Bayonets
of the Imperial German Colonial and Overseas Forces

 
 

 
 

Photo © Chris Wood

 
     
  Types of Bayonet
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 carried Swords
   

Bayonets for the G71 and G88 Rifles

   

S71/84 Bayonet
Photo © Chris Wood

Modified Bowie Tip S71/84 Bayonet
Photo © Chris Wood

The initial issues of the Mauser Jägerbüchse 71 rifle and the G88 Commission rifle to the early German colonial troops usually came with the short "Seitengewehr 1871/84" bayonet (often abbreviated to S71/84). Other models of bayonet for the G71 and G88 rifles were also sometimes used by imperial German overseas troops. For example the "Hirschfänger 1871" (literally a "deer slayer" from its hunting origins- often abbreviated to Hf71) was used by the Marine Infantry and the Togo Polizeitruppe; the long "Seitengewehr 1871" (often abbreviated to S71) has been seen in period photographs of Micronesian Polizeitruppe; and the "Pionier-Faschinenmesser 1871" (with a wide, usually sawback, heavy blade intended for use by pioneers, often abbreviated to Pfm 71) has been seen in photographs of the SMS Emden's landing party on Direction Island in the First World War.

The the old smokey powder used to fire the G71 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 G88 rifle fired smokeless ammunition yet still retained the same side mounted bayonets. The carbine equivalents of the G71 and G88 rifles (the K71 and K88 respectively) did not have bayonet mountings.

Bayonets for the G98 Rifle

   

S98aA Bayonet
Photo © Chris Wood

kS98 Bayonet
Photo © Chris Wood

Pfm71/98 Bayonet
Photo © Christian Méry

S98/05aAS Bayonet
Photo © Chris Wood

When the Mauser G98 rifle and the K98 carbine were issued gradually to overseas troops between 1900 and 1916 they came with the "Seitengewehr 1898" (abbreviated to S98) or the "kurzes Seitengewehr 1898" (short bayonet or kS98). From 1902 a new version ("neur 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 ("alter Art"). Another new bayonet with a wider blade was issued from 1906, the S98/05. This again came in two forms, the S89/05aA and from 1915 the S98/05nA with the addition of a flashguard and lower muzzle ears.

The smokeless powder used to fire the G98 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 G98 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 G98 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.

Other hybrid (such as the Pfm71/98), modified (such as being shortened or having bowie tips), improvised (as seen in German East Africa) and captured (as also seen in East Africa and Cameroon) bayonets were all used at some time by imperial Germany's overseas troops.

Bayonet Variations

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.

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. 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.

Bayonet Markings
Imperial German bayonets were usually marked in several ways which tell us a lot about the history of each individual weapon. Sadly for the historian, while most bayonets had their full compliment of markings before being issued not all bayonets did. During the First World War bayonet markings were not frequently applied and became quite rare.

Unit and Weapon Number Markings

   

Markings of the German East African Schutztruppe
on a kS98 bayonet unit marked  "Sch. D.O.A. 208."
Photo © Chris Wood

Markings of the German South West African Schutztruppe
on akS98 bayonet unit marked  "KS. 4892."
Photo © Chris Wood

Markings of the Cameroon Polizeitruppe
on a kS98 bayonet unit marked  "P.T.K. 415.A"
Photo © Nate Freidlander

Markings of the 2nd East Asian Infantry Regiment
on an S98aA bayonet unit marked  "2.O.R.1.13"
Photo © Roy Williams

Most bayonets were stamped across the hilt with a series of initials and numbers denoting the unit it was issued to and an individual weapon number ("Waffe Numer"). For example a bayonet marked "III.SB. 2.66." belonged to the III. Seebataillon, 2nd company, weapon number 66 and a bayonet marked "Sch. D.O.A. 1116." belonged to the Schutztruppe of German East Africa, weapon number 1116. For photographs and descriptions of the different unit marks used overseas and in the colonies, see the individual pages 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

The weapon numbers usually ran in consecutive order from the first issue of that type of bayonet to that unit. From surviving examples it seems that when new models of bayonet were introduced the series of weapon numbers started over again. For example S71/84 bayonets were issued in East Africa before kS98 bayonets and yet a S71/84 has been recorded with the markings "Sch. D.O.A. 1116." and a kS98 has been recorded marked "Sch D.O.A. 208." (see above). So it would seem that the weapon number system started again either when each new batch of bayonets arrived in the colony or at least when the kS98 was introduced.

These unit and weapon number markings were also sometimes used on bayonet scabbards and frogs, as well as on other weapons such as rifles, pistols and swords.

Manufacturer's Markings

   

The crowned Erfurt factory markings
on a kS98 from the South West African Schutztruppe
Photo © Chris Wood

Markings of Simson & Co of Suhl
on an S98/05nAS Bayonet from the I. Seebataillon
Photo © Chris Wood

Markings of Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co of Solingen
on an S98/05aAS bayonet from the 2nd Naval Pioneer Company
Photo © Chris Wood

Markings of Heller Bros of Marienthal
on an S84/98nAS bayonet from the 601st MG Coy of the Pascha I Expedition
Photo © Chris Wood

The name of the manufacturer's company and sometimes their factory town was usually marked on the flat of the blade near the hilt. Many factories produced bayonets for the German imperial army (as well as small companies making privately tailored edged weapons mostly for officers, NCOs and one year volunteers). The most commonly used factories were the armaments works at Erfurt, Simson & Co of Suhl and Weyersberg, Kirschbaum & Co of Solingen.

Some bayonets have different manufacturers' markings on each side of the blade. This may have been one factory making and marking the blade and another factory assembling the bayonet and adding their mark too.

Monarch's Monogram and Date of Manufacture Markings
   
Markings of King Wilhelm I or Wilhelm II of Prussia, 1888
This example is on an East African Schutztruppe S71/84, marked with a crowned "W88". 1888 was the year of three Prussian Kings/German Emperors. Wilhelm I died on 9th March 1888, his son and heir Frederick III died on 15th June and was succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II, who reigned up until his abdication in 1918.
Photo © Chris Wood
Markings of King Wilhelm II of Prussia, 1916
This example is on an S98/05 bayonet, marked with a crowned "W16". It was found by Staff Sergeant Selwyn Jorgensen of the 2/14 Australian Infantry Battalion during the Battle for Kokoda in New Guinea, successfully defending Port Moresby against the Japanese Army in 1942. The bayonet however, was almost certainly originally used by the Imperial German army on the Western front during the First World War. It cannot have been part of German New Guinea's armoury as the colony had surrendered in 1914, two years before this bayonet was manufactured. How it ended up in New Guinea 28 years later is a mystery.
Photo © Murray Jorgensen
Naval Monogram, 1906
This example is on an S98nA bayonet issued to the 2nd Matrosen Division and is marked with a crowned "M06" (the M standing for "Marine" or Navy). Most naval bayonets are marked with the monogram of Wilhelm II. This "M" monogram has only been noted on S98nA bayonets produced by Simson & Co in 1906 and 1907.
Photo © Chris Wood
Markings of King Friedrich August III of Saxony, 1905
This bayonet has the crowned monogram "FA05".
Friedrich August III reigned in Saxony from 1904-18. This example is not a colonial bayonet.
Photo © Chandler Honeyman

The date of manufacture or inspection was usually marked on the blunt side of the blade. Note that this was the year that the bayonet left the factory not necessarily when it was issued to a unit. Some bayonets were kept in storage for several years before being issued.

The markings showed a crowned monogram of the reigning monarch above the last two digits of the year. For example a bayonet marked "W00" was made in the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, in the year 1900. As most overseas troops were imperial forces they usually bore the imperial monogram. Kaiser Wilhelm II ascended to the royal Prussian and imperial German thrones in 1888, before the first Schutztruppe were formed and abdicated a few days before the last Schutztruppe surrendered so his monogram features on the vast majority of bayonets used by Imperial German overseas forces.

Bavarian, Saxon and Württemberg army units serving overseas may also have occasionally carried bayonets marked with their own king's monogram. Having said that, an example of a bayonet used by a Bavarian company in the the East Asian Expeditionary Corps show it to have the German Kaiser's monogram, rather then the Bavarian king's. So it is possible that as the East Asian Expeditionary Corps were issued new bayonets before their departure for China, they may all have had the German Kaiser's monogram rather than those of the kings of Bavaria, Saxony, and Württemberg.

Bavarians, Saxons and Württembergers in the Asienkorps and other army units in the Ottoman Empire and Central Asia (most notably the largely Bavarian Georgian Expedition) during the First World War may have carried state monograms. Although as the war dragged on, bayonet markings became less common and fewer state distinctions were seen in army use. Prussian or imperial insignia became common to many state armies.

On rare occasions bayonets from other German state armies were re-issued to the Schutztruppe. One example of this is an East African Schutztruppe S71/84 with a crowned AR87 monogram for King Albert of Saxony (see German East African Bayonets).
Recommended External Link - See Bajonett for full listings of the different German monarchs monograms.

An exception to the imperial and royal monogrammed date markings is seen on some naval S98nA bayonets made at the Simson factory between 1906-07, which are marked with a crowned M (for "Marine") over a two digit date.

Inspection markings to verify the bayonets' quality were often placed directly below the manufacture date, as well as on other parts of the bayonet.

Further Reading
This 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 German bayonets and markings 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

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 Pt1" 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 and photographs 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.

 
     
     

For photographs and descriptions of the different bayonets and unit marks used overseas and in the colonies, see the individual pages 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 and German Forces on Ottoman Fronts Bayonets. The photographs of colonial bayonet frogs and swords and that were once on this page are now on separate Bayonet Frogs and Swords pages.

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

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