Field Caps worn in the German Colonies
Reproduced from the Doppler Collection by kind permission


Field Cap for South West African Schutztruppe

Field Cap for East African Schutztruppe

Field Cap for Cameroon Schutztruppe


Field caps were worn by all ranks and branches of the regular Imperial German army and also the Schutztruppe and Seebataillone. From their colour could be distinguished the wearers arm of service.                                                       

The hat itself was made in the colour of the home uniform tunic (ie. grey for the Schutztruppe, dark blue for the Seebataillone), with the hatband and piping in colour of the arm of service. In the regular army different colours were worn for infantry, light infantry and artillery etc. In the Schutztruppe different colours were worn for the different colonies: white for East Africa, blue for South West Africa and red for Cameroon (see left). Colours for the smaller colonies (yellow for Togo, green for New Guinea and pink for Samoa) were authorised in 1912, but do not seem to have been issued before the First World War broke out. The hatbands and piping of the Seebataillone were white. Colonial officials (including chaplains, doctors, vets, paymasters etc) also wore various coloured hatbands and piping to denote their arm of service.

In the regular army the imperial cockade (black/white/red) was worn above the hatband and the state cockade (eg. black/white/black for Prussia or white/blue/white for Bavaria etc) was worn on the hatband. In Colonial and Naval services these distinctions were done away with and no state cockades were worn, while the imperial cockade was worn on the hatband instead. The state cockades were however retained by other overseas forces such as the East Asian Expeditionary Corps and Asienkorps.

In the regular army officers and NCOs wore peaked caps while other ranks had peakless ones. In the glaring sun of the colonies even other ranks usually wore peaked caps. The exception is in the Seebataillone where other ranks did wear a peakless cap.

Officers peaked caps were issued with a wire around the inside of the cap keeping the upper part a stiff round shape. Against regulations many officers removed the wire on active service, which gave the cap a more casual shape. As with other items of uniform officers usually wore privately tailored caps made from better quality materials, usually with a stiffer appearance.

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(Click on the pictures below to enlarge)

A peaked NCOs cap in dark blue with white hatband and piping from the one of the three Seebataillone. Note the stiff rounded shape of the top brim of the cap retained by a wire. Unfortunately this item is missing its leather chinstrap, which would usually have been worn across the top of the peak. Otherwise it is in perfect condition.   Inside details of the same Seebataillon NCOs cap showing the leather interior hatband and blurred issue stamps.
An other ranks peakless cap made of khaki corduroy with a red hatband and piping and both imperial and state (in this case the blue/gold/blue of Brunswick) cockades. Note the less formal shape of the cap without a wire retainer.

This cap is a real mystery to me. Corduroy caps were issued in the colonies to match the corduroy uniforms worn in cold weather in South West Africa but the two cockades makes this one unusual. Cloth khaki caps (with a detachable neckshade) were issued to the III. Seebataillon, East Asian Expeditionary Corps and the Asienkorps Corps in the First World War to match their khaki uniforms but these also had the hatband in khaki. A red hatband and piping would denote the unit being infantry in the regular army or from Cameroon in the Schutztruppe but the presence of a state cockade is highly irregular for the Schutztruppe and the only regular army infantry unit from Brunswick was the 92nd Infantry Regiment which was unique amongst infantry regiments in that it wore a small white metal skull and crossbones badge between the imperial and state cockades on its field caps.

Please email me here if you have any ideas on the origins of this cap.

  The inside of the mysterious other ranks cap, note the lack of issue or unit stamps.

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 All photographs on this page are copyright Doppler 2005/06

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