Bayonets
of the Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Forces

 
     
 


Collection of Bayonets of the Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Forces
Photo © Chris Wood

 
     
  Introduction to Bayonets of the Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Forces
The Imperial German army, navy and colonial forces used several different models of bayonet ("Seitengewehr"). Usually new models of bayonet were issued along with new models of rifle. Bayonets were carried by most dismounted (and some mounted) troops in colonial service up to and including the rank of Sergeant. Officers and NCOs above the rank of Sergeant were entitled to carry Swords but often in action carried privately purchased bayonets instead.

Bayonets for the 1871 Rifles (including the Gew71, JB71, Gew71/84 and Gew88)
The the old smokey powder used to fire the Gew71 rifles and their variants left a residue inside the rifle barrel which then needed frequent cleaning. The cleaning rod was situated under the barrel so 1871 bayonets were side mounted with a muzzle ring. The Gew88 rifle fired smokeless ammunition yet still retained the same side mounted bayonets. The carbine equivalents of the Gew71 and Gew88 rifles (the Kar71 and Kar88 respectively) did not have bayonet mountings.

Bayonets for the 1898 Rifles and Carbines (including the Gew98, Gew98S and Kar98AZ)
The smokeless powder used to fire the Gew98 rifle did not tend to foul the gun barrel which meant that the 1898 bayonets could be fitted under the barrel of the rifle as access to a cleaning rod was no longer so frequently required. (The Gew98 rifles had only one short section of a clearing rod in each rifle. Soldiers had to share sections between them to create a full length clearing rod). The new bayonets for the Gew98 and its variants fitted onto the bayonet solely by means of a pommel slot in the handle and had no muzzle ring like earlier bayonets. The original Kar98 carbines did not have bayonet mountings but the later Kar98AZ did.

Non-Fitting bayonets
It is not uncommon to see combinations of rifles and bayonets carried by one soldier that would not fit together. For some units, such as naval landing parties, the uses of a bayonet fixed to the rifle were limited as opposed to the use of the bayonet as a side arm or saw. In other cases the soldiers are photographed with captured or temporarily issued bayonets in times of shortage.

Grips
The 1871 German bayonets (such as the S71 and Pfm71) had brass gripped handles. Most later bayonets (such as the S71/84 and S98) had wooden grips. The S98aA had a one piece wrap around grip, which had a tendency to split and was therefore replaced on the S98nA with a two piece wooden grip. Leather grips cut into a chequered pattern were issued on some other bayonets (such as the Hf71 and kS98). It was found that the leather rotted quickly in the damp heat of the colonies (particularly Cameroon and East Africa) and the leather grips were replaced, sometimes locally, with wooden grips. By 1914 some replacement grips had also been made specifically for the colonies using a form of unvulcanised rubber known as "Kautschuk". These are often referred to as composition grips.

Scabbards
German bayonet scabbards were originally made of black leather tipped with steel or brass. These leather scabbards could sometimes get bent and damaged when the bayonet was unsheathed, and in the colonies as with leather grips they rotted easily. Steel scabbards were common on later bayonets especially in the colonies. All kS98 bayonets were issued with steel scabbards.

Sawback Blades
Many German bayonets were issued with saw teeth along the back edge. The sawback blade was commonly used to cut wood. These bayonets are usually referred to with an S for "Säge" or saw after the bayonet name, for example S89/05aAS. All kS98 and Pfm bayonets came with sawback blades, so there was no need to differentiate between with or without sawback, thus no S is added at the end of their abbreviation.

During the First World War in Europe allied propaganda suggested that the German sawback bayonets were used for torturing their victims. Reprisals against German prisoners captured with sawback bayonets meant they they ceased to be issued and sawbacks were often removed from existing frontline bayonets.

Bayonet Names and their Abbreviations
Different types of German bayonets are usually referred to by abbreviations such as S98/05nAS. The first letter "S" stands for Seitengewehr, or bayonet. Other initials at the beginning such as "kS", "Hf" or "Pfm" stand for specialist types of bayonet (explained below).

The numbers following the first initial are the date the bayonet was first designed and then modified, so the S98/05 was designed in 1898 and modified in 1905. The next two letters "aA" or "nA" describe further modifications and stand for old-style and new-style ("alte Art" and "neue Art". Notice that in German all nouns carry capital letters while adjectives do not even when abbreviated). The final letter "S" is added to bayonets with a sawback blade (or "Säge"). Bayonets which came with sawback blades as standard (such as the kS98 or Pfm71) did not need the "S" to differentiate themselves.

So an S98/05nAS bayonet is the new style of the bayonet designed in 1898, modified in 1905 and with a sawback blade.

Bayonet Markings
Date, manufacture, unit and weapon number markings are described on the Bayonet Markings Page.

 
     


Types of Bayonet Used by the German Colonial and Overseas Forces

         
  Seitengewehr 1871 (S71)  
 
Photo © Old Smithy's Bayonet Pages
 

The S71 was the bayonet designed to be used by the Prussian Infantry with the Gew71 rifle introduced after the Franco-Prussian War. As the armies of the different German states were gradually standardised so was their weaponry and the S71 was issued to most state armies.

The S71 had long wide blade, brass grips and opposing curved crossguard and muzzle ring. It was carried in a brass mounted leather scabbard and did not usually have a sawback blade. (Steel mounted leather scabbards and replacement all steel scabbards were sometimes issued during the First World War but not in the colonies. Also some rare S71s did have the sawback blade, again these have not been seen in the colonies.)

The S71 was issued to the askaris of the Wissmanntruppe before being replaced by the S71/84. Other than that it was not commonly seen in the colonies although some period photos show its use by the Micronesian Polizeitruppe.

Occasional photographs of Schutztruppe and East Asian troops with the S71 in Germany before their overseas deployment are probably misleading as these bayonets were mostly studio props which were replaced by standard issue bayonets before the men were sailed for Africa and China.

 


Reiter of the South West African Schutztruppe
with an S71 Bayonet
This photograph was taken in a photographic studio in Germany before deployment to the Herero Rebellion in South West Africa in 1904. He is armed with a Gew88 rifle with an S71 bayonet. These were both quite probably props from the studio rather than Schutztruppe issue.
Photo © Sam Wouters
 

 
         
         
  Hirschfänger 1871 (Hf71)      
 


Hf71 issued to the Imperial Navy Photo © Roy Williams , the author of The Collectors Book of German Bayonets

The Hirschfänger 1871 (literally a "deer slayer" from its hunting origins- often abbreviated to Hf71) was a variant on the S71 Bayonet. The Hf71 had a long wide blade, leather grips, "eagles head" pommel and smaller opposing curved crossguard and muzzle ring. It was carried in a steel mounted leather scabbard and did not come with a sawback blade. 

The Hf71 was usually issued to the Jäger Battalions of the Prussian army along with their Jägerbüchse 1871 rifles. In the colonies the Togo Polizeitruppe were issued them for their Jägerbüchse rifles until replaced by the kS98 bayonet and K98 carbine.

The Hf71 was also issued to the Imperial Navy and Marine Infantry to replace the old FüsS60 bayonets but was itself usually replaced with the S98 as the G98 rifle was introduced. Along with other obsolete weapons it was later issued to non-frontline units such as the Imperial Navy's depot units in the later stages of the First World War.

 

 


Sailors of the II. Werft-Division
This photograph was taken in Kiel in 1918. By this stage in the war obsolete weapons such as the Gew71/84 and the Hf71 bayonet as seen here, were being re-issued to the Imperial Navy who were not serving on the frontline.
Photo © Sam Wouters
 

 

         
  Seitengewehr 1871/1884 (S71/84)      
 


S71/84 Bayonet issued to the East African Schutztruppe
Photo © Roy Williams

The Seitengewehr 1871/1884 (or S71/84) was issued to the Prussian army with the Mauser G71/84 rifle, its main difference from previous bayonets being its considerably shorter blade. It is often considered to be the first large scale issue knife bayonet.

The S71/84 The S71/84 had riveted wooden grips, a sloped join to the pommel with a simple straight crossguard and muzzle ring. It was carried originally in a steel mounted leather scabbard but a replacement all steel version was issued in the colonies. It did not have a sawback blade (except for some examples issued to the Royal Bavarian army in Germany).

The S71/84 was commonly issued in the colonies along with the Jägerbüchse 71 rifle to the Schutztruppe and Polizeitruppe of East Africa and Cameroon. It was in the process of being replaced with the kS98 bayonet and Kar98AZ rifle when the First World War broke, though the process was far from complete and most askaris began the war with the S71/84.

 

 


Askari Ombascha of the 6. FeldKompangie
of the East African Schutztruppe, Udjidji 1912
This photograph shows an askari NCO firing a JB71 rifle in training. He has a S71/84 bayonet sheathed on his hip.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv
 

 
         
 

Seitengewehr 1898 (S98)

     
 

S98aA Bayonet issued to the East Asian Marine Detachment Photo © Chris Wood

When the Mauser Gew98 rifle was issued to the German army it came with a new bayonet, the
Seitengewehr 1898 (or S98). The S98 fitted onto the Gew98 and its variants solely by means of a pommel slot in the handle and had no muzzle ring unlike earlier bayonets.

The S98 had a long narrow blade, wooden grips, a small downturned quillon and came in both plain and sawback variants. It was carried in a steel mounted leather scabbard. Steel scabbards were issued during the First World War but not in the colonies.

The original S98 had a one piece wooden grip. From 1902 a new version ("neue" Art") of the S98 with a two piece wooden grip was issued known as the S98nA. This led to the old S98 with a one piece wooden grip to be known as the S98aA ("alte Art").

The first use of the Gew98 and S98 was in the Boxer Rebellion where it was the standard weapon of the East Asian Infantry. It was also later issued to the Schutztruppe of South West Africa, the Imperial Navy and the Marine Infantry. The S98 remained the standard German infantry bayonet up until the First World War.

 


East Asian Infantryman
 He is armed with the Gew98 rifle and S98aA bayonet.
Photo © Joe Robinson

 
         
         
  Pionier-Faschinenmesser 1871/1898 (Pfm71/98)      
 


Pfm71/98 issued to the Pioneer Company of the East Asian Expeditionary Corps
Photo © Christian Méry of AFCB

The Pionier-Faschinenmesser 1871/1898 (or Pfm71/98) was a bayonet created especially for the three companies of the East Asian Pioneer Battalion sent to China in 1900. The East Asian Pioneers were reduced the following year to a single company of the East Asian Occupation Brigade.

German army pioneers used a bayonet with a wider, heavier saw blade than the infantry. While standard infantry S98 bayonets had been made to fit the new G98 rifle by the time the East Asian Expeditionary Corps had been formed, no pioneer equivalent had yet been produced.

The solution was for the long, wide sawback blades of the Pfm71 to be fitted to an enlarged version of the S98aA  hilt with its one piece wooden grip, down turned quillon and importantly the pommel slot attachment of the Gew98. This this created the unique Pfm71/98 hybrid.

From markings on the few surviving examples it appears that the blades used were from a batch of Pfm71 bayonets made by VC Schilling of Suhl and the S98 style hilts were then fitted at the Erfurt factory.

 


East Asian Pioneer 1900
He is armed with a Gew 98 rifle with a wide bladed Pfm71/98 bayonet fixed to it. He also has a bayonet in his sheath with an other ranks bayonet knot, this is possibly an S98.
Photo © Sam Wouters

 
         
         
 

Kurzes Seitengewehr 1898 (kS98)

     
 


Three Schutztruppe kS98 Bayonets Photo © Roy Williams

The kurzes Seitengewehr (kS98) or short bayonet was made for the Gew98 rifle and its variants. As the name implies it was considerably shorter than the standard S98 bayonet. Original issues had chequered leather grips, though colonial later issues had wooden and Composition rubber grips with a straight edge join to the "eagle beak" pommel. It had a small down turned quillon on one side. It was carried in a steel scabbard and had a sawback blade as standard.

It was first was introduced to the Prussian army in 1902 for use by machine gunners though it was also later used by other branches of the army. The kS98 became the standard bayonet of the Schutztruppe of South West Africa after the Herero Rebellion. It was also issued to the Schutztruppe of East Africa and Cameroon as the Kar98AZ began to replace the JB71 rifle. Production ceased during the First World War though privately purchased examples were popular and were still made for officers and senior NCOs until well after the war.

The photograph above shows three kS98 bayonets. The one at the top was issued to the South West African Schutztruppe and has leather grips. The one in the centre was issued to the Cameroon Schutztruppe and has later wooden grips. The one at the bottom was issued to the East African Schutztruppe and has composition rubber grips issued just before the First World War.
 

 


East Africa Schutztruppe Officer
He carries a kS98 bayonet. Although officers and senior NCOs were entitled to carry swords, they often carried privately purchased bayonets in preference, the kS98 being a popular choice. As an officer he carries a sword knot rather than a bayonet knot on the kS98 however.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv
 

 

 
         
 

Seitengewehr 1898/1905 (S98/05)

     
 
S98/05aAS bayonet issued to the Mounted Company of the III. Seebataillon Photo © Chris Wood
 
Another new bayonet was issued to the Imperial army from 1906, the S98/05. It had with a slightly shorter and wider blade than the original S98, though the wooden grips and small down turned quillon on one side of the S98 were retained. It was carried in a steel mounted leather scabbard (all steel scabbards were issued from 1915 but not in the colonies) and came in sawback and plain variants.
 
It was widely used by the artillery and pioneers (with a sawback edge) of the German army and was their standard weapon in the First World War. It was also issued to the Imperial Navy and the Marine Infantry.

The original S98/05aA was replaced from 1915 with the the S98/05nA which had the addition of a flash guard and lower muzzle ears. These S98/05nA bayonets were used by Naval and Marine Infantry units in the First World War.

 


Seesoldat
III Seebataillon, Tsingtao

He is armed with a Gew98 rifle and S98/05aA bayonet.
Photo © Joe Robinson
 

 
         
 

Seitengewehr 1884/98 (S84/98)

     
 
S84/98nAS issued to the 601st Machine Gun Company of the Pascha I Expedition
Photo © Chris Wood

The original S84/98aA bayonet was a conversion of the S71/84 short bayonet for use on the Gew98 rifle. It had the short blade of the S71/84 but with a replacement pommel/slot attachment to fit the Gew98. It had wooden grips and a small hilt without muzzle ring or quillon. It was issued with its original 71/84 steel mounted leather scabbard and came in both sawback and plain variants.

The S84/98aA was first produced in 1908 and was issued to some reserve regiments of the German army but not in large quantities. The S84/98aA was not fully introduced throughout the army before being replaced by the S98/05.

The S84/98 was put into production in 1915 to replace the more expensively manufactured kS98 (which itself had replaced the S98/05aA in selected units). The new modified bayonet, was known as the S84/98nA and had a steel scabbard and came in both plain and sawback variations. The S84/98nA bayonet was commonly issued during the First World War, and photographs show its use by German overseas units such as the Pascha I and II (Asienkorps) Expeditions.

 


Soldiers of the Asienkorps, Jerusalem 1917
They are armed with the Kar98AZ rifle and S84/98nA bayonet.
Photo © Joe Robinson
 

 
         
 

Other Bayonets and Side Arms used in the Colonies and Overseas

As well as the bayonets authorised for issue, the Imperial German Colonial and Naval forces at times used many varieties of official, obsolete, imported, captured, modified and improvised bayonets as seen in period photographs and modern collections.

Other German Bayonets

 
 


FüsS60 Bayonet from the from the 1st Naval Technical Depot Division Photo © Roy Williams

The Faschinenmesser 1852 and later the Füsilier-Seitengewehr 1860 were issued to the Marine Infantry in their early years. The Imperial navy also used them in the pre-colonial period. The Pionier-Faschinenmesser 1871 (Pfm71) has possibly been seen in photos of the SMS Emden's crew in 1914.

Seitengewehr 1898/1902 Bayonets have also been noted with South West African Schutztruppe markings, dating from the Herero Rebellion. 

Modified Bayonets

Modified S71/84 Bayonet with a modified French Scabbard possibly used by the Cameroon Schutztruppe 
Photo © Chris Wood

Regular bayonets were occasionally modified in the field. Some had the blades shortened. Sometimes this may have been to salvage a broken tipped weapon at other times to make them less cumbersome. Some colonial bayonets had their tips carved into a bowie point too make them more practical for hunting and tooling purposes. Another common modification during the First World War was to remove the sawback from the blade. Allied propaganda had spread the story that the sawback blades were used to torture prisoners, so German soldiers captured with sawback blades were in fear of being mistreated themselves.

Privately Purchased Bayonets

S71/84 Dress Bayonet from a Veteran of the South West African Schutztruppe Photo © Roy Williams

As well as standard issue bayonets, superior privately purchased versions could be bought, usually by One Year Volunteers, NCOs and officers. Veterans sometimes had privately made and elaborately engraved weapons such as the one shown above. The example above has "Zur Erinnerung an meine Dienstzeit" (In memory of my time of service) with the Kaiser's head on one side and "Deutsch-Süd-West-Afrika" (German South West Africa) on the other.

Foreign and Captured Bayonets

British Pattern 03 Bayonet possibly used by the East African Schutztruppe Photo © Roy Williams

At times German overseas units were supplied by their allies, for example the Marine Detachment Skutari were armed by the Austro-Hungarian army in 1914 and carried Mannlicher rifles and bayonets. Similarly, the German company of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps were armed with British rifles and bayonets. On other occasions captured enemy rifles and bayonets were used. This happened most notably in German East Africa during the First World War when the German side was often almost entirely armed with captured British or Portuguese weapons.

Improvised Bayonets

Improvised Bayonet used by the East African Schutztruppe Photo © Roy Williams

It was not unknown for bayonets to be made in the colonies in times of shortage. The Schutztruppe of both Cameroon and East Africa tried such methods during the First World War.

Bowie Knives

Privately Purchased Bowie Knife used by a German officer in New Guinea
Photo by Sebastien Grenda at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Bowie knives, pen knives and hunting weapons were not standard issue to the Schutztruppe but were often privately purchased by Germans on service overseas and in the colonies. The early South West African Francois-Truppe were the only Imperial German overseas unit officially issued with bowie knives.
 

 


African Soldier of the Cameroon Schutztruppe
The width of scabbard suggests that this bayonet may be an S98/05, which was not officially authorised for the Schutztruppe.

Photo © Joe Robinson


German Volunteer of the
Shanghai Volunteer Company
He is armed from British sources with a Lee Metford Mk II rifle, 1903 Bayonet and 1903 bandolier pouches.
Photo from the Library of Congress Collection


Sailor from the I Matrosen Division,
Germany 1917
with a Russian Mosin Nagant rifle which has an adaptor allowing it to hold German 1898 bayonets such as the S84/98nA seen here.
Photo © Sam Wouters


Reiter of the South West African Schutztruppe in 1891 Uniform
with a Bowie knife from the Francois-Truppe on his belt.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

Internal Links
Date, manufacture, unit and weapon number markings are described on the Bayonet Markings Page. For more photographs and information of the different unit markings used overseas and in the colonies, see the individual pages on this website on:-

South West African Schutztruppe Bayonets
East African Schutztruppe Bayonets
Cameroon Schutztruppe Bayonets
Colonial Polizeitruppe Bayonets
Marine Infantry- Seebataillone Bayonets
East Asian Army Bayonets

Imperial Navy Bayonets
German Forces on Ottoman Fronts Bayonets

External Links
This page is a very brief introduction to the vast topic of Imperial German bayonets in general and is by no means a full list of all bayonets used in the Imperial era. For more information the following websites are highly recommended:-

Bajonett
The Collector's Book of German Bayonets
French Bayonet Collectors Association
World Bayonets
Old Smithy's Bayonet Pages
Bayonet Connection
Seitengewehr
Gothia Arms Historical Society
Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co

Published Sources
To go further into the subject some highly recommended books are "German Bayonets Vols. 1-4" by Anthony Carter (published by Tharston Press) and "The Collector's Book of German Bayonets 1680-1945 Pts. 1&2" by Roy Williams (available from this link).

Thanks very much to everyone who shared photographs of their collections for the making of this website. Special thanks to Chris Wood for providing the vast majority of the information on the bayonets pages of this website. Please respect the generosity of all these collectors in sharing their copyrighted photos with us by not reproducing them without prior permission.


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

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