Non Commissioned Officers of the Schutztruppe,
Marine Infantry, East Asian Troops and units serving in the Middle East had the same ranks as the
Imperial German army back home.
that the German word "Unteroffizier" (literally of a
rank under an officer) refers both specifically to
the rank of a corporal and also as a general term for NCOs between the
rank of corporal and sergeant-major.
Imperial Army and Schutztruppe NCO Ranks
were five basic ranks of NCO in the Imperial Army and Schutztruppe.
These and the private soldiers were
divided into three categories: private ranks, junior NCOs and senior
NCOs. Their German titles and rough British translations/equivalents were:
These were the privates and first class privates ("Gefreiter"). Privates' titles depended on the unit they served in.
A private mounted infantryman of
the German South West African Schutztruppe was known as a "Reiter". There were no German private soldiers in the East African or Cameroon
Schutztruppe before the First World War, nor in the Polizeitruppe. An
askari of the German East African Schutztruppe was of course called an "Askari",
while an East African police askari was called a "Polizei-Askari". An
soldier of the Cameroon Schutztruppe was called simply a "Soldat" or "Farbige-Soldat". A locally recruited policeman from Cameroon, Togo, New Guinea, or Samoa
was called a "Polizei-Soldat", while one in Tsingtao was called a "Gendarm". A marine in the Seebataillone was called a "See-Soldat". In the East Asian Army private soldiers were known by their arm of
service as in the home army. An infantryman was a "Musketier", a light
infantryman was a "Jäger" and a cavalryman was a "Reiter" as in the
South West African Schutztruppe. An artilleryman was an "Artillerist"
and a pioneer was a "Pionier". The same system was used for German units
on Ottoman fronts during the First World War. Reservists called up in the colonies during the Fist World War had the title
"Reservist", "Landwehrmannn" or "Landsturmann" depending on their band of
service. When reservists held NCO titles they were known by their NCO title and
reserve status such as "Sergeant der Landwehr".
The private first class ("Gefreiter") was
not technically counted as a true NCO though he did out rank the ordinary
private soldier. This rank was not in use among the German personnel of the East
African and Cameroon Schutztruppe.
Both the privates and privates first
bayonets with bayonet knots ("Troddel") in company colours (see
Bayonet Knots). Cavalry
and mounted artillery other ranks such as those in East Asia and Palestine carried a sword and
sword knot ("Faustriemen"). African and other locally recruited
soldiers did not wear bayonet knots.
Junior NCOs- Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee
These were the junior NCOs, holding the ranks of corporal and sergeant ("Unteroffizier" and "Sergeant").
Junior NCOs in
the Schutztruppe, Marine Infantry and East Asian Occupation Brigade
carried bayonets but wore
their Troddel knots in imperial colours rather than company colours. Those in the Imperial army back
home (and those in the East Asian Expeditionary Corps) wore Troddel knots in
Cavalry and mounted artillery junior NCOs such as
those in East Asia and Palestine carried a sword and Faustriemen sword knot in
Senior NCOs- Unteroffiziere mit Portepee
These were the senior NCOs, Senior Sergeant or literally Vice Sergeant Major ("Vize-Feldwebel")
and full Sergeant Major ("Feldwebel"). In cavalry units the ranks were
titled "Vize-Wachtmeister" and "Wachtmeister" respectively.
These ranks carried the sword on parade
and with it a sword knot ("Portepee") in Imperial colours (state colours
for the Imperial Army in Germany). This sword knot was worn on a bayonet
on campaign. For this reason the senior NCOs were known as "Unteroffiziere mit Portepee"
(NCO's with sword knots) as opposed to the junior NCOs "Unteroffiziere ohne Portepee"
(NCOs without sword knots).
There was no difference in that rank
insignia on the home uniform from Sergeant to Vize-Feldwebel. The only
clue being the addition of a Portepee rather than a Troddel.
In the cavalry
and mounted artillery the rank of Feldwebel was known as
Wachtmeister, while that of Vize-Feldewebel was correspondingly
known as Vize-Wachtmeister.
As well as the sword, German Senior NCOs
were entitled to wear some items of officer's uniforms such as metallic
embossed cockades and the officers lace belt on parade. Their uniforms
were often privately purchased and of higher quality.
NCO Ranks in Wartime Officer Positions
During the First World War a shortage of
officers led to NCOs being given officer duties. These men received two
new titles, "Feldwebelleutnant" and "Offizierstellvertreter" (Deputy
Officer). These ranks were not awarded in the colonies but some
NCO/Officers may have served on Ottoman Fronts, Macedonia and in Georgia.
The ranks would also have been used by the Marine Infantry on the Western Front.
As well as the bayonet knot to
distinguish weather the holder was of private rank, junior NCO or senior
displayed their rank insignia in two different ways on different
Collar Buttons and Cuff Lace
On the grey Home Uniforms rank was displayed by a series of
buttons and lace bars on the collar and cuffs. This was the same system
as used by the regular imperial army on their peacetime dark blue and
wartime field grey uniforms.
Chevrons on the Sleeve
On the tropical white and khaki uniforms
Schutztruppe NCOs displayed their rank in the form of chevrons on the
upper left arm. This was a similar system as used by the regular
imperial army on the Litewka uniforms.