Tropical Uniforms on Other Fronts 1914-18

Figure 1
Württemberg Landsturm
Germany c1914

Figure 2
Officer Afghan Mission
Afghanistan 1915-16

Figure 3
Artillery NCO
Macedonia 1917

Figure 4
Macedonia 1918

Figure 5
Zeppelin NCO
Bulgaria 1917

Figure 1 is based on a wartime photograph of a Württemberg Landsturmman on home guard duties. The original photograph shows three former Schutztruppe serving in the XIII/19th Battalion Württemberg Landsturm (or reserve). The only unusual thing about the photo is that they are wearing their Schutztruppe Südwester Slouch Hats with blue piping and hatbands for South West Africa rather than the prescribed Landsturm headgear (1813 Oilskin caps or obsolete Jäger style shakos). It is very rare to see colonial items worn by the home army but it did happen on occasion. Aside from this single item he is dressed typically for Landsturm other ranks. He wears a modified M1910 field grey tunic with plain cuffs, piped in red for infantry. The shoulder straps are plain blue while the front of the collar displays the Army Corps (XIII) and battalion number (19) in brass. He carries blackened leather equipment with one set of M1909 ammunition pouches.

SW African Schutztruppe Südwester
(See Südwester Details Page)
Photo Copyright Damien Doppler


Figure 2 is based on a photograph of an Officer of the Afghan Expedition led by a Bavarian Artillery Officer, Oskar von Niedermeyer in 1915-16. The expedition travelled overland on a dangerous and gruelling march through Persia to Afghanistan avoiding British and Russian patrols to convince Emir Habibullah of Afghanistan to join the Central Powers. This would, they hoped, disrupt Russian and British Indian interests in the area and force the Entente to withdraw troops from other fronts. They ultimately failed to convince the Afghans (who were cleverly accepting bribes from both sides while remaining neutral) to join the war and eventually left Kabul empty handed.

In addition to the original small military contingent (many of whom had former colonial or Asian experience) the expedition consisted of a diplomatic corps headed by Otto von Hentig, some former Indian army POWs and nationalists who had joined the German cause to free India from British rule, Persian tribesmen employed as guards and guides and several German and Austrian POWs who had escaped camps in Russian Central Asia and teamed up with Niedermeyer.

Curiously Niedermeyer and his original military cadre were kitted out in stocks of German South West African Police uniforms (see South West African Police Page) as well as additional items of private purchase and local supplies. This officer wears a South West African Police slouch hat (pinned up at the right side with a brass Imperial Crown- although in photos Niedermeyer himself doesn't pin his hat up), police tunic (featuring the distinctive green collar but without insignia or cuff braiding) worn open at the collar and khaki cord riding breeches. He carries two pistols, one of which is a naval issue long pistol. The bandolier and rifle appear to be private purchase items.

SW African Police Südwester
(See Südwester Details Page)
Photo Copyright Damien Doppler


Figure 3 is based on a photograph of an Artillery NCO in Macedonia 1917. When the Army Group Scholz was sent to back up Bulgarian forces in Macedonia many of the troops were issued lightweight cotton khaki uniforms from surplus East Asian Expeditionary Corps stocks. This NCO from a mortar (Minenwerfer) unit has a complete uniform (stripped of shoulder straps) from those supplies including tropical helmet with brass imperial eagle. The dark band across the helmet is to indicate arm-of-service (in this case black edged with red for artillery and pioneers) and the helmet may or may not have had a large imperial (black/white/red) cockade on the left side, as worn commonly by the East Asian Expeditionary Corps. The single lace on the upper edge of the standing collar identifies him as an Unteroffizier. He wears an Iron Cross Second class as a small ribbon on his left breast. Apart from his tropical uniform he wears standard European issue field grey puttees, marching boots, blackened leather equipment with a plain dull grey belt buckle and a small pistol.

East Asian Tropical Helmet
(See Tropical Helmets Details Page)
Photo Copyright Damien Doppler

Figure 4 is based on a photograph of a Infantryman in Macedonia 1918. He wears an East Asian Expeditionary Corps Straw Hat pinned up with a large single imperial cockade on the right hand which was issued to some troops in the Balkans in 1917 along with the more standard uniform for the Imperial German Army in Europe. Typical of late war era Infantry he wears a M1915 tunic with white infantry shoulder strap piping, slate grey trousers with red piping, blackened leather boots and equipment with a one piece dull grey belt buckle. The other figures in the original photograph are similarly dressed with straw hats and a mixture of M1915 and Modified M1910 tunics.
Figure 5 is based on a photograph of a Naval NCO, Obermaschinenmaat Friedrich Engelke of the L-59 Zeppelin in Jamboli, Bulgaria 1917. He is dressed in a tropical uniform in preparedness for the the L-59's mission to East Africa. The mission had planned a one-way voyage to re-supply von Lettow-Vorbeck with arms and ammunition and then stay on to fight in the Schutztruppe. In the event the mission was aborted mid-air over Africa.

Zeppelins were often flown by naval crew. This crew member wears a broad tropical helmet with a small imperial black/white/red cockade at the front and a khaki tunic of similar cut to that of the Schutztruppe. It may well be a Schutztruppe M1913 tunic which were similar to the M1896 khaki tunic but without the blue piping. These tunics were rarely issued before the war in Africa but stocke4s were issued during the First World War to troops serving in hot climates.  Like the M1895 tunic it has four pockets, the chest ones being slightly sloped and six buttons down the front. The shoulder straps appear to have been removed. He wears matching khaki trousers with field grey puttees and ankle boots. Photographs taken on the return of the crew show that during the flight itself the crew would presumably have worn their standard German blue naval uniforms.

Obermaschinenmaat Friedrich Engelke (1881-1918) had served in the German navy since before the First World War. In 1917 he was transferred to Zeppelin crews and made aviation history as part of the three man boarding crew that boarded a Norwegian ship from a Zeppelin to search for contraband. He was part of the 22 man crew of the L-59 on its record breaking voyage over Africa. Englekle was also unfortunately on board when the L-59 caught fire and crashed over the Adriatic Sea in 1918. None of the crew survived. 

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