Uniforms of the German East Asian
On 9th February 1901 new uniforms in field grey (and khaki for
authorised for the East Asian Expeditionary Corps (and its later
successors, the East
Brigade and East Asian Detachment). These uniforms are usually referred
to as the 1900 uniforms as parts of them and their design had been
authorised or introduced by the Prussian war ministry between
September and December of 1900. Confusingly the
Earlier East Asian Expeditionary Corps Uniforms are also
referred to as 1900 uniforms.
Whereas as the earlier East Asian uniforms had been hastily
assembled from mostly existing stocks to enable the corps to be put
into action as soon as possible, the new uniforms were well thought
out, with a view to working as a prototype new uniform for the German army in Europe. This was the first time the
German army had been issued a uniform and helmet in field grey ("Feldgrau")
which would later become synonymous with the image of the German
The new uniforms had only the imperial insignia as used by the
Schutztruppe and imperial navy, rather than the different state
insignia for Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony etc. The East Asian garrison now came under the direct
control of the Kaiser and his war ministry in Berlin rather than the individual
The different field grey uniforms are described below with arm of
service insignia illustrated at the bottom of this page. There is a
separate page of this website to describe the
Khaki Summer Uniforms.
1900 Field Grey Tunic
The new tunic ("Rockbluse") had a stand a fall collar,
plain turn back cuffs and a fly front fastening, concealing
six horn buttons. The rear skirts were scalloped and had three
yellow metal buttons on either side. Red piping followed the edges
of the collar, cuffs, fly front and rear skirts. There were four
plain pockets, all with
concealed horn buttons. The shoulder straps
were in arm of service colour (see below for
Arm of Service Details) and were attached at the top with a yellow metal button (bearing the company
number for the infantry).
Rank insignia for NCOs was shown in the form of white lace with
black and red threads on the cuffs and lower edge of the collar,
along with buttons on the collar (see
NCO Rank Insignia Page).
NCOs also wore a single chevron in white lace with black and red
threads on the upper left arm.
Officers usually purchased
privately made uniforms with better quality materials, but (with the
two notable exceptions of the 1902 formal tunic and officers
greatcoat) generally wore the same pattern
uniforms as other ranks. Officers rank insignia was shown on the shoulder straps (see
Officers Rank Insignia Page)
which had a backing of the arm of service colour (see arm of service
insignia below). Officers wore the same single chevron on the upper
left arm as worn by NCOs but in silver lace with black and red
threads. This chevron was discarded by officers from 1902.
Specialist insignia for musicians, standard bearers, marksmen,
medics and others was worn the style of the regular German army but in new
field grey variations (see
Specialist Insignia Page).
Staff officers and the pioneers had white metal buttons in place of
yellow metal on the shoulder straps and rear skirts. See below for examples of other types of
specialist insignia worn by the East
The trousers were matching field grey and had red piping
and a single rear pocket on the right hand side. Riding
breeches were issued for mounted units, these were not piped
for other ranks, although officers breeches retained the piping.
1901 Other Ranks Greatcoat
In 1901 the East Asian troops were issued with a new greatcoat
("Mantel"). It was of a similar cut to the Prussian
ranks greatcoats of the period, being single breasted with six
buttons down the front, a hip pocket and a slit on each side and three buttoned
scalloped rear skirts. The coat was made of field grey cloth with
matt yellow metallic buttons bearing the Imperial crown. The
shoulder straps were field grey with piping in
Arm of Service colours and insignia in
red as later worn on the 1904 tunic.
1902 Officers Greatcoat
On 3rd April 1902 a new double breasted officers greatcoat ("Paletot")
was authorised. It was of a similar cut to the Prussian army officers
greatcoats of the period, being double breasted with two rows of six
buttons down the front, three buttoned scalloped rear skirts. The
coat was made of grey cloth with matt yellow metallic buttons
bearing the Imperial crown. Officers shoulder straps were worn.
1902 Officers Formal Tunic
In 1902 a field grey formal tunic ("Gesellschaftsrock") was
introduced for officers.
This replaced the 1900 dark blue formal tunics worn by the East
Asian Expeditionary Corps. The 1902 tunic was similar in cut to the
1897 Schutztruppe Home Uniform. It had a high stand and fall collar
with large Litzen, officers shoulder straps, Swedish style cuffs
with Litzen, eight buttons down the front bearing the Imperial
crown, no pockets and piping down the front and around the three
buttoned scalloped rear skirts. Collar, cuffs and piping were in
Arm of Service colours as worn on the
hatband of the field cap, with the exception that infantry officers
wore red. Litzen was in yellow metallic thread and buttons were also in
yellow metal. The Litzen and buttons of pioneer and staff officers
Field Grey Tunic
A new field grey winter tunic was introduced
for all ranks in 1904. Its principal
difference from the 1900 field grey tunic that it replaced, was in the pocket
arrangement and design of the shoulder straps. The 1904 breast pockets were external and pleated, with
a slightly pointed flap. It had no hip pockets. The shoulder straps
were now made of matching field grey cloth with only piping in arm
of service colour rather than the whole strap and insignia in red. All other details of
the tunic and uniform remained the same. A lightweight version of
this tunic was introduced as Summer uniform
(see East Asian Tropical Uniforms)
as well as a cold weather version lined with fur (according to "The
German Colonial Troops 1889-1918" by
Kraus and Thomas Müller the cold weather tunic had no red piping).
Pickelhaube and 1904 Field Grey Tunic
Note the usually concealed horn buttons, pleated breast
pockets and lack of hip pockets identifying it as the 1904
tunic (as well as an internal stamp for "BAO1905"), the
white shoulder straps with the number 2 identify it as being
from the 2nd East Asian Infantry Regiment. The Pickelhaube
is marked "BAO1901". Below the tunic is a photographic
portrait of a soldier of the 2nd East Asian Infantry in a
1900 Spiked Helmet (See
also East Asian
The new spiked helmet ("Pickelhaube") was based on
the 1895 Prussian army helmet used by most of the German army and
the East Asian Expeditionary Corps up until this point but with
several notable differences.
Firstly rather than being made of blackened leather
the 1900 helmet was made of field grey pressed
felt with front and rear peaks in field grey leather. This was a test idea for the German command to produce cheaper
and more camouflaged headdress for the army in future. Pressed felt Pickelhauben came to be in common use
by the German army during the First
World War when supplies of imported leather could not be obtained.
Secondly, as the new East Asian
Occupation Brigade was an imperial unit rather than one nominally
individual state authority as the Expeditionary Corps had been, the
new helmet had only
imperial insignia. This insignia took the form of an imperial eagle
in yellow metal, which was intended to be removed in action. The
helmet had an imperial cockade under the right hand
chinstrap boss and no cockade at
all on the left side where the state cockade had previously been displayed.
The spike was also had differences in
design. It was also intended to be removed in action and replaced
with a small round metal lid that screwed in its place. Some
examples of the East Asian helmet show it with elongated ventilation
holes at the base of the spike.
Helmet covers were not worn with the 1900 helmet. With the the spike
and imperial eagle removed for action, the helmet had a plain low
profile field grey appearance without the need for a cover.
The chinstrap for other ranks was of
brown leather with two yellow metal buckles to adjust its length.
Officers and senior NCOs had yellow metal chinscales. As with most uniform items, officers
usually purchased privately made Pickelhauben with better quality
The artillery wore a helmet with a ball instead of a spike ("Kugelhelm").
pioneers and staff officers had a white metal eagle and chinscales (see below for
of Service variations).
1900 Train Shako
The train company wore a Jäger style shako ("Tschako") again made in
felt. It had field grey leather front and rear peaks and edging around the top.
Like the Pickelhaube it had a yellow metal imperial eagle on the
front and an imperial cockade on the right side chinstrap. An oval imperial
cockade was worn above the eagle at the at the front of the shako, coloured white/black/white/red
(with white metallic lace on officers cockades). On parade a black horsehair plume could be worn at the
front. It was intended that for active service the plume, oval
cockade and imperial eagle would be removed.
The same shako was authorised for the
Jäger Company in February 1901, although I have so far found no
period photographs to prove its use before the disbandment of the
Jäger Company in May 1901.
1900 Field Cap
The other ranks field cap was made in field grey with a hatband in
arm of service colour and red piping around the top (see
Arm of Service Insignia
below). At the front of the hatband was a small imperial cockade.
The peak was made from
dark grey leather with a green underside. The chinstrap was of brown
leather two yellow metal buckles to adjust the length and a small
yellow metal button bearing the imperial crown on either side of the
cap to hold it. The chinstrap on at least one surviving cap is made
from grey leather to match the peak, while other surviving caps have
neither a chinstrap nor the buttons to hold it (see examples in
"The German Colonial Troops 1889-1918" by
Kraus and Thomas Müller).
The officers cap was similar in most respects tom that of the other
ranks but had an officers quality cockade and a wire retaining loop
to hold the shape of the top of the cap more rigidly. Officers caps
did not have the chinstrap.
New brown leather jackboots were introduced, 5cm higher than
previous issues. Mounted troops had high brown leather riding boots
in the style of the Prussian Cuirassiers. Brown canvas ankle boots
were also issued. As with most uniform
items, officers usually purchased privately made boots and shoes
with better quality materials.
Other Cold Weather Uniform Items
Müller describe several other uniform items as being issued to the
East Asian troops though no period photographs or surviving examples
have yet been found. They include grey knitted scarves, balaclavas,
wrist warmers and double breasted waistcoats for cold weather wear.
The equipment authorised for the East Asian troops in the
regulations of February 1901 was made of grey leather. It consisted
of a belt with an open brass buckle, as used by the Prussian
dragoons. The ammunition pouches for dismounted other ranks were of
a new type holding 15 rounds, very similar to those introduced in
the Prussian army in 1909 except that they were not attached in
groups of three but rather were individual pouches usually worn on
groups of three either side of the buckle, with an optional two worn
at the back. Period photographs often show single pouches often
being carried. At least one photograph shows several cartridge
pouches worn in a continuous row across the front with no visible
gap for the buckle, which may have been worn to one side in this
The backpack was also of a new type on
trial for the Prussian army. It consisted of a wooden frame covered
with leather holding a grey canvas pack. According to Kraus and
Müller, after the disbandment of the East Asian troops in 1909,
these backpacks were re-issued to the askaris of the East African
Schutztruppe. The bread bag was a slight variation on the brown
canvas bag used by the Prussian army but with three straps to attach
to the belt. The canteen was slightly smaller than the Prussian army
model. The water bottle, tent section and blanket appear to have
been the same as the Prussian army versions.
Mounted and lighter armed other ranks
(including the cavalry, artillery, train and infantry machine
gunners) carried bandoliers of up to five ammunition pouches on a
belt over the left shoulder.
Officers carried similar bandoliers but
with two pouches. Their peacetime duty belts were similar to those
of Schutztruppe officers (made of white metallic lace with two black
stripes and a central red stripe along the length, with a buckle
bearing the imperial crown within a laurel wreath) the only
difference being that the buckle of the East Asian officers was of
yellow metal. Pioneer and staff officers wore white metal like the
The same other ranks weapons as used by the East Asian Expeditionary
Corps were still in use up until 1909- G98 rifles, K98 carbines and
S98 bayonets (Pfm 71/98 bayonets for pioneers- see
Bayonets of the East Asian
Army). Officers carried the
83 Reichsrevolver as before. Artillery drivers carried the Prussian
artillery sword as before, and the cavalry and officers still
carried the Prussian army 1889 sword. From 1901 a new sword was
authorised for the East Asian mounted troops and officers. It was
the same as the 1889 sword but with an imperial eagle and monogram
rather than the Prussian royal eagle and monogram carried before.
These swords were gradually introduced for other ranks as
replacements were needed though were ordered by officers upon
receipt of the new regulations. The cavalry still carried the
Prussian army lance but with a new lance pennant with the imperial
colours in three horizontal bars (black/white/red from top to
bottom) for other ranks and a white pennant with a black imperial
eagle for NCOs.
Figure 1 is based on a
of an Infantryman of the 2nd East Asian Infantry Regiment taken in China.
He wears the 1900 field grey uniform with red piping and white
infantry shoulder straps bearing the regimental number in red. Note
the four plain pockets of the 1900 tunic.
The spiked helmet is the 1900 field grey
felt version for the East Asian troops. The spike and eagle were to
be removed for action.
His field grey trousers piped in red are
tucked into his brown leather marching boots.
Note also the grey
leather equipment with open belt buckle and six ammunition pouches.
He is armed with the G98 rifle and S98 bayonet.
Figure 2 is based on a
of a private soldier of the East Asian Train Company taken in China. He
also wears the 1900 field grey uniform but with the blue shoulder
straps of his arm of service.
He wears the Train Company's Jäger style
shako in field grey felt. His equipment is the grey leather
bandolier over the left shoulder.
Figure 3 is based on a photograph of an NCO of the East
Asian Artillery Detachment. He is wearing the 1901 other ranks
greatcoat with field grey shoulder straps piped in red with an
artillery red flaming grenade badge.
Note the single chevron of
white lace with black and red threads denoting him as an NCO or
officer, though his exact rank is not displayed on the greatcoat.
His helmet is the artillery "Kugelhelm" with a ball in place of
the spike. He carries ammunition pouches on a bandolier and a curved
Figure 4 is based on a photograph of an Oberleutnant of an
East Asian Infantry Regiment wearing the formal tunic or
Gesellschaftsrock. Note the red collar and Swedish cuffs with yellow
metallic Litzen, eight yellow metal buttons down the front and
officers shoulder straps.
The shoulder straps for an infantry
Oberleutnant were in white metallic lace with threads of black and
red on a red backing. On the straps would be the regimental number
in and a single rank pip in yellow metal.
On his left breast is the 1900-01 China Campaign Medal showing him to
be a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion.
Figure 5 is based on a photograph of an Unteroffizier of the
East Asian Cavalry Squadron wearing the 1904 field grey tunic.
Note the pleated chest pockets and absence of hip pockets.
as Unteroffizier is displayed by a single row of white lace with
black and red threads around the collar and cuffs and no rank
buttons on the collar (see
NCO Rank Insignia Page). On the
left arm he has an NCOs chevron, on the left breast the ribbon of
the 1900-01 China Campaign Medal and on the right a marksman's
Specialist Insignia Page).
His cap is the 1900 field grey cap for
other ranks with red piping at the top and a red hatband for the
cavalry. Again his field grey trousers are piped in red and worn
loose over short ankle boots. His belt is grey leather with an open
His sword is the 1889 Cavalry Sword or possibly the 1901
East Asian variant with an imperial eagle on the hilt. His sword
knot is the "Faustriemen" leather strap with NCOs tassel in
Pickelhaube, Officers Sword
and Pioneer Bayonet
East Asian Collection Page)
1900 East Asian Artillery Kugelhelm
Note the ball replacing the spike for the artillery
Photo taken at the Fort de la Pompelle
Museum near Rhiems, France
by Khukri and originally shown on the
China Campaign Medal
Photo © Doppler Collection