Schutztruppe Generals


Generalmajor Leutwein
Germany c1905
This Illustration is based on a photograph of Generalmajor Theodor Leutwein taken after his return to Germany and promotion to general rank. He wears the Schutztruppe general's grey home uniform with facing and piping in red with gold buttons, aiguillettes, sword knot, hat trimming and oak leaf Litzen on the collar and cuffs.

The Schutztruppe in the African colonies were usually commanded by a senior officer such a Major or Oberstleutnant. There were not usually general officers in the Schutztruppe overseas. Only eight officers ever held a general rank in the Schutztruppe. Of those, four (Leutwein, von Deimling, Müller and von Glasenapp) were only promoted to general rank after returning from the colonies and therefore never served as generals in Africa. Only two (von Trotha and von Liebert) were already of general rank went they were posted to Africa. Von Lettow-Vorbeck was promoted to general while in Africa. Wahle was a retired general who happened to be in East Africa when the First World broke out (see Brief Biographies below).

General Ranks*

Generalmajor - Brigadier General
Generalleutnant - Major General
General der Schutztruppe - Lieutenant General
Generaloberst - General
Generalfeldmarschal - Field Marshall

* Only the rank of Generalmajor and Generalleutnant were ever awarded to the Schutztruppe, the higher three were only hypothetical.

Uniforms of Generals in the Schutztruppe
The general officers home uniform was based on the Schutztruppe 1897 officers grey home uniform. It differed in that rather than in colony colours, it had red facing and piping (though of a slightly more orange shade than that used in Cameroon). The tunic had embroidered gold oak leaf Litzen on the collar and cuffs and twelve crowned gold buttons going right down to the bottom edge of the tunic, though the last four were usually unbuttoned. The trousers had two broad red stripes. Gold aiguillette cords were worn on parade. The left shoulder strap was twisted gold cord and the right gold braid, both on a red backing.

The ranks were shown by pips on the braided shoulder strap. A Generalmajor had a plain right side braided shoulder strap while a Generalleutnant had a single silver pip on the strap. The higher unused ranks were authorised to wear two pips, three pips and crossed field marshal's batons respectively.

The Südwester hat for generals had gold ribbon edging and hatband. In 1913, the Südwester was abolished for home service in favour of a Pickelhaube with a gold imperial eagle. This Pickelhaube may never have been worn in practice.

Tropical uniforms were authorised but as most Schutztruppe generals did not serve in Africa they were not often worn. They were similar to officers 1896 khaki or white uniforms but with general rank shoulder straps and gold cord around tropical helmet. Photos of von Trotha in South West Africa show him wearing the khaki uniform or the general officers double breasted Litewka tunic and generals Südwester.


Südwester Hat for a Schutztruppe General with Gold Edging and Hatband
Photo from Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg © Mark Schellenberg 2016

Period Photographs of the Home Uniform for Schutztruppe Generals

Generalmajor Eduard von Liebert
Commander of the East African Schutztruppe 1897-1901
Photograph from WikiCommons

Lothar von Trotha
Commander of the South West African Schutztruppe 1904-06
Photograph from WikiCommons

Generalmajor Wilhelm Müller c1908
Commander of the Cameroon Schutztruppe 1903-08

Photograph Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons

All three photographs show Schutztruppe generals wearing their full home uniform. Note the embroidered Litzen on the collar and cuffs, twisted left shoulder strap and braided right, the yellow metallic lace hatbands and edging, the twelve buttons going right down the the bottom edge of the tunic with the last four undone, the two broad red striped on the trousers and the impressive medal display that each general wears.

Brief Biographies of the Eight Schutztruppe Generals

Theodor Leutwein (1849-1921) served as a Leutnant in the 113th Baden Infantry ("5. Badischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr.113") from 1869. In 1893 as Major he was posted to South West Africa and the following year replaced Curt von François as Landeshauptmann (effectively the governor) of South West Africa and commander of the Schutztruppe. In 1898 the title of Landeshauptmann was officially replaced by "Gouverneur". While in Africa he was promoted to Oberst. During his time in office he devised and followed a policy of appeasement with the local tribes backed up with armed threats. His aim was to pacify both the Nama and the Herero avoiding military action where possible. When the Herero Rebellion broke out in 1904 he was unprepared and although his Schutztruppe managed to contain the rebels they could not be defeated. Leutwein was sent back to Germany and replaced by the more ruthless Lothar von Trotha. In retirement he was promoted to Generalmajor and wrote his memoirs, published in 1906 as "Elf Jahre als Gouverneur in Deutsch-Südwestafrika".

Lothar von Trotha (1848-1920) who had served in the 2nd Prussian Foots Guards ("2. Garderegiment zu Fuß") during the Austro-Prussian War and in the 47th Electoral Hessen Infantry ("1. Kurhessischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 47.") during the Franco-Prussian War, when he was wounded at the Battle of Worth and earned the Iron Cross. He was promoted to Premierleutnant in 1873, Hauptmann in 1877, Major in 1888 and as Oberstleutnant in 1896 commanded the Schutztruppe of German East Africa for a year. Further promotion followed back in Germany and in 1900 he commanded the 1st East Asian Infantry Brigade as Generalmajor during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1904 as Generalleutnant, he was sent to replace Theodor Leutwein as commander of the South West African Schutztruppe with orders to crush the Herero Rebellion. After encircling and defeating them at the Battle of Waterberg, he then issued the infamous orders under which the Herero people were driven into the Kalahari desert. Any Herero man, woman or child, armed or unarmed caught trying to return would be shot at on sight. News of the order caused uproar in Berlin and von Trotha was recalled in 1905 and his order rescinded but not before tens of thousands of Herero died from thirst and starvation. Von Trotha has gone down in history as the author of the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.

Berthold von Deimling (1853-1944) joined the 113th Baden Infantry ("5. Badischen Infanterie-Regiment Nr.113") in 1871 as a One Year Volunteer. He was promoted to Sekondeleutnant in 1873. By 1903 he was Oberst and commander of the 112th Baden Infantry ("4. Badisches Infanterie-Regiment Prinz Wilhelm Nr. 112 ") the following year he transferred to the Schutztruppe of South West Africa, commanding the 2. Feldregiment in the Nama Rebellion. Like von Trotha he was known for his harsh leadership. He replaced von Trotha as commander of the South West African Schutztruppe in 1906 but returned to Germany the following year with the rank of Generalmajor . He remained in army service, being the commanding officer in Strasbourg, Alsace during the Zabern Affair and serving on the Western Front during the First World War. He was awarded the Pour-le-Merite at Ypres in 1916.

Eduard von Liebert (1850-1934) joined the 58th Posen Infantry ("3. Posensches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 58") in 1866 and served with that regiment in the Franco-Prussian War where he earned the Iron Cross second class. He progressed through officer ranks and in 1892 made an official information gathering visit to East Africa. In 1896 he was sent to command the East African Schutztruppe with the rank of Generalmajor. The following year he was also given the position of governor. He returned to Germany and was promoted to Generalleutnant and given command of the 6th Division of the Prussian Army from 1901 to 1903 when he retired from active service. In 1907 he became a member of the Reichstag and lectured on the colonies including promoting racist theories and the opposition of mixed race marriages in the colonies. He returned to active service in the First World War commanding the 15th Reserve Division on the Western Front. He was promoted to General der Infanterie in 1916.

Wilhelm Müller (1850-1921) served as a Leutnant in the 1st East Prussian Jager Btn ("Ostpreußischen Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 1") during the Franco-Prussian War and rose to Hauptmann and company commander in that unit in 1886. From 1895 as Major he transferred to the Schutztruppe for South West Africa until 1902 when he returned to Germany. In 1903 he went back to Africa to command the Cameroon Schutztruppe with the rank of Oberst and took part in expeditions into the interior of the colony. He retired from military service in 1908 back to Germany with the rank of Generalmajor.

Franz Georg von Glasenapp (1857-1914) was first commissioned into the 9th Pomeranian Grenadiers ("Colbergsche Grenadier-Regiment "Graf Gneisenau“ (2. Pommersches) Nr. 9") in 1874. His first overseas post was training and reorganising the Chinese army for three years starting in 1885. He later served in the Boxer Rebellion against the Chinese and went on to command the II. Seebataillon in 1902, then the I. Seebataillon in 1905. During the Herero War he commanded the Marine Expeditionskorps in South West Africa where he was wounded in action. From 1911 he was the overall commander of the Schutztruppe based at the Colonial Office in Berlin with the rank of Major General. He retired in April 1914 with the rank of  Generalleutnant.

Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964) joined the 1st Prussian Foot Guards ("4. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß") in 1888 and was promoted through the junior officer ranks serving on the staff of von Trotha in the Boxer and Herero Rebellions. He returned to Germany after the rebellion and commanded the II. Seebatallion. In 1913 he was considered for command of the Cameroon Schutztruppe but in early 1914 he was given command of the East African Schutztruppe as Oberstleutnant instead. During the First World War he conducted a skilled but ruthless defence of the colony before eventually being forced to evade capture by invading allied colonies, firstly Portuguese East Africa, then British Rhodesia where he laid down his arms on.25th November 1918 after hearing of the European armistice. He returned as Generalmajor to a hero's welcome in Berlin, followed by leading a Freikorps, standing in the Reichstag and in 1935 being offered the job of ambassador to Britain under the Third Reich, which he declined.

Kurt Wahle (1854-1928) joined the Saxon Army in 1873 and retired with the rank of Generalmajor in 1910 after having commanded the 1st Saxon Infantry Brigade. In 1914 he was visiting his son in German East Africa when the First World War broke out. He volunteered his services under von Lettow-Vorbeck despite technically out ranking the then Oberstleutnant von Lettow-Vorbeck and commanded the Western Front against the Belgian Congo for much of the war. For his services in the war he was awarded the Prussian Pour-le-Mérite and the Saxon Order of St Henry Commander's Cross.

"Das Deutsche Heer, Friedensuniformen bei Ausbruch des Weltkrieges " written and illustrated by H. Knötel and P. Pietsch
"Atlas des deutschen Reichsheeres, der kaiserlichen Marine und der Schutztruppen in Afrika" written and illustrated by Carl Henckel
"Tropenhelme der kaiserliche Marine, der Ostasiatischen Truppen und der Schutztruppen" by Ulrich Schiers
"The German Colonial Troops 1889-1918" by
Jurgen Kraus and Thomas Müller
"Helm für Generale der Schutztruppen" by
Martin Svoboda
and for biographical details


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