German West Africa
Reservists in Cameroon and Togo 1914-16

     


Figure 1
Obermatrose der Reserve Rassak
Cameroon 1914

German men of military age living in Cameroon and Togo were called up as reservists upon the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Most, but not all, had undergone basic military training back in Germany.

Reservists in Cameroon
German Reservists, Landwehr and Landsturm were originally formed into their own units when the First World War broke out, but were later dispersed amongst existing Schutztruppe formations. Ultimately, as with the rest of the Cameroon Schutztruppe lack of equipment and ammunition hindered their full potential.

Uniforms of the Reservists in Cameroon
The reservists in Cameroon like those in
East Africa, New Guinea and Togo did not have enough regular Schutztruppe uniforms to go around and so wore a mixture of Schutztruppe and privately acquired uniforms, slouch hats and tropical helmets.

Some photographs show reservists wearing an imperial eagle badge from the fez of the Schutztruppe African soldiers (see below). Presumably there were more of these to go around than imperial cockades.

Reservists in Togo
German reservists called up to defend the colony in 1914 were used to officer the expanded African Polizeitruppe and also formed into a company between 100 and 200 strong. This unit was known as the "Europäer-Kompanie" and was withdrawn to defend the radio station at Kamina but saw no action before the surrender of Togo.

Uniforms of the Reservists in Togo
I have seen no photographs of the Togo Reservists during the short campaign of 1914 but like the reservists in Cameroon,
East Africa and New Guinea they most probably wore a mixture of non-regulation khaki uniforms, slouch hats and tropical helmets with armbands or cockades in the imperial colours to identify themselves (see below).

 
     
 

The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of Obermatrose der Reserve Rassak, a German Reservist, taken in Cameroon during the First World War.

Most of this man's uniform is probably supplied mostly by himself, he wears a non-regulation khaki shirt and slouch hat. His trousers, leather gaiters and short boots may be Schutztruppe issue.

He carries one 1871/95 ammunition pouch held up on a non-standard belt. He has the straps for a backpack, though if it is a standard issue Schutztruppe backpack cannot be seen. He is again armed with a K98 carbine and has an unidentified pistol in a holster on his belt.

Note that although Rassak is serving in the Schutztruppe he retains his junior NCO rank of "Obermatrose" from his previous naval service.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of Unteroffizier Franz, a German Reservist, taken in Cameroon during the First World War.

He wears a tropical helmet which may be of official 1913 Schutztruppe issue with an imperial eagle badge from the fez of a Schutztruppe African soldier. His tunic is curiously also that worn by the Schutztruppe African Soldiers. Shortages in German Schutztruppe stocks were no doubt behind this unusual issue. The tunic has red collar edging and chevrons on the cuffs. It has plain khaki shoulder straps, no pockets and four white metal buttons down the front.

In the original photograph upon which this illustration is based his left side cannot be seen to determine if he is wearing the rank chevrons of an Unteroffizier (see NCO Rank Insignia Page). Neither can his lower legs be seen clearly in the original photograph, I have illustrated him with short leather boots and puttees as seen worn by some other reservists in the same group. They may have been standard issue Schutztruppe grey puttees, or possibly old or improvised stock.

He carries 1871/95 ammunition pouches on a standard Schutztruppe German other ranks brown leather belt and buckle (see below), but with thinner shoulder straps, perhaps those from his bread bag. He is armed with a K98 carbine as issued to most German troops in the Cameroon Schutztruppe.


Figure 2
Unteroffizier Franz
Cameroon 1914

     


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


Schutztruppe Fez Eagle
(See Colonial Insignia Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection


Armband in Imperial Colours
(See Identification Brassard Details Page)
Photo
© Doppler Collection

     
 

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