 1915
This photograph shows three members of the German military mission. From left to right they are Leutnant Günther Voigt, Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer and Kapitänleutnant d.R Kurt Wagner. They all wear the 1907 Landespolizei uniform with Südwester hats. None shows an rank insignia. Note that Niedermayer does not have his hat pinned up on the side, but that his hat still has the Imperial crown badge, now on the underside of the brim. They are heavily armed with rifles and pistols (Wagner having a shotgun or hunting rifle). They all carry the Landespolizei ammunition bandolier (Voigt wearing it around his waist). Two of them wear leather gaiters while Wagner has puttees. Mounted in the background is Leutnant von Hentig, the expedition's diplomatic leader, also appearing to be in dark khaki.
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

Pathan Volunteers, Mesopotamia 1915

These are the six of the Pathan former prisoners of war recruited as an armed guard to protect the mission. From left to right they are Feldwebel Mirmast, Itbargul, Mohabad Khan, the cook Seyed Achmed and the two volunteers that had arrived from America, Abdur Rahman Khan and Abdul Subhan Khan. They wear simple khaki uniforms, without shoulder straps or rank insignia and with six buttons down the front. Along with their red fezzes, they may well be from East African Schutztruppe stocks. In von Hentig's memoirs he mentions that he ordered khaki uniforms for the Pathans. These uniforms look very like those worn by askaris of the East African askaris and may either be from existing Schutztruppe stocks or newly made in Germany to the same pattern as the askari uniforms. The uniforms also look very like the Ottoman army khaki uniforms and another possibility is that they were issued these while in Ottoman territory.
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

Incognito Through Mesopotamia 1915
The Afghan Mission travelled without military uniforms through Mesopotamia and Persia so as to attract less attention. This photograph shows Mahendra Pratap in a white outfit with civilian hat, while the Ottoman officer Kâzım Orbay wears his red fez, a civilian shirt and waistcoat with what looks like his Ottoman army officers riding breeches.

Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

River Crossing in Mesopotamia 1915
Note the cows drinking, the mules pulling carriages and the guards out of uniform but still armed, keeping a watch along the way.

Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

The Expedition in Eastern Persia, July 1915
The mission continues on its long and hazardous trek towards Kabul.

Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

German Officer with Pathan Volunteers in Uniform, Afghanistan 1915
This photograph was taken shortly after the mission arrived in Kabul. In the background the walls of the Gardens of Babur can be seen. The photo show four of the Pathan volunteers with Walter Röhr. Röhr wears the 1907 Landespolizei uniform which the Germans put back on after crossing the Afghan border with what may be a locally acquired slouch hat. The Pathans no longer wear their askari uniforms (which being thin cotton may have worn out during the crossing of the Persian desert). Three of them now appear to wear the Landespolizei uniform, while one wears a paler khaki tunic. All have breast pockets so are certainly not the same tunics as seen in the previous photo of the Pathans taken months before in Mesopotamia. Some wear leather gaiters while others have puttees with their ankle boots. They mostly carry the Landespolizei bandoliers over their shoulders or around their waists. Two are armed with what looks like Mauser Gew98 rifles, the other two have pistols, the man in the front left with a Luger P08 with a butt extension.
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

German Representatives of the Afghan Mission, Kabul 1915
From left to right they are Leutnant Günther Voigt, Kapitänleutnant d.R Kurt Wagner, Leutnant Werner von Hentig, Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer and Walter Röhr. Except for von Hentig, they all wear the 1907 Landespolizei tunic, riding breeches and Südwester hat. Note Voigt's yellow metal Imperial crown badge can clearly be seen on the right side of his hat, while Wagner's cockade can be seen at the front of his. Niedermayer's hat is not pinned up at the side but his Imperial crown badge can still be seen attached to the underside of the brim.

In the centre Leutnant von Hentig wears his white uniform as an officer in the 3rd East Prussian Cuirassiers ("Kürassier-Regiment 'Graf Wrangel' (Ostpreußisches) Nr.3") which he kept packed and pristine throughout the journey to Kabul. The uniform is white with regimental light blue collar and cuffs. He wears several medals- the Persian Lion and Sun Commander's Order at the throat and on the breast, a Prussian Iron Cross first class is also on the breast. His medal bar consists of the Prussian Iron Cross second class, Prussian Life Saving Medal (earned as a schoolboy in 1904), second award of the life saving medal (awarded in 1907) with the cross of the General Honour Medal and the Ottoman Medjidie Order. The Persian and Ottoman awards probably date back to his pre-war service in the German diplomatic corps in these countries. He wears the polished steel Cuirassier helmet with a yellow metal spike and Prussian eagle of the 3rd Cuirassiers.
Recommended External Links- Kuerassier Regimenter and a discussion on Von Hentig's Medals at the Pickelhaubes Forum
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

Leaders of the Afghan Mission in Kabul 1916
This photograph shows the multi-national representatives of the Afghan Mission. From left to right, they are the Ottoman Sultan's representative Kâzım Orbay, Leutnant von Hentig, the Hindu Indian Nationalist leader Mahendra Pratap, Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer and the Islamic Indian Nationalist Maulavi Barkatullah. The tension between the group is clearly visible especially in Niedermayer's body language. In the background are the German and Ottoman flags.

On the left, Major Kâzım Orbay wears an olive green Ottoman army officers uniform with the black lambs wool Kalpak hat. On his left breast is the Prussian Order of the Crown, awarded to him by von Hentig.

Next to Orbay is Leutnant Werner von Hentig wearing the uniform of an Officer of the Prussian Cuirassiers as in the previous photograph. He has his spiked helmet on his lap.

In the centre is Mahendra Pratap, the leader of the Indian nationalists. He wears a long Indian gown over a Western suit and a white turban. Again, some of these may be items made for the expedition by Afghan tailors. At his throat is the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle second class which he had been awarded by Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer sits to the side of Pratrap. He wears the 1907 Landespolizei uniform as seen in the previous photograph.

Maulavi Barkatullah is on the far right. He wears and suit and tie with a black lambs wool hat. These may be items have been carefully brought across the Persian desert or made for the expedition by Afghan tailors upon their arrival. It may be a round or diamond shaped medal at his throat (such as the non-Christian Prussian Order of the Red Eagle) or perhaps simply a pendant.
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica

Von Hentig and Röhr in China
This photograph was taken in Hankow in China in late 1916 or early 1917 after their hazardous journey from Kabul through the Pamir Mountains. It shows Röhr on the left and von Hentig on the right wearing smart civilian clothing that they presumably purchased in China. They are accompanied by two Chinese servants and their ponies.
Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica


Biographies of Members of the Afghan Mission

German Leadership
Oskar Niedermayer
(1885-1948) joined the 10th Bavarian Artillery Regiment in 1905. After his initial military service, he travelled India and Persia where he immersed himself in studying the languages, geography and natural history of the regions. He returned to Germany shortly before the outbreak of the First World War and served in his original regiment on the Western Front. While their he applied for an overseas mission. With his experience of Asian culture he was deemed the ideal candidate to lead the military aspect of the Afghan Mission of 1915-16. During the expedition he clashed with the diplomatic leader von Hentig over policy issues. However Niedermayer's determination and caution got them to Kabul through the hazardous journey. After the failure of the mission to entice the Emir of Afghanistan to wage war on British India Niedermayer and Hentig made their separate ways back home. Niedermayer took the route back through Persia and the Ottoman Empire. Upon his return to Germany in 1918 he awarded the highest Bavarian military award, the Military Order of Max Joseph along with the title Ritter von Niedermayer for his efforts and went back to the Western Front as an Artillery officer (now promoted to Hauptmann). After the war he served in the Freikorps Epp against communists in Munich. In the 1930s he served as a military attaché to the Soviet Union. During the Second World War he commanded a Division of the "Ost-Legion" made up of Russian Asians but was arrested for defeatism in 1944 after making pessimistic comments about the War. Heinrich Himmler personally wrote in his support at his trial. After the war he was arrested by the Soviets and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. He died of tuberculosis in a Russian prison in 1948.

Werner Otto von Hentig, German Diplomatic Leader of the Expedition (1886-1984) was a Leutnant in the 3rd East Prussian Cuirassiers ("Kürassier-Regiment 'Graf Wrangel' (Ostpreußisches) Nr.3")who had also studied law in Germany and France and qualified a degree in international law from Bonn University. He then served in the diplomatic corps in as a military attaché in Peking and Constantinople and then as legation secretary in Tehran, where he learned Persian. When the First World War broke out he served with his regiment on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in the First Battle of the Mausurian Lakes. In March 1915 he was recalled to Berlin to head the diplomatic side of the Afghan Mission. He presented the Kaiser's letter to the Emir personally but to no avail. After the failure of the mission he travelled across the Pamir Mountains with a small group (including his Pathan cook Seyed Achmed, Walther Röhr, the Hungarian/Rumanian Jossip Janosch, and a Persian Mule attendant Afgher) to China. From there he boarded a ship to Hawaii where he gave himself up to the as yet neutral American authorities. They repatriated him to Germany where he was awarded the House Order of Hohenzollern by Kaiser Wilhelm II in person. He was considered for the Pour-le-Mérite but it was not eventually awarded. He remained in the diplomatic corps for the rest of his career serving in Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria, Columbia and the United States of America. In the 1950s he was West German Ambassador to Indonesia.

Indian Nationalist Leaders
Raja (Kumar) Mahendra Pratap, Leader of the Indian Nationalists
(1886-1979) was born into an Indian Princely family in Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. He was the visionary founder of his own religion, the Society of the Servants of the Powerless and their Great School of Love to which he donated his palace and half his fortune. He believed strongly in Indian Independence and the rights of the common man. In 1907 he travelled the world visiting London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and the United States of America. When the First World War broke out he travelled to Berlin via Switzerland for an audience with Kaiser Wilhelm II, who awarded him the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle, second class and pledged support for Pratap's Mission to Afghanistan. On the way to Kabul, he had meetings with the exiled Khedive of Egypt in Vienna and Enver Pascha, the Ottoman Defence Minister who both also gave their support to Pratap. In Kabul he met with the Emir who for unexplained reasons did not like him. Nevertheless, with the Emir's support Pratap set up the Indian Provisional Government in Kabul with himself as President. Eventually the British put pressure on the Emir of Afghanistan to disband the provisional government which he did. Pratap then went to Russia, where he met with Lenin and later Tokyo where he spent the Second World War supporting the cause of Indian Independence. He finally returned to India in 1946 and later was elected to the Indian Parliament as an independent candidate.

Abdul Hafiz Mohamed Barakatullah (1854-1927) also known as Maulavi or Maulana Barkatullah was the second highest ranking Indian on the Afghan Mission and the senior Muslim leader in the group. He was educated in Bhopal, Bombay and London where he also taught Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. While teaching in Liverpool he became friends with Sirdar Nasrullah Khan, brother of the Emir of Afghanistan. He later taught in the United States, became a Professor of Tokyo University and travelled to Russia, Turkey and Egypt. He used his travels to promote the cause of Indian Independence. When the First World War broke out he was in America and soon travelled to Germany to become one of the leaders of the Indian Committee in Berlin. He served on the Afghan Mission and was appointed Prime Minister of the Provisional Indian Government in Kabul. After three years he returned to Germany where he published the revolutionary magazine, Naya Islam. In 1921, along with other Indian Nationalists he travelled to Moscow and after his return in Germany remained in close contact with the Soviet Government. In 1926 along with Pratap he travelled to the United States of America again to promote Indian nationalism. It was in San Francisco the following year when he died. Although he wished to be reburied in India after Independence his remains are still in Sacramento City Cemetery, California. In 1988 Bhopal University was renamed Barakatullah University in his honour.

Chempakaraman Pillai (1891–1934) was a Tamil from Southern India who had been partially educated in Austria. On the Outbreak of the First World War he formed the Pro-India Committee in Switzerland, but later merged with other Indian nationalists in Germany into the Indian Independence Committee. He took part in the Afghan Mission and the set up of the Provisional Indian Government in exile. Himself taking the role of Foreign Minister. After the war he remained in Germany to further the cause of Indian Nationalism. After falling foul of the Nazi regime Pillai died in 1934, with some suspecting food poisoning on Hitler's orders. His widow finally managed to get his ashes back in a free India in 1966.

Ubaidullah Sindhi (1872-1944) was a Sikh but converted to Islam. He was a noted nationalist leader involved in the Pan-Islamic movement and the Deobandi Islamic School. When the First World War broke out he was involved in the Silk Letter Conspiracy to encourage foreign support for an Indian Rebellion while Britain was busy fighting a war on the Western Front. Sindhi's role in this was to travel from India to Kabul to enlist the support of the Afghan Emir. He was already in Kabul when the Niedermayer-Hentig Mission arrived. Along with the other Indian nationalists he formed the Provisional Indian Government in exile, in which he was the Home Minister. Another Deobandi leader, Maulavi Bashir was the Minister for War. After the war Sindhi travelled through Russia and Turkey before settling to spend fourteen years studying Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Representative of the Ottoman Sultan
Kâzım Orbay
(1887-1964) graduated from the Ottoman Imperial School of Military Engineering and joined the Ottoman army in 1904 as an artillery lieutenant. In 1908 he trained in Germany before seeing action in the Balkan Wars. As one of Enver Pascha's favourite officers he served as chief adjutant to the Ministry of War before being selected to represent the Ottoman Empire on the Afghan Mission. In Kabul he presented the Emir with a letter confirming the support of the Ottoman Sultan if Afghanistan sided with the Central Powers. After the First World War, Orbay served in the War of Turkish Independence in the Caucasus and at the Battle of Dumlupinar. In peacetime he married Enver Pascha's sister and continued in Turkish military service, briefly returning to Afghanistan as Chief of General Staff in 1928. Back in Turkey he was further promoted until his retirement in 1946 by which time he was a four star general and Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Army. In 1961 he was elected a Senator and served as a President of the Turkish Parliament.

Other German Personnel on the Mission
Walter Röhr (1892-1927) was von Hentig's personal companion and the negotiator and language expert of the mission. Like many of the Germans in the expedition, Röhr had previous experience of the Orient, in Röhr's case as a merchant in Persia. Originally from Magdeburg, he had lived in Persia since he was seventeen and spoke fluent Turkish and Persian. When war broke out in 1914 he made his way back to Germany on a small boot through the Persian Gulf to Ottoman Turkey and from there home. Along with the expedition's doctor, Dr Becker, Röhr accompanied von Hentig from Germany to Istanbul. After Niedermayer and Hentig went their separate ways from Kabul, Röhr again accompanied von Hentig to China. He later married von Hentig's sister.

Dr. Karl Becker (___-1945) of the Prussian Guards Jäger Battalion ("Garde-Jäger-Bataillon") was the mission's doctor. He had already served two years in Persia dealing with malaria and other tropical diseases and spoke good Persian. On the way through Persia with the Afghan Mission he split into a separate group with some of the sick and the camel section. His group was spotted and surrounded by a Russian patrol. He fought them off for several days until running out of ammunition. He then buried the valuable equipment and gold that the camel section had carried and made a break along with some of the sick Afridi volunteers through Russian lines. All were shot down or captured but Becker managed to escape with a lung wound. He was kindly trended back to health under his own instruction by the locals that came across him. Within two weeks he felt well enough to go back to look for the equipment and gold that he had buried. It was then that he was captured and sent to the Russian Nargin Island prisoner of war camp, where served as a doctor. After the First World War he continued in civilian private practice settling in Berlin where he was killed during the Russian Siege of the city in 1945.

Kapitänleutnant d.R Kurt Albert Wagner was formerly a ships' officer of the Hamburg-America Shipping Line ("Hamburg Amerikanische Paketfahrt Actien-Gesellschaft" or HAPAG) operating in the Persian Gulf. He served on the Afghan Mission to Kabul.

Leutnant Günther Voigt of the 4th Prussian Guards Field Artillery ("4. Garde-Feldartillerie-Regiment") was Niedermayer's adjutant on the mission. He was one of the few on the Afghan Mission who had no previous experience of overseas service.

Hans Jakob of the Bavarian Light Horse was Niedermayer's Orderly and was one of the men Oskar Niedermayer initially requested for the mission. He accompanied Niedermayer throughout the voyage to Afghanistan but died of fever just outside Kabul and was buried there with full honours.

Fritz Niedermayer was Oskar's brother and a doctor. He too was one of the men Oskar Niedermayer initially requested for the mission.

Leutnant Walter Griesinger was an artillery officer on the Afghan Mission who did not make it to Afghanistan but remained in Southern Persia inciting their nationalists to rise up against the British.

Professor Erich Zugmeyer was one of the men Niedermayer initially requested for the mission. He was a Bavarian zooologist who had recently travelled Baluchistan. He did not make it to Afghanistan but remained with Griesinger in Southern Persia inciting rebellion against the British.

Fritz Seiler was another member of the mission who did not make it to Afghanistan but remained in Southern Persia with Griesinger and Zugmeyer inciting rebellion against the British. An Eduard Seiler (a German Dragoman) on the Afghan Mission is referred to in "The Berlin-Bagdad Express" it is not sure if this is the same person.

Hermann Consten, the Mongolian Explorer was also recruited for Niedermayer's staff on the Afghan Mission. He spoke several languages including Russian, French, English, Swahili and Mongolian.

Wilhelm Paschen from German South West Africa was a soldier on the expedition. A Peter Paschen is referred to as being on the Afghan Mission in "The Berlin-Bagdad Express" it is not sure if this is the same person.

Feldwebel Beierl was awarded the Prussian Red Eagle Medal by von Hentig for his service on the Afghan Mission.

Pathan Volunteers
Of the eight Pathan volunteers, six are known to have been
Feldwebel Mirmast, Itbargul, Mohabad Khan, the cook Seyed Achmed and the two volunteers that had arrived from America, Abdur Rahman Khan and Abdul Subhan Khan. Little is known about their lives, although von Hentig gives us a glimpse into Seyed Achmed in his memoirs-

Seyed Achmed was the last of the six Afridi Pathans to be recruited from the Halmondlager POW camp for the Afghan Mission. He served as cook and servant to von Hentig. He and von Hentig struck up a friendship on the expedition and afterwards when they both travelled to China through the Pamir Mountains. Von Hentig mentions in his memoirs that this man was the only Afridi on the mission that had not deserted the British army but had been legitimately captured. Von Hentig clearly respected him for that. Whereas the other Pathans were happy to be released from German service with their freedom in Kabul, Seyed wanted to return to his home in the Buner Valley within British territory. Through Swedish and English Missionaries, von Hentig successfully negotiated for the safe conduct of his cook and companion with the British envoy to China Sir John Jordan

Feldwebel Jemadar Mirmast of the Pathan volunteers was awarded the Prussian Crown Medal by von Hentig during the mission.

Austro-Hungarian former Prisoners of War
Of the Austro-Hungarian former Prisoners of War only two have so far been identified by name.

Josef Janosch was a Rumanian national of the Hungarian Honved accompanied von Hentig out of Afghanistan across the Pamir Mountains into China.

Emil Rybitschka was an Austrian Border-Gendarmerie Officer who wrote his memoirs as "Im gottgegebenen Afghanistan als Gäste des Emirs" (Leipzig, Brockhaus 1927).


Recommended Reading -
"Like Hidden Fire" by Peter Hopkirk
"Geheime Expedition ins Ungewisse" by Eleonore Wöhrle, an article in Kaskett Nr17 (Zeitschrift der Freunde des Bayerischen Armeemuseums)

"War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I" by Donald M. McKale
"Berlin-Bagdad Express" by Sean McMeekin
The German Mission to Afghanistan 1915-1916" by TL Hughes in In: German Studies Review No25 (2002)
"Berlin, Kabul, Moskau - Oskar Ritter von Niedermayer und Deutschlands Geopolitik" by Hans-Ulrich Seidt

Several members of the mission wrote their own memoirs of the mission. These are now out of print and hard to find. I have used them as secondary sources through other links-
"Unter der Glutsonne Irans: Kriegserlebnisse der deutschen Expedition nach Persien und Afghanistan" by Oskar von Niedermayer (Dachau 1925)
"Meine Diplomatenfahrt ins verschlossene Land" by Werner von Hentig (Berlin 1918)
Von Kabul nach Shanghai"  by Werner von Hentig (2002)
"My German Mission to High Asia" by Mahendra Pratap in Asia Magazine No25 (1925)
"Morgenländische Rhapsodie" by Günther Voigt unpublished manuscript (c1942)

Recommended External Links -
Hentig's Photo album and Information on Phototheca-Afghanica (highly recommended)
Biographical Information at Phototheca-Afghanica
The Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition at Wikipedia
Reisen in Zeiten der Not und Gefahr by Norbert Lüdtke on DZG
Photographs at the Axis History Forum
Discussion on the Pickelhaubes Forum
Discussion on the
Wehrmacht Awards Forum
Article on the Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition
Bavibonc Blogspot on the Niedermayer-Hentig Expedition
From Palestine to the Caucasus
Raja Mahendra
Buddhist Art News article on Hermann Consten

Thanks to Greg Gerardi, Glenn Jewison, Paul Bucherer-Dietschi of the Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica and the friendly staff at the Bavarian Army Museum for their generous help on this page.

The Afghan Mission in Kabul 1915/16
From left to right the photograph shows- Maulavi Barkatullah, Werner von Hentig, Mahendra Pratap, Kâzım Orbay and Walter Röhr

Photo © Stiftung Bibliotheca Afghanica



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