Rifles and Carbines
of the Schutztruppe and Overseas Forces

The period of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries was a time of rapid development in the field of firearms. In just half a century most European armies went from single shot muzzle loading percussion cap muskets in common use in 1850 to bolt action magazine rifles by 1900. Rival European armies were constantly trying to keep pace with the technological developments of their neighbours.

The German colonies used firearms from both ends of the technological scale. Often they were issued obsolete stocks of firearms yet at other times were given the very latest trial models as they were more likely to get a chance to put them to the test in action. At times of shortage all manner of civilian hunting weapons, captured rifles or even hand made firearms were used in the German colonies.
     


Display of South West African Schutztruppe Rifles and Carbines
From top to bottom they are a Jägerbüchse 71, a Gewehr 88, its carbine equivalent the Karabiner 88, a Schutztruppen-Gewehr 98 and its carbine equivalent the Karabiner 98.
Photo © P Buhler at the Swakopmund Museum, Namibia

 

The different types of rifle ("Gewehr") and carbine ("Karabiner") used in the colonies are photographed and described further down this page.

Mauser 1871 Rifle (Gew71)
Mauser 1871 Carbine (Kar71)
Mauser 1871 Short Rifle (JB71)
Mauser 1871/84 Modified Rifle (Gew71/84)

Commission 1888 Rifle (Gew88)
Commission 1888 Carbine (Kar88)

Mauser 1898 Rifle (Gew98)
Mauser 1898 Schutztruppe Modified Rifle (Gew98S)
Mauser 1898 Carbine (Kar98)
Mauser 1898 Modified Carbine (Kar98az)

Foreign Rifles
Obsolete Firearms
 

 
     
     

South West African Schutztruppe
The first German troops in South West Africa, the Truppe Des Reichs-Kommissars were from 1888, armed with the Kar71, and from 1890 with the Gew71/84. Reinforcements to the Schutztruppe in 1894 brought the Kar88.

Further reinforcements sent to fight the Herero Rebellion in 1904 were armed with the Gew98. Curiously several posed studio photographs show them carrying the Gew88 prior to deployment in Africa, sometimes with ill fitting bayonets (see above). It is not sure if they trained with the Gew88 and were only issued the Gew98 shortly before embarkation or more likely these rifles are props owned by the photographic studio. In South West Africa the Gew98 was often modified to have a turned down bolt handle adjustments to the sights. This variation is usually known as the Schutztruppen-Gewehr 98 (Gew98S). From the period of the Herero Rebellion to the First World War the Gew98 (and its variants the Gew98S and for machine gunners and artillery the Kar98) remained the main weapons of the Schutztruppe.

There is also evidence either in period documents, modern collections or photographs that the Gew88, JB71, Kar98 and even some American/Belgian Winchester 1895 carbines were used in limited numbers by the South West African Schutztruppe.

South West African Landespolizei
The Landespolizei were armed mainly with pistols. The 1883 Reichsrevolver and the Roth-Sauer Pistol were both in common use, the Luger P08 was also issued sometime after 1912.

Rifles were sometimes carried. Records in "Unter dem Kreuz des Südens" show the Landespolizei had a collection of different types of standard German rifles in their possession- Gew71, Gew88, Kar88, Gew98, Gew98S and varieties of Kar98.

East African Schutztruppe
The first askaris of the German East Africa Company were issued with the Kar71. The first Sudanese askaris of the Wissmanntruppe still carried the old American Remington Rolling Block Rifles from their previous Anglo-Egyptian service. These were soon replaced by the JB71 and this remained the main weapon used by the Schutztruppe until the First World War. Other period photographs prove that small numbers of Kar71, Gew88 and Kar88 were also used by the askaris on occasion.

It had been intended to re-equip them all with the Kar98az but only the 1., 4., 8., 10. and 13. Feldkompagnien and German NCOs in the Schutztruppe had received them before war broke out in 1914. More Kar98az were brought to the colony during war on blockade running ships but most of the Schutztruppe's new weaponry came from captured British and Portuguese stocks. Hunting rifles and obsolete weapons also used by the Schutztruppe and their auxiliaries.

East African Polizeitruppe
Photographs show the Polizeitruppe of East Africa using the JB71.

Cameroon Schutztruppe
The Cameroon Schutztruppe were issued the JB71. Photographs also show the use of the Kar88 by mounted troops. By 1914 most of the Schutztruppe had been re-armed with the Kar98az, leaving stocks of the old JB71 for new recruits in wartime. According to Hew Strachan's "First World War in Africa" Cameroon had 3,861 rifles of the modern 1898 type with two and a quarter million rounds and only 2,920 rifles of the 1871 model with half a million rounds.

Due to the shortage of ammunition, spent rounds were reloaded with locally made gunpowder (or using nitro-glycerine requisitioned from civilian mining operations) with varying results and original 1898 rounds were prioritised for use in machine guns. Attempts were also made at locally made rifles but their unreliability made them extremely unpopular.

Cameroon Polizeitruppe
Photographs show the Polizeitruppe of Cameroon using the JB71, these weapons are probably included in Strachan's figures above. Other rifles may have been issued in their formative years.

Togo Polizeitruppe
The first weapons issued were Kar71 carbines, these were replaced from 1888 onwards with the Gew71 and the JB71. By 1914 most of the Polizeitruppe had again been re-armed with the Kar98az, leaving the stocks of 1871 model rifles for use by Polizeitruppe reservists recalled to arms in the First World War.

Hunting rifles may also have been used by Germans called up in the Togo campaign during the First World War. The British commander Captain F.C. Bryant, made an official complaint to the German acting governor Major von Doering, that dum-dum bullets and hunting rounds were used against his men. Von Doering did not deny their use but said that if such weapons were used they were done so without his knowledge- "It was alleged that my troops have made use of certain bullets which do not conform with the stipulations of the Geneva Convention (sic- it was actually the Hague Convention of 1899, declaration III) ... I know nothing of this matter; and that, officially, only bullets covered with jackets as well as regulation solid lead bullets have been issued as equipment. If bullets which are contrary to regulations have indeed been found on individuals, then I would submit that we have never reckoned with a war in Togoland, and that those liable for military service went on active service without any special plan of mobilisation, partly direct from their civil posts- thus the exchange of any irregular sporting cartridges, which they may have had, may perhaps in a few cases have been impossible. I express my regret on account of the incident in question." (as quoted from P430 of the "Official History of the War- Military Operations in Togoland and the Cameroons" by FJ Moberley, published by Battery Press)

New Guinea Polizeitruppe
The first local police soldiers of the German New Guinea Company were armed with converted French Chassepot carbines. These were soon replaced by the Kar71. Later photographs most commonly show them armed with the Gew88. The German reservists that served against the Australian invasion in 1914 were armed with the Gew88.

Samoan Polizeitruppe and Fita-Fita
I have not seen many period photographs of the Samoan Polizeitruppe and Fita-Fita armed at all. The few that do exist seem to show the Gew71 in use with possibly a Gew88 used in another.

Imperial Navy
The Imperial Navy were issued the same rifles as the army in the colonial era Gew71, Gew71/84, Gew88 and later the Gew98. From 1916 the army was prioritised over the navy for the use of rifles and wartime photographs show the navy using all manner of obsolete or captured weapons for depot duties including the Gew71, Gew71/84 and captured Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles on depot duty during the First World War.

Marine Infantry- Seebataillone
The Prussian Seebataillon was initially issued with the Prussian Infantry Percussion Cap Rifle ("Infanterie-Perkussionsgewehr") and from 1857 the 1841 Zündnadelgewehr. The 1860 Füsilier Rifle ("Füsiliergewehr") was issued from 1862. It was a shorter version of the Dreyse Needle Gun. These were replaced by the JB71 from 1875 and by the Gew71/84 from 1886, although photographic proof of this early period is scarce.

Photographs from the 1890s show the use of the Gew88. The Gew98 was first used by the Marine Expeditionskorps to China in 1900 and then to South West Africa in 1904. It was also issued to the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtao by the early 1900s. Mounted troops carried the Kar88 or Kar98.

East Asian Army
The first chance to put the Gew98 into action was the Boxer Rebellion. The East Asian Expeditionary Corps was issued both the Gew98 and Kar98 (for mounted personnel) and these remained in use until the disbandment of the East Asian Detachment in 1909.

Some photographs show members of the East Asian Expeditionary Corps on their formation in Germany with older rifles and carbines such as the Gew88. It appears from later photographs that these weapons were replaced before deployment to China.

Asienkorps and Other Army Units in the Ottoman Empire
Photographic evidence shows members of the Pascha I and II expeditions using the same Gew98 and Kar98az as the German army used on European fronts during the First World War.

 


South West African Schutztruppe Reiter
This is a posed studio shot taken in Germany prior to deployment. The Reiter is armed with a Gew88 rifle and S98 bayonet which would not have fitted the rifle properly
Photo © Guido Welk


East African Schutztruppe Askari
With a JB71 rifle
Photo from WikiCommons


East Asian Infantryman
With a Gew98 rifle and S98 bayonet
Photo © Joe Robinson

German Rifles and Carbines
Most of the Colonial and Overseas forces were issued with the standard Mauser rifles and carbines as issued to the regular imperial army, though often later than was issued to the home army.

     
     
 

Mauser Gewehr 1871 (Gew71)
Photo from WikiCommons


Calibre: 11mm
Length: 135cm
Barrel Length: 85cm
Weight: 4.5kg
Magazine: N/A Single Shot

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 had shown that the French Chassepot 1866 Rifle was superior to the Prussian Dreyse 1848 Needle Gun in use at the time. In response the Prussian army adopted a new rifle designed by Wilhelm and Paul Mauser in 1867. It was one of the first successful bolt action rifles to use a metal cartridge. The Gew71 became the standard rifle of the German army during the 1870s and was still in use with army training and reserve units in the First World War. It was not commonly used in the colonies but did see limited use by the Togo Polizeitruppe.

 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Karabiner 1871 (Kar71)
Photo ©
Bolt Action Rifles

Calibre: 11mm
Length: 100cm
Barrel Length: 50cm
Weight: 3.42kg
Magazine: N/A Single Shot

The carbine version of the Gew71 was identical in calibre and design but significantly shorter in barrel length. Like most carbines it had a curved bolt handle and was not designed to carry a bayonet. Period photographs show that during the 1880s and 1890s it was used by the early Schutztruppe in the South West Africa ("Truppe des Reichs-Kommissars"), the Polizeitruppe in Togo and New Guinea and the Swahili askaris of the German East Africa Company. Later photographs show East African askaris of the Schutztruppe artillery still armed with the Kar71 in 1914.
Recommended External Link - Bolt Action Rifles


East African Schutztruppe Artillery c1914
This photograph shows the Schutztruppe using a C73 Light Field Gun. The askaris on the left carry the Kar71 carbine which was commonly issued to the artillery of the Imperial army in the previous century as being more practical for them than the G71 or JB71.
Photo Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons

 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Jägerbüchse 1871 (JB71)
Photos © Chris Wood

     

Calibre: 11mm
Length: 130cm
Barrel Length: 80.5cm
Magazine: N/A Single Shot

The Jägerbüchse was a light infantry version of the Gew71 and differed mainly in that it was 5cm shorter than the standard rifle and had a distinctive finger grip behind the trigger.

It was the main weapon of the askaris of the German East African Schutztruppe from the time of the Wissmanntruppe up until the First World War.

While its relatively large calibre made it ideal for use stopping charges of tribesmen, it was obsolete by comparison with the British, Belgian and Portuguese weapons of the First World War.

Not only was it a single shot weapon but like the other 1871 series Mausers, it was particularly unhelpful in that its ammunition gave up a large flame and a cloud of smoke when fired thus revealing the firer's position by both night and day.

As well as being used by the askari of the East Africa, the JB71 was used by African troops in the Schutztruppe and Polizeitruppe of Cameroon and Togo prior to the introduction of the Kar98az. It was issued to the Marine Infantry in the late 1870s. It also saw limited use by the South West African Schutztruppe and Landespolizei, again prior to the introduction of the Gew98 and Kar98.

The example in the photographs above has a stamp in the butt showing an Imperial eagle and "ORTS Polizeibehörde Bethanien 359".  This would indicate that it was used by a Schutztruppe police unit at Bethanien in South West Africa, prior to the formation of the South West African Landespolizei in 1905.

Note also that this rifle has a replacement (or altered) curved bolt, whereas most JB71 rifles (and indeed most German rifles in general) had straight bolts. This was almost certainly an alteration made in South West Africa as Gew98 rifles were also commonly adapted this way in South West Africa.

See South West African Jägerbüchse Page for more details.

 

 


Soldier of the Cameroon Schutztruppe
with a JB71 rifle

Photo © Joe Robinson

     


Askari of the 6. Feld-Kompangie of the East African Schutztruppe, Udjidji 1912
This photograph shows a Schausch/Gefreiter in rifle practice (note the single rank chevron on the upper left arm and the marksmanship bar on his cuff). He is armed with a JB71 and has an S71/84 bayonet at his side.

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Gewehr 1871/84 (Gew71/84)
Photo from
Adams Guns / WikiCommons
     

Calibre: 11mm
Length: 135cm
Barrel Length: 85.5cm
Magazine: 8 round tubular magazine

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 had shown that the Turkish Winchester repeat firing rifles were superior to Russian single shot weapons.

Prior to this time many army commanders argued that if soldiers did not have to re-load between each round they may waste ammunition firing wildly rather than aim each shot carefully as they would do with a single shot weapon.

In 1884 the German army were issued their first repeating rifle in form of an upgrade to the existing Gew71 that included an eight round tubular magazine designed by Alfred von Kropatschek running under the barrel of the gun.

As well as being introduced to the regular German army, these modified riles were issued in small numbers to the early Schutztruppe in South West Africa.

They were also issued to units of the Imperial Navy not serving on the frontlines during the First World War. The Gew98 rifles that they had previously been issued were withdrawn for use by frontline units.

 

 


Sailors of the II. Werft-Division
This photograph was taken in Kiel in 1918. By this time 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

 
     
     
     
 

Kommissions Gewehr 1888 (Gew88)
Photos © British Collector

Calibre: 7.92mm
Length: 124cm
Barrel Length: 74cm
Weight: 3.8kg
Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

The French army adopted a Lebel rifle firing smokeless ammunition in 1886. This new smokeless propellant enabled smaller calibre bullets (8mm in the case of the Lebel) to be fired at greater accuracy over longer ranges. This prompted the German High Command to again update their infantry rifle. The Gew88 was designed by an army commission and used ideas from several other rifles of the time including the Lebel, the Austrian Mannlicher (notably in its magazine and clip) and earlier German rifles such as the Gew71.

The Gew88 was issued to the German army in the 1890s and was still in limited use in 1914. It was also used by the Imperial Navy and the Schutztruppe of South West Africa. It also saw limited use in East Africa.

The rifle shown in the photos above is a later Gew88/05 which has been modified to use the 7.9mm Patrone S round (hence the letter S stamped above the maker's mark). These modified rifles were loaded with a Mauser charger, not a Mannlicher clip. As far as we have been able to tell the Gew88/05 rifle was not used in the colonies.
Recommended External Links - Texas Tradng Post, Commission Rifle and Gew88 


South West African Schutztruppe Reservists in Training 1913
These men have been recalled for their annual training. They wear a collection of ill fitting 1896 khaki uniforms and field caps. Most wear their trousers loose over short boots and have a simple belt and Imperial buckle rather than the regular Schutztruppe mounted equipment. They are armed with the Gew88 rifle which was entirely replaced by the Gew98 in the regular Schutztruppe by this date.

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

 
     
     
     
 

Kommissions Karabiner 1888 (Kar88)
Photo from
Adams Guns / WikiCommons

Calibre: 7.92 mm
Length: 95cm
Barrel Length: 48.8cm
Weight: 3.1kg
Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

The carbine version of the Gew88 differed from the rifle in that it had a shorter barrel and a curved and flattened bolt lever. Like the Kar71, it was not designed to carry a bayonet. Period photographs show that it was used in limited numbers by the Schutztruppe of South West Africa, East Africa and Cameroon. One was captured in Togo and is at the Imperial War Museum in London. At least one photograph shows it being used by the East Asian Cavalry. The photograph was taken before their departure for China and they may have been replaced by the Kar98 before embarkation.


South West African Truppe Des Reichs-Kommissars 1894
This photo shows new reinforcements being inspection by Kaiser Wilhelm II at the New Palace at Potsdam on 15th June 1894. The soldiers in the centre are armed with the Kar88 carbine.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv


Kar88 Captured in Togo
This Kar88 was captured by British forces in Togo in 1914. It was made at Erfurt in 1893 and has a replacement
straight bolt handle rather than the original curved handle.
Photo © Imperial War Museum 

 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Gewehr 1898 (Gew98)


This Gew 98 was issued to the 1st East Asian Infantry Regiment (See East Asian Gew98 Page for more photos and details)
Photo © Vincent Koch

     
Calibre: 8mm (7.92mm from 1905/06)
Length: 125cm
Barrel Length: 74cm
Weight: 4.09 kg

Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

In 1898 the German army adopted a new Mauser rifle. This latest design had several improvements over previous Mauser rifles and the Gew88 with an internal magazine, better safety features and improved bolt action.

The first issue of the Gew98 for active service was to the East Asian Expeditionary Corps prior to embarkation for China.

Period photographs show that it was used by the later East Asian Occupation Brigade, the Schutztruppe of South West Africa, the Imperial Navy and Marine Infantry.

From 1905 a new 7.92mm S-cartridge (S for Spitzer or pointed) was introduced to replace the previous 8mm rounded bullets. After that date all new rifles were made for this ammunition and old rifles in Germany were converted to take it. The converted rifles were stamped with the letter S on the receiver. As the conversions took place in Germany, some unconverted rifles may have still been in use much later in the colonies.

The Gew98 remained the main weapon of the German Infantry up to and during the First World War. Variations on the rifle and its carbine variant were still in use in the Second World War.

Recommended External Link - The Official Mauser Website 

The rifle butt disc from an East Asian Gew98

The recent markings above are for the 6th East Asian Infantry Regt, 3rd Battalion, 1st Company, weapon number 29. The 6th East Asian Infantry Regt ("6. Ostasiatische Infanterie Regiment") were part of the 1900 East Asian Expeditionary Corps. The previous cancelled markings below are from the 3rd company of the Prussian Guards Rifles Battalion ("Garde Schützen Batallion").

Photos © Gilles Sigro

 


East Asian Infantry NCO, Peking 1902
With Gew98 rifles
Photo by CH Graves from the American Library of Congress


Seesoldat Wilhelm Hunstiger
of the III. Seebataillon in Tsingtau
With a Gew98 rifle and S98 bayonet
 Photo from WikiCommons

 
     
  er on his left sleeve.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv
 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Schutztruppen-Gewehr 1898 (Gew98S)


Photograph courtesy of James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, Maine, USA www.jamesdjulia.com

Calibre: 8mm
Length: 125cm
Barrel Length: 74cm
Weight: 4.09 kg

Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

A variant of the Gew98 known as the Schutztruppen-Gewehr 98 (Gew98S) was also used in South West Africa. It had a turned down bolt handle and the rear sight started at 200 meters instead of 400 like the standard Gew98.

The rifles were probably modified from standard rifles at an ordnance workshop in South West Africa. Standard Gew98 rifles were also widely used by the Schutztruppe in South West Africa.

Recommended External Link- Discussion on the Schutztruppe Gewehr on the Axis History Forum


Butt Disc from the Gew98S
Marked KS for Kaiserliche Schutztruppe

 


South West African Schutztruppe Reiter
c1914-15
This photograph of Schutztruppe reservist R Köhler was taken in Windhoek during the First World War. Note the curved bolt handle of his Gew98S.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

 
     
 
South West African Schutztruppe Unteroffizier 1913
This photograph shows a Schutztruppe Unteroffizier in the 1896 khaki uniform practising his marksmanship with a Gew98 rifle. The rifle's bolt cannot be seen in this photo and it may well be an altered Gew98S rifle. Note the kS98 bayonet with NCOs knot hanging from his belt and the two chevrons of an Unteroffizi
 
 

 

 
     
     
 

Mauser Karabiner 1898 (Kar98)
Photo © P Buhler Swakopmund Museum, Namibia
     


Calibre: 8mm
Approx. Length:
95cm
Barrel Length: 43.5cm
Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

There were several carbine variations on the Gew98 rifle (such as the later Kar98az in common use in the First World War and the K98k in common use in the Second).

The original carbine is usually known as the Kar98 and was produced from 1899 until 1908. It was designed for cavalry and other mounted troops and did not carry a bayonet. Period photographs show that it was used by the South West African Schutztruppe and the East Asian Cavalry and Artillery.

 

 


South West African Schutztruppe Reiter
With a Kar98 with stacking hook. His bayonet is the S71/84 for which the carbine had no fitting.
Photo © Sam Wouters

 
     
     
     
 

Mauser Karabiner 1898az  (Kar98az) Photos © A Private Collector

     
Calibre: 8mm
Length: 109cm
Barrel Length: 59cm
Weight: 3.50 kg
Magazine: 5 round clip magazine

In 1908 a new variant of the Mauser carbine was introduced with several design improvements such as a bayonet lug and stacking hook, an elongated barrel and a turned-down bolt handle with a corresponding recess in the stock.

This was known as the Karabiner Model 1898az ("Mit Aufpflanz und zusammensetzvorrichtung") to describe the added bayonet lug and stacking hook.

This version remained in production throughout the First World War. As well as being issued to mounted troops it was also in use with specialist units such as machine gunners, mountain troops and storm troops.

Period photographs show that it was used by the Schutztruppe of East Africa and Cameroon, as well as German units in Macedonia, Palestine and Georgia during the First World War.

Recommended External Link - Gunboards Forum for a more complete discussion of Mauser Carbine variants

 

 


Machine Gunner or Artilleryman from the Pascha I or II Expeditions c1916-18
with a Kar98AZ carbine
Photo © Joe Robinson

 
     


Foreign Rifles in German Colonial and Overseas Service
Foreign rifles made their way into the hands of soldiers in the German colonies in several ways. Some were imported specifically to equip colonial troops, others were borrowed from nearby allies and in wartime many captured weapons were in use particularly in East Africa during the First World War. Below are listed some of the foreign rifles and carbines known to have been used in small quantities in the colonies.
 

     
 
American Remington Rolling Block Rifle
Photo from Adams Guns / WikiCommons

The Remington Rolling Block rifle was a single shot 11mm breech loading weapon. Wissmann's first Sudanese askaris were photographed in Cairo in 1889 with their old Remington  Rifles with Yagatan bayonets from the Anglo-Egyptian army. It is not known if some of these rifles were still in use by the time these askaris reached East Africa or whether they had all been replaced by the German Jägerbüchse 71.

The photograph above shows a Danish made Remington from 1883.
Recommended External Link - Remington Rolling Block Page at Military Surplus Guns

French Chassepot 1866 Rifle Conversion
Photo by PHGCOM  from  the Musée de l'Armée, Paris / WikiCommons


The Chassepot 1866  was a single shot 11mm breech loading bolt action rifle and served as the main weapon of the French army during the Franco Prussian-War. About 150,000 of these rifles were captured by the Germans during and after the war and many were converted to carbines by the Prussian War Ministry and to use the 11mm Mauser brass cartridge rather than the original French paper cartridge of the same calibre.

The newly converted carbines were used by some German cavalry and artillery units until the early 1880s. In 1887, fifty of these weapons were sold to the German New Guinea Company to arm the first Polizeitruppe.

The photograph above shows one of the original French rifles, rather than the later German converted carbines. It is shown with a French Yagatan bayonet.

Winchester 1895 Carbine
Photo © ArmsBid


The Winchester lever action carbine was considered for use by the German army. In 1912 the carbine was issued in test quantities to the 17th Saxon Lancer Regiment ("Ulanen-Regiment "Kaiser Franz Josef von Österreich, König von Ungarn" (1. Königlich Sächsisches) Nr. 17") and also to the South West African Schutztruppe for evaluation. It was not taken up as a full time replacement to their Mauser carbines.

Austro-Hungarian Steyr-Mannlicher 1895
Photo by Vorb11 from WikiCommons


The Steyer-Mannlicher was an 8mm rifle with a five round magazine. It was designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and produced by Steyr-Mannlicher. It was a bolt action rifle using a refined version of von Mannlicher's revolutionary straight-pull action. This was the main rifle used by the Austro-Hungarian army and navy in the First World War.

It was also issued to members of the German Marine Detachment Skutari when they fought alongside Austro-Hungarian troops in Bosnia at the outbreak of the First World War. This may have been to facilitate ammunition supplies within the Austrian command.

A curious photograph shown on the right also shows a member of the Tsingtao Chinese Police under German command with a Mannlicher rifle. I have not yet been to find out if this was relatively common practice with the Tsingtao Polizeitruppe or a one off event.
Recommended External Link - World Guns

British Lee Metford Mk II
Photo from the Swedish Army Museum, Stockholm / Wikicommons

The Lee Metford was the first rifle featuring a box magazine and bolt action to enter service in the British army. The bolt and magazine were invented by James Lee and its .303 inch (roughly 8mm) cartridge and rifling system was designed by William Metford.

The Mark I was introduced in 1888 to replace the previous Martini Henry rifle. The first Lee Metford's had an eight round magazine, later versions carried ten rounds. From 1895 it began to be replaced by the Lee Enfield rifle although some Lee Metford's were still in service during the Second Anglo-Boer War. It was also still issued to some of Britain's colonial troops in the First World War.

The rifle was the main armament of the Shanghai Volunteer Corps including the German companies. It is not known for certain if members of the SVC that joined the defenders of Tsingtao in 1914 retained their Lee Metfords or exchanged them for German rifles upon arrival in Tsingtao, although one period photograph seems to imply that British rifles were still used (see below).

British Lee Enfield MkIII Rifle (SMLE)
Photo by Coggansfield at WikiCommons

The Lee Enfield was an upgrade of the Lee Metford introduced in 1895, incorporating a different rifling system designed at the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, London. This allowed the weapon to take the new smokeless .303 round. It was the standard rifle issued to the British army during the First World War and with small modifications also served throughout the Second World War.

It was the fastest bolt action rifle of its time and with a ten round magazine held twice the amount of rounds as the German Gew98. When the German army initially came up against British infantry armed with the Lee Enfield on the Western Front they allegedly reported that they had been under machine gun fire due the the rifle's high rate of fire in trained hands.

These rifles were captured and re-used in large quantities by the Schutztruppe of German East Africa throughout the First World War. 455 were captured at the Battle of Tanga in November 1914 alone.

Portuguese Mauser-Vergueiro 1904 Rifle
Photo by C Dale at the Portuguese Military Museum, Lisbon


The Mauser-Vergueiro was a 6.5cm rifle designed by a Portuguese army officer, José A. Vergueiro, based on the Mauser Gew98 and like the Mauser had a five round magazine. It was the standard infantry rifle of the Portuguese army and colonial forces during the First World War. Numbers of them were also used by the South African army in the First World War.

After the Schutztruppe of German East Africa invaded Portuguese territory in 1917 they captured and used the rifles in large numbers. A shorter carbine version was also produced which may well also have fallen into Schutztruppe hands on occasion.

The following first hand description of three askaris in 1917 is taken from "Blockade and Jungle" by Christen P Christensen (See Book Reviews Page) and is typical of askaris from the later war period- "I had a look at our reinforcements...they were three askaris. The man on one side of me had ... a long barrelled, small bore Portuguese rifle, which gave a peculiar sharp, ringing crack. He was a veteran....The second third of our relieving troops....was a good man too, another veteran. He had still ... an old fashioned '71 rifle, which made a lot of smoke and gave out a dull roar like a shot gun....The man beside ...was shooting briskly and vigorously with an English rifle."

Other Captured Weapons
Many other captured weapons were used by different German forces during the First World War.

Captured French bayonets were used by the Cameroon Schutztruppe so it is possible that French Lebel rifles may also have been used. Large quantities of Russian Mosin Nagant rifles were captured on the Eastern front and some were used to equip the Imperial navy who were not on front line duty. I have so far not seen photographs to prove the use of captured Belgian rifles in Africa although they may also have been used in limited numbers.

 


Wissmanntruppe Askari in Cairo, Egypt 1889
with a Remington Rolling Block Rifle
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv


Gendarm, Tsingtao Polizeitruppe
with an Austrian Mannlicher Rifle
(possibly an 1886 or 88 model)
Photo from Bundesarchiv / WikiCommons


East African Schutztruppe Askari c1917
with a British Lee Enfield Rifle

Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv


Matrose 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


Volunteers from the German Prinz Heinrich Kompagnie of the SVC, possibly at Tsingtao 1914
This photograph is captioned as showing the defenders of Tsingtao in 1914. These may then be some of the volunteers who made it to the besieged city from Shanghai. They wear peaked field caps with German cockades above the SVC badge. Their uniforms are the eight buttoned winter uniforms with the crowned H monogram of the Prinz Heinrich Kompagnie visible on the shoulder straps. They carry British British Lee Metford Mk II rifles with British 1903 bandolier pouches as both were standard issue to the Shanghai Volunteer Corps. See SVC at Tsingtao Photo for close up details of this photo.
Photo from the Library of Congress Collection

 
     

 

Obsolete Firearms
Locally recruited auxiliaries and irregular troops in German service in the colonies were often armed with a mixture of obsolete weapons. At other times hunting rifles were pressed into service although because of their ammunition they were against the rules of warfare as defined at the time by the Hague Convention of 1899 (Declaration III).

 

     
 

Percussion Cap Rifle from East Africa Photo © Imperial War Museum

This muzzle loading Percussion Cap Rifle in the Imperial War Museum collection in London dates from the mid-19th Century yet was captured from the Germans in East Africa during the First World War. It was probably not used by the regular Schutztruppe askaris but more likely by their locally recruited irregular auxiliary troops. Note the wrapped wire holding the rifle together in several paces. The nose cap is nailed to the rifle itself. It has the date 1887 stamped into the butt, with a weapon number ending with "143". "Kd 141" and an Imperial crest stamped onto the barrel

The exact origins of this rifle are unknown but one theory put forward by the Imperial War Museum staff is that "it is known that Germany sent rifles captured during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71) to its African colonies. Some of these were American produced weapons which may have seen service in the American Civil War before their sale to France in 1870". Thus it is possible that this rifle saw action in the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Maji-Maji Rebellion and the First World War over a span of half a century.

The Royal Army Museum in Brussels, Belgium used to have a large collection of similar muzzle loading weapons captured in German East Africa on display.

 
     
 

Published Sources-
"The German Colonial Troops 1889-1918" by
Jürgen Kraus and Thomas Müller (Published by Verlag Militaria)
"Die Deutsche Schutztruppe 1889/1918" by Werner Haupt (Published by Dörfler)
"Die Kaiserliche Schutz- und Polizeitruppe für Afrika" by Reinhard Schneider (Published by Druffel & Vorwinkel-Verlag)
"Die deutschen Marinen 1818-1918: Organisation, Uniformierung, Bewaffnung und Ausrüstung" by Rolf Noeske and Claus P. Stefanski (Published by Verlag Militaria)
"Unter dem Kreuz des Südens: Auf Spuren der Kaiserlichen Landespolizei von Deutsch-Südwestafrika" by S Schepp (Self Published)

Online Sources-

 Adams Guns,
World Guns,
Bolt Action Rifles
Commission Rifle
Gew88
G
unboards Forum
Military Surplus Guns
Texas Trading Post
Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv
Imperial War Museum
Official Mauser Website 

Thanks very much to Chris Wood, Paul Scarlata, Bruce Swanton, Joe Robinson, Sam Wouters, Guido Welk, Giles Sigro, S Schepp and P Buhler for their help on this page.


New Guinea Polizeitruppe, Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen 1899
They have Kar71 carbines stacked and an obsolete muzzle loading canon in the foreground.
Photo © Frankfurt University Koloniales Bildarchiv

 


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

Back to Main Menu for German Colonial Uniforms