Tropical Uniforms worn by
The German Army in Macedonia 1915-18

Figure 1
Guard Jäger
Macedonia c1916
Figure 2
Artillery NCO
Macedonia 1917
Figure 3
Macedonia 1918
Figure 4
Macedonia c1916
Figure 5
Machine Gunner
Macedonia 1916


Background to the Macedonian Front during the First World War
In 1915 a joint offensive was launched by the Central Powers to knock Serbia out of the War. Austro-Hungarian and German troops were joined by the Bulgarians and succeeded in pushing the Serbian and Montenegrin armies back towards the Adriatic coast. The major Entente powers (Britain, France, Russia and Italy) then landed troops at Salonika (modern Thessaloniki) to support Serbia and push Bulgaria out of the war. German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman troops deployed in Macedonia to bolster Bulgarian defences. Rumania and Greece later joined the war on the side of the Entente, making this the most multi-national battlefield of the war. Fighting on the Macedonian front dragged on throughout the war until Bulgaria's surrender in September 1918.

The German Army Group in Macedonia was commanded by August von Mackensen up until 10th October 1916, then Otto von Below until 22nd April 1917 and then Friedrich von Scholtz until 5th October 1918. The Army Group was named after its commander (ie. "Heeresgruppe Mackensen", "Heeresgruppe Below" and finally "Heeresgruppe Scholtz"). It was a full strength German army group with infantry, cavalry, artillery and supporting arms consisting of about 18,000 officers and other ranks by 1918.
Recommended External Link - Heeresgruppe Scholtz at the Axis History Forum for more on the organisation of the German army in Macedonia

Uniforms In Macedonia
Most German soldiers serving in Macedonia wore standard German army field grey uniforms as worn on other fronts (see German Army on Ottoman Fronts Page for more examples). The 1910 field grey uniform has been seen in period photographs in its many varieties, the infantry, cavalry and artillery Waffenrock, and occasionally the Hussar Attila and Lancer Ulanka. Modified 1910 tunics with plain cuffs are perhaps more commonly seen as are the 1915 Bluse plain tunics. Officers also wore their Litewka tunics. Trousers were usually matching field grey and later slate grey and were worn tucked into marching boots, short boots and puttees or in the case of officers, riding boots or gaiters and short boots.

Due to the hot Summer weather in the Balkans lightweight versions of the army field tunics were issued. These were of the modified 1910 pattern with plain cuffs. Other than their lightweight material, these tunics were identical to those issued on other fronts. Also due to the climate the 1895 cotton fatigue uniforms came to be in common use. These were made of un-dyed raw cotton and could be a number shades from off white to brown. It was shorter in length than the Waffenrock and had a small standing collar, five buttons down the front, plain cuffs and no pockets or shoulder straps. Some period photographs show the fatigue tunic worn open at the neck to the second or third button with the collar and lapels folded out. At least one period photograph shows a soldier in Macedonia wearing the East Asian Expeditionary Corps khaki uniform. Other photographs show officers wearing privately purchased khaki or white uniforms with the insignia (shoulder traps and Litzen) of their usual field grey uniforms.

Many of the troops in Macedonia seen in period photographs wore standard German army field caps (peaked for officers and senior NCOs and peakless for other ranks) in field grey with hatband and piping in arm of service colours. Pickelhauben and shakos are sometimes seen in period photographs, with and without their rush green covers. Steel helmets were rarely if ever worn in Macedonia. I have so far found no period photographs to prove their use. More commonly seen in period photographs are the various items of colonial and tropical headdress described below.

Straw Hats
Straw hats in the style of the East Asian Expeditionary Corps were commonly worn on the Macedonian front. They were held up on the right hand side with a large imperial cockade above a smaller state cockade (see Cockades Page). Some photographs show only the imperial cockade being worn others show the hat worn without either cockade and the brim unpinned.
"Die feldgraue Uniformierung des deutschen Heeres 1907-1918" by Jürgen Kraus Wolfgang Hanne states that 20,000 such hats were issued for use in Macedonia. The East Asian Expeditionary Corps was somewhere in the region of 15,000 strong at its peak and not all of these were issued the straw hat. Added to that, with complaints about the straw hat not being durable enough in China, it seems unlikely that many made it back from China in perfect condition for later re-issue. At least some (perhaps those with only the imperial cockade) or maybe all must have been made specially for Macedonia. This contrasts with the tropical helmets which seem to have been exclusively from old East Asian stocks

Tropical Helmets
Tropical helmets were commonly issued on the Macedonian Front. These were of the Bortfeldt khaki 1902 pattern (see Tropical Helmets Page) originally issued to the East Asian Occupation Brigade.. The helmets had a brass imperial eagle on the front and a hatband in arm-of-service colours with a large imperial cockade on the right hand side. Period photographs show that the eagle, hatband and cockade were sometimes discarded or lost. The helmet had a removable khaki neckshade.

1902 Bortfeldt Tropical Helmet
(See Tropical Helmets Page)
Photo © Doppler Collection

1916 Scroll Helmet
(See Rastatt Museum Collection Page)
Photo by C Dale from the Rastatt Museum

Scroll Helmets
These were an experimental type of replacement for the Pickelhaube which had proven impractical in modern warfare and expensive to mass produce. The so called "Scroll Helmets" were made in the shape of the Pickelhaube but from field grey felt rather than polished leather. They had the round base of a Pickelhaube spike but no spike. Neither did they have the Pickelhaube's chinstrap boss cockades nor elaborate front plate. Instead they had a metal scroll bearing the unit number. Several variations on the initial helmet design have been seen in period photographs and modern collections.

Being more lightweight and better ventilated then the Pickelhaube, they were considered ideal for use on the Serbian front and were issued to several units, mainly mountain machine gun companies serving there in late 1915. They were probably still in use by some units as late as 1917. The scroll helmets also saw very limited service on the Western and possibly Eastern Fronts, but Serbia (and following the fall of Serbia, Macedonia) is where most of the photographs showing their use were taken. Although the scroll helmets were perhaps slightly more practical than the Pickelhaube they did not address the Pickelhaube's main weakness, that of its inability to protect the wearer against anything more than a sabre cut.

Highly Recommended External Links- Colonel J's Article on Scroll Helmets and a Discussion on Scroll Helmets on the Pickelhaubes Forum
Recommend Reading - "Ersatzhelme im I. Weltkrieg" by Rolf Noeske in Zeitschrift für Heereskunde No.424 (April/June 2007)

Other Tropical Headdress
Pale grey/brown neckshades were issued along with the scroll helmet. They did not directly attach to the helmet but rather had a separate adjustable tie or leather strap and could thus be worn with or without the helmet. The headband could either be a simple cloth tie or a leather buckled strap. Photographs show they were also worn with field caps and other types of headdress. Mosquito nets were also commonly issued in Macedonia. They were large enough to fit over the head and even the tropical helmet.

The Illustrations

Figure 1 is based on a photograph of a Jäger of the Guard Jäger Battalion ("Garde Jäger Batallion") taken in Macedonia in 1916 or 1917. He wears the 1910 Prussian Infantry uniform in grey-green (the greener version of field grey worn by the light infantry (Jäger and Schützen) and Machine Gunners). The tunic has the Swedish cuffs and green piping common to most Jäger battalions and the yellow collar and cuff Litzen of the Guard battalion. The tunic buttons are matching unpolished yellow metal with the Prussian crown. The trousers are probably piped in green and have leather reinforcement patches on the knees. They and are worn tucked into field grey puttees with blackened leather ankle boots. His equipment is of blackened leather with 1895 ammunition pouches and his held at the front by a Prussian other ranks belt buckle (with the Prussian royal crown and the motto "Gott Mit Uns").

The description so far would be typical of Prussian light infantry on other European fronts. What identifies this figure with the Macedonian front is the 1902 Bortfeldt  khaki helmet with matching neckshade. Whereas many troops on the Macedonian front kept the original East Asian insignia on their helmets (arm of service coloured hatband and large imperial cockade on the right hand side) or had no insignia at all, this Jäger has the white metal Guard star from his shako on the tropical helmet. This is the only occasion I have seen a shako or helmet plate transferred to the tropical helmet in Macedonia.

Figure 2 is based on a photograph of a Mortar Company NCO in Macedonia 1917. There were two Mountain Mortar Companies in Macedonia at this time. ("Gebirgs-Minen-Werfer Kompanie 172 & 173"). This NCO has a complete khaki tropical uniform. It appears to be of the same cut as the original khaki/yellow East Asian 1900 "Drillichrock" tunics and it may actually be original stock. The tunic has no shoulder straps. The single lace on the upper edge of the standing collar identifies him as an Unteroffizier. He wears an Iron Cross Second class as a small ribbon on his left breast. Apart from his tropical uniform he wears standard European issue field grey puttees, blackened leather ankle boots and belt with a dull grey Prussian other ranks belt buckle and a small pistol holster.

He wears the khaki 1902 Bortfeldt Tropical Helmet of former East Asian stock with a yellow metal imperial eagle on the front and arm of service colour hatband (in this case black edged with red for artillery and pioneers). The helmet may or may not have had a large imperial cockade on the left side, as originally worn by the East Asian Expeditionary Corps.

Figure 3 is based on a photograph of an Infantryman in Macedonia 1918. He wears an East Asian Expeditionary Corps Straw Hat pinned up with a large single imperial cockade on the right hand side. Aside from the straw hat his uniform is typical of German infantrymen on all European fronts in the latter half of the First World War. He wears a 1915 "Bluse" field grey tunic with shoulder straps piped in white (for infantry) and a red regimental numeral (not visible in the original photograph upon which this illustration is based) and a grey-green collar. His trousers are slate grey with red piping down the seam. He wears blackened leather boots and equipment consisting of a pair of 1909 ammunition pouches and a late war, one piece, dull grey belt buckle. He is armed with a Mauser G98 rifle. The other figures in the original photograph upon which this illustration is based are similarly dressed with straw hats and a mixture of 1915 and Modified 1910 tunics.

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of an Infantryman in Macedonia. He wears an 1895 army fatigue tunic in off white drill, as is commonly seen in period photographs on the Macedonian front. He wears field grey or slate grey trousers with field grey puttees and short blackened leather ankle boots. He wears the other ranks 1910 peakless field cap in field grey with hatband and piping in red for infantry. It had an Imperial cockade above a state cockade. In the this case the state cockade is covered by the ties of his tropical neckshade. The shade may well be removed from a Scroll Helmet.

Figure 5 is based on a photograph of a Machine Gunner from the 247th Mountain Machine Gun Unit ("Gebirgs-Maschinengewehr Abteilung 247") taken in Macedonia in 1916. He wears the 1915 field grey greatcoat with shoulder straps with piping and MG 247 in red. As well as sweltering Summers, Macedonia has freezing Winters. The greatcoat is worn over his grey-green uniform (machine gunners as well as Jäger wore grey-green rather than field grey for the 1910 and 1915 uniforms). He wears a blackened leather belt and marching boots. A pair of gloves are tucked into his belt. He wears a flash lamp attached to his coat front. In addition to these standard items of uniform is the rare scroll helmet, made from felt with metal fittings. The scroll at the front of the helmet was unit marked in this case reading 247. A neckshade is also worn over the back of the helmet.

Recommended Links
The Macedonian Front on Wikipedia
Heeresgruppe Scholtz at the Axis History Forum
Colonel J's Article on Scroll Helmets
Discussion on Scroll Helmets on the Pickelhaubes Forum
Salonika Battlefield Tour
Lost Bulgaria - It's in Bulgarian but don't worry. Click on "1910-20" and browse the photo galleries.

Special thanks to Joe Robinson of Colonel J's Pickelhauben for generously sharing his extensive research on this topic.


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

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