|On 13th June 1898 a
new khaki tropical uniform was authorised for the newly formed
III. Seebataillon to wear in China during the Summer months. This
same uniform was later issued to other Marine Infantry units in China,
South West Africa, East Africa and Skutari.
The 1898 Khaki Tunic had a stand and fall collar, six plain brass buttons
down the front and plain cuffs. There were two buttoned, unpleated hip pockets
and no breast
pockets. The rear of the tunic was plain with only mounted troops having
two retaining buttons to support the belt at the back. The shoulder straps were the same as worn on the
Home Uniform and
Litewka- they were white with
yellow insignia showing an imperial crown above two crossed anchors with
the battalion Roman numeral below that (see right). According to Knötel
(see Illustrated Plates Page) khaki
shoulder straps were worn instead of white ones but I have yet to
see photographic evidence of this. These shoulder straps were
sometimes removed in action. The button retaining the top end of the
shoulder strap had the company number in Arabic numerals.
One surviving other
ranks tunic from the artillery battery (Marine Feld Batterie) attached to the III.
Seebataillon, is very curious in that it has plain white shoulder
straps and Brandenburg style cuffs, piped in white with three cuff
buttons (for sale at the
German Militaria Website). I have so far seen no
regulations or period photographs showing tunics like this in use.
NCO Rank Insignia was worn in the form of strips of lace in the collar and cuffs and
buttons on the collar (see NCO Rank Insignia Page).
The bars of lace were in white with threads of red and black making up
the imperial colours (see right), and were usually worn on the front and
upper edge of the collar. NCO rank buttons on the collar were worn at the
front of the collar rather than halfway back as was usually seen on
Photographs of the Marine
Expeditionskorps in South West Africa 1904-05 show groups of NCOs
with some wearing lace on the upper edge and other on the lower
edge. According to Knötel and Pietsch (see
Illustrated Plates Page) the Marine Detachment Skutari also wore
them on the front and lower edge.
Specialist Insignia was usually worn on the khaki uniform in the form
of khaki patches with red or yellow insignia, but some photographs show white
patches with red insignia. Musicians swallows nests were also worn in
colours more suited to the khaki uniform (see
Specialist Insignia Page).
Trousers were matching khaki,
although photographs show that the blue trousers with white piping
of the home uniform were also sometimes worn with the khaki tunic on
manoeuvres in China.
Khaki riding breeches were worn by mounted troops with some being
issued breeches in brown corduroy (see
Mounted Marine Uniforms).
Officers and Senior NCOs Uniforms
Khaki Uniform worn by officers and senior NCOs were similar to
those of the other ranks except that the tunic often had an unpleated
left breast pocket with a buttoned square flap. Being privately purchased,
these uniforms were of better quality and some had other slight variations such as a
higher or standing collar. Matching khaki trousers or riding breeches
were worn, again these were often of better quality due to private
White Uniform was also
authorised for officers and
senior NCOs (see right). It was
identical in cut to the khaki uniform but with a standing collar. Again
variations in private tailoring meant that some white tunics had a
breast pocket, others did not. White trousers were worn with the
Officers Rank Insignia was
shown on shoulder straps in the same style as those worn by the regular
army and Schutztruppe (see Officers Rank Insignia Page) but with a brass
imperial crown added to the shoulder straps.
Along with the tropical uniform a white tropical helmet was issued in
1898 with a white metal imperial eagle superimposed over an anchor in
the style worn on the Seebataillon shakos (see right), over a small imperial
cockade. Early issues of the helmet were quite low in
height with a rounded brim. Later helmets were of the 1900 Bortfeldt
design, taller with a more steeply
inclined brim, folding rear peak and a removable neckshade.
Several changes to the regulations
helmet occurred over the following years. On 28th June 1900 the
eagle was authorised in bronze rather than white metal, and in 1905
the helmet was officially changed to a khaki one for other ranks
with officers and senior NCOs still wearing white. These uniform
orders do not however tell the full story and are often contradicted
by photographic evidence.
For example, khaki helmets have been
seen in photographs of the Seebataillone as early as the Boxer
Rebellion of 1900. From such photographs it seems that the I.
Seebataillon had khaki helmets in that period, while the II. Seebataillon had white
helmets (sometimes worn with khaki covers). The III. Seebataillon
also received khaki helmets around this time, either shortly before
or more likely after the Boxer Rebellion. This theory is supported in text by Eberhard Hettler
(see Illustrated Plates Page). During this
period, photographs of officers and senior NCOs
of all battalions seem to be mostly wearing white helmets.
Furthermore photographs clearly show that the Marine
Expeditionskorps in South West Africa wore khaki helmets in 1904, so
the regulation order of 1905 for khaki helmets seems to have been
Later photographs of III. Seebataillon
officers and senior NCOs in China show them sometimes wearing
khaki tropical helmets too, as they wear
privately purchased officer's and senior NCOs helmets sometimes varied further in shape. Officers were also authorised to wear a
gold coloured cord around the hatband of the helmet.
Some photographs taken
on campaign in China and South West Africa show the helmets worn without
their metal eagles. Photographs of troops on manoeuvres in Tsingtao show
them sometimes wearing a red hatband around the tropical helmet. These
red bands were introduced into the German army as a whole in 1909
and were to distinguish different "sides" during simulated battles, similar
red bands were also worn on Seebataillon shako covers while on manoeuvres in
Other Forms of Headdress
When not wearing the tropical helmet various types of peaked and
peakless caps were worn. All bore a small imperial cockade at the front
of the hatband.
The Khaki Peaked Cap ("Bordmutze") was
all in khaki with no coloured hatband or piping and had a
small imperial cockade at the front. Like most German peaked caps it was
issued with a wire retaining loop that held the shape of the top of the
hat. This loop was often removed to give a more comfortable appearance. The chinstrap and peak were in
brown leather. A removable khaki neckshade was also issued and was
attached to the chinstrap buttons. As no photographs or contemporary
accounts that I have seen show proof of the khaki cap in Africa, it
may have only been issued to the III. Seebataillon in
The Officers White Peaked Cap
plain white peaked cap (see right) with a small imperial cockade on
the front and a black leather chinstrap and peak, worn by
to match their white tropical uniform.
The Blue Field Cap (see right) from the
home uniform is also often seen in photographs worn with the khaki
uniform. They were
dark blue to match the peacetime uniform and had white hatband and
piping with an imperial cockade at the front. They were usually
peakless for other ranks and peaked for officers and senior NCOs,
although other ranks could also privately purchase the peaked
version. The chinstrap and peak were in black leather. This peaked version of
the cap had a wire retaining loop that held the shape
of the top of the hat. This loop was often removed to give a more
comfortable appearance and was not present on other ranks peakless
The Onboard Cap was another form of headgear
worn by members of the Seebataillone while at sea and also sometimes
worn by the III. Seebataillon in China. From photographic evidence,
it seems to have specifically been worn by members of the III.
Seebataillon on police duties. The cap was a white
naval style peakless cap with a pale blue hatband and an small imperial
cockade on the front.
Non-Regulation Headgear occasionally seen worn with the
tropical uniform include naval straw hats sometimes worn in China and
Schutztruppe Südwester hats sometimes worn in South West
Africa. Neither of these hats seem to have been regulation issue,
although entire Schutztruppe uniforms were routinely worn by the
Marine Expeditionskorps in South West Africa to replace their
battered Seebataillon uniforms.
The Seebataillone like most German
Infantry units of the time wore short jackboots in back leather, later
brown leather boots the III. Seebataillon at Tsingtao. Officers and mounted troops usually wore
leather gaiters and short boots.
The personal equipment issued to other ranks of the Seebataillone was
the same as issued to the German infantry of the period. It
consisted of two 1871 ammunition pouches on a leather belt clasped with
a naval other ranks belt buckle (see right). Two shoulder straps
ammunition pouches and met in a Y configuration at the back. The first
Seebataillon troops in China wore black leather equipment to match
their blue peacetime uniforms, soon the III. Seebataillon were
authorised to clean the black polish off and wear natural brown
leather to match the khaki uniform. It is unclear from period
photographs whether other Seebataillon troops in khaki (such as
those in Africa and Skutari) also wore natural brown leather
equipment or kept their equipment polished black as worn on home
backpack with tent section, canteen, water bottle, and bread bag was
also carried when in marching order.
Mounted troops wore bandoliers,
rather than ammunition pouches on the belt, while pioneers carried
either a spade or pick axe attached to the left side of their
Officers usually carried as little as
possible, often just having a naval officers belt made from silver
thread woven with one red central and two black outer stripes, clasped
with a naval officers' belt buckle. The brass buckle showed an imperial
crown above an anchor and W (for Emperor Wilhelm II) surrounded by a
laurel wreath. Brown leather belts with plain open buckles were also
worn. The belt usually had the minimum of equipment on it, often only a