Seesoldat Heckenbücker of the III. Seebatallion



Photo © Freddy Rudolf and Zylgwyn Heckenbücker




This is a posed studio photograph probably taken shortly before the First World War. It shows Seesoldat Johann Jacob Heckenbücker of the III. Seebatallion.

He wears the Seebatallion Dark Blue Home Uniform (see right) with collar, cuffs and piping in white with yellow Litzen on the collar and cuffs. The insignia on the shoulder straps is also yellow and shows an imperial crown above two crossed anchors above the battalion numeral III. The tunic has plain domed brass buttons on the front, cuffs and rear skirts and smaller brass buttons with the company number holding the shoulder straps. His trousers are matching dark blue with white piping.

Notice the curious way in which old orthochromatic film shows yellow (on the Litzen and shoulder strap insignia) as a very dark colour, much darker than natural. This was caused by the inferior photographic techniques of the time. See the Pickelhaubes Forum for more information on orthochromatic film.

The shako of the Seebatallione was of the design as for the army's light infantry, the "Jäger". It was of black leather, with front and rear peaks. The Seebatallione wore a brass imperial eagle superimposed over a naval anchor on the front with an oval imperial cockade at the top (see right). On parade a black horsehair plume was worn above the cockade. Note also the brass chinscales worn across the helmets' front peak.

He wears a polished black leather belt with an other ranks naval belt buckle (brass with a white metal centre bearing the imperial crown inside a wreathed motto "Gott mit uns" - see Belt Buckle Details Page). From the left side of the belt is hung a bayonet, although the exact model cannot be clearly seen. His all white bayonet knot identifies him as belonging to the 1. Kompanie, within the III. Seebatallion.

He carries a pair of white gloves in his left hand. This curious addition is commonly seen in posed photographs of the period. It is believed the practice was started by the Kaiser Wilhelm II to make his noticeably smaller left arm appear longer. It then became the fashion amongst the German armed forces to carry a pair of gloves in one's left hand.

Johann Jacob Heckenbücker (22/07/1893 - 19/1/1942) was born in Crefeld in the Prussian Rhineland. In August 1914 he joined the 1. Kompanie of the III. Seebatallion in Tsingtao and took part in the defence of the city against the Japanese siege. After the fall of Tsingtao he spent the rest of the war in the Kurume Prisoner of War camp in Japan. Upon being released in 1919 he, along with several hundred former Seesoldaten, travelled to the Dutch East Indies and enlisted in their colonial police force. Here he married and had children while being promoted in 1922 to Hauptpolizist and in 1940 to Polizeibeamter. When Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, all Germans in the Dutch East Indies were interned and shipped to British India. En route, Heckenbücker's ship, the Van Imhoff was sunk by a Japanese aircraft due West of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. While some of the ship's crew escaped on lifeboats, Heckenbücker along with hundreds of other prisoners went down with the ship.

Recommended External Links -
German Veterans in Dutch East Indies Service at the Axis History Forum
Sinking of the Van Imhoff at German Wikipedia 


Please respect the generosity of Jacob Heckenbücker's grandson and great-grandson, Freddy Rudolf and Zylgwyn Heckenbücker, respectively in sharing this photograph with us by not reproducing it without prior permission. 

Two Seebatallion Shakos
The one on the left is entirely obscured by its
parade plume
(Brussels Army Museum Collection)

Seebatallion Tunic
(See Seebatallion Uniform Details Page)
© Doppler Collection

Heckenbücker in the
Dutch New Guinea Police
Photo © Freddy Rudolf and Zylgwyn Heckenbücker


Please contact me here if you have other photographs of the German colonies or the soldiers and sailors that served there. I am especially keen to hear from people with family photograph collections and am always happy to try to assist in identifying uniforms, units, places and dates for family history research.

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